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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (February 03, 2022)

February 03, 2022

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Good afternoon. Very warm welcome to this weekly virtual media briefing. Without further ado, let me start off with a brief announcement and after which we'll take some questions. Today, the India and the United Kingdom held consultations on the United Nations. This was held in New Delhi at the Joint Secretary level. Both sides briefed each other on their respective priorities in the council. Discussions focused on issues relating to the agenda of the UN Security Council, particularly counterterrorism, peacekeeping, working methods of the UN Security Council's sanctions committees, and reform of the UN Security Council. They also exchanged views on the current regional and global developments. We are issuing a formal press release shortly after this presser. Kshitij, over to you for the questions.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Sir, the first set of questions is on Ukraine. Praveen Gautam, from Newspoint TV is asking, ”Ukraine aur Russ ke beech badhte tanav ka Bharat par kya asar padega? Bataya ja raha hai ki Bharat ke 22 hazar se adhik vidyarthi Ukraine mein engineering or medical ki padhai kar rahe hain. Iss sandarbh mein vahan k bharatiya dutavas ki oor se kya taja updates saamne aa rahe hain?”(Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What will be the impact of rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia on India? It is learnt that more than 22,000 students from India are studying engineering and medicine in Ukraine. What are the latest updates coming from the Indian Embassy there in this regard?” Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha - ”Ukraine k mudde per Russia, America ke beech takarav ki taja sthiti per mantralaya ki kya pratikriya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation)What is the ministry's reaction to the latest situation of confrontation between Russia, US on the issue of Ukraine?” Anish from Asianet News is asking, "as per reports in US media, the Biden administration has reached out to India in its quest for extra fuel for its European partners in case Russia-Ukraine conflict breaks out. What is your response?” We have similar questions from Kavita Joshi from Haribhoomi, Madhurendra from News Nation and Sudhi from Bloomberg.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thanks Kshitij. There are two parts of the question. Let me take the first one first which I will say mostly in Hindi. Jaisa ki aap jaante hain, sanyukta rashtra ki suraksha parishad ne 31 january ko iss mudde par ek baithak ki thi, jiske dauran Bharat ne ek statement diya tha jisme humara nazariya, humara view point pesh kiya tha. Mere paas isse aage kuch kehne k liye abhi hai nahi. Main keval yeh yaad dilaana chaahunga ki hamne iss kshetra mein aur uske bahar dirghakalik shanti or sthirata ke liye rachanatmak batchit ke madhyam se sabhi pakshon ki chintaon ko hal karne ke liye imandar or nirantar rajnayik prayason dwara sthiti ke shantipoorn samadhan ka aahvan kiya hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) As you are aware, the UN Security Council held a meeting on this issue on January 31, during which India made a statement highlighting our perspective. I don’t have anything to add to that. I would only like to recall that we have called for a peaceful resolution of the situation by sincere and sustained diplomatic efforts to ensure that concerns of all sides are resolved through constructive dialogue for long-term peace and stability in the region and beyond.

As regards the issue of the LNG supplies that you alluded to, we have seen some media reports, but we are not aware of any such request.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "Chinese Media reports that Qi Fabao is a torchbearer in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics torch relay. Qi Fabao was involved in the Galwan clashes which resulted in loss of lives on both sides. By doing this, it seems the Chinese side has politicized Olympics. What is the India's reaction?” Abhishek from Republic TV is asking, "China is seen to be politicizing Olympics using Galwan clash here despite wanting rest of the world not to do so. Would the MEA react?” We have similar questions from Shankar Kumar from India vs Disinformation, Madhurendra from News Nation, Chandrakala from ETV Bharat, Sandeep Dikshit from Tribune, Ranjana from UNI and Manash Bhuyan from PTI.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Yes, we have seen the reports on this issue. It is indeed regrettable that the Chinese side has chosen to politicize an event like the Olympics. I wish to inform that our Charge’ d’Affaires of the Embassy of India in Beijing will not be attending the opening nor the closing ceremony of the Beijing 22 Winter Olympics.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Maha from CNN News 18 is asking, "the family of the youth from Arunachal who was allegedly abducted by the PLA says he was mistreated in custody. Has the youth undergone proper medical examination on return? Was he abducted or did he stray into the Chinese side; his family refutes the fact that he strayed or got lost.” Umashankar from NDTV India is asking, ”Arunachal Pradesh ke yuvak Miram Taron ko lekar adhikarik sthiti kya hai? Kya use agva kiya gaya tha? ya woh bhatakkar China ke kabje wale illake mein chala gaya tha or vahan PLA ke haathon pakad liya gaya? Kya Bharat ko supurd karne se pahale use bijli ka jhatka dekar torture kiya gaya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation)What is the official position regarding Miram Taron, a youth from Arunachal Pradesh? Was he kidnapped? Or did he wander into the territory occupied by China and was captured by the PLA there? Has he been tortured with electric shock before he was handed over to India?” We have similar questions from Suhasini from The Hindu, and Shankar Kumar from India vs Disinformation.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thanks Kshitij. Regarding the issue, let me confirm that we have taken up the matter with the Chinese side. As regards the other details, this issue you would recall was handled through military channels and I would refer you to the Ministry of Defense on other elements. But from the Ministry of External Affairs, I would like to just reconfirm that we have taken up the matter with the Chinese side.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Abhishek from Republic TV is asking, "would the MEA react to the report which shows China might have lost more soldiers than it admitted in Galwan clash?” Ranjana from UNI is asking, ”an Australian report has said that the Chinese deaths during the Galwan clash were much higher than reported. What does India say to that?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think this is a question that the relevant side should respond to.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Nimish Kumar from IANS is asking, "yesterday, EAM replied to a point raised in Parliament debate about China-Pakistan. In light of that please provide details of China-Pakistan bilateral relationship. Are China and Pakistan getting closer post 2014? Or have they been in close ties for last 6 decades, precisely since 1963?” Neeraj Kumar from News18 India is asking, ”Rahul Gandhi ne kaha hai ki PM Modi ke nishprabhavi videsh neeti ki vajah se China or Pakistan karib huye hai. Iss masle per videsh mantralaya ka kya kahana hai?(Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Rahul Gandhi has said that China and Pakistan have come closer because of PM Modi's ineffective foreign policy. What does the Ministry of External Affairs have to say on this issue?” We have similar questions from Pranay from ABP News, Madhurendra from News Nation and Srinjoy from Times Now.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thanks Kshitij. Look I think EAM’s tweets are self-explanatory. He had issued a series of tweets after the discussion in Parliament and I don't have anything to add to them.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha is asking , ”Cheen ke saath poorvi Laddakh gatirodh per taja sthiti kya hai, sainya star key varta ke liye kya koi tithi tay hui hain? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation)What is the latest position on the eastern Ladakh standoff with China, whether any date has been fixed for military-level talks?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Jaisa ki aap jaante hain, varishth commandaron ki baithak ko pichhale mahine ayojit kiya gaya tha. Donon paksh is baat par sahmat hue they ki baki muddon ke jald se jald samadhan se pashchimi kshetra mein LAC per shanti bahal karne mein madad milegi or dvipakshiy sambandhon mein pragati ko saksham banaya ja skega. Commandaron key varta ka agala dour jald se jald hone par bhi sahmati bani thi. Mere pass is tarah ki batchit ke liye tarikh par koi update abhi nahin hai (Answered in Hindi; App.Translation) As you are aware, Senior Commanders meeting was held last month. The two sides agreed that the resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest would help in restoration of peace and tranquillity along the LAC in the Western Sector and enable progress in bilateral relations. It was also agreed that the next round of the Commanders talks should be held at the earliest. I don’t have any update on the date for such talks.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Suhasini from The Hindu is asking, "New York Times correspondent has said in an interview that he has confirmed from Israeli sources that Indian intelligence agencies purchased the Pegasus program during Prime Minister Modi’s visit in 2017. Do you have any response?” Maha from CNN News 18 is asking, "what is the MEA's response to the NYT report linking the purchase of Pegasus by India to India's stand at United Nations?” Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha is asking, ”Israeli spyware Pegasus or Bharat Israel hathiyar saude ko lekar new york times ki report per mantralaya ki kya pratikriya hai (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What is the ministry's reaction to the New York Times report on Israeli spyware Pegasus and the India-Israel arms deal.”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: The alleged matter that has been referred to is under investigation by a committee set up by the honourable Supreme Court. No information is available with the Ministry of External Affairs on this matter. As regards Prime Minister's visit to Israel in 2017, seven Memorandum of Understanding were signed, the details of which are publicly available.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Chandrakala from ETV Bharat is asking, "can you confirm when will EAM Jaishankar be visiting Australia for the annual Quad Foreign Ministers summit? What will be the agenda of the meeting?” Sandeep Dikshit from Tribune is asking, "during EAM Jaishankar's expected Australia visit from February 10 for Quad summit, is the report of Working Groups set up earlier likely to be submitted and evaluated?” We have similar questions from Sudhi from Bloomberg, Maha from CNN News 18.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thanks. You would recall that the Quad Foreign Ministers last met virtually in February 2021. The next meeting is expected to be held later this month in Melbourne. We hope to share an update on this with you soon.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Suhasini from The Hindu is asking, "please confirm whether all procedures for allowing transit for Indian wheat for Afghanistan have been cleared by Pakistan now, and if any date for departure of convoys is known?”. Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha is asking, ”Bharat dwara Afghanistan ko manviya sahayata pradan karne ki pahal ke tahat Pakistan ke raste Afghanistan ko gehun evam anya sahayata ki apurti sambandhit tithiyaan kya tay ho gayi hai. Gehun ki apurti kab se shuru hogi, or kab tak puri ho jayegi? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) As part of India's initiative to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, what are the dates for supply of wheat and other aid to Afghanistan through Pakistan? When will the supply of wheat start, and by when will it be completed?” We have similar questions from Sidhant from WION, Rajesh from Kantipur Media Group, Munish Gupta from PIO TV, Nayanima from The Print and Ranjit from Rakshat News.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As we said earlier, government is committed to extending humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. We have been sharing information about shipment of medicines and vaccines. The process to procure the wheat and to arrange its transportation is still underway. We will share with you updates as soon as we have them, and I will try to get back to you.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "Rs. 200 crore aid has been announced in the budget for Afghan people. India hasn’t recognised the Taliban govt. So is there any messaging in that?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We've always underlined our deep friendship with the people of Afghanistan, and have been working to address their concerns. This budgetary provision that has been referred to helps us provide humanitarian assistance as and when required.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Sanjay from Arab News is asking, "on Wednesday, some Afghan students who got Indian scholarship protested in front of the Indian Embassy in Kabul demanding Indian visa to travel to India. How does New Delhi plan to address their concerns considering the fact that they are losing their crucial academic time?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you've been saying, we have been stressing on our friendship with the Afghan people, but the specific issue on visa I would have to refer you to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Suhasini from The Hindu is asking, "has there been any progress since last week on plans to discuss air route for pilgrims with Pakistani officials?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: This issue had come up last week, and as we mentioned then, visits by pilgrims to religious shrines from both sides are governed by the 1974 bilateral protocol between India and Pakistan. And such visits are being facilitated regularly. During the year 2021, visits by more than three and a half thousand pilgrims were facilitated under the protocol. The last such visit from India was from December 17th to 23rd to Shri Katas Raj Dham in Chakwal, Pakistan. The last visit from Pakistan was organised from December 18 to 25 to Hazrat Nizamudin Aulia in New Delhi. Such visits are being facilitated on an annual basis subject to COVID-19 related restrictions. We have noted an interest on both sides to expand the agreed list of such shrines and the mode of travel. This would need to be mutually agreed under the protocol. We have sent an official response to Pakistan recommending that given the current restrictions on movement and gatherings in view of COVID-19 pandemic, the two sides can use this time to hold discussions under the bilateral protocol.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Sandeep Dikshit from Tribune is asking, "does MEA have a view on Pakistan’s allegations of India being instrumental in blocking confirmation of a former Pakistan Occupied Kashmir President as Ambassador designate to US?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: It's preposterous to blame a third country for the delay in the appointment of an ambassador of one country to another.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Anish from Asianet News is asking, "Pakistani businessman Mian Mansha claimed that the back door diplomacy with India is underway and said that Prime Minister Modi could visit Pakistan in a month’s time. What would be your response?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We don't respond to such comments by private individuals.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Nayanima from The Print is asking, "has India responded to Pakistan on its SAARC invitation?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I recall that we had responded to this query last month. There has been no update in the matter, nor a material change in the situation.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "Canada's truckers have protested in the capital. Any comments by MEA over the development?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We have seen reports in this regard. I don't have anything for you at this moment.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Nimish Kumar from IANS is asking, "on the front of economic diplomacy, how does MEA support concerned ministries to boost India's exports, which is now the main focus of PM and was in union budget 2022? Is there any inter-ministerial joint task force for this purpose?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We attach the highest priority to economic diplomacy. The Ministry as well as our Missions and Posts abroad work closely with the concerned line Ministries to boost our exports, attract investments, encourage technology transfer and promote innovation opportunities. MEA has been giving utmost importance to Economic Diplomacy and the promotion of 3Ts – Trade, Technology and Tourism as outlined by Honourable Prime Minister. In particular, we are working to achieve the target of US$ 400 billion of merchandise exports for the year 2021-22. The Commercial Wings of our Missions are proactive and serve as the first point of contact abroad. In Delhi, there is regular inter-ministerial coordination. I think that gives a flavor of what we are discussing. I don't think this presser would provide more time to discuss an important issue like this in further detail.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Nimish is also asking, "government of India decided to take action against websites that continuously publish anti-India content with false narratives and fake news. Even UN Department of Global Communications has started a campaign against misinformation. Has MEA made requests to the nations regarding this from where such anti-India content is being generated? Please provide details.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: The issue of content that is not in consonance with our laws is not a foreign policy matter. And I would refer you to the relevant department on this.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Rajesh from Kantipur Media Group is asking, "Nepal had offered to buy fertilizer with India on G to G basis. The agreement was reached at the secretary level of the respective ministries of the two countries in September last year. How soon can an agreement be reached between India and Nepal on the sale and purchase of fertilizer?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I understand that this issue has been agreed upon by both sides. But I will need to check on the next steps that are involved.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Suchithra from News18 Tamil is asking, "MoS V. Muraleedharan recently responded in Rajya Sabha that the India and Sri Lanka are in consultations for convening 5th round of Joint Working Group meeting at the earliest. Also MEA obtained the participants list from the fishermen association from state government last month. So, has the 5th Joint Working Group of fisheries been scheduled? If so, when and who are all will be taking part.”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: There is a joint working group on fisheries bilaterally with Sri Lanka. This JWG is at the level of the fishery secretaries and is held with the participation of all stakeholders. The fourth JWG meeting was held virtually in December 2020. As was mentioned, the 5th JWG is to be held and the dates for the same are being worked out. We will share with you updates as soon as we have them.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Praveen Gautam from Newspoint TV is asking, ”Vittiye sankat se joojh rahe Sri Lanka ko Bharat ne ab tak kin samjhauton ke saath aarthik sahayata pradan ki hai? is bare mein taja updates kya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) So far, through which agreements, has India provided financial assistance to Sri Lanka, which is reeling under financial crisis? What are the latest updates on this?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Jaisa ki humne pichle hafte kaha tha, 400 million american dollar ki SAARC Currency swap suvidha ko badha diya gaya hai or 515.2 million american dollar k Asian Clearing Unit niptaan ko do mahine ke liye tall diya gaya hai. Iske alava Bharat se indhan key kharid ke liye ek aur US$ 500 million LOC bhi di gai hai, jisko kuch hi dino pehle sign bhi kiya gaya. Agar koi bhi aur update hoga toh hum aapke saath sajha karenge. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation)As we have said last week, US$ 400 million SAARC currency swap facility has been extended and the US$ 515.2 million Asian Clearing Unit settlement has been deferred for two months. Another US$ 500 million LOC has also been extended for fuel purchases from India, which has been signed a few days back. If there are any further updates, we will share with you.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Munish Gupta from PIO TV is asking, "Rwanda and Commonwealth have announced the week of 20th June 2022 as the new date agreed with member countries for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Has India planned any special agenda or announcement? When does India take over as the rotating head of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to host the summit?” He is also asking, "will India offer vaccines to needy Commonwealth nations?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: It has got multiple things, let me just say the details of such high level events are announced at the appropriate time. I'm not aware of any details about future heads of CHOGM. As regard the export of vaccines, as I had mentioned last week, details of our supplies are being updated on the ministry's website on a regular basis and please do have a look at that.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Nayanima from The Print is asking, "what is the status of holding the pending US-India 2+2 talks?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As we have said before, our dialogue and engagement with the US have been intense and regular. We look forward to holding the next two plus two ministerial meeting with the United States of America and the details are still being worked out.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation is asking, ”Bhagode karobari Nirav Modi, Mallya or Mehul Chauksi mamle mein taaja update kya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What is the latest update in the cases of fugitive businessmen Nirav Modi, Mallya and Mehul Choksi?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Humare paas koi specific update iss hafte nahi hai. Hum sabhi mamlon/cases per nigrani rakhe hue hain taaki bhagodon ko nyay prakriya ke liye Bharat wapas laya ja sake. Agar issme koi update hoga toh jarur aapse saajha karenge. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation)We don’t have any specific update on this, this week. We are monitoring all cases so that fugitives are brought back to India to face justice. If there are any updates on this, we will certainly share them with you.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): Ranjana from UNI is asking, "is there any further news on the status of the seven Indian sailors on board the UAE flagged ship that the Houthis have seized, has there been any further movement on their release?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We had shared some information on this last week. Since then, the physical access to the crew has not been made available, including through the UN Mission in Hodeidah. We remain in touch with various sources, including through our embassies in the region. We do know that the captors allowed one of the Indian sailors to speak with his wife, I think it was on January 28. The sailor told his wife that all the crew members are safe. We'll continue to monitor this case and if there are updates we will share with you.

Shri Kshitij Tyagi, DS (PR): I have no further questions sir.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much. That brings us to the end of this special virtual media briefing. I would reiterate that please follow our social media handles as well as our website for the latest updates. Thank you again for joining us today. Good evening. Namaskar.

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