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Transcript of Press Conference by External Affairs Minister on 100 days of Government (September 17, 2019)

September 18, 2019

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namaskar friends, good afternoon. On behalf of the External Affairs Minister of India Dr. S Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale, senior officials from the Ministry of External Affairs I extend a very warm welcome to you on this much anticipated press conference by the External Affairs Minister.

This press conference, the first by the External Affairs Minister since he assumed this office is on the occasion of 100 days of this ministry under the present government. We will start with the initial remarks by the Hon’ble Minister. After that we will open the floor for questions. Sir, the floor is yours.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar: Good afternoon and let me say what a pleasure to see all of you again.

This press conference as JS (XP) just told you is to share with you what we believe are our achievements over the first 100 days of the government. And before I come to that let me emphasis that actually in the case of Ministry of External Affairs, it started on day one with the invitation that was extended to the leaders of the BIMSTEC to join in the inauguration, swearing in ceremony of the new government.

Now I would like to provide you a little context here before we actually come to the achievements of the 100 days. The context is the broad foreign policy approach and I think all of you know that we’ve developed that conceptually over the last five years. So I’ll walk you a little bit through that concept and its evolution. But in the case of Ministry of External Affairs you would also appreciate that lot of the achievements in the sense this would be an activity based account because a lot of it would be visits and interactions and conversation which would lead to outcome, some immediate but some over a longer period of time.

So if I were to give you that context starting with foreign policy and in a sense what is different in the foreign policy approach that we have been following not just in the last 100 days but in the five years before that. To me, two or three very sharp points stand out. One, of course, is that much more than before there is a very strong linkage between what we are doing at home for national economic and social progress and what we are doing abroad in terms of diplomacy.

We are leveraging global capabilities, global technology, global best practices, global resources, partnerships in many ways and you can see that, I mean, if you were today to look at the visits, incoming, outgoing, summits, you’d see many more economic outcomes, many more technology or project based decisions. Often, say for example, whether it’s Smart Cities or claiming Rivers, a lot of best practices. So the collaborations in many ways, I think, have become much more salient part of the foreign policy.

Here, there have been sort of five, I’d say, big hubs of this i.e. North America, Europe, North East Asia, ASIAN and the Gulf. There are other relationships also which I will touch on.

The second difference again would be a much stronger connection between our national security interests and foreign policy. Again whether you look at the relationship, you look at the activity, you look at the capabilities that we are trying to develop this correlation between what are our national security goals and what are our foreign policy goals, I think, has also become very much stronger.

Now naturally foreign policy of every country, you know there is the standard international relations exercise at play, nations sort of compete with each other to increase their influence, everybody wants to increase their footprint. But here, I think, again, my third point would be that our ability, our appetite to shape the global agenda today is very much more than it was before and you can see that in areas like Climate Change, which I think you will be seeing that as the SDGs implementation unfold and I think today if you look at the big debates at multilateral forums, at G20, at BRICS you will see that the Indian voice, the Indian views are today heard much more clearly.

The diaspora, of course, is the fourth and in many ways somewhat unique aspect of our foreign policy and that is underlined by what is going to coming up very soon, in the United States which is a big diaspora event in partnership with our Indian American community.

And in terms of how we broadly see the world, we’ve had the view that there is a rebalancing going on in the world. The world is growing towards multi-polarity and growing multi-polarity really means multiple narratives that India has to be seen, India has to be heard, India has to be contributing in many ways and India’s personality in the international stage has to express itself and that happens through a vehicle like, say International Day of Yoga in the past but in the immediate, particularly in the last 100 days a lot of our energies have gone into the celebrations and events, the commemoration which marks the 150thbirth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

Now, in addition to all of that, we, of course, like any other country would want to put out our narrative, our specific interests and in the last 100 days again some of that has gone to the message of change, the vote of confidence that the government got from the electorate, the fact that we are back what that means and also issues which have some foreign policy resonance like the changes to Article 370 and of course some of the longer standing issues especially cross border terrorism.

Now, in terms of what we have seen and I would say in the last 100 days, the first circle of priority is neighborhood and rightly we call it neighborhood first and again many of you are familiar Neighborhood First is about connectivity, is about commerce, is about contacts and we’ve had, in fact Prime Minister begin its foreign travel, as he did previously, in the neighborhood, to Maldives and since then he has been to Sri Lanka and he has been to Bhutan and I, myself have covered Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal and we’ve had incoming visits from Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan as well.

What we do expect to see, going forward, is continuation of this generous, non-reciprocal policy towards our neighbors which will focus a lot on projects, on people-to-people contacts, on business contacts and we hope really to build a stronger, better neighborhood but recognizing that we have unique challenge from one neighbor and that until the issue of cross-border terrorism is successfully addressed and until that neighbor becomes a normal neighbor that would remain a challenge.

Moving on, in the extended neighborhood, again, in many ways you know that there were initially political divides after independence which prevented us really from harnessing the full possibilities of culture, history and economics out there but today between Look East towards ASEAN and what we are doing in the West and in fact Foreign Secretary has just come back today from Iran, we’ve really done, I think, an enormous amount to change the relationship, change perceptions of India more to the East than West.

In the East a lot of that is centered around connectivity, security and our support for ASEAN centrality. It is transposed on achievements which we have already had in business, diaspora and culture. In terms of contacts over the last 100 days Prime Minister met many of the leaders of this region at the G20. I went to Indonesia, to Singapore, I went for the ARF in Thailand.

In the West it is different, it is equally important, it’s been a newer story. This has been in fact largely over the last five years that we’ve taken the relationship to where it is today while it has always been important in terms of energy and diaspora I think today you have a very large investment relationship, an important security, stability relationship where we have lot of common shared concerns on radicalization and counter-terrorism.

Again there has been a lot of focus here. Prime Minister went to UAE and to Bahrain. You know that he got the highest awards in these countries. I hosted the UAE Foreign Minister very soon after assuming office. Our Minister of State went to Kuwait and I think he is in Iraq today and we have, among the activities over the last 100 days, supported and facilitated our naval deployment in the Straits of Hormuz and we’ve supported more than 200 thousand Haj pilgrims going for the Haj.

Now, moving beyond in terms of major powers our endeavor, of course, is to have the best relations with all these powers so that our options, our positioning is the best. In the last 100 days Prime Minister has actually met the leaders of all the P5 plus 2 i.e. Germany and Japan and I met all the Foreign Ministers except the German, who I hope to meet soon. Some of these were at multilaterals but we’ve had dedicated bilateral summit with Russia at Vladivostok with Prime Minister, with France during his visit there. I have myself been to China, I also had a bilateral with Japan and while we did all of this, I think, we did this taking full advantage today of a lot of multilateral events of global opportunities which these con-clubs provide.

It tells you today about the nature of the diplomacy and more important, about India standing that if you look even at the last 100 days, I mean we’ve had the G20 Summit, the G7 Summit, the Shanghai Cooperation Summit, the Vladivostok Far East Economic Forum, the CICA Summit, the ARF Meeting, the BRICS, Commonwealth and we have of course the BIMSTEC out here and we have really taken full advantage of this. Prime Minister is extraordinarily energetic and the rest of try to emulate that also. So we use each of these opportunities to the extent we can and I’d say I would not hesitate to give the numbers, I think JS (XP) probably would have it, but we would really be at the middle of, he says 28 for Prime Minister’s meetings and mine would be more partly because of more events that I have attended.

In Africa also we have been very active in the last 100 days and you know regard it today as a focus continent. Our vision for Africa was spelt out by Prime Minister last July at Uganda and the 18 embassies which we have decided to open are all in Africa. They are opening many of them as we speak and we actually had sort of an analysis sitting with the AU, stock taking of where we are and I think we are largely on track in terms of our Africa commitments. We had made a commitment of $10 billion of lines of credit in Africa, we’ve crossed 6.5. We have committed to $600 million of grant and we’ve actually reached $700 million. We had agreed to train 50 thousand people in different areas, we have reached 40 thousand.

So the Africa account has been actually extremely energetic. Hon’ble Rashtrapati Ji had visited Benin, Gambia and Guinea. In fact the first Head of State visit we hosted was from Zambia and Minister of State Muralidharan Ji had gone to Nigeria, Cameron, Togo and …

We’ve also seen activity in Central Asia. Prime Minister has been to Kyrgyzstan for the SCO Summit, I have been to Tajikistan for the CICA Summit.

Europe has also received a lot of attention in the last five years. Prime Minister himself had led from the front and again we see Europe as an important development partner for technology, capabilities of various kinds and the fact that we are market economy, the fact that we are democratic societies brings us together and here again President has been to Iceland, Switzerland and Slovenia. Vice President has been to the three Baltic countries, I have engaged both the outgoing and the incoming European Commission leadership, been to Poland, UK, Hungary and Belgium and of course we’ve had meetings with all the major European leaders at the multilaterals.

The picture in Latin America and Caribbean is also moving along and I must tell you, we expect in these five years to give this region much attention to this region than we did in the last five. Minister of State has been to Argentina, Peru, Columbia and the Dominican Republic. General V K Singh who was minister with us earlier went to Brazil and we have had incoming visits from St. Vincent and …. Today in fact I had met the Foreign Minister of Grenada.

We are concentrating a lot on the CARICOM of which again we have a very strong historical, cultural bonding. We hope to see more of them at the UNGA and again have a variant of the story in Oceania. We will be dealing more with the FIPIC, we expect to see them at the UNGA. I’ve had incoming visits from New Zealand from the leader of opposition and there have been meetings with both PM and me where Australia is concerned. So this is a broad, sort of, activity story.

In terms of practical achievements, sort of bricks and mortar level of achievements, we’ve actually, even in 100 days, there are projects which we have concluded. The projects which we concluded and inaugurated, there are projects in which we have had milestones, there are projects where we have commenced, so I can tell you again today this is a ministry which is extremely focused on delivering on development assistance abroad.

And among the examples, we were the first country to actually complete a project in the Rakhine State, we’ve build 250 houses there, they are ready to go. With Nepal Prime Minister inaugurated the Motihari-Amlekhganj pipeline. We have completed 50 thousand houses which we had committed to do after the Nepal Earthquake in Nuwakot and Gorkha districts. In Bhutan Prime Minister inaugurated the Mangdechhu dam, he also inaugurated the Earth Link station. In Bangladesh, we have just completed the first vocational training institute at Khulna.

We have started work on the Parvatipur-Siliguri High Speed Diesel, what we call, friendship pipeline. We’ve also started work on the Agartala-Akhora railway line. We’ve had, in Sri Lanka, the inauguration of the 1990 Ambulance service which enjoys enormous popularity there in the Eastern province.

We’ve, in Maldives, completed and inaugurated the Composite Training Facility for the Maldivian defence forces and two coastal surveillance radars as well. Prime Minister promised during his visit the renovation of Friday Mosque and we have already started work of that in Maldives. In Mauritius we have completed the ENT Hospital.

In Kenya, for example, we have just finished the textile factory, in Cambodia we have done a clinic and school and all of this I am giving you to as a snapshot of really what’s happened in the last 100 days and you can expect this pace of work to really carry on for the next five years.

Now, I have spoken largely of our ministry and I must also acknowledge the partnerships with other ministries which is so central for us to deliver on the practical aspects of our foreign policy. Here I must particularly recognize the Department of Posts because they’ve been a very-very positive, energetic partner in the spread of our Passport Seva Kendras through the country. We are doing it today by locating them in post offices. In the last 100 days we have opened six more, I just opened one this weekend at Rajpipla in Gujarat.

Similarly we have partnered with the Human Resources Development ministry. Yesterday we had a function here. This was our largest initiative with the ASEAN where we announced a thousand post-doctoral scholarships at IITs which I think would, certainly in educational cooperation in science & technology side, be among our major initiatives.

So that broadly is the picture and I would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge actually the support that we have got from the Ministry of Finance. When I looked at our budget figures I felt that they had done justice to a foreign policy which was more ambitious, which had a larger vision. In fact when I look back today the foreign ministry’s budget is about 40 percent higher than where it was in 2014. So that gives you a sense of how much support we have got from the Ministry of Finance.

So let me conclude by saying really my sense of these 100 days is that we have picked up on where we left off over a five year period. I think the vehicle is already in fourth, if not fifth, gear and I would say this with great objectivity, I think the record over the last five years has been very much that the country standing in the world has gone up and people recognize it, I think the Indian people recognize it and it was one of the many factors for the vote of confidence which was given to the Modi government.

I am, today, very honored, very privileged to lead the MEA team to take the last five years forward for the next five. So once again thank you for your attention and I’d be delighted to take any questions you have.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much sir. Before we move into the Q&A round, three simple points. Even if I identify yourself please do introduce yourself, your name and your organization’s name, one question, please avoid link question and the third which is very important, is that we will try to cover one topic in one go. So if, for example, the first question relates to the neighborhood, we will try to cover that topic before we move to the next topic so that we can cover as many topics as possible in the limited time that we have.

Question from Wion: The question is on India-US relationship. We know that the Prime Minister will be going and meeting him third time perhaps in this year. There are contentious issues, trade being the topmost, when can we see this issue being resolved, when can we expect a resolution or perhaps a trade deal?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I will take other questions on US as well, India-US relationship.

Question from India Writes Network: Prime Minister is going to be meeting President Trump twice, once in Texas and once in New York. When we talk about the quality of India-US relationship, apart from the contentious issues there is also President Trump’s unpredictability especially his notorious flip-flops in the Kashmir issue. Where do you see the issues dissolving themselves?

Question: Several US Congressmen, military committees have raised concerns about the human rights situation in Kashmir. As the Prime Minister heads there and the External Affairs Ministry has been doing the much firefighting about the internal situation in the state. Is there any assessment that you have in terms of when can at least the political detentions be phased out, is going to get over or is the detention going to be normal till the neighborhood state doesn’t turn into a normal state?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: This pertains to perhaps a later topic, we are only talking about India-US relationship.

Question from TV9 Bharatvarsh: Mera sawaal ye hai ki chaar din baad jab Prime Minister Modi aur President Trump ek hi manch par honge aur 50,000 se jyada logo ki bheed hogi to Kashmir par Bharat ke faisle ke baad ye kaisa message hoga Pakistan ke liye yaa duniyaa ke liye jab do bade desh ke neta ek saath manch par honge?

(My question is that four days from now when Prime Minister Modi and President Trump will share the dais and there would be an audience of more than 50 thousand, so what kind of message it would give to the Pakistan and to the world about India’s decision on Kashmir when these two leaders will be together on the dais?)

Question from the Print: Do we plan to ask for a waiver on the Iran sanctions, so called, from the US as far as waiver is concerned on purchasing oil from Iran?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar: Look, there are some common elements in the questions which you have asked so rather than go question by question I’d go subject by subject.

Let me start with the India-US trade issue and I think somebody described it as contentious, somebody used the word unpredictable, that was not the relationship that was a person, but first of all let me make this point that India-US relations have come a long way. I mean, look today at the quality of the relationship, look at the amount of trade, look at the political comfort, look at the security cooperation, look at the movement of people whether you look at business, students research, I mean there is no facet of the relationship today which hasn’t gone upwards really over the last 20 years.

It has gone through repeated changes of administration. It was democrat Clinton then George Bush, then Obama then Trump and the trajectory was always upwards and even today, even as we are planning for an event like Houston, the thinking from our side actually very bipartisan and from their side also their approach is also very bipartisan. So the first thing I want to reassure all of you, the relationship is in very good health. I am very satisfied with what has happened in the last five years and I am very optimistic about where we are going.

Now, as the relationship grows, as any relationship grows there will be issues. I mean you cannot have trade problems is that if you don’t trade and trade problems, by the way, often happens with people you are closest to because actually it is with them that you do the most trade. So its trade problems are normal, in fact, in many ways they are reflective of the substantial relationship.

So now let me give you my prognosis of the trade issue. We’ve been talking to the Americans, we have engaged them for many months now certainly in that 100 day record, I mean it is not my remit, this is CIM’s remit but certainly there have been a lot of conversations over the last 100 days. I have always been optimistic that the time will come when after a lot of these exchanges, mostly at the bureaucratic level, there would be an effort to take it to a higher level then sit down and see where we can find a common ground where this give and take and find ways by which it works for both of us.

So, my expectation is that some of the sharper edges that many of you seem to have picked up, they would be addressed in some forms in the not too distant future, exactly which ones, all that is really the Commerce Minister’s remit but again I would say that even if I were to take that as a given I would point to you a glass which is 90 percent full rather than a glass which is 10 percent empty. I mean look at all the activities, the business deals which are taking place and take that really as the state of the relationship.

Now there was reference to a number of issues, questions centering around Houston. Look the Houston event is the third time Prime Minister would be doing a major community event in the US. Madison Square Garden was the first in 2014, San Jose was second in 2015 and then he hasn’t been to the US at any length of time till now so Houston is the third. And I regard this as a great achievement of the Indian American community that if today there is an event of this size and you have someone like President Trump coming there, I think this shows really where that community has reached. How it is regarded in the United States, the respect that it commands out there. We will see in Houston what the turnout is, I think in many ways it is obviously achievement of the community.

Having said that, I mean there is no question that the community definitely today stands more motivated, more inspired, more united by the fact that somebody like Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister. So I have every expectation having seen and participated in the earlier two events that this too would be extremely successful.

Now regarding President Trump’s presence there I think it is a matter of great honor that he has chosen to come there, to accept the invitation from the community to be there and obviously we would welcome President Trump in the warmest possible manner.

Now there were two questions regarding, what is the message to Pakistan etc. Look, finally communities, countries develop a reputation, OK. I think if I remember it was in Kabul, I think it was in Herat, Prime Minister made that remark about information technology versus international terrorism, how both countries have reputations for IT but IT means different things.

Today, my sense is, it is not just Pakistan, I think whole world will be watching the Houston event and take lessons about what Indian Americans have achieved, what India and the United States, the state of the relationship today, so I think there are multiple messages there and obviously it is for the Pakistanis to read what they wish to into it and I would say the same applies to other people in the world as well.

Look, beyond a point don’t worry too much about what will people say on Jammu & Kashmir etc. because let me tell you one thing, there is complete predictability about my position. My position has been clear since 1972 and my position is not going to change and at the end of the day it is my issue. So on my issue, my position has prevailed and will prevail. So don’t worry too much about those aspects of it.

Regarding the Iran sanction issues, look we have had conversations with the Americans on Iran. Our interest is in affordable, predictable supply of energy. Iran situation is not a static situation. There are a lot of conversations, there are a lot of moving parts to this issue. Some of which surfaced at the G7 meetings on the sidelines, so let’s see where it goes.

I left out one question there, look you’ve had people in the Congress, some of them, making comments or writing letters or whatever it is. I spend a lot of my working life dealing with the US and in fact I started by dealing with the US Congress. You know US Congress says a lot of things because people go to individual members of Congress. Now what they say is not necessarily a function of their knowledge on that particular subject. They things often because somebody comes to them and says I think you need to say this.

Sometimes they could have a view and mostly their views will be transposed from their own experience but to anybody, I expect to be in Washington at some point of time fairly soon and frankly if I were to meet a member of Congress who raises these issues, I would ask them, look you have confronted terrorism, what was your response?

You have confronted terrorism in your history, what was your response. Would you be impassive, if let us say, an affirmative action was not implemented or if gender justice was not delivered or if the laws of your country did not apply to one part of your country. So ask yourself the same questions that I am asking myself and if after all that you still have a point of view then I’d be happy to talk to you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We now move to the second topic.

Question from NewsX: The question is related to China. There have been lot of reports of some confrontation or skirmish along the LAC between India and China. It has been raised by the armies and it has been raised by one of the BJP MPs as well, there were some reports of the Chinese nuclear submarine also being detected by the Indian air surveillance aircraft. Any of these things have been raised by the Indian government in the diplomatic structure with China, either the embassy or the Beijing level and any confirmation on development on Xi Jinping’s arrival location and date in India?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Any other question on India-China relationship?

Question: The question is regarding Chinese ships have been seen coming closer to our establishment in Vietnam in the South China Sea and there are also reports that seven of the naval ships which are also equipped with fighter machines, they are in Indian Ocean, so what type of relationship we are predicting with China in face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to have informal summit with President Xi Jinping?

Question from Sputnik News: Can you elaborate the progress regarding the collaboration with China in third country, like what we have seen in Afghanistan that we are providing skill development there?

Question: Wang Yi, not in his Foreign Minister Avatar but in his Special Envoy Avatar was supposed to come here earlier this year but he didn’t and we were told that we rescheduled the meeting. If you could tell us why and if you have a sense when we might expect the next round of border talks with the Chinese?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I will take two more questions.

Question from the Wall Street Journal: What is the government’s stand on allowing Huawei to participate in 5G trial, are we going by what US says or we will be adhering to our national interest?

Question from Hong Kong Phoenix TV: We see that a lot of journalists here raised already about recent challenges also some old issues between India and China. Last year we see the informal summit and there is Wuhan summit and Wuhan spirit is the main thing and how make the India-China relations in the past one year. The second informal summit is coming and how do you see the Wuhan spirit really working for India and China relations or there is going to be another spirit?

Question: We have seen how China has positioned itself vis-à-vis or with Pakistan on Kashmir, were we little lukewarm vis-à-vis Hong Kong with China as strong as the Chinese were with the Pakistanis on Kashmir?

Question from the Tribune: In Beijing you had said that India has no designs beyond the LAC and the LOC.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar: No, that is not correct. I didn’t say that. I can tell you what I said later but that is not accurate.

Question Contd.: If it is not accurate then I am not going to go ahead.

Question: Is there any rethink on our position on the Border Road Initiative, will that figure Mr. Xi Jinping’s meeting with Mr. Modi?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar: Thank you. Let me start with what happened at the border. Look, first of all we didn’t have a skirmish. I want to be very clear, I think, what we call, a face-off and it was resolved. From time to time that has happened and it has happened because you have differing perceptions of Line of Actual Control and Patrols meet and sometimes that kind of situations happens.

Now there are mechanisms and a lot of efforts have gone into mechanisms and procedures to address such situations and in this particular case I think the mechanisms kicked into play and they did address that and that has happened in the as well.

There were two questions about reports of Chinese ships being in water, look that is really an operational matter for Navy. I don’t think it’s a diplomatic matter unless there is some sovereignty violation for us. So I really on that kind of issue which is not our MEA domain I don’t have the knowledge I wouldn’t want to make a comment.

On the President Xi Jinping coming here for the next informal summit, I think you will have to be a little patient and my friend here would be making his remarks, his announcement when we are ready to do that.

Regarding South China Sea issue, we are working there in conjunction with the Vietnamese and I think a lot of responses to that are being handled by the Vietnamese which is the way it should be. Are we doing third country projects, to the best of my knowledge I think we did one for the training of Afghan diplomats. I think at the moment we haven’t gone beyond that.

On this question of Wang Yi as State Counselor reschedule, look I do want to, and this is not specific to this particular question, often people float dates. For me no dates are dates until Raveesh Kumar says so because you get speculation of various kinds. Let’s say you take a visit, somebody offers me three sets of dates and often it comes out in public, maybe one part of it comes out in public then somehow impression is created that we committed to something and we didn’t do it. We don’t take a call until we actually take a public call and until we take a public call and it even relates to other issues we have discussed, don’t that as a final decision. There was no rescheduling. So at this moment I think the National Security Advisor who is our Representative SR for these talks, he was preoccupied, it was one of those things which didn’t happen. So I don’t think more should be read into that.

Regarding Huawei, look we will take a call on not just Huawei, we will take a call 5G once, I believe there is a complicated process of trials and how that moves, again I think people are unnecessarily politicizing it. This is about telecom, it is for Telecom Department to look at it, there are technological implications. There could be other implications whoever is the other agency will look at it but somehow again the impression that this is a choice which is going to be a foreign policy choice, I don’t think that is accurately perceiving or assessing that issue.

On the Wuhan spirit, what is it we are talking about? We are actually talking about a very unique meeting between leaders of two important countries who spent two days in a very comfortable, open conversation with each other on a range of subjects. In the past a lot of our discussions were very choreographed, they were very formal, with a pre-set agenda whereas this was much more open, much more freewheeling and the real value that we saw in it was that it is important for India and China, who are both countries who are rising powers, to find equilibriums because each one of them has their own expectations of the world and of each other.

The principles that underlay, in a sense, the Wuhan conversations were from Astana which was that our relationship should be a source of stability in a uncertain and also that where we have differences those differences should not become disputes. Now all of that remains so. So I am sure that as and when the second informal summit happens, it will happen in as warm a spirit as Wuhan or maybe warmer depending on the temperature of the location of that place. But my sense is that commitment to have those kind of conversations remains strong on both sides.

Somebody asked me something on Hong Kong, there are developments in Hong Kong, obviously given that we have investments there and we have a community there we are watching it with great attention.

On the question of what I said in Beijing, look, I didn’t say about, let me tell you about my recollection of what I said and my recollection should be reasonably good. I actually said that what we have done has not changed the external boundaries of India. That was what I said.

Regarding the BRI rethink, the answer is no.

Question: My question is on Pakistan, per se abrogation of Article 370 has happened we have seen Pakistan trying to internationalize a bilateral issue, which was something which was bilateral so far, using threats to Jihad, and weapons, and war. World has responded saying it is an internal matter of India. So do you think we still can have bilateral dialogue with Pakistan and can Kashmir be part of issues that can be discussed with Pakistan?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We will take all questions on Pakistan plus neighborhood.

Question from ABP News: UNGA ki sidelines pe jo SAARC Foreign Ministers ke meeting hogi, aap usko attend karenge to Pakistan ke foreign minister se jab aap rubaru honge to kyaa message hogaa jo aap convey karna chaahenge aur khastaur Pakistan ki taraf se jis tareeke kii Jihadi language aai hai Bharat aur Bharat ke netaon ke khilaaf, usko lekar kya message SAARC ke platform se aap convey karna chaahenge, Pakistan ko?

(During the SAARC Foreign Minister’s meeting on the sidelines of UNGA when you will come across the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, what would be the message that you would like to convey especially after the kind of Jihadi language that has been used by Pakistan against India and Indian leaders, so what kind of message would you like to convey to Pakistan from the SAARC platform?)

Question: India has sacrificed a lot and contributed a lot for peace and development in Afghanistan, in spite of this India has been sidelined from the peace process. How do you view emergence of Taliban as a major factor in Afghanistan and the possibility of Taliban taking over the government in Afghanistan?

Question: This NRC issue is going and NRC issue cab setting of tribunals, agenda of tribunals is detection and deportation. These three issues are interlinked still Indian government is not taking up this issue with Dhaka and you say this is our domestic issue. How can it be domestic?

Question from Samwad Sindhi: Pakistan mein pichhale do din se Hindu Sindhiyon ke mandir par attack kiye jaa rahe hain, kal ek Sindhi ladki ka wahaan par murder ho gaya aur kaafi tod-fod mandiron mein kii jaa rahi hai, kaafi media mein bhi aaya hai. Bharat Sarkar ne is bahut hi current issue ko kis sangyaan mein liyaa hai?

(Temples of Hindu Sindhis in Pakistan are being attacked from the last two days, yesterday a Sindhi girl was murdered there and there is a lot of destruction in the temples and a lot of this has been covered in the media too. How has Indian government taken this very current issue into their cognizance?)

Question: In the last 100 days we have seen a lot of emphasis in broadening our energy imports. We have been saying that we don’t want to be dependent on any one particular country. Having said that sir, where do you see the energy relationship with Iran going, do you think this aspect our bilateral relationship with our traditional energy partner Iran has suffered and do you think the recent attack on the Saudi Aramco refinery, the US is now blaming Iran for it, does this complicate India’s position further?

Question: Do you think our actions in Kashmir is hurting our international image?

Question: This is on Pakistan with regard to Kulbhushan Jadhav. Why India did change its position within a span of a month on unimpeded consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav? Will we be seeking another meeting with Kulbhushan Jadhav?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We will split it here and we will be taking another round of questions on Pakistan and neighborhood.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar: The first question related to Article 370, bilaterally will you still have a dialogue. Look, first of all 370 is not a bilateral issue, 370 is an internal issue. Now with regard to Pakistan the issue is not 370, the issue is Pakistan’s terrorism. So again there is no change really and can there be, we must make the world realize and we do that, when in go abroad I always ask other people show me anywhere else in the world where any country conducts terrorism openly against its neighbor as part of what it considers its foreign policy.

So until the terrorism issue, what should come on the table, first of all it is the terrorism issue because that is the root cause of the state of the relationship. So I think there has to be a recognition of that. On what happens if or when, whatever I meet the Pakistani foreign minister around the sidelines of the UNGA, well, we’ll see when that happens. We were together, meaning at the same place, during the Commonwealth Foreign Minister’s meeting in London. These are international events but where SAARC is concerned my message would be this.

SAARC is for regional cooperation, so what do you need for regional cooperation, you need trade on an MFN basis, you need connectivity, you don’t need terrorism. So if you were to look at the future of SAARC which country is today actually promoting SAARC and which country is impeding SAARC, I think that is an issue which all of SAARC needs to reflect on and I am pretty confident every other member of SAARC knows what the answer to those questions are.

On this issue of Afghanistan, let me tell you we are wide in pretty much what is happening in Afghanistan on a fairly regular and a fairly effective basis. So again somehow I don’t need to be at the formal meetings to have influence or have a view or shape the outcome, there are many ways. For me, first of all, having a good, strong relationship with different political forces and the government in Afghanistan that itself is a huge asset that I have. So I wouldn’t be that, shall I say, defensive about where we are on Afghanistan. We have interests, we have views, we know how to make those felt and I can tell you that as developments happen you will see that there are ways by which Indian diplomacy will make its interests and its objectives understood and factored in by the international community.

On the NRC issue, what NRC? NRC is an enumeration of citizens that any country does. It is obviously sovereign right of a country and the NRC exercise is obviously an internal exercise so that is the limited point which we have made.

Regarding minorities in Pakistan, I think this is not a new thing. I mean here is a country which today is waxing eloquent about other nations, look at their treatment of minorities I think the minorities’ numbers have come down dramatically in the last 70 years and I think to a point where they probably don’t put it out publicly anymore. What is happening now in Sindh that’s not the only thing that has happened in the last 100 days, you had also those cases of abductions of those Sikh girls. So there is a continuing story and it is pretty pervasive in that country and I think there is today, really an objective human rights audit in this part of the world I can pretty confidently assert who will come last in it.

Regarding energy issues with Iran, our interest today is in access to affordable and predictable energy sources. We are in dialogue with all suppliers including Iran. I think the issues which have come up are not of our making. I think the Iranians understand that so we have to see whether the landscape changes and what are the possibilities thereafter hold.

Somebody asked a question about Kashmir and international image, I think the international community understands by and large what our objectives were in modifying Article 370. I think as you explain to them that this was a temporary provision which is not something which often, I don’t see that word used so often in the analysis of events but when you tell people, look this is the history of Article 370 that it was a temporary provision and the meaning of the word temporary is that it has to come to an end, that this provision has actually become dysfunctional, that it was being arbitraged by a narrow set of people for their own gains and that by doing that they were impeding developments and that lack of development was feeding the sense of separatism and that separatism actually has been utilized by Pakistan to carry out cross-border terrorism.

I think most people do understand that flow of logic out there and if you pose to them this question that look here is an incoming government and an incoming government, what does it do, it has two choices either it continues the policies of the last 30 odd years and you know the casualties the cost of all of that. So we know what didn’t work for 30 years so choice one is what did not work should be continued for the future or choice two is try and so something very differently and try to change the landscape and find actually more effective answers for what is a very challenging situation.

Again if you out all of this and they are well aware, I mean today there is no country in the world which says that is not happening. So my own sense is that there is a growing understanding of what the logic of doing all of this is about.

And finally on the Kulbhushan Jadhav issue, look on the Kulbhushan Jadhav issue our objective was one, to seek access to him to ascertain his well-being. At the same time seeking access to him was one step in eventually providing the remedy which the international court of Justice we should and finally finding a solution which would bring an innocent person back to his country. Now we had to look at a variety of factors and really see what is the importance you put at this time to ascertain his wellbeing and we thought that ascertaining his wellbeing is a priority issue at this point and we wanted to begin the proceedings however unsatisfactory they may be. Whether the Pakistanis carried out in letter and spirit what the International Court of Justice wanted them to do, I think they answer to obvious to all of you but nevertheless I think the wellbeing factor was there in our mind.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We move to the last round of questions on neighborhood plus any other topic.

Question from India Today: Just wanted clarity on the issue of Zakir Naik, there was a statement by the Malaysian Prime Minister that Prime Minister Modi in his meeting did not seek extradition of Zakir Naik. Foreign Secretary Gokhale during his briefing had said that the matter had come up to a specific question on extradition. We just want clarity on what was discussed when the two leaders met.

Question from News Nation: Jo pratyarpan ko lekar sawaal hai khastaur par un bhagode apraadhiyon ka jismein Vijay Mallya ka naam bhi hai, Mehul Choksi bhi hain, Nirav Modi bhi hain. 100 days mein koi aisa update nahi aaya jise ismein shumar kiyaa jaaye, aagey is par kuch update denaa chaahenge ki aakhir Sarkar kis tareeke se is par move kar rahi hai taaki jo janta se vaayda aapki Sarkar ne kiyaa hai ki in bhagodon ko waapis laaya jaayega us sandarbh mein kuch aashwast kiyaa jaa sake public ko.

(Regarding the question of extradition of economic fugitives which includes the names of Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi and also Nirav Modi. Has there been any update in 100 days which can be included here and would you like to update us on how Indian government is moving ahead on this so that the promise which your government made to the public that the fugitives will be brought back to India, some assurance can be given to the general public in that context?)

Question from Dainik Bhaskar: Days after parliament decided to abrogate Article 370 Pakistan prime minister in one of his interaction said that there is no point left anymore talking to India, do you feel the same way that there is no point talking to this not so normal neighbor or do you feel that there are issues that can be discussed with this abnormal neighbor too?

Question from Zee News: Sawaal Pak occupied Kashmir ko lekar hai. Kashmir se dhaaraa 370 khatm hone ke baad ye maanaa jaa rahaa hai ki Sarkar ka focus Pakistan occupied Kashmir ko waapis lene ke liye ho gayaa hai. Kya diplomatic channel ke jariye Sarkar prayaas karegi Pak occupied Kashmir ko waapis lene ke liye kyonki aapke Grahmantri bhi kah chuke hain ki ab Pakistan se baat hogi to Pak occupied Kashmir par hi hogi, to kya hamaara ye shift ho gayaa hai?

(The question is related to the Pak Occupied Kashmir. After abrogation of Article 370 it is being assumed that the focus of the government is now on taking back the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Would Indian government try to take back the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir through diplomatic channels because your Home Minister has already said that now if there would be talks with Pakistan then it would be regarding POK only, so has the focus shifted?)

Question: When the Prime Minister goes to the UNGA there would be international pressure on him to have a bilateral dialogue with Pakistan. Do you think there is a possibility of meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of UNGA?

Question from Press Trust of India: Have all the issues relating to the Kartarpur Corridor have been resolved and will be it opening in November as stated by Pakistan?

Question from the Hindu, Business Line:The question is on the ongoing RCEP negotiations, we have seen the industry expressing a lot of concerns that there will be a big surge of imports especially from China if we sign this agreement as the import duties on most items are reduced to zero. We have also seen farmers groups coming out protesting against the agreement because they fear even the domestic items would suffer because of that. So do we see a conflict emerging between our diplomatic and trade interests here and going forward if with that trade interest in mind if we feel that we have to say no to this agreement, will it be acceptable from a diplomatic point of view?

Question from Deepika: Pope Francis really, openly said that he wanted to visit India and in fact he told me in a press conference on his onboard way back to Bangladesh and Myanmar trip that he wanted to come soon. What is the possibility right now it didn’t materialize during the last Modi government.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar: Let me start with the Zakir Naik issue. Look if my memory serves me right we filed our extradition request in January of 2018 and from January of 2018 we have been persistently relentlessly pursuing this matter at all levels. Now my understanding, I was not at Vladivostok but my understanding of the Vladivostok meeting was that the Zakir Naik issue did come up and that the expectation was communicated from our side that the officials concerned should meet quickly and sort out this matter, obviously, to our satisfaction.

But since you raised this matter let me make it very clear for the record that there is an extradition request for Zakir Naik, we want Zakir Naik back and that is what we are working towards. So let me be very clear on that score.

On the absconders update, I think in the last 100 days I cannot recollect any major development but please bear in mind that most of these are legal issues, so the timing of this, the calendar of legal proceedings is not something that we are in a position to determine.

Then somebody asked the question saying that the Prime Minister of Pakistan had said that there is no point talking to India. Look, part of the problem with Pakistan is that it has been only doing talking, they have not been doing anything on terrorism. They think that nice words are an answer to a real problem and the real problem is the dismantlement of this industry that they have created. So the question is not today whether what you can talk about. At the end of the day it goes back to what I told you which is, for any neighbor and this is not an India issue, show me a country in the world which will accept that its neighbor can conduct terrorism and will go and talk to the neighbor.

So our position is completely normal, rational, they are the set of people whose behavior is an aberration. The abnormality is there. So I think our position cannot be clearer than what I have spelt out earlier and on POK, yes, our position is and has always been and will always be very clear. POK is part of India and we expect one day that we will have the physical jurisdiction over it.

Regarding UNGA, whether there would be a meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan, in principle I don’t comment on what can happen and I am not talking about this particular issue. Did you see me answer questions on China and even on the US on this matter but before you asked me that question, since you have asked this question, just look at the climate of the relations right now, I think that itself should give you the answer that you are looking at.

On Kartarpur Sahib my understanding is that most of the issues pertaining to the Kartarpur Sahib have been resolved, I think we are moving in the right direction and there is an expectation that there is a deadline out there that we have to meet, so I think we are confident of doing that.

Regarding RCEP, you see RCEP is a trade agreement. A trade agreement must be defended and decided upon by its trade merits, ok. There are diplomatic aspects, consequences, handling etc. but the primary justification of a trade agreement cannot be diplomacy, it has to be trade. Just as generally the purpose of diplomacy is to actually serve that particular domain. I mean today if I have a national security interest at home the purpose of diplomacy is to serve that national security interest. National security will not adjust to diplomacy, diplomacy has to serve national security. So I think we need to be clear what is the role of diplomacy here and that applies as well to this particular example.

Finally on the question you asked me about the Pope, I honestly don’t know. I don’t want to give an answer which is erroneous.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: One last question.

Question: I am trying to be not repetitive Minister Jaishankar it is on Kashmir. Over the last one month we have seen Ministry of External Affairs and the NSA engage with the foreign media. Are you concerned about the media reportage in the foreign press about Kashmir because you say that the world countries have been supporting the abrogation of Article 370?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar: Look, diplomacy is largely, not exclusively, an intergovernmental exercise so most of the people I deal with directly are people in the government. So that was broadly what I was referring to out there.

Having said that we all of course know how important press is including press of other countries. So now in terms of how the reporting is going, look, people are entitled to have views, someone like me is entitled to have views on their views and I’ve noticed two things, one point I made earlier that I have very rarely seen in a story from anybody which brings out the fact that 370 was a temporary provision of the constitution.

In fact it is interesting, all of you need to google this and see that how many people have actually reported that because somewhere that is at the heart of the issue. Similarly it is made out sometimes as though we did something on August 5th which terribly complicated a situation with the assumption that things were normal and happy before August 5th. Now you all know the situation in Jammu & Kashmir before August 5th. Yesterday before the Hon’ble Supreme Court the government laid out the situation with very graphic and very disturbing numbers.

So I think people, I don’t want to make it sound like a criticism but my observation as a very avid follower and reader of the media, would be that it would be fair to take some of these facts into account if you are reporting something very serious, to do the necessary diligence for that and not make sweeping judgements necessarily based on what is the momentary impression at the moment. But having said that again I would say that there is a variety of reporting, I would not paint everybody with the same brush but I have seen, there would be certain segment of reporting for which my observations will apply.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much sir. It is not, obviously, possible to accommodate all the questions. We have covered broadly most of the topical questions which you guys ask us all the time. Thank you sir and thank you all for joining. Thank you.


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