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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (01 October 2020)

October 02, 2020

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Friends, Namaskar and good evening. Welcome to this weekly briefing in the virtual format. I'll start with an update on the Vande Bharat Mission. As on 30 September, 16.45 lakh Indians have been repatriated through different modes of the Vande Bharat Mission. With this, Phase 6 has come to an end. Under this phase, 894 international flights and 142 feeder flights have been operated from 24 countries reaching 24 airports across India and repatriating an estimated 1.75 lakh persons.

To meet the continued demand, Phase 7 of VBM has been operationalised from today, 1 October 2020. As of now, 820 international flights have been scheduled from 19 countries to be operated under Phase 7 during the course of this month. These include mainly flights from among the 14 countries with which India has a bilateral ‘air bubble’ arrangement in place. These flights will reach 24 airports across India, repatriating an estimated 1.5 lakh people.

Ministry has undertaken a further assessment of demand for repatriation from other countries and projected the requirements to Air India. Flights will be scheduled from these additional stations in the coming days. So this is the update on the Vande Bharat Mission.

Now, I'll move on to your questions and Yatin can you please take over?

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): So the first question is from Basant from Mathrubhumi News. He has asked - "has the UAE responded to India's request to interview the Attache of UAE Consulate in Trivandrum in connection with the gold smuggling case? He has also asked MEA has clarified that the State of Kerala has not taken permission before signing an MoU with UAE Red Crescent for Life Mission Project. Has the MEA asked for an explanation from the State?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Basant you would know that Customs Department had earlier consulted MEA and the UAE side had extended support. The consignment was opened in the presence of a UAE consular official and you would know that India and UAE have close friendly relations. UAE has been extending all necessary cooperation in this case and with regard to your second question, the Ministry is examining the matter from a legal point of view and as and when required we will seek a response.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Nainima from The Print has asked - "was the Rohingya issue discussed with Myanmar in the light of recent JCC talks with Bangladesh on the same issue?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Nainima the progress in the Rakhine State Development Programme, which is being implemented under our development cooperation project was discussed.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Suhasini from The Hindu has asked - "US Government and US Congress have expressed concerns about Amnesty International investigation in India that has led to its closure. EU and UK say they have raised concerns over Amnesty International investigation in India with the MEA and respective missions. Could you please give us some information about the discussions and any reaction to the comments? Do this constitutes interference in India's internal affairs?" Seema Guha from Outlook has asked - "on what grounds was Amnesty International's funds frozen, as a foreign company it naturally receives funding from its parent company?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: As you would be aware the Ministry of Home Affairs, which deals with FCRA related issues and foreign funding of NGOs has issued a press release on this issue and NGOs are expected to adhere to all our laws including in respect of foreign funding, just as they presumably would in other countries, including in the US and in the European Union. We also expect that other governments would not condone contravention of Indian laws by any entity.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Aneesh from UNI has asked - "any updates on Kulbhushan Jadhav?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Aneesh, we remain in touch with Pakistan through diplomatic channels on this matter and as I have said earlier, Pakistan needs to respect the ICJ judgement in its letter and spirit and this includes provision of all related documents as well as providing unimpeded consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION has asked - "any Indian reaction to ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijan tensions?" Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - "Armenia aur Azerbaijan ke beech jari jung par Bharat ka kya kehna hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) "What does India has to say about the ongoing war between Armenia and Azerbaijan?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I have a statement on this. We have seen disturbing reports of resumption of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. And this took place since the early hours of 27 September 2020, resulting in casualties on both sides. India is concerned over the situation which threatens regional peace and security. We reiterate the need for the sides to cease hostilities immediately, keep restraint, and take all possible steps to maintain peace at the border. India believes that any lasting resolution of the conflict can only be achieved peacefully through diplomatic negotiations. In this regard, we support OSCE Minsk Group constituted efforts for a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on India, Australia, Japan, USA meeting. Suhasini from The Hindu has asked - "what is the agenda for discussions during EAM visit to Tokyo and meet with Foreign Ministers of the Quad?" Sidhant from WION has asked - "what will be agenda at Quad for India?" Jai Prakash from Dainik Jagran has asked - "what would be the main agenda of upcoming Japan, Australia, India, America Foreign Ministers meeting on 6th of October?" Similar questions from Suman Sharma and Sumit Sharma.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: You would have seen our press release which was issued earlier this week on EAMs visit to Japan on 6th and 7th of October. The second meeting of the India, Australia, Japan, US ministerial will be held on 6th of October during this visit. In this meeting, Foreign Ministers of respective countries will be participating. As regards the agenda, it will broadly focus on the post COVID-19 international order as well as the need for coordinating responses to the challenges of the pandemic. There will also be discussion on regional issues and I cannot share the specifics at this stage. The Foreign Ministers are also expected to collectively reaffirm the importance of a free open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Geeta Mohan from India Today has asked - "this week has been rather hectic when it comes to engagements with the neighborhood. Could you spell out specific points and specific challenges when it comes to neighbors like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Well Geeta, in the past few days, there have been a series of engagements with our neighbors. There was the India-Sri Lanka Virtual Bilateral Summit between PM and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on the 26th of September, there was the Joint Consultative Commission meeting between EAM and Foreign Minister of Bangladesh on 29th of September, and today morning we had the India-Myanmar Foreign Office Consultations between FS and his counterpart. Without getting into the specifics of your question what I can tell you in general terms that these engagements are a part of our Neighborhood First Policy. The Government is committed to developing friendly and mutually beneficial relations with our neighbors and these engagements are certainly a reflection of that. Our engagements with these countries are based on a consultative, non-reciprocal and outcome oriented approach. We have a large development cooperation footprint in these countries, and we have several projects in areas which promote greater connectivity, which promote improved infrastructure, and broader people-to-people contacts. As regards Pakistan, our position is well-known. The Government has conveyed that it desires normal neighborly relations with Pakistan in an atmosphere free of terror, hostility and violence. The onus is on Pakistan for creating such an environment.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep Dikshit from Tribune has asked - "what prospects does MEA see about the Australia, France, Japan trilateral which recently discussed supply chain issues? Are there plans to extend this partnership to maritime security and the blue economy?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sandeep, if you are referring to the India, France, Australia trilateral dialogue, which was held virtually on the 9th of September, you would have seen our press release on this and as was mentioned earlier the focus of the dialogue was on enhancing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and specifically in this dialogue there was discussion on the economic and geo-strategic challenges and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. There was also discussion on the cooperation on Marine Global Commons and potential areas for practical cooperation and at the trilateral and regional level were also discussed. So this is broadly what the discussion focused on in that trilateral dialogue.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sanjay Rai has asked - "Pakistan mein Babri Masjid vidhvans mamle mein aaye faisle ki ninda karte hue abhyukton ko bari kiye jane ko sharamnak bataya hai. Pakistan ke videsh mantralaya ne ek bayaan mein kaha hai ki agar duniya ke tathakathit sabse bade loktantra mein insaaf ka thoda bhi ehsaas hota to woh log jinhone ne khulkar ek apradhik kritya ki neem hanki thi woh bari nahin hue hote. Videsh mantralaya ki kya pratikriya hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) Condemning the verdict in the Babri Masjid demolition case, Pakistan has termed the acquittal shameful. Where in a statement of Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, it says that if people in the so-called largest democracy of the world would have realized even a little bit of justice the accused who had laid the foundation for the criminal act would not have been acquitted. What is the reaction of Ministry of External affairs? Sidhant from WION has asked - "Pakistan reacted on Babri Masjid judgement. Pakistan Foreign Ministry today said 'Indian institution overtaken by ideology'. What is your reaction to that?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: [00:10:52] Sanjay ji, Bharat ek paripakv loktantra hai. Yahan sarkaar aur sabhi naagrik nyaylaya ke faisle ka palan karte hain aur vidhi shasan ke prati samman dikhate hain. Aise loktantrik sadachar ko samajhne aise tantra ke liye mushkil hai jahan nyalaya aur logo ko sarakar ki icha par khamosh kiya ja sakta hai. I will repeat this in English. India is a mature democracy where the Government and citizens abide by the verdicts of the Court and show respect for the rule of law. It may be difficult for a system with a coercive apparatus where people and the courts can be silenced at the will of the establishment, to understand such democratic ethos.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION has also asked - "last weekend we saw massive demonstration in front of Indian mission to Pakistan, something that looked worrying. Permission was also granted by Pakistani authorities to protest so near to Indian High Commission. Has it been taken with Pakistani Government?" Similar question was also asked by Madhurendra from News Nation.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sidhant and Madhurendra, I'll start by laying out the facts of the case. There was this incident of death of 11 migrant Pakistani Hindus, which was reported to us on the 8th of August, and we also received a communication from the Pakistan High Commission requesting confirmation of media reports and other details. What we did was we sought facts from concerned authorities and an interim response was shared with the High Commission on the 14th of August, including names of 11 persons and other relevant details. We also informed that these people were in India since September 2015, as per records and the cause of death was due to consumption of a toxic substance and that detailed investigations were being carried out. Unfortunately, what has happened is that this incident has been exploited by the Pakistani establishment to further its own anti-India propaganda. A staged protest was held in Islamabad, ostensibly by people who claimed to belong to the Hindu community. I would say it is the responsibility of the Pakistani authorities to ensure the safety and security of the Indian High Commission and it's personal.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News has asked - "has the dates and venue for India-US Two Plus Two dialogue been finalized?" Nainima from The Print has asked - "is the US-India small trade deal on the back burner now? Will it be discussed by EAM with Pompeo in Japan during their bilateral meeting? Has the Two Plus Two schedule been finalized? When is it?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Well on the Two Plus Two Ministerial Meeting, you would know that this meeting with the US is due to be held this year. The last meeting was held in the US and it is our turn to host this meeting. Mutually convenient dates are presently under discussion, and we will keep you informed.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on Line of Actual Control. Maha from CNN News18 has asked - "in the WMCC talks did the Indian side reiterate the stand that it doesn't recognize the 1959 LAC unilaterally defined by China? What is India's response to China saying again that it doesn't recognize Arunachal Pradesh?" Suhasini from The Hindu has asked - "despite the five-point agreement between Foreign Ministers in Moscow last month, the disengagement process has not yet begun. Is there an impasse in India-China talks at the LAC?" Elizabeth from Live Mint has asked - "since the 10th September meeting between EAM and Chinese Foreign Minister, what has been the progress made in reducing tensions between India and China on the ground in Ladakh? Is there any indication or possibility of a withdrawal of troops by the two countries in the coming weeks?" Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News has asked - "during WMCC meeting yesterday has China assured the Indian side that they are ready for early and complete disengagement along the LAC?" Similar questions have also been asked by Aneesh from UNI, Madhurendra from News Nation and Akhilesh Suman from Rajya Sabha TV.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: The 19th Meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was held yesterday. The Press Release issued after the meeting is already on our website.

The two sides reviewed the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the India-China border areas. They had detailed discussions in this regard, including on the developments since the last meeting of the WMCC on 20 August, 2020.

Both sides acknowledged the importance of the meetings between the two Defence Ministers and the two Foreign Ministers held earlier in September in Moscow. They also noted that the agreement between the two Foreign Ministers should be sincerely implemented to ensure disengagement at all the friction points along the LAC.

The two sides also reviewed the outcome of the 6th Senior Commanders meeting on 21 September. As I had noted last week that meeting had resulted in a joint press release and two sides had agreed on some steps to ensure stability on the ground even as they work towards complete disengagement in all friction areas.

In this regard, in the WMCC the two sides were of the view that it was necessary to implement the steps outlined in the last meeting of the senior commanders so as to avoid misunderstandings and to maintain stability on the ground.

As agreed in the last Senior Commander’s meeting, the two sides are now working to schedule the next (7th) round of the meeting so that both sides can work towards early and complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC in accordance with the existing bilateral agreement and protocols, and fully restore peace and tranquility.

So this was by way of response to those questions.
Are there any further questions Yatin?

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): No, sir.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. So this concludes the weekly briefing. Thank you.

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