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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (June ​22​ , 2017)

June 23, 2017

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Namaskar! Good afternoon to all of you. Thank you all of you for coming here today. In the beginning of this briefing I have three brief announcements to make.

You might have seen the billboards about the Passport Seva Project and the Conference. I am happy to inform you that the Ministry is celebrating the completion of 50 years of the Passport Act 1967. It was on 24th June, 1967 that the Passport Act came into effect. In this effect the Passport Seva Divas and Passport Officers Conference are being held today at the Ministry.

What you saw today is the conference and tomorrow there will be a high level segment of the event which would be between 12:00 noon and 14:00 Hrs. and it would be graced by the External Affairs Minister, Minister of State for Communication (Independent Charge) as well as Ministers of State for External Affairs, Gen V K Singh and Shri M J Akbar. Senior officials of the ministry of External Affairs and other government departments beside 38 Passport officers and officials of service provider will also attend tomorrow’s special function.

You would have seen our advisory about the invitation to the media to attend tomorrow’s event. You all are cordially invited.

My second announcement is about an ASEAN Media Exchange Program under which we would be receiving 20 journalists from 10 ASEAN countries who will be on a visit to India for a familiarization program between July 2 and July 8, 2017.

Many of you would have heard the External Affairs Minister speak today about the ASEAN-India function organized by RIS at India Habitat Center. We are having a number of commemorative events on the occasion of India-ASEAN 25 years of relations and this visit is a part of that although we do have regular exchanges of journalists with ASEAN, last visit was in 2016, but since this visit is taking in the commemorative 25th year therefore it assumes a special significance.

My third and very brief announcement is about the four Indian civil prisoners which were released in Pakistan and who have crossed over to India today. Their names are Shri Suraj Ram, Shri Sohal Lal, Mr. Mohammad Maqbool Lone and Mr. Abdul Majeed.

With this I stop my brief announcements here and the floor is now open for questions.

Question: Can you repeat the names of the Indian prisoners?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Suraj Ram, Sohan Lal, Abdul Majeed and Mahmood Maqbool Lone. They are civil prisoners who were released after serving their sentences in Pakistan and they are back in India today afternoon.

Question: Since when these people were under detention?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I don’t have all those details with me right now, but what I think is of significance and happiness for them and for their families is that they are back.

Question: Just 3 days to go for the PM’s visit to the US, what will be the engagements on 25th and 26th, if you have the details?

Question: Of course, he will be addressing a CEOs forum over there, could you tell us about the companies with whom Prime Minister will be interacting? Are there one on one calls and considering that there is a trade deficit any particular concerns that US has raised which could figure in the discussions?

Question: I just want to focus on Mr. Modi’s visit and the economic agenda because of course from the Indian industry’s point of view H1B has turned out to be a very thorny issue. Will Prime Minister be raising that, could you confirm that?

Question: As far as the CEOs meeting is concerned in Washington DC, I believe that this time Prime Minister is essentially meeting the top CEOs, CFOs of only the American firms in that particular meeting, there are no Indian companies that are going to be in the room. If you could confirm or tell us the reason as to why is that and overall is it about knowing Mr. Trump and his agenda or specifically moving forward with more proposals?

Question: Any MoU or cooperation agreement or any joint statement likely to be issued?

Question: I want to know the details of the agenda, if you have. I presume it contains something on defence, Make in India, Terrorism and Trade. Could you give us some good amount of details regarding the agenda?

Question: The visit is a few days away and already the Trump administration has made certain points about widening the scope of drone strikes, about Pakistan not being an ally and similar points. How does the Indian Government see these statements from America just before the visit? Clearly there is a link and are we going to discuss these two-three issues with the Americans?

Question: The recent racial attacks that had happened ever since Trump came into power, would that find mention because so far the Prime Minister has been mum as far as condemning these attacks?

Question: On the issue of terrorism particularly India’s concern regarding terrorism emanating from Pakistan, would India push for a very specific, strong statement in the joint statement on cross-border terrorism? Also is there some conversation regarding certain terror groups being designated as by both countries?

Question: Will there be any specific request from India on military aid that US gives to Pakistan and try and stop that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: All right, I think there are about 10 to 12 questions and they cover a very wide area so let me first of all begin with the date. I think we are a scheduled to leave on Saturday morning and as you know as I have announced in my last briefing, we will be going first to Portugal, where there is a working visit. Then from Portugal we will land up in Washington DC and when we land up in Washington DC will be your 25th but 24th night in DC.

Now let me give you a broad idea of the engagements. On 25th night we will arrive there. On 25th there will be meetings, I think some of you know more than I do, with the CEOs and senior representatives from the business community and of course there will also be a community event in the afternoon of 25th.

On 26th forenoon, there will be our calls on the Prime Minister by senior officials, dignitaries of the US administration and in the afternoon we have for the official engagement with the President Trump. There will be official level talks and followed of course by the protocol events. This is the broad framework of the program at that we have on 25th and 26th.

Now a number of questions you have asked, first let me handle the trade and economy part of it. You all know that the relationship with the United States that India has in the economic and commercial sphere is a very robust relationship. We have a large bilateral trade turnover, I think it’s close to about US $ 115 billion.

US is a leading investor in India. Several U.S.-based multinational companies are represented in India and likewise Indian entrepreneurs, Indian professionals have added value to the US economy, and we have spoken about that on a number of occasions in the recent past also. One of the agenda of the visit, if I may say so or the areas of focus, is how to further push and develop economic and commercial cooperation between the two countries for mutual benefit. That certainly will be in the focus.

As for the meeting with CEOs is concerned, as I said I think some of you know more than I do at this stage. There are meetings with CEOs but I do not know whether they are one to one, or they are in a format and as someone asked, whether Indian companies are a part of it or not, but what is important is what they are going to talk about, the specific areas with which those companies are concerned. For example if we take the multinational corporations, we very well know that they have global operations and they have operations in India also. So in that context the conversations will certainly focus on giving a further fillip, further push to bilateral economic cooperation, commercial cooperation, investment and of course related areas where we are very keen to partner with many countries in the world like start-ups, technology etc.

On specific issues which you mentioned, I think someone asked about the racial attacks, somebody asked about the H1B, we have dealt with these matters in the previous briefings. Fortunately there has not been an occasion in the recent past to discuss racial attacks and I’m happy for it. The thing is that not all attacks are racial, not all incidents are racial. Wherever there have been attacks on Indians because of some reason or the other, you have seen that they have been condemned very strongly by the US government, senior US authorities also. I don’t need to go into those details which you already covered, but I can tell you in nutshell that when the two leaders need it is not our practice to constrain their agenda.

Officials obviously prepare for the visit but the leaders have of course the entire gamut of the relationship in front of them when they sit and talk and it is not my endeavor here to say that this will be discussed or this will not be discussed or X will be discussed on priority and Y will not be discussed in priority. I do not have the authority and I do not certainly wish to constrain their agenda in any manner. All matters of bilateral interest, obviously are there, we are familiar with them and when the leaders meet, since the idea is, as we have said earlier, is to give a thrust, give a direction to the relationship. It’s a very robust relationship, it’s an expanding relationship. It has been described as the defining partnership of the 21st century. So what else can be done, where we can go from here that will be the focus of the two leaders when they sit and talk about it.

In terms of outcome, wait and see. I’m official spokesperson and I’m not, unfortunately, official astrologer so I won’t be able to give a satisfactory answer to your question from your perspective perhaps, but we can wait for the outcome. What I can assure all of you, although some of you may not be in DC on 26th but what I can assure you that we will have a very detailed briefing before and we are taking care of this aspect in terms of arranging the program. We are trying to see where we can have a very detailed briefing after the discussions between the two leaders, before we depart from the United States for the Netherlands. So are keeping that in mind, we are making special effort to try and organize a very substantive, detailed briefing and I can assure you that we are very conscious that you would require a briefing on that count.

Question: How do you prepare for a meeting with a maverick sort of President like Trump? It won’t be like Obama or Clinton nor anybody else. How you all are going about it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay:
Let me first of all say with all due respect that I do not agree with your description of the President and in fact it’s not the Government’s policy to put labels or describe the personality. We deal with officials, we deal with the people who are in position and President Trump and Prime Minister have had three very useful conversations over the telephone as you are aware. This will be their first meeting in person but in the near future they obviously will have other occasions to meet at other multilateral fora perhaps. So I don’t agree with your characterization.

Well, similarly and differently. Similarly because we have had our Foreign Secretary earlier travel to the United States. Their National Security Adviser has been here so all these interactions feed into it. We of course at a very senior official level are in regular touch with the US government, so are they preparing for the visit. And differently because it’s a new administration. We all know that they have assumed office recently and therefore there are certain areas on which we need to understand each other better. There are of course dialogue going on and that is the aim of the dialogue.

So I won’t really put any stock to the personality aspect, the relationship is institutional, it’s very strong. As I said, it has been described as the defining partnership of the 21st century. So if I could resume answering the remaining questions.

I think I have touched upon agenda by and large and outcome also. To your question and not really specific to this visit in particular, but our concerns regarding terrorism emanating from Pakistan are already well known and terrorism which emanates from there has affected not only India but it has affected other countries in South Asia, in fact in our region and the world over. So those concerns have been very well known, we do talk to all countries, we do talk to our friends and partners on how to counter terrorism, cross-border terrorism, international terrorism and we always say that all types of terrorism have to be fought effectively. They have to be fought against and without any discrimination between one type of terrorist and other type of terrorist.

So global security and regional security and these issues, terrorism etc. I would say again I don’t want to constrain the agenda of the leaders, but it is logical to assume that these issues will figure in the discussions between the two leaders.

As to your question about the military aid, we have had this conversation with the US officials several times. We have made our views known to them, they are aware of our views which essentially are that it has been our concern that the military aid is basically aimed at use against us. Now we are aware of course that Pakistan’s relationship with the United States and United States relationship with Pakistan is a relationship between two sovereign countries, but as far as our concerns are concerned they have been conveyed to the authorities whenever there has been an occasion.

As far as defence and Make in India is concerned, again I would say that the in the realm of economic co-operation and in the realm of very robust economic cooperation and relationship as well as defence relationship which has been growing, as you know India is the major defence partner and has been designated as a major defence partner of the United States. So within that context and in those parameters, I think this is a very good relationship, expanding relationship and of course this is a significant area of our relationship right now. So I am not in a position to predict as I said I’m not an astrologer, much less an official astrologer so I am not in a position to predict what will be discussed because that is up to the two leaders to decide and eventually discuss, but yes this is an important area of our relationship and this is a growing relationship, an expanding relationship.

Question: Just needed some clarification on Qatar situation, last time we heard that.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Let me close the US account and then I will move to Qatar.

Question: You talked about stepping of American investment. Do we have any projected figures on the targets as far as investments are concerned? And what is the total number of American companies in India presently?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I don’t have the total number of American companies in India right now, but if you look at the top companies in the NYSE or any other such entity, you will find almost everyone represented in India. In terms of the investment I think in over the past decade or it’s over $ 20 billion if I am not mistaken and it is growing, but I don’t have exact figures with me. If you need I can certainly get them and give it to you.

As far as the schedule is concerned, I have given the broader sketch. The program keeps evolving, it is an evolving program and whenever we have time slotted and scheduled, it’s a usual practice for us to advise you and advise the media present there in terms of what engagement is taking place so that you can cover them accordingly.

The work is always in progress and that’s how you progress.

Question: Wanted to ask you about the situation in Qatar. Last evening there was a report from Civil Aviation that EAM spoke to Civil Aviation Minister and asked the Civil Aviation ministry to carry out the evacuation. So what is your assessment about and last time we heard the EAM saying that it’s not a matter of concern right now. So has the situation reached to a level of concern where we are carrying out the evacuation operation and what is the schedule worked out for that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I can’t thank you enough for asking this question but you would forgive me for the next part of my answer. I would say and I would say it in Hindi also. Look, characterization of what has been decided and what is being implemented and is going to be implemented as evacuation, is incorrect and forgive me for saying so and is also not responsible. Because it is not an evacuation. There is no need for an evacuation from Qatar.

In our briefing earlier on, we had mentioned to you that the Indians there are safe and secure. There are regional political developments because of which there is problem in connectivity, there are difficulties in certain supplies etc. but alternatives have been found. The Qatari authorities are in touch with us and our embassy is in touch with the Indian population there quite regularly and I had mentioned you in our last meeting that not one of them has contacted embassy saying that they are facing a problem because of the developments.

Now what has happened is that as you know this is a Ramzan season, the festival of Eid is upon us and obviously many of the Indians who are in Qatar and other countries, they wish to travel back to India for spending time with their families or to be with their families on the festival. Given the regional developments and the situation that we are aware of, there are certain difficulties in Qatar’s connectivity with Qatar’s neighboring countries and therefore some of the Indians who wish to travel to India cannot get those connecting flights from Qatar’s neighboring countries to travel to India.

In view of the situation what has been decided and you rightly referred to the conversation of External Affairs Minister but what has been decided is to have additional commercial flights to meet the special demand of the Indian community right now to travel to India during this time. I repeat it is not an evacuation, I repeat there is no need for an evacuation right now. Situation is pretty much under control, Indians there are safe and secure.

Main Hindi mein isko dohra deta hoon. Ye kahna ki Qatar se Bharatiyon ki nikaasi ho rahi hai ya kari ja rahi hai ye kahna galat hai aur thoda bahut kisi na kisi drishtikon se gain-zimmedarana bhi hai. Gain zimmedarana aur galat isliye kyonki abhi na to wahaan nikaasi ki koi jaroorat hai aur na is baare mein is wajah se koi nirnay liyaa gaya hai.

Jo faisla liya gaya hai wo ye ki is baat ko maddenazar rakhate hue ki Qatar ka sampark uske padosi deshon se poora waisa nahi hai jaisa samaanya paristhiti mein hota tha aur iske chalte wahaan rahne wale Bharatiyon ko aaj-kal ke Ramzan ke aur aane waale Eid ke tyohaar ke avsar par, agar wo Bharat aanaa chaahte hain to unko connecting flights lene mein kuch dikkat aa rahi hain is wajah se atirikt commercial udanon ki vyavastha kari jaa rahi hai. Ye udaane public sector ki bhi hain aur private sector ki bhi hain.

Wahaan par stithi niyantran mein hai. Hamaaraa dootavaas lagaataar Bharatiyon se sampark banaaye hue hai. Vahaan par kisi bhi prakaar ki pareshaani aur dikkat ki koi bhi baat nahi hai. Main aap logon se ye guzarish karunga, ye prarthna karunga,

Please be careful in reporting the decisions and reporting the situation. I hope it clarifies the situation adequately.

Question: Saudi Arabia has decided to impose a family tax from July. There is a huge Indian diaspora, is the Indian government in talks with Saudi Arabia or is there any concern about this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Thank you for the question. The thing really is that as far as I understand, the decision is to impose a small, sort of a levy, on visitors from India who will be going from India to meet the Indian workers. They may be the family members of the Indian workers or they may be their friends. Now unlike Visa fees which is discussed and decided most of the time on reciprocal basis, this is not a reciprocal matter, this is a matter which has been decided by the Saudi Arabian authorities within their internal competence.

So this is how the two situations are different and this is where the situation is at the moment.

Jahaan tak mujhe pataa hai Saudi Arabia ke adhikaariyon ne jo nirnay liyaa hai wo ek chhotaa amount hai, jahaan tak mujhe pataa hai wo shaayad Rs. 1700 yaa iske aas-paas ko koi amount hai jisko wo ek fees ke taur par lagaayenge un yaatriyon ya vyaktiyon ke liye jo wahaan par Bhartiya karmchaari yaa kaamgaaron ko visit karte hain. Aise log unke parivaar ke bhi ho sakte hain yaa unke dost log bhi ho sakte hain. Jab do desh visa fee ka maamlaa tai karte hain to ye reciprocity ke aadhaar par aksar tai kiyaa jaataa hai lekin ye visa fee ka maamlaa nahi hai, ye doosare kism ki ek fees hai, ek chhota saa amount hai jo unhone un logon ke liye lagaayaa hai jo wahaan par rah rahe Bhartiya kaamgaaron se milne ke liye unke pass jaayenge. To ye dono maamle alag-alag hain.

Question: The UN Secretary General on Tuesday in a media conference indicated that he had been speaking with the leaders of India and Pakistan to get them to resume talks. He referred to three meetings he says he’s had with the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan and two with Prime Minister Modi. One clarification if you could just help me understand, I know the one meeting that PM had with the UN Secretary General in St Petersburg. If you could just confirm which was the second meeting, firstly, and question is how India views these comments and this suggestion by the UN Secretary General that he is mediating between India and Pakistan to bring them back to talks.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Thank you. I don’t really have with me the place and date of the other meeting, so I will get back to you on that. As far as the other part of your question about the mediation between India and Pakistan is concerned, I have seen the reply which has been reported in the media. Essentially the Secretary General asked a question in response to a question. My interpretation of that question with which he answered the question is different from your interpretation perhaps.

Because I am aware that bilateral matters between India and Pakistan are to be decided bilaterally and the United Nations Secretary General has been made aware of this position.

Question: Isi hafte Switzerland mein NSG ko lekar meeting honi hai to usko lekar kya taiyaari hai. Kya hum mane ki pichhali meeting se is baar hum jyaadaa confident hain ki kuchh breakthrough hoga?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Jahaan tak meri jaankaari hai wo meeting chal rahi hai, wo meeting 19 – 23 June tak honi hai. NSG ki sadasyataa ke liye hamaaraa aavedan vichaaraadheen hai aur usko lekar ke hum NSG ke jitne bhi sadasya desh hain unse sampark mein hain aur unse baat-cheet kar rahe hain.

Question: Bilateral matters are to be solved bilaterally and the Secretary General has been made aware of it, this is after his comments or in a general context, to the Secretary General’s office?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: He was referring to his meetings with the Prime Minister’s.

Question: Saudi Arabia waale sawaal par aapne ek sthiti bataai jiske anusaar visa fees to tai kiyaa jaataa hai aapasi samwaad se lekin ye family tax hai aur ise unhone apni tareeke se tai kar diya hai. Is stithi ko lekar kya Bharat Sarkar concerned hai? 40 laakh ke aas-paas log wahaan rahte hain aur report ye hai ki kai log wahaan se apne parivaron ko wapas bhejne ke liye majboor hain kyonki shayad wo utna kam paisa nahi hai, jitna hum log yahaan se presume kar rahe hain?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay:
Kya apne prashn ka doosara hissa aap dohraa sakte hain?

Question Contd.: Wahaan par bahut se kaamgaar log hain aur aisi khabarein hain ki wahaan se log apne mata-pita aur yahaan tak ki bachhon ko bhi saath rakhne par ye tax lagaayaa gaya hai, family tax. To kyaa aapko lagtaa hai ki aisi stithi hai jismein Bharat Sarkar ko baat karne ki jaroorat hai aur ye paisa itnaa kam nahi hai jitna hum log shayad presume kar rahe hain.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Dekhiye hum is par koi atkalbaazi nahi kar rahe hain, presume nahi kar rahe hain. Jo hamaari jaankaari hai, jo maine kahaa aapse, uske aas-paas hi ye amount hai. Ye unpar lagaayaa gayaa hai yaa lagaaye jaane ka faislaa kiyaa gayaa hai, 1 July se, jo wahaan par stith Bhartiya kaamgaaron se milne ke liye wahaan visit karenge.

Jahaan tak mujhe pataa hai Bhartiya kaamgaaron ki stithi wo wahaan kaam karne jaate hain, wo wahaan paisa kamaane jaate hain, wo wahaan par jaate hain isliye ki apne jeevan-yaapan ke liye wo paisa le sakein, to mujhe nahi lagta ki bahut se logon ke paas unka parivaar wahaan par hotaa hai. Wo akele jaate hain, wahaan par rahte hain, kaam karte hain aur fir wo wapas aa jaate hain, ya paisa bhejate hain aur thode dino baad wapas aa jaate hain.

Is nirnay ka asar un logo par padegaa jo Bhartiya kaamgaaron se milne jaanaa chahte hain. Ab ye kitni sankhya hai, kitne is tareeke ke log honge, kitnaa asar padegaa, ye dekhane ka aur addhyayan karne ka vishay hai aur ye haal hi ka faisla hai, isko abhi laagoo nahi kiyaa gaya hai. Iskaa hum adhyayan kar rahe hain aur agar koi aisa maamlaa hota hai jismein kahin bhi Bhartiyon ke hiton par pratikool prabhaav padtaa hai to ekdum nischint rahiye Bharat Sarkar avashya us maamle ko sambandhit Sarkar ke saath uthaati hai.

Question: I have a question on the China, there is a report which has been primarily prepared on the basis of satellite images and on the various intelligence reports as well, which basically describes that in less than a decade China has prepared more than a dozen air-strips close to the line of control. I have a two part question, one, is the Indian government aware of any such report and two, if yes then has the Indian government in the recent past raised this issue with China at any level?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: As far as first part of your question is concerned, I am not aware of which specific report you are sighting, so I will have to check on that, but I would also suggest that this is not necessarily an area where MEA is directly aware, perhaps you could ask the Ministry of Defence also. But I will try and check if there is something like that. I haven’t seen that report.

On the second part, if I am not aware that we have seen the report so obviously I can’t comment whether we have raised it with the Chinese or not, but the leaving this specific aspect aside, on the general thing I will tell you that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country is very important, obviously it is of paramount importance to us.

And as far as the border question with China is concerned you all are aware of the process that is underway. There are very elaborate mechanisms between the two countries to address this and that’s why this border has been very tranquil, very peaceful, not a bullet has been fired as has often stated regarding this border. So I would say that the mechanisms have been working well and the both countries are committed to addressing all related issues through these mechanisms. On the specific query I will need to check.

Question: I have a question connected to China itself. China plans to connect the CPC with the Bangladesh India Myanmar corridor through the ocean. We have concerns regarding the sovereignty, what’s your comments on that, I mean connecting this thing?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Two parts of this question, on connectivity in general, we have our position very clearly laid out. We have said that we promote connectivity, we support connectivity because connectivity within India, connectivity of India with its neighbours will promote greater prosperity. So we ourselves are part of a number of connectivity initiatives and I won’t name all of them but you saw for example even on the western side, Chabahar agreement last year and the trilateral agreement among India, Afghanistan and Iran, and earlier this week on Monday we all saw the establishment of air freight corridor between India and Afghanistan. What is that, that is also a connectivity initiative.

So India’s policy is to promote connectivity, but as I said in response to the question the sovereignty and territorial integrity is of paramount importance and CPEC or the so-called CPEC, we have our concerns which have been made very clear to all parties concerned, which have been made very clear to our other friends and partners also with whom occasion has been there to discuss this matter. So those concerns are there, now what would happen in future that is very speculative and I would like to go into that at this stage.

Thank you very much.

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