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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (January 30, 2020)

January 31, 2020

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namaskar, good afternoon and a warm welcome to this weekly briefing. Before I open the floor to questions I have an announcement and an update.

The announcement is regarding the visit of Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa to India. He will be on a State visit to India from 8 – 11 Feb, 2020 at the invitation of our Prime Minister. He will arrive on 7th Feb with a high level delegation. 8th Feb is the main engagement day where he will hold delegation level talks with the Prime Minister. He will also call on our President and in the morning External Affairs Minister will call on the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
After his official engagements in Delhi the Sri Lankan Prime Minister will travel to Varanasi, Sarnath, Bodh Gaya, Tirupati before he gets back to Colombo. You are aware that there has been a series of high level visits between the two countries. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa chose India as the first destination to visit after he assumed his position as the President immediately after his election victory.
An update is on n-Coronavirus. You are aware that the Government of India has been conducting regular review of the situation arising out of the outbreak of n-Coronavirus in China. We have also been putting out regular updates on the arrangements which are being made. You must have seen our request to operate two aircrafts to China to bring back the Indian nationals who are in Hubei Province.
A formal request has been made. We are now waiting for a formal approval from the Chinese side before we can start the process and we do hope that this approval will be given soon. Meanwhile we have established contacts with over 600 Indians across the Province and we are individually ascertaining their willingness to travel back to India, their willingness to be repatriated.
Our mission in Beijing is working round the clock to work out the necessary logistics. We are also putting arrangements in place for the people who want to come back for them to travel to the airport. We remain committed to the safety and well-being of the diaspora abroad and we also appreciate the support which has been extended by the Government of China in putting this process together.
These are the two opening announcements. Now I open the floor to questions. What I will do is I will take the question on n-Coronavirus first and then move on to other topics.

: Why this delay in getting permission from the Chinese government. There are reports that the Americans are getting their people out. So you have been in this process of waiting for the permission for, I think, a couple of days now perhaps. So what is taking so long, are the Chinese reluctant to grant permission, what is the latest on that?

Question: n-Coronavirus se related hi hai. Kya Bharat Sarkar, Videsh Mantralay ke pass ye detail hai ki kitne Bharatiya students China mein kahaan-kahaan hain aur kya unse koi affected hai abhi, kyonki Bharat mein aaj pahla maamla aaya hai Kerala mein?

(It is related to the n-Coronavirus only. Does the Government of India has the information how many Indian students are there in China and their locations and how many among them are affected with it because the first case has been reported in Kerala?)

Question: Kya wo pahle Delhi mein rakhe jaayenge, ya kis tareeke se unke sample liye jaayenge, ya hospital mein rakhe jaayenge, kya procedure hoga?

(Will these persons be kept in Delhi first or how the samples from them will be collected, will they be taken to the hospital, what would be the procedure?)

Question: What about Chinese nationals looking to visit India at this stage? Has there been any change in the visa process?

Question: Just to add to the previous question, a lot many different business delegations often come from China to India, so has there been a protocol which has been worked out with the Government of China as far as the health conditions or standardization of the medical examination?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Let me take these five questions first. As far as first question is concerned, you know it takes time to put systems in place. Seeking approval is just one part of the story but you have to ascertain the willingness, you have to first putbthevsystems in place. Now this is the part we were engaged in. The second aspect is off-course seeking approval from the Chinese side and it takes time. I don’t think what you saying is true . There is a process and once the process is complete I am sure the necessary formal approvals will be granted. We do hope that this is done as soon as possible.
On how many students are there in China, you see the number of overall Indians in the province.
Hubei Province mein jo Indian nationals hain, jahaan tak hamaari jaankaari hai ki, dekhiye register karne ka koi system to hai nahi, registration aapki swechha se hai, agar aap karna chaahein to hamaari jaankaari ke hisaab se 1200 Indians hote hain. Ye dhyaan rakhiyega, hote hain, usmein se abhi kitne hain ye bataanaa mushkil hai. Humne jin logon ko contact kiya hai wo hain 600 ke upar aur unse poochha hai ki aap kitne log, jo special flight jaayegi, usmein aap jaanaa chaahenge.
In logon ko Delhi, ya kahaan, kis jagah par rakhenge, ye saaraa maamla Health Ministry ke andar aataa hai. Ek Health Protocol hai, aapne dekhaa hogaa regular updates aa rahe hain Ministry of Health and Family Welfare se aur agar aap unko follow karein to ye pataa chalega ki kitne din ka quarantine hai. Cabinet Secretariate se press releases aa rahe hain jismein ye saaraa mentioned hai to is maamle mein unke pass jyada jaankaari hogi. Jo andar ka process hai uske baare mein main jyada tipaanii nahi karnaa chaahungaa kyonki uske liye ek nodal ministry India mein hai.

(See there is no such system of registration, if one wishes to register they do it out of their own will if they so wish. So as per the information that we have there should be 1200 Indian nationals in the Hubei Province. Please note that there "should be”, how many among them are still there, it is difficult to say that. We have contacted above 600 people and asked them if they would like to come back in the special flight that we are arranging.
Where these people will be put, all these things come under the purview of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. There is a Health Protocol which you must have seen and there are regular updates from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, if you have been following them you would be aware about the number of days of quarantine. Press releases are being issued from Cabinet Secretariat so there will be more information in this matter. I would not like to make remarks on the internal process as there is a nodal ministry in India for that.)

On the Chinese nationals who want to visit India, at this point of time, I am not aware of any restriction which has been put for anybody who wants to visit India. You are aware that airports across the world have put a health protocol. There is an active screening which is taking place including at the Indian airports as well. That is the situation as of now but from our side we have not put any restrictions in terms of movement of people from China to India.

Question: On this n-Coronavirus thing, could you share with us any figure how many Indian, globally, are affected and you have an information and has there been any people who are critically ill or any death of Indian reported from this virus in any part of the world?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
I will take, maybe, few more questions on this.

Question: Ye jo 600 logo se contact kiya jo wahaan par maujood hain, saare Hubei Province mein hai yaa fir kahin aur bhi hain?

(These 600 people which have been contacted in China, are all of these present in Hubei Province or somewhere else also?)

Question: There is an Auto-Expo 7th February onwards in Greater Noida and it is becoming very ambitious as far as Indian industries are concerned. So whether you are aware that all those delegations are coming because China has taken almost 20 percent of the space of the Auto Expo, whether they are coming or not?

Question: Any travel advisory for China, I mean full-fledged travel advisory that one should not go to the China and also countries where there is confirmation of this virus?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: The first questions on any Indians affected, I can tell you that as per the information which we have, in Hubei Province, among the Indian nationals, we do not have any case of confirmation so far. I have not heard of any Indians being affected in any part of the world. You shared about the first case in India in Kerala, I think on which Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have already put a statement out.
Jo doosara sawaal thaa ki ye humne jo contact kiyaa hai, filhaal hum sirf Hubei Province mein jo log hain sirf unhi ko contact kar rahe hain, uske baahar hamaaraa contact karne ko hamaaraa koi iraadaa abhi nahi hai.
(The second question regarding the contact that we have made, as of now we are contacting only those who are present in the Hubei Province. Right now we do not have any intention to contact people outside the Hubei Province.)
As I mentioned that all the governments are putting in place some health protocols, they are putting in place systems and once the systems are in place, you will be able to, hopefully, get a sense as to whether any person who is infected with this virus is coming into the Indian territory or not.
I do not have any information about cancellation or postponement. To the best of my knowledge I think it is scheduled as it is, we have not heard anything to the contrary.
Regarding travel advisory, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has already issued an advisory and it says, please refrain from travelling to China. So nothing beyond that. It is being monitored very closely and if there is any necessity of updating the advisory that will be done.

Question: Gujarat CM ne kahaa thaa ki aap logon se …….. kiyaa jaa chukaa hai aur bahut saare students aanaa shuru ho gaye hain aur second baat ye hai ki kitne students hai jo ki Gujarat se China mein rahte hain?

(Gujarat CM has said that………… has been done that and many students have started to come back and second, how many students form Gujarat are there in China?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye main Indians ki baat kar rahaa hoon aur maine abhi bataayaa ki abhi humne 600 Indians ko contact kiyaa hai aur hum ye pataa kar rahe hain ki usmein se kitne log jo flight hum operate karne waale hain usmein se kitne log aayenge. To sthiti wahi hai, mere pass statewise breakup nahi hai. Jo Bharatiya students pahle aa gaye hain, apne private initiative se, private means se aaye hain to unki jaankaari mere pass nahi hogi.

Jo movement hotaa hai do desho ke beech mein, har baar travel jo hoti hai ek desh se doosare desh mein wo koi jaroori nahi hai ki embassy ya consulate ko bataa kar kiyaa jaaye, to uski jaankaari yahaan par ho sakti hai ki jab wo enter karte hain lekin consulate ya embassy ke through ya unko inform kar ke jaane ka koi process nahi hai to. Apne reports mein bhi sunaa hogaa ki kaafi log pahle aa chuke they, ye jo outbreak hua aur iski jo jaankaari hai uske pahle kaafi log aa chuke they aur isiiliyee main baar-baar kehna chaahta hoon ki jo numbers hain, overall number kya hai aur abhi kitne number hain China mein Indians, ismein dono mein kaafi fark ho sakta hai.

(See, I am talking about Indians and just now I said that we have contacted 600 Indians and we are ascertaining how many among them will be coming back to India on the flights that we are going to operate. So the situation is same and I don’t have the state wise breakup. Those Indian students who have returned to India by private means, I will not have that information with me. The movement between two countries is not such that every time the same is intimated to the embassy or the consulate. That information is possible to collect when they enter here but there is no process to inform consulate or embassy. You must have seen in the reports that many people have come back earlier before the information about this outbreak came out. Hence I would like to reiterate that the overall number of Indian nationals in China and the number of people who have returned, there could be a lot of difference in those numbers.)

Question: Regarding Nepal, Nepal Government has officially invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for upcoming Sagarmatha Dialogue which is to be held during 2-4 April in Kathmandu. Is Prime Minister Modi taking part in this dialogue this year?

Second one, Nepal Government has officially retained India to remove the restrictions of import on palm oil. What is the development from India side on it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You see we have received a letter from Government of Nepal inviting the Prime Minister for the Sagarmatha Samvad to be held in Nepal as you mentioned. Many of you would be aware that a decision regarding Prime Minister’s abroad goes through a certain process and the process also includes his calendar, his other commitments. We will let you know of our decision regarding PM’s participation at an appropriate time.
The other question was on the trade part of palm oil, you know I have mentioned this earlier as well that this is a matter which relates to the trade policy. I have mentioned in the past that notification which was issued by Government of India was not country specific you know, it relates to a certain policy. We have been approached by the Government of Nepal on this matter and we are holding internal consultations with the relevant departments at this time.

Question: We have seen what happened in Brussels, could you give us an idea of what India did behind the scenes?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: What we do behind the scenes will remain behind the scenes. It will be difficult for me to share with you what happened behind the scenes but I can share with you that we have noted the decision of EU Parliament not to put the CAA resolution to vote today. As I have mentioned earlier CAA is an internal matter of India. It has been adopted through a due process and by democratic means. We have also noted that the European Commission, that their clarification of the opinions expressed by the European Parliament and its members do not represent the official position of the European Union but, however we will continue to engage with the MEPs, the European Parliament and other EU stakeholders in this matter.
Dekhiye, jo EU Parliament ka decision thaa ki CAA Resolution par vote nahi kiyaa jaaye usko hum note karte hain. Jaisa humne pahle bhi kahaa hai ki CAA Bharat ka ek aantrik maamla hai aur isko jo adopt kiyaa gayaa hai ek due process aur loktaantrik tareeke se isko humne adopt kiyaa hai. Lekin saath humne European Commission ka bayaan bhi dekhaa hai jismein unhone kahaa hai ki jo European Parliament aur Members of European Parliament, unka jo view hai is baare mein wo European Union ki official position nahi hai. Dono desh, India aur EU strategic partners hain. Partnership ko strengthen karne ke liye dono tatpar hain aur hum aagey Members of European Parliament, European Union aur jitne saare relevant stakeholders hain unke saath hum lagaataar baatcheet banaaye rakhenge.

Question: The Gujarat Chief Minister has said that US President Donald Trump is coming to Ahmedabad, they haven’t given a date but it’s been told to people that 23rd is the date. Can we get any confirmation from the Ministry of External Affairs?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You are aware that we are engaged with the US side through diplomatic channels to work out the dates and the details of the visit. We will make an announcement in due course but at this point of time I would not like to comment any further.
Is samay maine jo pichhale saptaah kahaa thaa aur uske pahle bhi kahaa thaa uske aagey bataane ki stithi mein nahi hoon. Main itna sirf bataa saktaa hoon ki dono desh abhi bhi raajnayik tareeke se baatcheet kar rahe hain jismein visit ki taareekh aur baaki jo details hain visit ke baare mein us par discussion chal rahaa hai, us par salaah mashwira chal rahaa hai aur jaise hii hamein is par poori jaankaari hogi hum apne standard procedure ke tahat is baare mein announcement karenge.

Question: As the Indian Foreign Secretary already took the charge, could you make the latest update on the Secretary level meeting of border issue with Nepal? Has the date been finalized?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: As I mentioned in the past as well that anything which is being discussed through diplomatic channels, I would not like to comment from this platform. I am aware that you are referring to a discussion which relates to the border issue, I can only reiterate my earlier position but if there is any confirmation of the dates we will be happy to announce.

Question: In an interview to the Gulf News last week Bangladesh Prime Minister said that she can’t understand why India brought this Citizenship Amendment Act and it was totally unnecessary. Would you like to make any comment sir?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar
: We have explained our position to the Government of Bangladesh as to why this was brought. You must have also read in her statement that relationship between India and Bangladesh have been never better and we also have her statements and comments coming from Bangladesh that this is an internal matter of India.

Question: Not aceding to India’s repeated requests to British Authorities again actually a protest was held outside the Indian Commission in London on 26th January, so how do you see these protests actually when we are repeatedly asking British authorities not to allow such anti-India protests, still they are not heeding to our request. How do you see it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You are aware that our High Commissioner had met the British Home Secretary before 26th January because 26th January was the date when a notice was given for the protest. Yes, we had apprised the British Government that based on what happened in the past, you know the incidents of arson and violence, they should make adequate preparations to ensure not only that the building and the High Commission remains safe but also security of the people who are working inside the building.
There were certain incidents which took place. We have taken up the matter again with the British Government that this is something which basically creates difficulty in the functioning of the mission and we hope that as and when such incidents or such notices are given for demonstration British Government will take adequate steps to ensure that such incidents are not repeated in the future.

Question: European Sansad mein kal Naagarikta kanoon par bahas ke dauraan kaii baar ye zikra kiyaa gayaa ki India aur EU ke beech mein summit hone waali hai aur Bharat se hum uska paksh jaananaa chaahenge to ye kab hone waali hai, kya iskii tareekhein hain?

(During the discussion on Citizenship Act in the European Parliament it was mentioned many times that the India-EU summit is supposed to be held soon so we would like to know about India’s view on this, so what are the dates of this India-EU Summit?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Jahaan tak meri jaankaari hai dono desho ke beech mein 14 bilateral summit ho chuke hain aur jo 14th bilateral summit thaa who November 2017 mein huaa thaa. Uske baad jo nayaa European Commission constitute huaa hai unke saath hum lagaataar baatcheet kar rahe hain 15th India-EU Summit ki dates ko finalize karne ke liye aur jaise hii ye dates finalize ho jaati hain hum unki announcement karenge.

(14 bilateral summits have been held between the two countries and the 14th summit was held in November 2017. After that we are in constant discussion with the new European Commission constituted for the finalization of dates for the 15th India-EU Summit and as soon as the dates are finalized we will make the announcement.)

Question: The EAM was on a visit to Africa, Niger and Tunisia, so on India-Africa Summit, any plans when it is going to take place in India this year, any confirmation on the dates and secondly, can we expect India to be invited for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Foreign Minister’s meeting because last time we saw India present there?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Frankly both the questions are very speculative. On India Africa Forum Summit, the next summit is due to be held. As and when we do have confirmation about the venue and dates, it is too early now, we will make announcement in due course.
On the OIC, look the focus of the visit of the External Affairs Minister to Africa was purely on bilateral relations. This was his first visit to African Continent since he took over as External Affairs Minister. A lot of issues were discussed and we will see how things progress but beyond that I really can’t share more details on this.

Question: At the EU we heard that repeatedly Members of European Parliament were referring that India has been reminded that perhaps CAA and NRC violate various international treaty commitments of India. So do you think these laws have violated any of India’s international commitment especially in Human Rights and in democratic values front?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, it depends on how look at it. As far as we are concerned I don’t think we are violating any of the international laws and covenants which are in place because we see CAA in a very different light compared to some of the members of the European Parliament.

Question: There are reports that the voting will take place in March, so don’t you think that it’s something like a temporary reprieve for India rather than the danger of the resolution being passed, it still hangs over our head and secondly, you comment that European Commission has said that the views of European Parliament and its members, these are not that of the European Union but isn’t it a fact that European Parliament is part of the EU apparatus, so how is this statement valid?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: This is something which you have to ask European Commission.

Question Contd.: But European Parliament is part of the European Commission?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: What I am saying is that this is the exact statement which has been made by the European Commission. I have not created this statement. They have made a statement, please look at the statement where it is very clear you know. When a summit is held between India and EU, it will be held with the European Commission but you know it is not my statement, I just quoted the statement.
On the first question, you see there is a lot of time between now and March, so I really don’t want to say anything but between now and March I think nobody can predict what will happen.

Question: Just an hour ago the British High Commission to Delhi regretted the attacks on the Indian Mission and the threats that Indian diplomats faced in London. Would you like to comment on it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, I haven’t seen the statement but you know this basically corroborates what I just mentioned that in any such act of violence, arson which affects the functioning of the Mission, I think we have taken up in the past strongly with the UK side. This time also the matter has been taken up with the UK Government.

Question: This is again regarding the n-Coronavirus, does the government urged all students to come back to India from China?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, look we are not in the business of telling people what to do. We are putting together two flights for the Indian nationals who are in that province. We have asked their confirmation whether they would like to be brought back to India and if they want to come back to India they can let us know and then they can be accommodated in those flights.

Question: European Parliament mein jo MEPs hain unmein se kuch aisi bhi hain jo Kashmir gaye they, to aapko lagta hai ki jo Kashmir waala dauraa thaa wo ek diplomatic effort bahut kaam nahi aaya hai?

(Many of the MEPs discussing the CAA in European Parliament were those who visited Kashmir, do you think the visit that you planned didn’t help much in this regard?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye ismein problem ye hai ki aap kuch bhi karna hai, jaise ki koi bhi proposal hai, koi bhi visit hai wo kaargar hogaa ki nahi uske darr se hum wo step lenaa band kar dein ye mere khyaal se galat hai. Uske baad humne jo hamaare 15 envoys hain yahaan par unko hum le gaye Kashmir aur jo feedback hamein unse mila wo bahut sakaaraatmak mila. To isiliye ye soch kar ki iska kyaa nateeja nikalegaa agar hum kaam naa karein to mushkil ho jaayegi.

(See, the problem in this question is that if we stop taking any steps or planning any visits out of fear that it may not be fruitful then it would be wrong. After the EU MEPs visit to Kashmir we took 15 envoys to Kashmir and we got very positive feedback from them. So if we work just worrying about what would be the result of any effort then it would really become very difficult.)

Question: A very top functionary in the Nepal Government actually offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, so how do you see it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
Look, you know our views on mediation. I really don’t have to add to what our views are as you know them.

Question: A very high level source that I had met said that there is no connection between the future of SAARC and cross-border terrorism and the SAARC must be revived, so what is India’s position on it that when member countries of SAARC are saying that there is no connection between terrorism and of course you have a very different on that.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You know our views.

Question Contd
.: Could you please elaborate?

Question: Nepal kah rahii hai ki wo SAARC ki apni chairmanship denaa chaahti hai, to kaise dekhate hain aap isko?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye dono sawaal related hain. First one was asked in English, aapne Hindi mein poochha hai to main dono mein jawaab detaa hoon.

(See both the questions are related. First question was asked in English and the second was asked in Hindi and hence I will answer it in both languages.)

On numerous occasions we have made our position clear on the SAARC process. India enjoys excellent bilateral relationships with all the SAARC countries except one but regional cooperation is adversely affected when you have cross-border terrorism where a country supports cross-border terrorism and when a country also interferes in the internal affairs of another country.
Iske pahle bhi bahut baar humne ye baat kahi hai ki SAARC Summit ki process par hamaari position kya hai. Bharat ke rishtey SAARC ke saare deshon ke saath, ek ko chhodkar, bahut hi achhe hain. Lekin jab hum Kshetriya cooperation kii baat karte hain to agar ye mahoul hain jismein cross-border terrorism ko agar ek country support karti hai, agar ek desh doosare desh ke aantarik maamlo mein hastkshep karta hai to aise mahoul mein regional cooperation, jo SAARC cooperation hai as a body, wo bahut mushkil hai aagey badhna.

Thank you all for joining.

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