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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (11th December 2020)

December 12, 2020

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Welcome back and resuming with the Weekly Briefing. I will start with a short update on Vande Bharat Mission. As I mentioned last week the phase-8 of this mission has been extended as phase-8+ and is operational since 1st of December 2020. Under this extended phase 1406 international flights have been scheduled to operate from 27 countries with a capacity to repatriate an estimated 2.6 lakh people. As on 9th of December, 366 international flights have been operated under this extended phase and these flights have repatriated an estimated 60,000 people. So this brings the total number of people repatriated till date under the Vande Bharat Mission to more than 36 lakhs. I would also like to inform you that the air-bubble arrangement with Nepal has been finalized and initially we are starting with one flight daily. With this, the total number of countries with which we have such travel arrangements is now 23.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Moving on, Yatin, could you please take over and address the questions.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, first set of questions is on Russian Foreign Minister's remarks. Siddhant from WION has asked "Russia's Foreign Minister has made some eyebrows raising remarks. He said, India is currently an object of the Western countries persistent aggressive and devious policy. Can we have MEA's reaction and have we raised the matter with them? Shailendra from News 18 has asked "Rus ke videsh mantri ne kaha hai ki Cheen virodhi game mein Bharat ko shamil kar rahe hein western countries. Any reaction?” (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) "Russian Foreign Minister has said that the western countries are trying to engage India in anti-China games. Any reaction?” Ranjeet Kumar from Rakshak news has asked Russian Foreign Minister has said that the West is trying to engage India in anti-China games by promoting Indo-Pacific strategies. Any comments from MEA?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We have seen these comments of the Russian Foreign Minister and these comments were part of his remarks during the general meeting of the Russian International Affairs Council on the 8th of December 2020. See as you all know, India enjoys long-standing relations with Russia characterized by a special and privileged strategic partnership. This year, in fact marks the 20th anniversary of our strategic partnership with Russia. Our relations with Russia stand on their own merit including in the sphere of military-technical cooperation. You will also recall that PM had unequivocally outlined during a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2018 that India does not see the Indo-Pacific region as a strategy or as a club of limited members or as a grouping that seeks to dominate. It is not directed against any country. It stands for a free, inclusive and open region. India has always pursued an independent foreign policy based on its national interest. India's relationship with each country is independent of its relations with third countries. We hope that this is well understood and appreciated by all our partners.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on security for Indian High Commission in London. Shailendra from News-18 has asked "Khalistan samarthak SFJ ne bhartiye dutawason ko gherne ki dhamki di hai. Kya bharat sarkar ne un deshon ki sarkaron se ye mudda uthaya hai? Kya suraksha mangi gayi hai? " (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) ”The Khalistan supporter SFJ has warned to gherao the Indian Embassies. Has the GOI taken up this issue with the Government of respective country? Have we requested for security?” Srinjoy from Times Now has asked " How cooperative were the British security men during the demonstrations by Khalistanis in Birmingham? Was there any danger to the Indian Mission? Similar question from Siddhant from WION?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We are in constant touch with local authorities regarding the safety and security of our diplomatic premises and this, as you know, is the responsibility of the host Government. Regarding the protest in front of our High Commission in London and our Consulate in Birmingham, UK authorities took necessary action to ensure the safety and security of our premises and our personnel.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shailendra from News 18 has asked "Cheen ne kal phir LAC par tanav ke liye bharat ko jimmedar thehraya hai. Kya chin ke is rawayee ka aasar batchit par hoga?” (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) " China has again blamed India for yesterday’s tension on the LAC. Will this behavior of China going to affect the talks” Elizabeth from Live Mint has asked "Chinese Foreign Ministry in press briefing blamed India for LAC situation. How would you like to respond to that? Shrinjoy from Times now has asked "is a WAMC with China being planned?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: On this set of questions, what I will say is that our position has been very clear and it has been articulated several times in the past. The situation that we have seen since the last six months has been the result of the actions of the Chinese side, which are sought to affect a unilateral change in status along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. These actions are in violation of the bilateral agreements and protocols on ensuring peace and tranquility along the LAC in the India-China border areas. In fact, if you look at my statement last week, I'd also said that the core issues remains that both sides need to strictly follow the various bilateral agreements and protocols in their entirety including the 1993 and 1996 agreement on maintenance of peace and tranquility along the LAC in the border areas, which require that there should not be amassing of troops. Each side should strictly abide by and respect the LAC and should not take any unilateral action to alter it. We have taken note of the Chinese side's statement that it observes strictly the agreements between the two sides and is committed to resolving the border issue through dialogue and safeguarding peace and tranquility in the border areas. We expect the Chinese side will match words with actions. The two sides have continued to maintain communication through diplomatic and military channels. It is our expectation that further discussions will help both sides to achieve an agreement on a mutually acceptable solution for ensuring complete disengagement in all friction points along the LAC in the western sector and for full restoration of peace and tranquility as early as possible.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Siddhant from WION has asked Chinese Embassy spokesperson said India did not give feedback to them for the joint launch of the stamp to mark 70th anniversary of ties. Any reaction? Similar question from Abhishek from Doordarshan.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Look Siddhant and Abhishek, I think this needs to be clarified. The joint release of commemorative stamps to mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations with China was one of the activities agreed upon with the Chinese side last year. However, there was no discussion on any launch date with any Chinese authorities for these activities. We have seen the tweet by the Chinese Embassy suggesting that the event was cancelled by the Chinese side as there was no feedback given by the Indian side before the launch time agreed by both. This is factually incorrect. Further when the launch of the 70th anniversary celebrations itself has not taken place yet, the issue of going ahead with joint activities does not arise.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Aditya Raj Kaul has asked, Minister Jaishankar recently said that India's relations with China this year has been significantly damaged and this is the most difficult phase of ties with Beijing. Is the Government working to normalize ties with China or confronting them facts about violation of bilateral agreements. What's New Delhi's priority?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Aditya, I think you are referring to EAM's remarks made at an event a couple of days back. Now these remarks are self-explanatory and I wouldn't like to add to them.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Aditya has asked another question on Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan quoting a report from EU disinformation lab has accused India of indulging in subversive activities through fake media organizations. Does India have a response? Ashok from AP has asked seeking your comments on Pakistan Foreign Minister at a press conference on Islamabad accusing India of running scores of fake media outlets to malign Pakistan. Similar question from Sandeep Dixit from Tribune.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: As a responsible democracy, India does not practice disinformation campaigns. In fact, you are looking at disinformation, the best example is the country next door which is circulating fictional and fabricated dossiers and purveys a regular stream of fake news. Disinformation is practiced particularly by those who have records to hide such as sheltering international wanted terrorists including Osama Bin Laden and who seek unsuccessfully to cover up their own tracks such as on the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Siddhant from WION has asked "what are the agreements on the Shahtoot Dam expected to be signed between India and Afghanistan and at what level?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Siddhant, I think you're referring to the announcement that was made by EAM during the Afghan Conference in Geneva, which was held recently and EAM in a statement made the announcement that India and Afghanistan have reached an agreement on the Shahtoot Dam. The agreement is expected to be signed shortly.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep Dixit from Tribune has asked "has the Government made contact with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team. Suman Sharma has asked "Two weeks back Chinese Government mouthpiece Global times in its editorial called indo-pacific the backbone of 'Quad' a strategy that is divisive and targets China and urge the incoming Biden team to abandon the concept and revert to Asia Pacific." Recently President-elect, Joe Biden while introducing his Secretary of Defense Gen. Lloyd Austin used the term Asia-Pacific instead of Indo-Pacific. "What is MEA's reaction? Does India see a shift in policy towards New Delhi by the new incoming administration in Washington?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sandeep and Suman you would have seen the press release which was issued after the conversation that PM had with President-elect, Mr. Biden, where it was conveyed that he looks forward to working with him to further strengthen India-US relations. Now as you are aware, there is a consistent and strong bipartisan support in the US to strengthen its strategic partnership with India and to work together on addressing global challenges. We look forward to working with the next US administration once it assumes charge in January 2021.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep Dixit has asked "Will the US State Department's sanctioning of Russian company "Aviazapchast" affect its partnership in India. Similar question from Abhishek from Doordarshan.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I have no information on this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Maha from CNN News-18 has asked "is the Nepal Foreign Minister visiting India next week. Will India raise the map issued during the visit?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
Maha, I think responding to a similar question last week I had said that this invitation was extended on behalf of EAM by FS during his visit to the Nepalese Foreign Minister. He is expected to visit India shortly for the next meeting of the joint commission and dates for this visit are yet to be worked out.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Siddhant from WION has asked recently Pakistani media quoting unnamed sources said "India planning false flag operations. Any reaction to it?. Since Pakistan has been saying this since Balakot surgical strikes."

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Well, I just told you that the best example of a country practicing disinformation is the country next door. Our position in this matter and facts on the ground are well-known. I do not want to dignify such propaganda by responding to it.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Aditya Raj Kaul has asked "designated Khalistani terrorist Paramjeet Singh Pamma yesterday organized an anti-India protests in London. Pamma is in NIA most wanted list and has surfaced in earlier protests as well. Has India taken up the issue with UK officially. Will New Delhi press for his extradition?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Aditya, you would have seen that NIA has filed a chargesheet a couple of days back against 16 foreign-based Khalistanis in the referendum 2020 case and this list includes the person that you mentioned. As of now, I understand further investigation is going on in this case as well as in earlier cases, whatever action is required, that will be taken.
Are there any further questions?

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

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

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