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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (October 23, 2015)

October 23, 2015

Official Spokesperson (Shri Vikas Swarup): Good afternoon friends and welcome to this weekly press briefing. I will begin with a brief announcement.

26 October 2015 ko Geeta ek baar phir Bharat ki dharti par kadam rakhegi. Geeta ke saath saath, Edhi Foundation ke paanch sadasya bhi Bharat aayenge. Unko hum State Guests ke roop mein treat karenge.

Geeta ke Bharat vaapas aane ke paschat, jo prakriya main ne pehle batayi thi ki hum jo parivar Geeta ne pehchana hai ki shayad uska hai unka DNA test karvayenge, aur yadi DNA test conclusive nikla toh Geeta unki supurd kar di jayegi. Yadi nahin, toh humne do aise institutions identify kar liye hain, ek Indore mein hai ek Delhi mein hai, jahan Geeta ki dekh rekh ho sakti hai.

To say the same thing in English, on the 26th of October 2015, we will be bringing Geeta back to India. Together with Geeta we have invited five officials, family members of the Edhi Foundation. They will be treated as State Guests during their stay in India.

Geeta has already identified one family as possibly being that of her parents. We will be doing DNA testing to establish conclusive proof. If the DNA tests match, Geeta would be handed over to that family. If not, we have identified suitable institutions where Geeta would be well looked after.

That was my announcement and now we can dive straight into the question and answer session.

Question: In the US-Pakistan Joint Statement yesterday in Washington, there was a reference made to the tensions along the Line of Control and the need for India and Pakistan to have a comprehensive dialogue on all outstanding issues including Jammu and Kashmir. Isn’t it rather odd that this has found a mention in their joint statement? How does India see this?

Official Spokesperson: Since you have raised the US-Pakistan Joint Statement, let me begin with terrorism because that comes naturally to mind when talking about Pakistan. In fact the Joint Statement itself devotes considerable space to that particular issue.

We note that two organisations have been specifically mentioned – Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and the Haqqani Network. Both are operating out of Pakistan and even the Pakistanis do not deny it. In fact, this is precisely why it is a subject of discussion between President Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

President Obama has significantly also raised with Prime Minister Sharif concerns about US nationals being held hostage by terrorist groups in that region. I am given to understand that this is the first time that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and the Haqqani Network have been specifically mentioned in a US-Pakistan Joint Statement. You have also read the assurances about these two organisations specifically and terrorism generally offered by Pakistan. We would naturally hope that they deliver on these commitments.

Let me remind you that in September 2014 and January 2015, the US and India had agreed to joint and concerted efforts to disrupt entities such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D-Company and the Haqqani Network. This is referenced in the India-US joint statements. So, there is consistency in the US focus on LeT and Haqqani Network during this visit.

Regarding the references that you mentioned to the India-Pakistan dialogue process and resolution of outstanding disputes including Jammu and Kashmir, let me make it clear that India has always desired resolution of all issues with Pakistan bilaterally through dialogue and peaceful means. It is Pakistan which has chosen to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy. We hope that this visit conveys a clear message to Pakistan that the international community is deeply concerned about its support to and sponsorship of terrorism.

Question: In the same joint statement between Pakistan and the United States of America there is a mention of US extending help in funding projects such as Diamer-Bhasha dam which is in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Comments by India, Sir.

Official Spokesperson: On this our position has been very clear and consistent. We oppose any developmental projects in an area which belongs to India but which is under the forcible and illegal occupation of Pakistan. We have made this clear to all countries.

Question: Pakistan has also been offered eight F-16 aircraft. What is your take on this?

Official Spokesperson: Our reservations on the supply of such systems to Pakistan are well-known and need no reiteration. I am told that this matter is still to be discussed in the Congress where many leading figures who understand Pakistan well have already questioned its rationale.

Question: The joint statement also talks about Pakistan being given the responsibility of strategic stability of South Asia. Do you think this is quite a bit of responsibility for Pakistan considering the kind of problems that you are enumerating?

Official Spokesperson: Eventually this comes down to the nuclear issue that we talked about. We have seen earlier statements also by the Pakistani Foreign Secretary for instance talking about some special weapons, tactical battlefield weapons, etc., that they have developed. All I would say is that given Pakistan’s history of clandestine and illegal activity on the nuclear side, obviously the implications of this assertion by the Pakistani Foreign Secretary would have to be carefully considered. I do draw attention to the reference in the joint statement that President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif discussed ‘nuclear terrorism’.

Question: There are reports that Pakistan has changed its NSA and handed it over to a military General. How would that alter if at all the future of talks with Indian NSA?

Official Spokesperson: As far as we are concerned, that is an internal matter for Pakistan. It is their choice who they want to make the NSA. As far as we are concerned, we remain open to the NSA talks as decided in the Ufa understanding.

Question: Today there are some media reports and some statements from the Edhi Foundation claiming that Geeta is apparently unhappy and she is being forced to go to India. What is your take on that?

Official Spokesperson: I think these are completely false and unsubstantiated reports. Everything that we have done so far has been with the full concurrence and knowledge of both Geeta and the Edhi Foundation. So, there is no truth to these reports at all.

Question: Vikas, you were just saying now that hopefully when this F-16 and all that will be discussed by people who understand Pakistan. Are you trying to imply that Obama does not understand Pakistan?

Official Spokesperson: I am not trying to imply anything. As I said, the US process itself requires certain approval from Congress etc. So, what I mean to say is that there are several tiers through which this process would have to go before it is finally approved, and we hope that the right voices in the US Congress would raise their concerns on such weapon sales to Pakistan.

Question: The Africa summit is barely three days away. I just wanted to know if you can give us a little bit about the specifics on the various days, the schedules. We broadly know of course the ...

Official Spokesperson: Broadly speaking, today the 23rd is the Trade Ministers’ meeting as you know, 26th is the senior officials meeting, 27th is the Foreign Ministers’ meeting, 28th basically the Heads start arriving, 29th is the main summit. And Prime Minister will hold bilateral meetings with the Heads on 28th, 29th and on the 30th as well.

Question: I was just wondering if you could give us some information about the soft cultural component during the Africa summit.

Official Spokesperson: That unfortunately is my predecessor Akbar’s domain. He is the Chief Coordinator. We will be doing another press conference on the Africa summit, I think probably on Monday, where I suppose you will be given more information on the cultural components.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: There will be daily press briefings as the summit starts unrolling. The timing we will have to fix depending on what is happening or not happening at that particular point in time. But I can assure you, there will be daily briefings in the Media Centre. In fact, more than 700 journalists have already registered for this. This itself tells you the high amount of interest that exists both in India and in Africa for this very momentous event.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: I think there will be no agenda. Basically there will be a plenary session where the media will be invited and there will be probably some kind of a declaration at the end point of the summit which will tell you what was discussed and what were the conclusions reached.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: The thing is, these acceptances are still coming and because of protocol and security issues we do not want to make any announcements too much before time. So, let me just restrict myself to saying that we have invited 54 countries, we expect all of them will be in attendance.

Question: This is about Sudan President. There are some doubts if he would come because there are serious charges against him.

Official Spokesperson: Our position on that is very clear. We have a historical relationship with Sudan. We have invited him as we have invited all the other Heads of the 54 countries. They will all be afforded due protocol and other considerations. And we are not party to the Rome Statute.

Question: After the visit of Foreign Affairs Minister to Moscow, can you remind us the position of India on the Syria question?

Official Spokesperson: On the Syria question our position is very clear. Insofar as the political issues in Syria is concerned, then it has to be in accordance with the Geneva process. That is something that the international community has signed up to and we certainly support that.

Insofar as the terrorism issue is concerned, our position remains that this kind of international terrorism can only be fought through a concerted global action and there should be no distinction between good terrorists and bad terrorists.

Question: During the Moscow visit EAM did mention about declassification of Netaji files from Russia. What is the response of the Russian Government?

Official Spokesperson: Basically this was discussed in the meeting that she had with the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and she said that Prime Minister had recently taken a decision that we would declassify all the files pertaining to Netaji and if other countries also where Netaji was involved also had any files which they could share with us, then we would really appreciate it. The Russian response was very positive. Foreign Minister Lavrov said that he would see whether Russia has any files pertaining to this particular subject, and if so they would certainly try to share them with us.

There being no other questions, this press conference comes to a close. Thank you.

(Concluded)

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