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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (February 17, 2022)

February 18, 2022

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good evening to all of you. Good to be back in this format for our media briefing, in a physical format, after almost I think, the first one this year. Happy to see you guys. Welcome back to Ministry of External Affairs. Okay, if we could begin. I have a couple of announcements. So let me read those out and then we will open the floor for questions. First is on External Affairs Minister’s visit to Germany and to France. External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar will be on a visit to Germany and to France from February 18th to 23rd of this month. In Germany, he will participate in the Munich Security Conference. He will also hold bilateral meetings with Foreign Ministers and other delegates who would be attending the conference. At the Munich Security Conference, he will participate in a panel discussion on the Indo-Pacific and will also lead discussions at an Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav (AKAM) event that is being hosted by Consulate General of India in Munich, and the Observer Research Foundation on the side-lines of the Munich Security Conference.

Thereafter he goes to Paris and where EAM will hold bilateral meeting with his French counterpart, His Excellency Jean-Yves Le Drian. At Mr. Le Drian’s invitation, EAM will also attend the EU ministerial forum for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific on 22nd of February. This is an initiative of the French Presidency of the European Council. EAM will also hold bilateral meetings with counterparts from the European Union and other Indo-Pacific countries on the side-lines of this forum. He will further give an address at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI). That was the first announcement.

Speaker 1: When is he reaching France?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
I think on Sunday, I think he should be there on 20th, either 19th night or 20th. I don't have the exact travel plans, but his meeting with the French minister is on the 20th. Next one is a more internal, I mean, focused on ministry. You would have seen that we've announced our Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav week, the iconic week that MEA will do. Let me take this opportunity to just brief you all since you handle the beat. The Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations were inaugurated by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in March 2021, which marked a 75-week countdown to the 75th anniversary of our independence this August and thereafter continue a year till August 2023. Happy to share that our embassies and consulates have celebrated more than 5000 events so far under the rubric of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. Each of the ministries here or many of the ministries in Delhi are also celebrating an iconic week, as per the plan laid out by the national implementation committee. So Ministry of External Affairs is celebrating its Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav iconic week from the 21st to the 27th of February, that's next week.

The celebrations would include a series of commemorative events and activities in New Delhi, as well as other cities across the country. Our Branch Secretariats, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and its regional offices, our Regional Passport Offices and the offices of the Protector of Immigrants would be organizing several AKAM events across the country. We would be sharing details of our events through our social media platforms. In fact, yesterday we put out a video, today also, I think we just put out something. Interestingly, some of our foreign embassies would also be participating in doing events and we're sharing information on that. Many of these events are open to the public, and also other events that you can join in virtually. So we invite you to engage with them. Thank you. I think that's two announcements that I have. Let me open the floor for questions. So I see okay, let me start with Sidhant as always.

Sidhant: Sir, Ukraine has been dominating the agenda. How big is the worry for India, particularly regarding the Indian nationals there in terms of, is there any plan for evacuation of Indian nationals from Ukraine?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Look, some of it, of course, this is a live issue; you would have seen developments being monitored by our embassy. They have issued advisories, in fact, a couple of advisories. We have set up control rooms, there's a control room at the embassy, there is a control room now functioning in the Ministry of External Affairs, we also have a 24/7 helpline. You have specifically referred to evacuation; I don't think any decision on evacuation has been taken. Our embassy continues to function normally and provide services to Indian nationals in Ukraine. As the advisory said, those who are doing non-essential activities, perhaps we request them to leave as well as not undertake non-essential travel. But I said flights are operational, the embassy is normal, our embassy is in touch with the students. So I think that's how we're looking at it, we continue to monitor the situation on the ground and we will take further steps if required, depending on how the situation evolves.

Speaker 2: How serious is the development then, what is our assessment? Is it going to lead towards war in the region?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Is there anything on Ukraine, I have a feeling Ukraine is top of minds.

Speaker 3: Any special flight arrangement from India to Ukraine for the students or some as commercial basis?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Sorry, for the record, please introduce yourself. I know all of you but please introduce yourself and your organization.

Akhilesh Suman:
Okay. I am Akhilesh Suman from Sansad TV Sir. The indications are that the situation of tension is going down. What is your assessment? Because India is friendly to USA, Russia and Ukraine, all the three parties. So whether we are talking to them, whether we are assessing and if we are assessing what is the situation now? Or are we helping all the three countries to tone down the rhetoric?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Who else was on Ukraine?

Speaker 3: Sir Times Now. Firstly, the Russians have said that they are pulling back troops, at least in certain areas like the Crimean Peninsula. The Western countries, particularly America has said that there is no sign of that on the ground. Now, what does India know on the subject? Secondly, the External Affairs Minister has said that India wants a diplomatic solution. Now, will India be part of that diplomatic solution?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, a couple of them, I'm happy to say I have no idea simply because I don't think I'm the best place to indicate what the ground situation is- happening in terms of troops or stuff like that. We are also monitoring developments. Our embassy is functioning so they have some sense of what's happening. But even they would be hard pressed too. These are assessments, these are comments, so we've been monitoring that, so I don't have an immediate, specific answer to whether the tensions are going down. Yes, we saw some comments that the Russian troops might have come down but you also saw some comments saying no. I am not having any particular readout or understanding of the nuances in the technicalities. I would not like to get down on that. Again, that relates to I think your question how serious is the situation? Well, obviously look, when we issue an advisory you know, we take on board, the developments that are happening, as well as our assessment of how we can assist our citizens who are there. So I would say our focus is and remains on Indian citizens, Indian students, Indian nationals rather than anything larger than that and in terms of what we need to do to ensure that they are safe, and they are provided the information that we have. As I said, no immediate evacuation plans, so we don't have any special flights. However, as you would have seen, and we have been mentioning this, I think the embassy also mentioned it yesterday, there were a limited number of flights under the air bubble arrangements, the restriction on the number of flights and the passengers are being removed. I understand that’s a civil aviation ministry issue of course, and I think I read in the media that it has been removed. Indian carriers are being encouraged to operate charter flights between India and Ukraine. There are of course, flights through other routes, Almaty, Dubai, Sharjah, Istanbul, etc. Our embassy there has issued guidance to the students not to panic. And there are other FAQs frequently asked questions that have been put out, I think they're also taking phone calls. So I would say instead of a specific answer, I think we're looking at a process, we're looking at how it develops and who requires what kind of assistance.

On the larger issue of how we see it and where it is. Somebody said, what do we know? No, the more important thing what can I share with you I may not know much on that. I think let me just briefly say that our position has been clear and consistent. You'd have seen our statement at the United Nations Security Council a few days ago, External Affairs Minister spoke at length during his visit to Australia in response to I think a number of questions and even otherwise. I don't think I have much to add to that but let me just say, in essence, we have been supportive of an immediate de-escalation of tensions and a resolution of the issue through sustained diplomatic dialogue. I think that captures what we are saying. We also welcome efforts being undertaken under the Normandy format for implementation of the Minsk agreements. We've said that earlier. And I think, we would like to see diplomatic way and a peaceful resolution of the situation. I will leave it at that. I am not aware of what discussions are underway. I'm not aware that we are party to the groupings that are discussing. As I said, we would like to see sustained diplomatic dialogue as a way out. I'm not sure that necessarily needs to involve India, we have good relations, of course, with all the parties involved, but that need not involve us.

Speaker 4: I would like to know out of the 20,000 students that are reportedly studying in Ukraine, how many have shown interest to come back to India at this point in time?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: On Ukraine, anything else? No, that’s the last one.

Meghna: Sir a similar question, Meghna from DD News. How many students have been contacting the control room or have reached out to the helpline? And do we have any data because earlier in the last week of January, the embassy put out on the website registration form for people who want to probably leave or collect some data. So is there any data on that?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I don't have the exact numbers here because the control room started only yesterday afternoon. But I will share with you, I will get back to you, what number of phone calls or other ways of contact that we've had, a little later at least 24 hours past. There was a registration process that was initiated by our embassy, I think end of January, as you said correctly and that did elicit a good number of responses. I don't have an exact number for you. As you know, we encourage citizens who are living abroad to register with the embassy. It's not always done. But this is an opportunity where we encourage them to do so. So I think embassy has a good sense now of how many students are there. As regards the students who wish to come back, look, we got sporadic requests from people who were not so much coming back but were concerned. I think there are issues involved here. Some of them worried that their classes may be interrupted and they may not be allowed to go, others wanted online mechanisms. So it wasn't as if they immediately want to leave, as you know, the situation on the ground currently for what we hear is not whether they are keen to move immediately but there are concerns obviously with the developments, but I don't think it's an evacuation, so we leave it to the students themselves to figure out. Today of course, I think we've got calls and messages to our embassy but let me not give you information which is incorrect at this point, we'll collate something and I will try to share that with you as in the days to come. Okay, moving on other topics.

Pranay Upadhyay: Sir, Pranay Upadhyay ABP News se, aaj purv pradhanmantri Manmohan Singh ka ek bayan aaya hai. He said ki Government has failed on foreign policy front. Kaha hai ki China bharat ki had pe baithha hua hai aur ye ek foreign policy failure hai aur saath hi bharat ke rishte padosi deshon aur kai deshon ke saath kharab huye hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir, Pranay Upadhyay from ABP News, a statement from former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has come today. He said that Government has failed on foreign policy front. He said that China is sitting on the borders of India and this is a foreign policy failure and at the same time, India’s relations with neighbouring countries and many other countries have deteriorated?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Abhi hamne dekha tha iss ko thodi der pehle. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) We saw it a while ago. Let me say, from my perspective, this is purely or clearly a political message, not a policy one. So I think from my position here, I would not like to get into that. Of course, as regards to China the facts of the matter are clear. I don't need to reiterate them. We have been discussing about the processes of conversation with China and how the situation has arisen but I think that's repeatedly we have said. On the other issues, as I said, these are political messages clearly and not a policy one. So, I don't think I should dwell more into that.

Speaker 5: Two questions based on the EAM’s visit to Australia. To begin with, we heard from the Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne in Australian Parliament answering a question on India, where she said she raised human rights concerns about India with External Affairs Minister Jaishankar. I'm interested to know what that was about since we didn't see any of that in the readouts. And to just follow up again, on Maha question, on the discussion with Mr. Blinken, about what's happening in Ukraine, the US actually used the term in its readout that Mr. Blinken and Mr. Jaishankar discussed Russian aggression. Does India, accept that terminology or accept the assessment of what is happening in Ukraine?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: There is a reason we have separate readouts and I think that was their assessment of what they raised. Clearly, this is a topical issue and did come up in the conversation. As regards our understanding and our perspective, as I've said, just now, and I'm happy to read that again we have a perspective on the developments in Ukraine that we have said repeatedly. I think our statement of the United Nations Security Council is perhaps the best assessment of that. It is the most comprehensive. That I think gives a good sense. But as I said, from our perspective, what is most important is that we feel a diplomatic solution is the way ahead. So I think on the Ukraine part, it says it's honest conversation and I think that's a good description of that and I think it was an exchange of views on how we see it. As regards the Australian Foreign Minister’s comment, look, I don't want to comment on what she said in the parliament. We have a very close relationship with Australia that has transformed over the last few years. In fact, I would say with all our Quad partners, the opportunity of the Quad Foreign Ministers’ meeting was an occasion to not only look at the Quad, but also look at the bilateral meetings. I think the Quad, of course, was the, you know, sort of a heavy focus or the main focus of that visit, but it was useful to also have bilateral discussions on various issues. She may have chosen to highlight some aspects. But I think as we have said earlier, this is an engagement that we have with our partners on various issues. And I think these are useful occasions for exchange of perspectives. Let me just end with saying, look, our relations with the Quad countries have changed, with all three Quad countries, over the last decade or so. And it's natural that they will discuss on various issues. But overall, this is a group that I would say is natural, this is a force for global good.

Ranjana: Ranjana from UNI, continuing on Ukraine. The Joint Statement mentioned, Myanmar; it mentioned South China Sea; did not mention Ukraine at all. But Australia and the Foreign Minister of Australia, US, Japan, they were quite vehement on what they had to say on Russia and Ukraine, and India had its own stance. So does it in a way signal dissonance in the Quad. I mean, what is the future now when three are on one side, and one is just sticking to its own side, so does it suggest, I mean, what is the future?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay. Next question.

Speaker 6:
Sir the local Australian media reports also said that the External Affairs Minister had expressed very divergent views and it said that he has split from his other three Quad counterparts on the issue of Ukraine and Russia's role. So going by the question, also, that was just asked about, you know, that there was not a mention of it, not a single word in the joint statement. So did India actually block any reference to Russia and Ukraine in a joint statement? Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Let me answer. So there are two aspects to this. So let me take that one after another. I think on the larger issue of the future of the Quad, I don't know what would give rise to any concern about the future. I think the Quad actually it has come a long way even in the short time it has been there, you can see we had physical meetings of the head of state, I mean, head of government, head of state level, we had Foreign Ministers’ meeting, last year virtual, this year with the physical one, we're looking forward to the next summit level engagement to the Quad, the topics that is discussing, and the kind of positive, as I said, in terms of force for global good, is something that comes naturally from the greater integration of our contacts or greater interaction between our countries, with all the three Quad countries and amongst themselves, of course. So I don't know how that would any way be read out of this, I would certainly not be in a position to echo that thought at all. On the specific issue on whether some issue came up or not? Look speculation is good. I will leave that to you please continue to speculate. But this is a joint statement. It shows where how much of it that we are in agreement with on a diverse set of issues. And I think that captures our positions of the Quad quite nicely. The External Affairs Ministers’ comments, I never get into trying to interpret what he said. He said a lot of things in public on couple of occasion, more than two. I think one press conference and another one as well as the talk that he did at an institute. So I think he's had an occasion to explain what he meant. Now, if the Australian media wishes to call it a split, that's their choice. I don't think that's a correct characterization of that. I think he spoke clearly of how India looks at the issue. And obviously, this is a complicated issue, and which each country brings its own perspective to it.

Speaker 7: Sir you remember, there was a time when the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau, was very, very critical on the farmer’s agitation and he had a lot of things to say. Now, if you look at the situation in Canada, there is an emergency that has been called, it's not often that any country any democratic country has an emergency. Now that the situation is what it is in Ottawa, especially with the truckers, and so on and the fact that people in the Indian community have raised this issue. What is it that you would like to say?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
I would just like to recall where we are on this. Look, we have been following and we are following, I would say developments in Canada, in the context of blockades and the protests. We have noted that the Government of Canada has actually invoked the emergency Act. Let me leave it at that on that issue. But let me just recall that on 8th February, our high commission in Ottawa issued an advisory for Indian nationals in Canada, and Indians traveling to Canada, asking them to exercise caution and remain alert, avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place and, monitoring the evolving situation. I think our High commission continues to look at developments very closely and if whatever is needed, we will take further action.

Sanjana Sharma: Good evening, I'm Sanjana Sharma from Sanmarg. Hijab ko lekar kafi controversy hai aur aap I mean clear bhi kar chuke hai, lekin jyadatar jitne tweets aa rahe hai, ye kaha ja raha hai ki ban on hijab religious freedom ko violate karta hai aur ye mamla abhi dheere-dheere ho sakta hai ki Islamic countries ekjut ho jaaen or yahaan bhi kuchh logon ne kaha hai ki hum UN jaayenge, to uss par India apna stand kaise clear karega (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) There has been a lot of controversy on Hijab issue and you have also cleared some controversies about the hijab. But most of the tweets that are coming in, it is being said that ban on Hijab violates religious freedom. And slowly it may happen that the Islamic countries may come together and here also some people have said that we will go to the UN, so how will India clear its stand on that?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Dekhiye ye videsh mantraalay ka topic nahin hai. To issmein hamara koi direct comment nahin hai. Par jab koi doosre desh ya koi baahar se koi tippani karte hein is vishay pe. Aapane kaha jaegee to kya karenge. Mai aiese hypothetical situation pe nahin jaana chaahata hoon. Aapane hamare statements, bayaan dekhe honge jismein hamne kaha hai ki jo hamare androoni maamle hein ussmein iss tarah ki tippani welcome nahin hai aur hamaree jo constitutional mechanism hai, hamara constitution hai aur judicial system hai, aur democratic ethos kehte hain, ye hamein ek framework deta hai jiske aandar hum aisee cheejon ka hal nikalte hein aur ye issue abhee sub-judice hai, Karnataka high court dekh rahi hai iss par, toh issiliye mere paas abhi koi tipanni nahin hai par baahar ke andurooni issue ya jo hamaaree aise issue hein, jo bharat ke samvidhaan ya bharat ke log jissmein hal nikaal sakte hein, iss pe baahar ke logon ki tippani haemin bilkul sveekaar nahi hogi. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) See, this is not the subject of the Ministry of External Affairs. So we do not have any direct comment in this. But when any other country or someone from outside makes any comment on this subject; you said what if they will go, then what will you do? I do not want to go to such hypothetical situation. You must have seen our statements, statements in which we have said that in our internal matters, such comments are not welcome. We have our constitutional mechanisms, our constitution and judicial system, and democratic ethos - these provide us a framework within which we solve such things and this issue is also currently sub-judice. Karnataka High Court is looking into this issue. So that's why I don't have any comment right now, but we will not accept the comments of outsiders on our internal issues or on the issues whose solution can be found within India’s constitution and by its people.

Nivedita: Hi, this is Nivedita from ANI. Regarding the India-UAE virtual summit tomorrow what is the expected outcome specially on the Free Trade Agreement and at what time is the summit scheduled?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We have a policy, I mean, if I announced what we think might happen, we would be prejudging what the leaders would say. Let me just say that, this is a very important event that's coming up. Our relations with the United Arab Emirates have really seen a deepening and a transformation over the last few years. I think it is now a relationship that covers or spans numerous areas. We will try to share with you some information on what exactly is the state of the relationship. Of course, I would not like to prejudge the conversation between the leaders. We have made some progress in certain agreements which you would probably be following and once the summit is over tomorrow, we should be in a position to share more details to the extent possible. What exact time look, I think once the program is out, we will let you know. It's tomorrow evening, but exact time, there is some work going on the exact location and how it will be a shared with you. But certainly this is an important activity and event, virtual summit with the UAE and I think we would like to highlight and share with you all that we can.

Sudhi Ranjan: Sir, Sudhi Ranjan from Bloomberg. Sir, we have seen the Iranian representatives making rounds with Japan, South Korea in the anticipation that they will be able to sell oil. Have we seen such delegations in India? If you could share any details on that, sir?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I'm always scared to give a categorical answer, I'm not aware of it. However, this is a question better posed to our Ministry of Petroleum and Natural gas if they are aware of it or other companies may be discussing or maybe there is no such development. So as I said, I am not in a position to comment on it.

Akhilesh Suman: This is again Akhilesh Suman from Sansad TV. The question is related to Quad and Canada. Both you know, some sort of correlation because we are going through COVID phase.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: No, sorry. Before you, how Quad and Canada relation?

Akhilesh Suman: I am telling you sir.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:

Akhilesh Suman: Because the Quad the ministerial also took place.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Not in Canada.

Akhilesh Suman: No, no I’m telling you. Quad ministerial took place amidst Covid. So what type of cooperation what is the trajectory of cooperation among the Quad countries, even the fact that all the four countries are facing, you know, some sort of economic situation, downturn, manufacturing problems, supply chain issues. So what type of cooperation has been decided? And about Canada, both Canada and India are democratic countries. India has said that taking vaccine is a voluntary thing. You can take vaccine voluntarily if you don't want you can’t take. But why Canada is putting pressure and making it mandatory. So don't you think that this is contradictory to the democratic norms in a democratic country?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I'll take the second one first. You are not going to get me to comment on what the Canadian Parliament, Canadian people or the Canadian Government want to do with Canadian citizens. I think I would be upset if somebody was to tell about India, and I don't think I should get down to that road. But on the Quad, I think it's a very interesting question. Look, the Quad has evolved since it started off, of course, Quad as a meeting at lower level, but I'm talking about since it became at the summit level. It has identified areas where they feel, the four countries get together working together, they can help. As I keep on saying, force for global good. Vaccine is one interesting element, obviously, because of the COVID situation. But there are other areas, we're looking at supply chains, we're looking at collaboration in technology, various pillars have been identified. I would instead of trying to give you a very long answer right now, my suggestion would be I think the last two statements, both at the summit level as well as the one which just came out of from Melbourne would be useful starting points. I think one of the elements was, of course, about the vaccine production. I think that remains on course, and I think some good progress has happened on that. But till it's finalized, let me not announce it. I think that's a good example of what countries that work together bilaterally can do in a grouping, like the Quad and I would urge you to follow that and we will of course share with you more information, let's say perhaps later, particularly before the next Quad Summit.

Shailendra: Sir, Shailendra from News 18. Aapne hijab vale bayan per aapne comment kiya tha lekin hamare padosi mulk ne, vahan k videsh mantri ne bhi iss pe comment kiya hai or yahaan tak ki Maryam Nawaz Sharif ne apne profile pic mein bhi muskaan ki taswir lagaai hai. Iss par aapka reaction chahunga? Doosra ye hai ki Afghanistan ko lekar jo wheat ka process shuru hona tha ye kaha ja raha tha ki wahan par (inaudible) jiske baad shuru hoga, to iss par kya update hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) You had commented on the statement of hijab, but our neighbouring country, the foreign minister there, has also commented on it and even Maryam Nawaz Sharif has put a picture of Muskan as her profile pic. I'd like your reaction to that? The second is that the process of wheat dispatch was to start for Afghanistan. It was being said that there were (inaudible) When will the dispatch of wheat start, so what's the update on it?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Dekhiye hijab k mamle men maine jaisa kaha abhi I think hum doo reaction de chuke hain. I think hamare pass or abhi extra kuchh nahin hai, hamne kaha hai usmein, ek hamne pehle diya tha 4-5 din ho gaye, ki bahar ke andruni mamlon men is tarah ke comment bilkul hamen welcome nahi hain aur usske baad ek OIC k context mein ek aur detailed statement diya tha I think abhi or is Issue pe kehne ke liye nahin hai.Ye gehoon ke maamle mein bhejne waale jo aap kah rahe the Afghanistan mein. Dekhie iss pe mein aapako update aisa nahin hai par jaisa ham pahale keh chuke hain ki ham log Afghanistan ke logon ko maanviye sahayata pradan karane ke liye pratibaddh hain. Hum yeh keh chuke hain, ham davaein aur tiikon ke shipment ke baare mein jaankaari saajha kar chuke hain pehle. Aapko yaad hoga ki Rome mein Bhaaratiye Dootavaas aur sanyukt raashtra vishv khaadya kaaryakram ne Afghanistan ke anaaj ke vitaran ko aupachaarik roop se 12 february ko ek unhonne MOU par hastaakshar donon pakshon ne kiya tha. Hum Pakistan ke raaste 50,000 ton gehoon ki shipment ki jo modalities kar rahe the , unke antim charan mein hai, aur ummid yahee hai ki jaldi se ham pehlee shipment ki detail aapase saajha kar sakenge. Mujhe yahee aasha hai. Mujhe maaloom hai ki hum ye do-teen baar ye keh chuke hain par is baar hamein apeksha yahee hai ki badi jaldee bataenge ye, kya ho raha hai isamein. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) See, as I said in the case of hijab, I think we have given two reactions. I think we have nothing extra to add to them. We have said in them, it has been 4-5 days since we had issued the first one - that such comments in our internal matters are not welcome at all and after that a more detailed statement was given in the OIC context. I think I don't have anything more to say on this issue. You were talking about the issue of dispatch of wheat to Afghanistan. Look, I don’t have an update here, but as we have said earlier, we are committed to providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. We have said this before, we have shared information about the shipment of medicines and vaccines. You may recall that the Indian Embassy in Rome and the United Nations World Food Program formally signed an MoU on 12 February for the distribution of wheat to Afghanistan. The modalities for the shipment of 50,000 tonnes of wheat via Pakistan are in the final stages. And we hope that soon we will be able to share the details of the first shipment with you. That's what I hope. I know that we have said this two or three time earlier, but this time the expectation is that we will tell you very soon what is happening in this matter.

Speaker 8:
About this food grains for Afghanistan, why can't we give it to the World Food Program and say, well, this is for Afghanistan?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: And how will they take it?

Speaker 8: That’s up to them.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
We would like it to reach the people of Afghanistan and we will hand it over to World Food Program there. We could do various things, but this is how we would like to do it.

Speaker 9: WFP officials have already publicly announced that they expect to take charge of the wheat coming on the 22nd. It's going to be loaded on the 21st. Why are we waiting, what still remains to be done?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: If it is all done and dusted I would have announced it.

Speaker 10: This Monday there was a COVID-19 global action meeting that happened. Any official details on it and also when there, are there any other manufacturing units being identified here in India to actually fulfil the commitments that have been made by the Quad.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: On the first one, look, that was a closed door meeting and hence, we are not in a position to officially share what happened. There was a meeting convened by the US and number of countries participated in that. But since it's closed door, I would not like to comment on it officially. As regards the other elements, this is process of the Quad you are talking about, the Quad vaccine manufacturing. Look, I think biological E was identified and that still remains the main one, there is some talk of perhaps others. But the objective is not that, the objective is to make sure that a billion doses get out in 2022 this year, and I think we are working towards that, whatever modalities are required for that.

Okay, thank you very much for your presence here today. That brings us to the end of this media briefing.

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