Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namaskar, good afternoon friends and welcome to this weekly media briefing. I have no announcements to make so we can straight away move to the Q&A session.
Question: The US Trade delegation is in Delhi for talks and we saw some tweets from President Trump. How is it going to impact the trade talks and how would you like to react to these kind of tweets?
Question: Two USTR representatives are here today and tomorrow. Is tomorrow the main day of meetings, and broadly what would be the guiding principle and some of the concerns that India would like to put to the table, though I know there are multiple ministries involved but whatever best you can share at this point.
Question: Actually there was a great confusion whether the meetings has started, meeting is going on or not, where it is going on, so can you just give us an idea so that we can write some news.
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I understand that informal meetings are taking place today. Formal talks will take place tomorrow.
As regards to first and second question, you see in Osaka when the Prime Minister and President Trump met. They had a very good meeting and naturally trade was also discussed. It was decided in that meeting that officials from both sides will meet to resolve all outstanding issues related to trade.
Now there are quite a few issues on the table which you are aware. Our approach is to engage with them very constructively, in a very positive manner. You are aware that the team is already here, it is being led by United States Trade Representative Office in-charge of South and Central Asia. Assistant US Trade Representative, Mr. Christopher Wilson. We have a matching delegation from our side. It is being led by Addnl. Secretary level officer from the Ministry of Commerce.
I think it is important to keep in mind when we engage on this issue that the trajectory of the relationship remains positive, we have to keep in mind the bigger picture and within that big picture try to address all the issues which are on the table.
On the talks itself, I would suggest that you please contact the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for details.
Question: We are well aware of US demands on India but it is all defensive on India’s part or does India also has some issues relating to trade access in US?
Question: Does the Indian delegation comprise officials from both MEA and Commerce or are they meeting separately like who are these US trade delegates meeting here?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: It is a composite delegation. The delegations comprises of officials from Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of External Affairs. There are other people as well, so it is a composite delegation. There are no separate meetings that are taking place.
On first question, you see there are quite a few issues, as I mentioned, on the table and many of these issues got discussed during that meeting between Prime Minister and President Trump. We are looking forward to resolve those issues, we are looking forward towards a constructive engagement with the US. Many of these issues are technical in nature as in terms of tariffs etc. and as far as those issues are concerned we will, kind of, have to wait and see how are they addressed.
So I will not be able to get into the details at this point of time. So I think we will have to wait and see the result of the talks.
Question : Is India considering the proposal to join the US led coalition for safeguarding maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You are aware that we have two naval ships in the region to protect our merchant vessels. Nothing more to say at this stage.
Question: You have seen the additional elements of the UN report, you have issued a rejoinder. Can you give us some more details please?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: There is nothing further to what we have already mentioned in our press release but since you asked me I would just like to highlight few points.
The first point which we made was that the update of the report is false and motivated. It is a false and motivated narrative on the situation in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. We also said that it is in violation of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and it also ignores the core issue of cross-border terrorism. I think there is no mention of cross-border terrorism in the report.
We also feel that the report and the update seems to be an effort to create an artificial parity between the world’s largest and the most vibrant democracy and a country which openly practices state sponsored terrorism.
Our main problem was that the update seems to accord a legitimacy to terrorism which actually is in complete variance with the UN Security Council positions and you know that in the past UNSC has taken positions where they have been very forthcoming on these issues including when they proscribed Masood Azhar and when they proscribed other terrorists and terrorist groups.
We feel that it is an unacceptable advocacy of the dismemberment of a UN member state. The entire state of Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan is in illegal forcible occupation of a part of the Indian state including the so called ‘Azad Jammu & Kashmir’ and Gilgit Baltistan through aggression. We have repeatedly called on Pakistan to vacate these territories.
We also feel that by publishing and coming out with this report, with this update they have undermined their own credibility, they have failed to recognize an independent judiciary, human rights institutions and other mechanisms in the state of Jammu & Kashmir that safeguard, protect and promote constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights to all citizens of India.
It also belittles constitutional provisions, statutory procedures and established practices in an established functioning democracy. We also feel that the update has a prejudiced mindset. It willfully ignores the determined and comprehensive socio-economic efforts which have been undertaken by the government in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
Question: In the backdrop of the Kartarpur talks that are going to happen, yesterday we heard that the Ministry of Home Affairs has banned Sikhs for Justice, a radical separatists group. There is a fresh threat that they have issued, they are saying that on 15th August they will do more drama in several countries. So how do you take this forward, will you take this independently with these countries and secondly, on the Kartarpur Sahib, you have raised this with Pakistan, you plan to raise this again?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We have taken up this matter with the countries concerned, we have taken up this matter very strongly with the government of Canada in the past and we continue to do so.
I understand that MHA has actually issued a notification in this regard which includes the reasons why Sikhs for Justice has been banned. They have been outlawed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Sikhs for Justice is a fringe group involved in anti-India and subversive activities in Punjab. They have supported violent forms and extremism in Punjab and elsewhere.
I think here it is important to understand that the vast majority of Sikhs in Canada and other parts of the world share warm relations with India. They want better relations with India and their country of residence and frankly we take no cognizance of what the fringe elements have to say which is meant to create disharmony and spread hate. These groups do not have any traction within the mainstream Sikh community. We will continue to make efforts to engage with the Indian community in Canada and other countries of the world.
Jahan tak meri jaankaari hai Home Ministry ne is maamle mein ek notification jaari kiyaa hai aur usmein jo tathya hain ki kis wajah se Sikhs For Justice ko ban kiyaa gayaa hai, usmein iski poori jaankaari hai.
Sikhs For Justice ek fringe group hai jo Bharat virodhi activities mein involved hai, jo Punjab mein subversive activities mein involved hai aur unhone jo violent form of extremism ka saath diyaa hai aur jahaan tak Bharat ka sawaal hai, jo Sikh samuday Canada ya doosare deshon mein hai, unke saath hamaare bahut achhe sambandh hain aur wo bhi humse achha sambandh rakhna chaahte hain, jahan se unka origin hai unke saath wo achha sambandh rakhna chaahte hain aur hamein lagataa hai ki aise jo fringe elements hain, jinka kaam sirf nafarat failaanaa hai, jinka kaam communal disharmony failaanaa hai, hamein unki baat par jyada tavazzo nahi deni chaahiye kyonki in groups ka unki khud ki Sikh community mein koi bhi support base nahi hai. Jahaan tak Bharat ka sawaal hai hum, jo hamari Indian community Canada mein hai, aur jo doosare deshon mein hain, unke saath sambandh banaane kii hum poori koshish karte rahenge.
Question Contd.: Will you take this up with Pakistan, what are the major issues that you will raise with Pakistan?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I would take this opportunity to also dispel some misconceptions which have been appearing in a section of media since you asked about Kartarpur.
Number one, we are fully committed to this project. We want this project to be expeditiously completed, we are aware that it involves the sentiments of people, sentiments of the pilgrims who are going to visit the Kartarpur Sahib.
As far as the infrastructure work is concerned, I must again emphasize that the work on two important aspects on the state of the art passenger terminal and also on the four lane highway which is going to connect the zero point of the Kartarpur Corridor to the national highway, they are ongoing and we are hopeful that the work on these two projects will be completed in time, one by September 2019 and the other by October 2019.
So the reports which say that we are slow in terms of finishing our project, I think it is not the correct depiction.
On some of the issues which we have flagged to Pakistan earlier, we have taken it up with Pakistan in the past not only on infrastructure related points including the construction of the bridge, I think there is some discussion going on about whether there should be a desire to have talks, it basically conveys that whatever the differences are, we will have talks and we will take up those matters with Pakistan when we meet them on the 14th of this month.
Question: Al-Qaeda chief al-Zawahiri ka ek naya video saamane aayaa hai jismein wo aahwaan kar rahaa hai ki jo mujahedeen hai Kashmir ki zameen par woh Bharat ke khilaaf, Bharatiya Sena ke khilaaf, Bharatiya installation ke khilaaf jihad karein. Ye maanaa jaataa hai ki Al-Jawahiri Pakistan mein sharan liye hue hai aur apne ko ye bataataa hai ki wo Pakistan se baahar hai halaanki tamaam agency aisi jaankaari de rahi hain. Hamaare pass kyaa jaankaari hai, hamaaraa kya response hai?
(A new video of al-Zawahiri has come out in which he is exhorting the Mujahedeen in Kashmir to engage in jihad against the Indian military and Indian establishment. It is believed that al-Zawahiri has taken refuge in Pakistan however he says that he is somewhere outside Pakistan and many agencies are confirming that he is in Pakistan. What information do we have and what is our response?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Aisi dhamkiyan hum sunte rahte hain aur ye pahli baar nahi aayaa hai, ye pehle bhi aataa rahataa hai ki hum ye kar denge, hum wo kar denge, mujhe nahi lagta ki usko hamein itna seriously lena chaahiye.
Aapko pataa hai ki Al-Qaeda ek UN proscribed organization, unke leader bhi UN designated terrorists hain aur hum sabako pataa hai ki jo hamaari security forces hain unke paas itnii kaabiliyat hai, wo itnaa equipped hain ki aisi dhamkiyon se wo ghabaraane waale nahi hain aur na hum itanaa dhyaan dete hain, wo hamaari jaan-maal ki suraksha, aur unke pass hamaari territorial integrity aur sovereignty ka dhyaan rakhne ka dam-kham hai.
(We have been listening to such threats and this is not the first time such a thing has happened, it has happened earlier also when it was claimed that we will do this or do that, I think we should not take it too seriously.
You are aware that al-Qaeda is a UN proscribed organization and its leader is also a UN designated terrorist and we all know that our security forces are competent and they are equipped not to be shaken by such threats and neither do we give it much importance. They have the requisite competence and force to credibly look after our safety and security and protect our territorial integrity and sovereignty.)
Question: Pakistan mein Sindh praant mein jo minorities hain wahan par Hindu ladakiyon ka lagaataar apaharan ho rahaa hai unka dharm parivartan karvaayaa jaa rahaa hai. Kyaa Bharat sarkaar ne kuch officially communicate kiyaa hai, koi aapatti jataai hai Pakistan ko kahaa hai iske baare mein action lene ke liye kyonki iske pahle Pakistan ke Pradhanmantri Imran Khan ek bayaan de chuke hain ki hum Bharat ko sikhaayenge ki kaise alpsankhyakon ko surakshit rakhaa jaataa hai apne desh mein.
(In the Sindh province of Pakistan minority Hindu girls are being continuously kidnapped and are forced to convert their religion. Has the Indian government officially communicated their concerns regarding this and asked Pakistan to take action in this regard as Pakistani Prime Minister has already made a statement that we will teach India how to keep the minorities in their country safe?)
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Is par ek Parliament ka question aayaa thaa aur mujhe nahi lagataa ki mujhe usmein kuch add karne kii jaroorat hai. Aap chaahein to main padh sakataa hoon lekin padhanaa nahi chaahta kyonki parliamentary matter hai. Pakistan mein jo unki minorities kii treatment hai uske upar Parliament mein hamaaraa bayaan hai, Lok Sabha mein aap usko dekh sakte hain.
(There was a question in the Parliament regarding this and I don’t think there is anything which I need to add to that. If you want I can read the response but I really don’t want to do that because it is a parliamentary matter. Our response on treatment of minorities in Pakistan is placed with the Parliament, in the Lok Sabha, you can go through the same.)
Question: Greater Noida mein more than 300 illegal Africans ko pakadaa gayaa hai, kisi ke pass passport hai, visa hai, kisi ke pass nahi hai. Mere ko ye jaananaa jaroori hai police jab unko pakadane gaye they to ye dikhaayaa gayaa thaa ki illegal Africans bahut dino se rah rahe they, agar na pakadaa jaataa to aur bhi 5-6 saal rahate.
(More than 300 illegal African have been apprehended in Greater Noida, some of them do not have passports or visa. It was informed that these people were staying here for very long illegally and if they would not have been apprehended they would have stayed here for another 5-6 years.
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Sawaal kya hai aapkaa.
(What is your question?)
Question Contd.: Sawaal ye hai ki jab pakadane gaye tab pataa lagaa ki avaidh tareeke se rah rahe hain. Agar police inke peechhe na padte to inko pataa hii nahii lagataa ki ye avaidh tareeke se rah rahe hain.
(The question is when the police went after them then it became known that they have been staying here illegally. If police didn’t go after them then it would not been came to light that they were staying illegally.)
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: To achhi baat hai na ki pataa lag gayaa. Aapka sawaal main samajhane kii koshish kar rahaa hoon. Dekhiye ye police ka kaam hai, ye law and order agencies ka kaam hai aur jo bhi log binaa papers ke illegally yahaan rah rahe hain agar wo pakade jaate hain to jo due process of law hai wo to chalegaa hii.
(So it is a good thing that matter came to light. I am trying to understand your question. See, this is the job of police and law and order agencies to apprehend people who are staying here illegally and the due process of law will obviously complete its course.)
Question: There are reports saying that senior officials from India and China and Russia will soon have Indo-Pacific consultations. Can you confirm about this consultation and this is seen making different kind of definition and ideas about Indo-Pacific different from US concept of Indo-Pacific, can you give some response?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: If you are talking about some news report, frankly it is difficult for me to react on a news report. If there are official level discussions which are going to take place on this topic we will make an announcement at an appropriate time.
Our views on Indo-Pacific are very clear, it has been articulated well by the Prime Minister himself during the Shangri-La Dialogue and if we need to engage with other parties, other countries to explain our position that we do continuously, not only in the bigger formats but also in the bilateral formats. I think that is something which is going.
Question: Just want to take forward the question on al-Zawahiri, that video interestingly says that we can’t trust the Pakistan army and the intelligence agencies anymore and we want a united jihad to liberate Kashmir. So how do you react to that and does India believe that the Al-Qaeda chief al-Zawahiri is in Pakistan because there have been reports in the past where Osama bin Laden and others have been in Pakistan but there has been a denial.
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Frankly, I did not want to react to a specific so called threat made by the head of a terrorist organization, a UN proscribed organization but since it was asked I did. There are a lot of things which he said, I don’t think from this forum I would like to dignify what he has said, through any comment. I think that is how I would like to leave it.
Question: Two quick questions. One on 5G, what is the stand on Huawei, there is a committee which has already been formed and MEA has asked for a report on that, when is that likely to happen and another question on the USTR representation that is happening today, is data localization and 5G going to be on the table from the Indian side?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I am not going to share the agenda of the talks, I shared with you that entire gamut of issues related to trade will be on the table. Now exactly which elements of those issues are going to be discussed I think that perhaps once the talks are over we will be able to share more details, not we, but Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
On 5G, I think we have made our position very clear. I have spoken about it from this platform. The lead ministry is not MEA, the lead ministry is Department of Telecom but what we understand is that there are interest from several companies to conduct 5G trials. We also understand there is a committee which has been set up for this purpose. The committee has received inputs from different departments, ministries and stakeholders.
Our standing is that there are several factors which will go into taking a decision. Our size of the market is one, our capabilities in R&D is another and what we spoke earlier and what Prime Minister also mentioned in Osaka that how do we leverage all this with our emphasis of Make in India. So there are these things plus the input from different stakeholders which will go into taking a decision but ultimately whatever we decide, that is something which I would like to point out, will take into account our economic and security interests. So wherever that fits in, I think that decision will be taken by this committee.
Question: Can you please share some update on Zakir Naik’s extradition request we made, because the Malaysian home minister has said that he is free in Malaysia and we have right to refuse India’s extradition. So what exactly is the status of our extradition request and are we going to take it up again or have we taken it up?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I don’t have any update now but frankly I am not aware of any further updates in that matter. You are aware that we have requested for his extradition and you are aware that time and again, not only through our consultations with the Malaysian government but through using our High Commission as well we have requested them to expedite the process. We are being told that it is under consideration and it is process which takes time, so I think we will have to have some patience and see where it goes.
Question: Regarding that judgement on Kulbhushan Jadhav which is due on 17th of this month, do you have anything to say on that, how are you approaching this case?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, I think you will have to wait for the judgement. I think it is due on the 17th and it is not proper for me to speculate as to what would happen. We submitted our memorial on 13th September 2017 which basically gives details about what our argument is on this entire process, it is in the public domain. Now we just wait for the verdict.
Question Contd.: ……….. Inaudible…………
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Yes of course a team is going. Team in the sense that some representative from MEA will be there when the verdict is announced.
Question: External Affairs Minister was in London I think and he must have left from there. What were the major issues that were in the agenda and I think Maldives was interested to rejoin the Commonwealth, so did we support it?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: If you want me to read out from the press release I can do it but if you have already read it, then please note that both your questions have been answered in that.
The fact that External Affairs Minister asked for fast tracking of the process, it means that Maldives has expressed interest in joining the Commonwealth.
As far as the agenda for the Minister’s visit is concerned, primarily he was there to attend the Commonwealth Foreign Minister’s Meeting. Yesterday was the main engagement day, he participated, he also spoke during the meeting. He also had a bilateral meeting with the UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt where a lot of issues were discussed and he also had a meeting with his counterpart from Australia and Bangladesh and Canada. So this what I have to share.
Since there are no more questions, this briefing comes to a close. Thank you all for joining.