New Delhi, May 26 (IBNS) Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai briefed the media on Friday on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s forthcoming State Visit to Myanmar:
Opening remarks by Mathai:
Official Spokesperson (Syed Akbaruddin): Good afternoon friends. Thank you all for coming for this briefing.
As we have announced, Foreign Secretary will brief us on the Prime Minister’s visit to Myanmar. He will begin, as usual, with his opening remarks which will be followed by a question and answer session. For the question and answer session I would request you to initially focus all your questions on Myanmar. After they are finished, Foreign Secretary has agreed that he will take a few more questions on any other topic that you may want to focus on.
I just wanted to make a small announcement. Those of you who may want to know, from today onwards all our briefing sessions would also be web cast live, and they are available on You Tube as soon as you go back. So, if you want to check anything, you are always welcome do so.
With that, we will begin the interaction. Foreign Secretary.
Foreign Secretary (Ranjan Mathai): Thank you.
At the invitation of the President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh accompanied by Shrimati Gursharan Kaur will pay a state visit to Myanmar from the 27th to the 29th of May. He will be accompanied by Shri S.M. Krishna, Minister of External Affairs, and senior officials. A delegation of Indian CEOs will also visit Myanmar at the same time.
The visit to Myanmar by the Prime Minister will be the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 25 years. The last visit was by the then Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi in December, 1987.
This visit follows the very successful state visit of the President of Myanmar U Thein Sein to India in October last year. The visit comes at a time when Myanmar is undergoing rapid transformation.
The visit of the Prime Minister will enable us to build on the new foundations of our multifaceted relationship which was laid during the state visit of the President last year. And we seek to leverage this to secure a stronger and mutually beneficial relationship with a neighbouring country that is integral to India’s Look East Policy. Considerable progress has been made in implementing decisions and agreements emanating from the President’s visit in October, 2011.
This visit will provide us an opportunity to review that progress and to discuss new initiatives that we would be taking in the furtherance of our relations. The new political environment in Myanmar also provides fresh opportunities to take our bilateral relationship to a new plane.
The visit thus provides an opportunity to enrich the substance of our relations both qualitatively and in scope and lays down a long-term vision and roadmap for mutually reinforcing bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas including security, connectivity, infrastructure development, trade and investment promotion, capacity-building and human resource development, culture and people-to-people contacts, and academic exchanges. We hope to sign a number of agreements and MoUs to further strengthen our bilateral cooperation.
Coming to the programme, the main engagements include discussions with President Thein Sein in Nay Pyi Taw on bilateral, regional and other issues of mutual interest, and signing of the various agreements and MoUs, to which I referred. The President will host a banquet in honour of the Prime Minister of India on the 28th.
Apart from the official engagements in Nay Pyi Taw, the Prime Minister will also visit Yangon where he is expected to meet Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the Chairperson of the National League for Democracy, and other prominent personalities.
During his visit, Prime Minister will also deliver a public address on the theme “India and Myanmar: A Partnership for Progress and Regional Development”, at a function organized by the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the Myanmar Development Resource Institute. There will also be interactions between the business delegations of the two sides.
The Prime Minister would also visit the historic Shwedagon Pagoda and the Mazar of the Last Mughal Emperor of India Bahadur Shah Zafar, which is in Yangon. He would also have a separate interaction with the Indian community in Myanmar.
Transcript of the Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary:
Official Spokesperson: The floor is now open for questions. All questions focused on Myanmar first, please.
Question: Mr. Mathai, the Prime Minister is going to visit Bahadur Shah Zafar’s Mazar. I was there a few years ago and it was in a state of neglect. In any case, what is Bahadur Shah’s remains doing in Yangon? The ideal place should be the Red Fort in Delhi. And in November this year, it will be 150 years since he was buried there. When he goes to Myanmar, would the Prime Minister consider taking up this question with the President of Myanmar of bringing the remains to India and burying them in the Red Fort?
Secondly, there are half a million stateless Indians in Myanmar. What is the latest about their fate or status?
Foreign Secretary: First let me say that the Mazar and this site where the tomb of the last Mughal Emperor in Yangon has been substantially upgraded. It has been given a major facelift with our assistance over the last few years. We continue to support the maintenance and the upgradation of the facilities for tourists and visitors to come and pay their respects over there. That process is ongoing and we will continue to contribute to the dignified maintenance of the Mazar.
As to the question of whether the remains should be brought back to India or not, that is not an issue which we have put on the agenda right now. It is an interesting suggestion you make and we will certainly take it on board. It would require a certain amount of consultations here before we actually make the suggestion to the Myanmar side.
As regards the people of Indian origin, you are quite right, this is a very large community. A significant number of them were in fact without any kind of citizenship documents. Over the last six or seven years, a large number have started receiving citizenship certificates. I do not have these statistics immediately. I do not know but we can certainly get them for you before we leave.
Joint Secretary (BSM) (Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla): Of course, Foreign Secretary has already clarified on the Mazar and Bahadur Shah Zafar’s body being interred there. But the fact of the matter is that he is also regarded in many senses as a Sufi saint in Myanmar and he has a large following and there are many issues associated with this.
With regard to stateless persons, as Foreign Secretary has pointed out, a good majority have received identification cards and citizenship certificates. But obviously there is a certain number that have to be accommodated and we are working on that with the Government of Myanmar.
Question: Mr. Mathai, Myanmar has recently, without informing India, entered into an agreement with the Naga outfit NSCN (K). What is India’s reaction to it? Secondly, have we solved the pending issue of Rupee trade? FICCI has also today issued a press release about it. Can you tell us about these two issues?
Foreign Secretary: The agreement with the Naga groups is part of the Government of Myanmar’s efforts to sign what they call peace accords with various ethnic groups and communities in its own country. Obviously, any issue involving Indian groups would be discussed with them and we have a forum for discussion of this issue between security officials of both sides, both at the level of the Home Secretary and his counterpart in Myanmar as also between the two Armies. Very recently we have had a meeting of what is called the Regional Border Committee where this subject was discussed.
As regards the issue of Rupee trade, I am not exactly familiar with the issue you are raising. What I do know is that Myanmar has been undertaking a considerable amount of reforms of its own currency management. On the 1st of April, they introduced what is called a Managed Currency Exchange Rate Regime in which they have fixed the rate of the Myanmar Kyat to the dollar as 820 plus or minus two per cent, which is nearly the same as the market rate. Earlier the difference between the official rate and the market rate was extremely exaggerated. So, this is part of their currency reform process which is under way. But we need to look at it.
Harsh, have you heard from FICCI on this?
Joint Secretary (BSM): On the currency issue we had a Banking Delegation that visited Myanmar. I think both sides are now examining the possibility of trading in each other’s currency and trading through the ACU mechanism. I think there are some fairly advanced talks going on about how we can address some of the issues that could come in the way of normal trade, and therefore, facilitate greater trade and economic cooperation and particularly the banking channels. I think this is an important area and perhaps during the visit also this would be something that will be discussed.
Foreign Secretary: In general, there has been a problem regarding the lack of banking channels to facilitate direct trade between India and Myanmar. As a result, a lot of our trade used to be actually serviced through banks in third countries. That is the issue which we have been addressing. In that context the concept of the ACU mechanism as a clearing house for dealing with the trade accounts has now been brought on to the agenda. Perhaps that is what the FICCI was referring to. That would amount to the adjustment between the Reserve Bank of India and the Central Bank of Myanmar. But as I said, this is a matter on which discussions have only just been recently initiated; we are not at any conclusion.
Official Spokesperson: Before I give the floor to the next person, could you please limit your questions to one each because there is a large number on my list?
Question: Are we going to sign the Imphal-Mandalay bus link pact during the talks? And in the area of energy cooperation, what new initiatives are on the agenda?
Foreign Secretary: The Imphal-Mandalay bus service was an initiative which we took forward, and it was discussed at considerable length. A delegation from our Ministry of Road Transport and Highways along with other Ministries had in fact visited Myanmar earlier this month. An MoU has been finalized for this bus service. We have been told that the procedures on Myanmar side for getting their Cabinet approval are not quite completed yet. So, we are still awaiting the final outcome of that. In the Joint Statement which we are preparing, we would certainly be highlighting the common interest of both countries to introduce this bus service. It is going to be stated as a matter of something which both Governments intend to take forward. Whether the actual MoU will be ready later today or tomorrow, we will have to await the conclusions of their Cabinet.
The second question was about hydrocarbons. I would just like to say, yes, there is a company called Jubilant Energy which has been awarded an onshore block in Central Myanmar on the basis of a global tender in 2011. We will be emphasizing and flagging our interest in our companies getting more opportunities in Myanmar both onshore where there are some blocks which are going to be put out, as well as offshore which is more gas related.
Question: Mr. Mathai, you must have seen reports for years that Myanmar is secretly pursuing its nuclear programme. What are our concerns or what is our position on that? Will this be taken up at all during this meeting? Also, there have been reports that after the A.Q. Khan network was exposed, Pakistan had sent four of its nuclear scientists to Central Myanmar. Can you just give a brief on that?
Foreign Secretary: I am not familiar with the specific report you are referring to, but what I do know is that in the discussions with the Koreans the Myanmar authorities recently did say that they have no intentions of carrying on any programme in the nuclear field. Other than that, it is not on our bilateral agenda. It is not a subject we have discussed with them. We, of course, have been extending cooperation to Myanmar in other fields of technical cooperation and science and technology. But this particular issue, no, we have not discussed it.
Question: Sir, as you mentioned, there have been several political changes in Myanmar recently. How much does India regard the opening up of Myanmar as a vindication of its own engagement policy?
Foreign Secretary: I think it certainly is a vindication of our policy of engagement that we have been able to keep a good dialogue with the Myanmar Government. The President, when he came to India last October, had in fact spelt out his vision for opening up further, and this has now accelerated after the National League for Democracy participated in the elections which were held on the 1st of April. So, this is a welcome trend. Let me just add here that last December the Speaker of the Myanmar Lower House of Parliament - which is called the Pyithu Hluttaw - Mr. U Shwe Mann came to India after the President’s visit and held discussions regarding democratization. The aim of his visit was to study Parliamentary practices and see whether we could cooperate in the field of greater capacity-building, best practices and so on. Those discussions have now concretised in the form of a decision for delegations of the Myanmar Parliament which would include both Parliamentarians and legislative officials to come to India. We are going to get eight batches of ten each starting from July this year. We will be providing that training with the kind courtesy of our Lok Sabha Secretariat and the Rajya Sabha Secretariat.
Question: Sir, what are our concerns about the security matters in the sense that the Myanmar land and other things being used by the insurgents in the North East? What kind of focus would be there so far as the security matters are concerned?
Foreign Secretary: I think the aim would be to strengthen the mechanisms which already exist for security cooperation along our common borders. I mentioned to you the dialogues which we already had, which are at the national level between the Home Secretary and the Deputy Home Minister, between the Army, that is the Myanmar Commander of the North West region and on our side it is the GOC of the 3 Corps based in Dimapur. We have what is called the Regional Border Committee. There are also below that a number of Border Committees between the two armies which do meet. We will be emphasizing once again in our discussions that it is in our common interest to make sure that the border remains peaceful, that the border management is actually taken up on a more professional basis, and that we must ensure that the insurgent groups who had been taking shelter would not be in a position to do so. I think that discussion certainly will be held.
Question: Sir, this is a question regarding the Kaladan Multimodal Project. In 2008 we have signed this project. We believe there is some roadblock. It is not progressing as it should have because some local insurgent groups or some locals in the name of human rights activists are opposing dredging the river or building up this new road. So, what is the status of this project?
Foreign Secretary: This project, in fact, is a project being undertaken in an area where there is very little actual development. So, it has to face a number of logistical and infrastructural challenges. But actually the work on the port and the inland waterway component on the Kaladan river, that is from Sittwe upwards, is in fact progressing as per schedule and we expect it to be completed by June 2013. The road component is the one where, you are quite right, there has been some delay. The real reason for that is the road component now starts further downstream than originally anticipated. Originally the landing point was supposed to be further up the river. Now it has come down a little bit. So, the entire road alignment, there is a completely new concept of where the road will start and end. A detailed project report is under way. We expect that in six months we should be able to start work on the road itself. This road will come from that landing point in Myanmar to South Mizoram. Just a few weeks ago, I myself went to Mizoram and a team of officials including the Joint Secretary actually flew down to the point in the border where there is no road at the moment, so that the engineering teams of the two sides discuss how the road coming in from Myanmar and the road from southern Mizoram coming up into the rest of the State would be compatible. So, we expect that road component to be completed by 2014. We think it will be on track.
Question: Sir, one clarification. The Imphal-Mandalay bus service, is this a new project or is it an old project being revived? And where will the Prime Minister meet Aung San Suu Kyi?
Foreign Secretary: It is a completely new project. It is an initiative which we took not so long ago, which is why, as I said, there is a lot of inter-Ministerial coordination which had to be done on both sides. That is why on the Myanmar side there has been some consideration of how to bring this all together. So, it is a completely new project and a new idea.
The Prime Minister will be meeting Aung San Suu Kyi in the Sedona Hotel where he will stay, on the 29th.
Question: When the PM meets Aung San Suu Kyi, will there be an attempt to try to explain to her why we turned our back on democracy in Myanmar for so long?
Foreign Secretary: As soon as his meeting is over I will tell you.
Question: You talked about security committees that we have on the border and that is only limited to information exchange. Are we going to take up coordinated action as well?
Foreign Secretary: First of all, it is not just information exchange. Information exchange is very critical. Particularly if you use the word information in a different sense of intelligence, it is quite critical. Yes. But we also do discuss coordinated patrolling, or at least when information exchange takes particular importance when you know when the other side is taking a certain action so that you make sure that there is no slipping across the border at that particular time. So, that is a kind of coordinated action that we do take from time to time.
Question: You have talked about Kaladan project. Could you give us the status of the other important Indian projects?
Foreign Secretary: Thank you. We are working basically on projects related to connectivity. We have built a road from Tamu to Kaleva some years ago. There is a proposal now that we should extend that road further down to a place called Yargyi. Then this could become a part of what is called the trilateral highway which would link India to Thailand through Myanmar. That is one of the projects which we will be discussing with the Myanmar side. There may be some upgradation of the road which might be required, bridges etc., that we will do. Another set of projects which we will be talking to the Myanmar side about - there is no finality but as soon as the leaders meet and discuss it, we will flesh it out - is for the border regions development projects. We have had such small development projects in other countries and we would support them in these bordering regions also which is building of small bridges, building of schools, building of clinics. That is a second set of projects.
Now if I can leave the border a bit and come to other areas, we are working on a plan to develop the Myanmar Institute of Information Technology (MIIT) and we have had the benefit of the advice of Mr. Ramadorai of TCS in designing this. We will be working on a project for Agricultural Centre and Research Extension (ACARE). That is another one which we are building. We will be setting this up. We plan also separately to set up a Rice Bio Park. These are some of the projects which we will undertake. But the largest I think would be in the general area, which is not a single project but is in the field of capacity-building, training students. We will be expanding our programmes for those. The details will be known as soon as the visit is over.
Question: India’s position regarding Myanmar, the consistent Indian engagement with Myanmar has been vindicated that India has taken an independent decision regarding the engagement with the junta of Myanmar. But people start drawing parallels that if India’s foreign policy could succeed in Myanmar, cannot it succeed in Iran also?
Foreign Secretary: I will stick with Myanmar, it’s easy.
I think we always approached the issue of Myanmar keeping in mind that it is a neighbour. When you are a neighbouring country you do not have the choice of a policy and engagement. You remain engaged irrespective of the situation. We have also always felt that Myanmar is a country with whom we have traditionally had good relations, and we have also felt that the Myanmar Governments right through their history have wanted to maintain a friendly relationship with India. It goes back to the time when Mr. Nehru and Aung San had their exchanges. Even before Independence Aung San stopped in Delhi on the way to the UK when the Independence negotiations were under way. Subsequently with Prime Minister U Nu and Mr. Nehru this relationship was maintained. With General Ne Win, even after the difficulties in the mid 1960s he paid a number of visits to India, maintained close relations with the Government of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. So, this relationship has continued through history. So, this is a matter on which we were very consistent. We may have had differences but we wanted always to be able to continue a dialogue as friendly, constructive partners. I think that has been vindicated.
Question: Sir, these road projects, do they also include any work on the Stilwell road?
Foreign Secretary: As of now, no.
Question: Any reason why?
Foreign Secretary: Because we are building the roads where the priorities of Myanmar and India both are.
Question: In terms of the counter-insurgency training, India of course had offered seats for training in NDA, and I believe Myanmar also wanted some seats in the Jungle Warfare Centre at Mizoram. Can you just give us an idea about the kind of strength of the soldiers who might already be on board with the counter-insurgency training or what are we looking at?
Foreign Secretary: I do not have the details. We will come back to you on that specifically. But whenever they put forward a request for training we have generally accommodated it. So, I do not think there would be anything pending from our side.
Question: Just how many border trading points exist? Are there plans to open new ones?
Joint Secretary (BSM): Currently there are two border points – one of course is Moreh-Tamu, and the other is Rhi-Zowkhatar in Mizoram. There are plans. We are talking about opening up border haats that would help border communities in trading as well as in increasing their own economic activity, and that is under active examination.
Question: Sir, other than the training aspect, is there any idea of sort of defence collaboration with Myanmar or supplying them with weaponry or any such thing to assist us along the borders and so on?
Foreign Secretary: Training is part of the defence cooperation and it is a part of our capacity-building in Myanmar, and that continues. The supply of some military equipment has been going on, which is not related to the political calendar. That is just continuing at its own level. That is not related to this visit. But yes, there is some military equipment being supplied.
Question: Could you tell me why Prime Minister will meet Aung San Suu Kyi in his hotel instead of visiting her residence?
Foreign Secretary: That was decided by the protocol teams who worked together.
Question: Sir, India has helped in the restoration of the Ananda temple in Myanmar. Is there any cultural cooperation of that kind which will be followed up?
Foreign Secretary: Thank you for mentioning it and I apologise for not mentioning it among the projects which I was asked.
Yes, our Archaeological Survey of India is in fact assisting with the renovation of the Ananda Temple in Bagan. We are going to sign a cultural exchange programme which has a number of components for further cultural cooperation. We are also thinking of moving a little outside the mainstream of the typical cultural programmes to have engagement with the think tanks of Myanmar both with our Indian Council of World Affairs and the IDSA. So, in a number of fields we will be taking initiatives in the field of culture.
Question: Sir, you have said there will be a high-powered delegation of CEOs that will accompany the PM’s delegation. I would like to know what the specific areas are in which Myanmar is seeking investments from India, and what are the specific areas in which India wants to invest in Myanmar?
Foreign Secretary: Myanmar economy has so much potential for development that we feel the scope for cooperation is in virtually all fields of industry - agro-based industries, resource-based industries, information technology, communications, hydrocarbons, transport. Let me just tell you some of the CEOs who will be visiting Myanmar. They include the Chairman of Bharti Enterprises Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal; Mr. Rajyavardhan Kanoria, Chairman and Managing Director of Kanoria Chemicals; Mr. Ravi Ruia, Vice-Chairman of the Essar Group; Mr. T.C.A. Ranganathan, Chairman and Managing Director of Export-Import Bank; Mr. Naveen Jindal, Jindal Steel Power; Mr. Hari Bhartia of Jubilant which I mentioned earlier in the context of oil and gas; Mr. Ajay Khandelwal also of Jubilant Energy; Mr. Sanjay Kirloskar of the Kirloskar Brothers who have been working on pumps and other things like that; Mr. Atul Punj, Chairman of Punj Lloyd, which is in fact undertaking work on a pipeline being built from Myanmar to China; Mr. Shiv Khemka of the Sun Group; Mr. Muthuraman, Chairman of Tata International; Mr. Venu Srinivasan of TVS Motor; Mr. Ravi Kant Ahlawadi of Vihaan Networks Limited. Vihaan Networks Limited is doing solar powered transmission towers for the telecom industry. They have already won a contract of five million from the postal department of Myanmar and there is potential for more. This is the list of the delegation, I would say that in almost all fields of industry.
When I went there earlier in March we handed over some agricultural equipment which we have donated. The Minister for Industry told us that there is huge scope for the export of Indian tractors, Indian power tillers, Indian agricultural machinery because Myanmar agriculture is in fact in a state now of development and modernization. One of the areas where we expect to be involved is in upgradation of their irrigation systems also, through a line of credit which we had announced last October.
In another sense, just to give you some perspective on the importance of Myanmar’s agricultural potential, we buy an enormous quantity of pulses from Myanmar. In fact, it is I think item No.1 or No.2 among the suppliers of this particular commodity to India. As I said, oil and gas they have already proven results. But there are a large number of other minerals in which Myanmar is believed to be extremely rich. We are happy to share our experience and help Myanmar develop them. I think from their perspective they are already selling three times as much as they buy. So, they have not prioritized. The $ 1.2 billion trade is $900 million coming to India and $300 million going from India. So, this is obviously something which the Myanmar side is quite happy with. But they do see prospects of greater exchanges with India particularly along, as I said, in the North East, in the border regions as well as in all these other areas where we have an interest.
Official Spokesperson: We have completed most of the questions on Myanmar. Foreign Secretary has to leave in a few minutes but he has agreed to respond to a few questions on issues other than Myanmar.
Question: Sir, can you give us the status of the missing Indian trader in China?
Foreign Secretary: I was told he is back in India or he should be landing any time now.
Question: Two basic questions on Nepal. How does India see Nepal’s current political developments? Nepali parties have just three days to promulgate a new Constitution. If they fail, there are fears of a serious crisis in Nepal. Is India concerned? Though it is an internal matter of Nepal, being a friendly neighbouring country which has a great influence on Nepal polity, do you see some India’s role in helping Nepal to avert this crisis?
Foreign Secretary: We are obviously watching the situation with great interest and we receive regular reports on the developments. But India firmly believes that the Constitution-making process for the establishment of a stable, democratic and prosperous Nepal must remain Nepali-led and Nepali-driven. We wish the parties well in the process of completing the negotiations in the two days which are remaining, and we will extend support for the success of the political process in accordance with the wishes of the people of Nepal. For the moment, that is all we are saying.
Question: There are reports from Islamabad that the visa relaxation agreement has been put on hold. Do you have any information on this?
Foreign Secretary: The talks between our Home Secretary and the Pakistan Interior Secretary are still under way. We had gone there prepared to sign this agreement in accordance with what had been decided when President Zardari and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had met on the 8th of April. We have also received this report that the Pakistani side referred to some delays in their procedures as also the desire of their Interior Minister to have a political level participation at the signing. That is where the situation is. But we had gone there fully prepared to sign this agreement.
Question: There were some reports about the invitation to the Home Minister and because he put on hold that invitation they were not willing to sign the visa agreement.
Foreign Secretary: He had invited our Home Minister to visit Pakistan, and our Home Minister had replied saying that he would come as soon as it was convenient. But the visa agreement had to go ahead because it was ready in any case. It had been negotiated and finalized. And both sides attach great importance to having this visa agreement signed. So, we had gone there fully prepared to sign it.
Question: Sir, there are reports that Iran’s Foreign Minister Mr. Salehi is visiting India next week. Just wanted to check on his agenda and the dates of visit.
Foreign Secretary: Mr. Salehi is scheduled to come here on the 31st of May. He is coming as a Special Envoy of President Ahmadinejad to deliver a personal invitation to the Prime Minister to attend the Non-Aligned Summit which will take place in the end of August in Tehran. On the 31st he will have a meeting over lunch with the External Affairs Minister. On the 1st morning he will meet the Prime Minister and then he is leaving immediately thereafter.
Question: Day before yesterday India signed the TAPI agreement. Interestingly it was signed by the Chairperson of GAIL, and though the Oil Minister was present, his signature was not there. So, there are two concerns. The pipeline passes through areas which could be proven hostile to India in some future time. The details are very hazy right now about the actual agreement signed. Can you share with us some details?
Foreign Secretary: What has been signed is a gas sales and purchase agreement, which is why it is signed by the gas companies between themselves. It is a decision on the willingness to purchase gas, and the arrangements for its transit fees and so on. During the course of the negotiations, while discussing this project, the Afghan authorities, the Turkmen authorities and the Pakistani authorities had all addressed this issue of security, and it has been decided jointly by all the countries to go ahead on the basis of what has been decided so far.
As regards the details of the project, we will be happy to give it to you as soon as our team comes back.
Question: Sir, first of all there appears to be continuing support to what remains of the Khalistan militancy because there just appears to be evidence from people here from the Khalistan Zindabad Force who have been arrested, that they were trained in Lahore. Now you will have continuing meetings with your counterparts from across the border. Are you going to bring this up in subsequent meetings? And is there any additional evidence that you are going to give Pakistan on Hafiz Saeed?
Foreign Secretary: The Home Secretaries’ discussions have almost concluded and certainly the issues both relating to continuing support to any militants as well as the further evidence on Saeed were actually discussed between the two sides.
Question: Sir, we have been following the story of Kairi Shepherd, a thirty year old woman who was adopted when she was three months old. Just wanted to know what the Government is contemplating on doing in this case. Has our Consul gotten in touch with Kairi? Also, the US Emigration Department Spokesperson has said that the ball is in India’s court and that unless and until travel documents are issued by India, she cannot really be sent to India.
Foreign Secretary: I will start with a counter question. Have you been able to speak to her? A number of attempts were made in the United States and we were told that some third parties had been in fact passing on the messages to you. So, if you have, please do give us the telephone number on which you contacted her.
Foreign Secretary: We did make a number of efforts through our Consulate in San Francisco. But we do not wish to comment on the internal judical processes of other countries. But certainly as EAM has already said it is a tragic humanitarian case which should be treated by the United States where she is resident, with utmost compassion and the spirit of natural justice. If the reports which were mentioned in the media are true, deportation of a person with serious illnesses and who knows no home outside the US would compound the tragedy further.
Let me just add here that our Consul-General in San Francisco has been making strenuous efforts to ascertain the full facts of the case. He has written to the relevant US authorities, that is the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions as well as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Authorities, for information relating to the case. Neither of these Departments has been able to give him any information so far, nor have they made any request to our side.
Question: Sir, just a correction. We could not speak to her, we could not get in touch with her. It was just a statement.
Foreign Secretary: Thank you for that correction because your colleague was very insistent that it was the other way round.
Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much. With that we come to the end of this interaction.