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Transcript of Curtain Raiser Media Briefing on ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit (January 10, 2018)

January 15, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Good Afternoon friends. The first briefing of 2018 will be dedicated to ASEAN India Commemorative Summit which is taking place in New Delhi on 25 – 26 January later this month. I have with me Secretary East Smt. Preeti Saran, I also have with me Jt. Secretary (South) Mr. Vinay Kumar and JS (ASEAN) Mr. Anurag who will brief us on different elements of the summit, in fact we will also be formally announcing the dates and program of the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit today and also there are several events which have taken place earlier and there are events which will take place in the run up to the summit.

Secretary East will take us through the program of the summit and also about the other event which are going to take place. After the briefing there will be time for some questions which you can direct to us. Ma’am the floor is yours.

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: Good afternoon dear friends. I join Raveesh and my other colleagues in wishing you a very happy new year and thank you so much for kindly joining us for this first special briefing for the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit which you heard will take place on 25th January followed by our Republic Day celebrations for which all the 10 leaders of ASEAN countries have been invited as Guests of Honor.

Now as you know that is unprecedented. Every year we celebrate our Republic Day we have one visiting foreign dignitary, this time we will have all the 10 ASEAN leaders. We are delighted and honored that all the 10 ASEAN leaders have confirmed their participation in the Commemorative Summit as well to be the Guest of Honor in the Republic Day celebrations.

This is a landmark year and you may ask why such a special unprecedented activity? In the course of the last one year we have been celebrating 25 years of India-ASEAN relations, 15 years of summit partnership with ASEAN and 5 years of our strategic partnership. It began last year in January with a conference that was held on cultural and civilizational linkages that was held in Jakarta and then we have had almost 36 major activities that have taken place not just in India but also in other ASEAN countries to mark this very special relationship.

In the run up to this summit we will be organizing another 16 major events and I could certainly go through some of the details of it. Of course the first one of them was in fact our External Affairs Minister’s very successful visit to three ASEAN countries. As you know on 8th she returned from a very successful visit to Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore where she had very successful meetings with political leadership in all the countries and had bilateral discussion in all the three countries.

But in the ASEAN context it was significant because Thailand is going to be the country coordinator for India-ASEAN relations from July this year onwards. Indonesia as you know has the ASEAN Secretariat and there is a new Secretary General who our External Affairs Minister met and in fact apart from the bilateral and the joint commission meeting that was held in Indonesia she also co-inaugurated with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, the fifth round of the ASEAN India Network of think tanks.

Singapore has taken over from January at the new Chair of ASEAN and in Singapore our External Affairs Minister hosted and participated in the Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas that recognized the importance of a very vibrant Indian diaspora in these 10 ASEAN countries and of course thanked them for the contribution that they have made to promoting the relations with each of the 10 ASEAN countries, of representing India so well and also invited them to participate in India’s growth and development.

In all her interactions that our External Affairs Minister had repeated refrain that we picked up was the desire on the part of all the ASEAN countries for a greater presence of India, greater cooperation with India and a greater integration economically, politically and in terms of the people to people contacts. That turned out to be a curtain raiser to the India-ASEAN Summit.

First I’ll brief a little bit about the program of the summit and then go on to the activities that we have planned for the run up to the summit. As far as the summit itself is concerned we expect the leaders to start arriving by 24th of January. The summit itself is planned on 25th of January, it will begin with a banquet to be hosted by Hon’ble Rashtrapati Ji followed be a Leader’s Retreat in which our Prime Minister has invited all the 10 ASEAN leaders for an exclusive retreat summit. Thereafter the summit will then move on to a plenary of the Commemorative Summit followed by a Gala Dinner to be hosted by our Prime Minister.

The following day i.e. January 26 all the 10 leaders will be Guest of Honor for our Republic Day deliberations and of course they will participate, as is customary for the dignitaries to also be present at the Rashtrapati Ji’s At Home which is to be organized later. This is as far as the summit component is concerned.

We have also made special arrangements for the accompanying spouse, we expect at least six of the 10 leaders to be accompanied by their respective spouse and we have a planned a separate event apart from the fact that the spouse would be invited for both Rashtrapati Ji’s banquet lunch as well as the Gala Dinner but they have a separate program organized for them. This is as far as the summit is concerned.

Let me just quickly run through some of the other important activities that we are going to plan in the run up to the summit. So the first one takes place tomorrow in fact in Rajgir. Rajgir, as you know is also home to the Nalanda University which was created as a result of an agreement signed during the East Asia Summit and the focus is to recreate the new Nalanda University as a center for learning much like the ancient Nalanda University was.

In addition to that on 13-17 January there is an India-ASEAN Hackathon and a Start-up Festival which will take place in Hyderabad. Then we have a student’s exchange program where 250 students from all the 10 ASEAN countries have been invited. It is customary for us as India-ASEAN collaboration to invite around 200 students each year, this year there are 500 students who would be visiting India. 250 would be visiting India in the week 14-23 January.

On 22-23 January we have an India-ASEAN Business & Investment Summit that is being undertaken in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce. On 24th January we have an ASEAN-India Business Council Meeting and on the same day we also have a Mekong-Ganga Cooperation Business Conclave.

On 23 January, we have an ASEAN-India textiles event entitled Weaving Textiles Relationship. Again on the same day at the end there would be an ASEAN-India Youth Award and Fabric Show.

Youth is an important component of our engagement with ASEAN under the three C’s which is Commerce, Connectivity and Culture where people to people contacts have been very important and we focused on the youth last year when we organized a Youth Summit in Bhopal followed by the first ever ASEAN-India Music Festival where we had bands from all the ten countries and an India-ASEAN Artists Retreat. The Hackathon is also intended to attract the talent of the youth and several other activities culminating into this Youth Award are really intended to be focused on youth.

Yet another very important focus of our activities on the run up to the summit is textiles. As you know all the ten ASEAN countries or most of them are important exporters and promoters of garments and apparels as is India and we feel that together there is immense potential for us to collaborate and be part of value chains. In addition to the fact that historically civilizationally we have a common connection of the weaves and textiles and which is why textiles has been given a very important focus.

Yet another very important element of our cultural connectivity is Ramayan. You would recall that when Prime Minister was invited to participate in the ASEAN-India Summit in Manila that was the time when President Duterte and Philippines were also celebrating 50 years of the establishment of ASEAN and as a part of their own celebrations the ASEAN countries regard Ramayan as a very important theme that connects all of them because Ramayan is something that is played and enacted today in most of the ASEAN countries. Seeing that very important cultural connectivity, historical, civilizational, between India and ASEAN countries we have invited Ramayan troops from all the ten ASEAN countries.

One or two specifically might not be Ramayan but for example in Vietnam there is this Cham culture which is very similar to the dance forms of India. Similarly in Brunei the dance mudras are very similar pick up from the Indian dance moves so we would have troops from all the ten ASEAN countries. They will be taken to different cities quite apart from the fact that from 20-24 January they would perform Ramayan at the Kamani Auditorium. So that is yet another important element of our celebrations in the run up to the summit.

We would also have a group of media representatives from all the ten ASEAN countries, your counterparts, so I’m sure you will have an opportunity to interact with them. We would certainly use that opportunity to expose them to our celebrations as well as to be part of the summit and Republic Day celebrations.

There is one element that I forgot to mention in the program of our leaders, when they come for the plenary session together they would also inaugurate a set of commemorative stamps on India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit again focused on the theme of Ramayan.

The Artists Retreat that I had earlier talked about which was held in the month of October, the art which was painted by the ten ASEAN artists and the ten Indian artists would also be on display for our leaders to see themselves. After the summit we would still have two major activities that will be held.

One is a film festival that will be held in Goa in the month of February and again in the month of February, in Assam, with the collaboration of the government of Assam we would be organizing a major event focused on ASEAN. Why Assam, because as you know North East is a very important component. They are the land bridge between the Indian and the ASEAN countries particularly through Myanmar, so that is another very important component.

What I’ll do is I’ll stop here and then be ready to take questions because you might have specific interest which I’d be happy to respond to.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you Ma’am. Before we go on to the question answer round let me share with you that in case you need any specific and more information on any of the events mentioned by the Secretary East, please write to us, I think there are several events taking place in the run up and I’m sure the ASEAN division would be happy to share more details about those events with anybody who is more interested in details of those events. Floor is now open for questions.

Question: Could we have some details about this Leader’s Retreat that you mentioned?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: The Leader’s Retreat will be held in Rashtrapati Bhawan soon after the lunch and banquet where it will be just exclusive our Prime Minister with the ten leaders who will hold a close door very free and frank discussion on the future of the India-ASEAN relations under the theme ‘Shared Values – Common Destiny’ which is the theme of the summit.

Question: Any new connectivity project likely to be announced during the summit and also what is the status of this India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway. It has been long delayed.

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: I’ll answer the second question first. Certainly the Indian ASEAN trilateral highway has been long in conceiving and implementing but the project is now on course and we hope that by 2019 it will be completed. It is a very important project in enhancing our physical connectivity from North East via Myanmar to Thailand. It will also help in building the larger connectivity that we see that this particular trilateral highway will, when we coordinate this with the ASEAN’s own master plan of connectivity. So it will move beyond Thailand to other countries including Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Your first question, we expect, you would recall that in 2015 our Prime Minister had made an offer of $1 billion line of credit for physical and digital connectivity. It takes time for individual countries as far as India’s lines of credit or any development assistance programs are concerned, you would be aware that India always makes these offers which are demandable so it is really for the host country to determine. We don’t impose projects on them, they themselves decide so there has been some discussions, that offer stays on the table and we hope that by the time that summit takes place there would be some request for concrete proposals which itself would be a good development.

Question: Related question first, because Vivian Balakrishnan the Singapore Foreign Minister in his last visit had made a strong pitch saying that air connectivity still remains very meagre compares to what potential needs to exist so any thought on that and you said that all ASEAN countries seem to be asking India for a greater presence and more integration even politically. Could you elaborate because when you say that China comes to the mind, how do you want more political engagements?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: I’ll answer specifically the Singapore related question. You know already, while we could do better, our air connectivity with Singapore is very good. We have about 484 flights per week connecting more than 16 cities and about nine airlines. Likewise I think we have very good air connectivity with Bangkok and with Kuala Lumpur, however we could do better with other ASEAN member countries.

We are in discussions both individually bilaterally with each of them but also within the ASEAN framework in fact just before the summit we would in fact hold a working group meeting of civil aviation officials to discuss this particular India-ASEAN air connectivity proposals. So that is under discussion.

As is yet another very important one and that is of enhancing maritime connectivity. We are discussing the MoU and the agreements on how we can enhance further maritime connectivity with the ASEAN countries. The land connectivity project I have already elaborated upon.

On your second question, when I say that we began our celebrations in January last year by focusing on civilization and cultural linkages. That itself speaks for itself, that you know our relationship with our South East Asian region is not something new, it has been happening for centuries for more than 2000 years and so what we are really looking at, at the moment is something that was happening in the past where it was maritime connectivity which was the main element through will traditional trade, philosophy, literature, people to people contacts etc. took place.

In current day times, certainly in the last three years itself I would have to say that when it comes to engaging politically bilaterally with each of the ten countries with our President, the Vice President and the Prime Minister of India have visited all the ten ASEAN countries. Bilaterally you would have also seen that there has been a lot of high level visits that have taken place for each of the ten ASEAN countries. Our External Affairs Minister’s latest visit is yet another example of maintaining these high level political contacts so this is something that stands on its own, it really doesn’t require any third parties intervention or presence to give it a boost.

The South East Asian region is economically very vibrant. We see a lot of potential especially when India is growing at 7.5 percent and this is a vibrant economic commercial space for us. Already the ASEAN region is our fourth largest trading partner and we are their seventh largest trading partner. Our investments in the last two decades has been $70 billion and it has grown. In the last one year alone our bilateral trade figures have gone up so we see a lot of potential in engaging them further both in terms of political engagement which is already ongoing.

We have very strong defense ties with specific individual countries except for Laos which is a landlocked country, we have very strong maritime relations with each of the other nine countries. We have our navy ships and coastguard ships that make regular visits to each of those countries. When we have held the international fleet review we had a strong participation from the ASEAN member countries. We have very strong navy to navy cooperation, we have coordinated patrols with some specific countries.

On the defense side as I told you we are working very closely with some of them. There are very important programs that are on capacity building as well with individual countries, it varies from country to country. So all of that just speaks for itself and also emphasizes the importance that the ASEAN has for India in our relations and in our Act East Policy.

Question: Bharat aur ASEAN deshon ke beech jitani karobari kshamta hai uska poora istemal nahi kiya ja raha hai. Abhi aapne bataya ki $70 billion ka karobar kiya ja raha hai aur 2022 tak $200 billion ka jo lakshya hai wo shayad poora hona mushkil lagta hai. Doosari baat yah bhi saamane aa rahi hai ki Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership plan ko lekar wahaan ye baat aa rahi hai ki Bharat mein isko lekar shankaayen hain ki is se gharelu neetiyon par prabhaav pad sakta hai, to is baare mein aapka kya kahna hai?

(Trade and commerce capabilities between India and ASEAN is not being optimally utilized. As you mentioned currently we are doing trade of $70 billion and it seems that the target of $200 billion is unachievable. Secondly there it is being said that there are apprehensions regarding RCEP in India which could have an effect on its internal policies. What do you have to say on this?)

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: Nahi aap bilkul theek kah rahe hain, kshamta hai lekin usko poori tarah se nahi utilize kiya gaya hai leking jahan tak RCEP ka sawaal hai hum bhi participate kar rahe hain negotiations mein.

(No, you are absolutely right that the capability is there but that had not been utilized. As far as RCEP is concerned we are participating in the negotiations.)

But in any negotiations we must remember that it has to be equitable and it has to be mutually acceptable. We have certain strengths and other participating countries also have certain strengths. We participated in the RCEP negotiations in the hope of a balanced equitable outcome where there is positives on both sides and it should be mutually acceptable. We remain positively engaged with all in the RCEP negotiations and hope that we would be able to come to a balanced outcome in that.

As far as the potential in terms of our economic trade and investment relations is concerned, yes, we could do better. This has been our effort which is why this whole host of activities that we have organized focused on business particularly is intended to draw attention of our business community to the potential in ASEAN and vice versa.

Main aapko bata doon ki jo ye saare events to humne aapko abhi bataye sirf yahi nahi hue hain balki teen sabse jyada mahatvapoorn business related activities jo hui hain wo Jakarta mei hui, Kuala Lumpur mein hui aur Bangkok mein hui. Ye abhi jo Pravasi Bharatiya Divas hua Singapore mein usmein bhi ek bahut strong component economic relations ko lekar bhi tha aur Videsh Mantri Ji ne bhi jab unko sambodhit kiya to yahi kaha, wahan ki pravasi audience ko yahi kaha ki jab aap log wahaan itna achha kaam kar rahe hai, so please be a part of India’s growth and development story also.

(Let me tell you that all the events that I shared with you just now, these were not the only events but the most important three events took place in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. In the recently concluded Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Singapore there was a very strong component of economic relations also. When EAM addressed the diaspora there, she raised this point with the diaspora that when they are doing so well in their respective countries, then please be a part of India’s growth and development story also.)

Yes, that $200 billion target is a very good target but given the fact that our economy has picked up and is doing so well we would expect as we open up, as we have liberalized in fact today we are one of the most open economies in terms of attracting foreign direct investment. Our own indicators in terms of ease of doing business have improved tremendously and we expect that all this will certainly help in attracting investments from the ASEAN region as well so I am sanguine, I am hopeful that we will definitely meet this target.

Question: Ma’am you spoke about economic engagement in consultation with the ASEAN countries. Do you see India investing in the petroleum sector in the South China Sea in the near future? And also Ma’am you spoke about a lot of naval closeness between these countries. Can you tell us if there are more ships, war ships going to Vietnam or Cambodia in the new future, or Philippines for that matter, I mean what has happened has happened, that is if there are new plans? And yesterday the Vietnamese Ambassador spoke about defense production along with India that could include transfer of certain missiles. Could elaborate on these things please?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: I’ll start with the oil & gas, Some of the ASEAN countries are rich in fossil fuel for example Brunei has a lot of gas, in Vietnam ONGC Videsh already has a presence in productive blocks where it is present there. You would remember that when the Prime Minister of Vietnam had visited in 2014 it was agreed that more productive oil blocks will be offered to India so we look forward to such oil blocks being offered and India will be very happy. I’m sure Indian companies that are already active and present there would be happy to participate both in upstream, midstream and downstream projects not just in Vietnam but in other countries as well. With Indonesia coal is a very important component and yet another area for collaboration. As far as Petroleum, oil & gas activities are concerned these are really ultimately even though it is ONGS Videsh which is a public sector undertaking but Indian private sector companies also have a history of presence and participation. I am sure they look for business opportunities in all of the ASEAN countries as and when it emerges.

Coming to navy to navy cooperation, as I mentioned to you we have very strong navy to navy linkages with individual countries particularly with Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. We have regular ship visits, there are no new great plans as such but already ongoing activities of ship visits, of coordinated patrols, of exercises that take place bilaterally are taking place very well. And every time we have defense to defense talks or navy to navy talks there is a great deal of satisfaction that has been expressed by the ASEAN member countries. For example on capacity building through our armed forces, interactions I think they have been very happy with the collaborations that have been undertaken so far and we will continue to engage with all of them in that context.

Third question, you know that as far as India’s own Make in India program is concerned we have opened up production in the defense and we would be very happy to undertake joint production wherever it is acceptable, commercially viable for each of these countries and we welcome joint production on where we have strengths, where we are competitive, I’m sure those would be welcomed.

Question: Can we have a list of the leaders participating in the Summit, who are the ten leaders?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: That I think I can share with you after the briefing.

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: We will give you the exact names and designations but I would just want to confirm to you that all the ten leaders, Heads of State, Heads of Government have in fact confirmed their participation so all ten would be coming for the summit as well as the Guests of Honors, and of course the new Secretary General of ASEAN.

Question: There had been demand from some of the ASEAN countries to increase the line of credit. So are you planning any increase?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: We have not received any specific requests. The $1 billion line of credit that was offered by our Prime Minister in 2015 was in an ASEAN Summit. Specifically we also have separate lines of credit that have been offered bilaterally to Vietnam, to Indonesia etc. As I mentioned lines of credit are really intended for specific projects which are incumbent upon the host country to determine and decided and that takes a while to identify the project’s viability etc. We would look at them positively as and when we receive it.

I must also tell you that within the ASEAN-India format we also have a commitment of $100 million ASEAN-India Fund. There is $5 million ASEAN-India Green Fund and another $5 million of ASEAN-India Science & Technology Fund and in that context there are ongoing activities that have taken place and we welcome new initiatives that will come out of that too.

Question: Can you share some details about the event in Assam?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: The event in Assam is being organized by the Government of Assam and it is 03 and 04 February. I will request Anurag to elaborate on it.

Jt. Secretary (ASEAN-ML), Mr. Anurag Bhushan: Well, we don’t have full details it is being organized by Government of Assam but it is called Advantage Assam. They have invited ministers from not only ASEAN countries but also from neighboring countries from the SAARC region and they are hoping for a very good participation by business community both in India and in the region of our neighborhood. I’ll try to find out more details later and let you know.

Question Contd.: What ministers from which countries?

Jt. Secretary (ASEAN-ML), Mr. Anurag Bhushan: I’ll let you know because under Assam Advantage festival, Assam government is directly writing to all the ministers. So I’ll find out and give you the list including any confirmations, that I will also let you know.

Question: Kya suraksha aur aatankvaad ke khataron ko lekar bhi koi baat hogi is summit ke dauran? Aur ek doosara sawaal, chunki Delhi ko lekar lagatar hum dekh rahe hain ki jo pollution hai wo ek bada matter hai, to kya kisi country ne is issue ko bhi raise kiya aap logon ke saath ki itne polluted environment mein kis tarah se cheezein ho paayengi aur kya unko koi jawaab diya gaya hai?

(Will there be any discussion on the issues of security and terrorism in the summit? And another question, since we are very concerned about the level of pollution in Delhi, so has any country raised any concern how things will be conducted with such high levels of pollution and what have we responded to them?)

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: Dekhiye security aur counter-terrorism dono hi bahut mukhya vishay hain, aur khastaur par terrorism to aisa mudda hai. We have been victims of terrorism as have been some of the ASEAN countries and it has always remained as an agenda of discussion and we don’t rule it out absolutely, certainly not when leaders sit together intimately in a retreat environment, I’m sure they will be discussing different aspects including this aspect which is an important aspect that concerns all of us.

On the issue of pollution, yes of course Delhi unfortunately at this moment there is a fog and there is pollution but you know 22 million Delhites live happily,

Hum log sab theek thaak hi hain, humein kuch aisi asuvidha nahi hui hai. Jahan tak ASEAN leaders ya unke delegations ka sawaal hai, is tarah ka koi bhi mudda unhone humse nahi uthaya hai. Hum log unse regularly touch mein hain, unko brief karte rahte hain, unhe bataya gaya hai ki kya kya hum taiyaariyan kar rahe hain.

(We all are doing well and we have not faced any such discomfort due to the pollution. As far as delegations of ASEAN leaders is concerned, no such issue has been raised by them. We are regularly in touch with them and briefing them about the preparations that we are making.)

They are very excited, they are really looking forward to participation of leaders, excellent arrangements are made.

Jaise hamari Atithi Devo Bhav wali policy hai, so really a warm welcome awaits all the ten leaders and their delegations and we hope that we will work towards a very successful, very pleasant and a pollution free environment.

Question: Continuing on the issue of terror, only on de-radicalization Indonesia has done a lot of work, can you elaborate on the collaboration between Indonesia and India and with the wider region on this issue?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: Yes, I think that is a very important subject. On counter radicalization both Indonesia and Malaysia have shared with us in our interactions with them in bilateral forums about the work they have done because they are also concerned about radicalization of their youth particularly through the internet and they have had experiences and they have managed to deal with this problem.

We also have some very positive experiences, in fact both India and the ASEAN countries, when rest of the world, is war torn, strife torn, terror torn, radicalize torn, we in fact are very good example for the rest of the world. So we would we hope not only learn from each other’s positive experiences but also set an example for other’s on how to counter radicalization and we certainly do intend to work on it.

Question: Now that we are looking for so much of close cooperation with ASEAN in all sectors why is it that our FTA in services is still stuck, three of the countries are yet to ratify and services are our mainstay so why is it that we are not able to get that through, is it because of their own problems or there are still some objection that were there originally, can you throw some light on that please?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: The fact that all of the ASEAN member countries participated in the India-ASEAN FTA on goods, services and investments. There is obviously an agreement and that is why those were signed, some countries are yet to ratify them. WE have also put in a request for the review of the India-ASEAN FTA and how we could do better. We are in engagement with them as far as improving the possibilities of doing trade under the India-ASEAN FTA in all three sectors i.e. goods, services as well as investments.

Question: Going back to the anti-terrorism front, I believe India has given Philippines certain funds to counter their terrorists in Mindanao and so on. This apparently is the first such time that has happened. Are we planning on doing such activity, giving money for more of these kind of de-radicalization and anti-terrorism measures?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: No, it wasn’t a de-radicalization measure. I’ll request Vinay to give you details.

Jt. Secretary (South), Mr. Vinay Kumar: Thank you Ma’am. Our cooperation with many of these countries are at a policy level in terms of counter-terrorism and operational level for exchange of information. But the specific point that you are mentioning was for rehabilitation of victims of the incident that took place in Southern Philippines, Marawi. The losses that was caused in the fight that took place in anti-terrorism operation for the rehabilitation of people affected. We have gifted 5,00,000 dollars to Government of Philippines for that.

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: Let me just explain, the one which you are referring to is for rehabilitation but this is really again a humanitarian activity as well and India has undertaken a lot of humanitarian assistance and aids to affected countries including in the ASEAN region.

Question Contd.: This was not the aid of 5,00,000 dollars, this was more in the nature of $5 million which was given when the Prime Minister visited Manila in November for the ASEAN Summit, this amount of money was given for some anti-terror collaboration.

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: There are two kinds of funds, one was for rehabilitation activity of the victims of Marawi attack and the one that you are referring to was given during Prime Minister’s visit was really for the Jaipur Foot, it was for those who were affected or particularly those who were victims of landmines and terror attacks. This is for this institution which undertakes the activity of the Jaipur Foot. It is called the Mahavir Foundation.

Question: Something off-track but will there be any discussion on Zakir Naik because that is an issue discussed between India and Malaysia and Malaysia has given him permanent residency. Also we have seen and we have spoken in the last 24 hrs to many Indian origin MPs in Malaysia who raised an alarm on the Zakir Naik and in his hate preaching which he has been involved in, could we see a formal request finally from India for extradition of Zakir Naik?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: That is not part of the India-ASEAN Summit questions so I’ll not be able to respond to that but nor will I be able to anticipate what will be discussed by the leaders.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I would once again request you to please restrict your question to ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit.

Question: This is just a clarification, did you say a review of the India-ASEAN FTA and if it is then are we referring to the goods, one or are we talking about the investment one?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: When I say review I mean we can just look at the progress of the India ASEAN FTA. It is in fact for Goods, Services and Investments so whenever a round of discussions takes place we would like to see how our FTA with ASEAN is progressing so it is not that any specific day has been fixed but certainly because the India-ASEAN FTA is already in position, we would be very happy to undertake its review as well.

Question: The Foreign Secretary has recently said that some of the negotiations, in the context of RCEP, and provisions are not necessarily in keeping with Make in India and enabling Make in India and how important Make in India is for the government. Two parts to my question, one, after 20 rounds of talks is there a feeling of the emerging RCEP negotiations not favoring India and therefore India laying the ground for possibly walking out of these negotiations and is there pressure in the aftermath of the death of the TPP that India not be part of this arrangement which is widely seen as a China driven partnership?

Question: India and some of the ASEAN members have common security concerns in South China Sea, so will you discuss this issue with other ASEAN countries?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: As far as RCEP is concerned, I think there was earlier question also asked on RCEP, I’ll just repeat again that we remain committed to our participation in RCEP, but we do expect it to be balanced and to the mutual benefit of all. So that is our stand as far as negotiations in RCEP is concerned.

As far as the issue of South China Sea is concerned, we have always maintained that freedom of navigation is an important element. Threat or use of force is not acceptable and that any navigation through global commons should be in keeping with rule based system particularly with UNCLOS. Thank you very much.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you Ma’am, thank you the two Jt. Secretaries and thank you all for joining in. Please have a very good evening. Thank You.

(Concludes)
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