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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (April 2, 2021)

April 03, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to this regular media briefing that we are doing virtually nowadays because of COVID. I'm very happy that you could join us here today on a holiday. My name is Arindam Bagchi. I'm the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs and this is my first such interaction. So it's a very special occasion for me. We have a number of questions that have been received from our journalist friends and I will now hand over the floor to Yatin to take us through the questions. Yatin, floor is yours.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Thank you sir. First set of question is on development in Myanmar. Madhurendra from News Nation has asked, "Myanmar mein jaaree hinsa, military rule aur lokatantra ki hatya par Bharat ne kya sangyaan liya hai?” (Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) "What cognizance has been taken by India on the ongoing violence in Myanmar, the military rule and the killing of democracy?” Aishwarya from AFP is asking "the military in Myanmar continues to crackdown on pro-democracy protests. Over 500 people have died according to local reports and reports also suggest there that there are air strikes too. What is India's stand?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Friends, thank you for this question. This is an important topic. Let me be very clear. We condemn any use of violence. We believe that the rule of law should be prevailed. We stand for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar. We have urged the release of political prisoners and supported any attempts at resolving the current situation, including through the efforts of ASEAN. We remain engaged on this issue with our international interlocutors and at the United Nations Security Council, in an effort to play a balanced and constructive role.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sridhar from Asian Age has asked, "There were reports that a diplomat from the Indian Embassy in Burma had attended the Armed Forces Day function on a day when protesters were gunned down. How is this consistent with India's deep concern over the situation there?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We have actually a functioning Embassy in Myanmar. Our Ambassador, Defence Attaché and other diplomatic officers continue to discharge their regular diplomatic responsibilities. Nothing more should be read into this event of attending by our Defence Attaché.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Monshu Torres from EFE has asked "what is the situation in the India Myanmar border? Do you have numbers of the people from Myanmar that already crossed the border to India which is India stand right now about allowing Myanmar people to the Indian side? Similar question is from Siddhanth from WION.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, I made clear our position on the issue in Myanmar. As far as border crossings are concerned, we are dealing with it as per our laws and humanitarian considerations.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Gautam Lahiri has asked, "Recently some Rohingya infiltrators are detained in India. Will you send them back to Myanmar? Whether any contact has been made with Myanmar authorities on this issue?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I must admit I have no information to share on this topic for the moment.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Akhilesh Suman from Sansad TV is asking, "During the BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers meet yesterday who represented Myanmar. Was there any reference to situation in Myanmar during the meet?” Gautam Lahiri is asking "In BIMSTEC Foreign Minister meeting whether current internal situation in Myanmar figured?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Well the BIMSTEC is the nature of a multilateral meeting, so it did not discuss the situation in Myanmar as far as I'm aware. Mr. U Ko Ko Hlaing, Union Minister of the Ministry of international cooperation of Myanmar, I think, attended the meeting on behalf of the Government of Myanmar.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on Pakistan. Kadambini from NDTV is asking "Pakistan ke kapas aur cheenee ke aayaat ko pehle manjooree aur phir rok par videsh mantraalya ki kya pratikriya hai?” (Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) "What is the response of the Ministry of External Affairs to Pakistan's first approval and then ban on import of cotton and sugar?” Sridhar from Asian Age is asking, "What is the MEA’s reaction to Pakistan's flip flop on resuming trade with India? First they approved and then they defer it while linking it to condition that article 370 should be restored. What is India's response?” Sanjeev Trivedi from News 24 has asked, "how does India view the recent flip flop by Pakistan in first allowing the the resumption of trade and then withdrawing it?” Similar questions were asked by Siddhanth from WION, Pushkar from New Indian Express, Sanjay from Arab News, Madhurendra from News Nation.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Friends, we've seen reports on this. But as is evident, we are not the right party to whom this question should be directed. I hope that makes it very clear what I'm referring to.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Jaiprakash from Dainik Jagaran has asked, "Varsh 2019 mein humne Pakistan ko diya hua MFN status ka darja samaapt karne ki ghoshna ki thi. Kya sarkar padosee desh ko phir se yah darja dene par vichaar kar rahi hai? (Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) "In the year 2019, we had announced the abolition of MFN status given to Pakistan. Is the government again considering giving this status to the neighbouring country?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Filhal is vishay par mere paas koi aise jaankaari to nahin hai jo main aapke saath mein share kar sakta hoon. (Answered in Hindi; App.Translation) At present, I do not have any information on this subject that I can share with you.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "was there any one on one interaction between EAM and his Pakistani counterpart, or any other top official at the recent international conference? If there, was what was discussed?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I presume you're referring to the recently held Heart of Asia conference, Dushanbe. I'm not aware of an interaction with the Pakistani delegation there.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation is asking,” Duniya bhar ke deshon mein Bhartiya Covid vaccine ki supply top par hai. Kitne deshon ko Bharat ab tak vaccine supply kar chuka hai aur maujooda demand kya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) "The supply of Indian Covid vaccine is on top in countries around the world. How many countries have India supplied vaccine so far and what is the current demand?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As on date under the "Vaccine Maitri” initiative, we have supplied a total of 644 lakh doses to the global community. Of these 104 lakh doses have been supplied as grant, 357 lakh doses on a commercial basis, and 182 lakh doses through the Covax initiative. The information on which countries have received the vaccine, the category of supplies, the details of delivery, etc., are on the ministry’s website, and is regularly updated, I would invite everyone to have a look at that. As regards to the demand for our vaccine, many countries across the world have been requesting for our vaccine. I don't have an exact number for what is the demand because there is a request based on their requirements. But I can tell you that the "Vaccine Maitri” has been extremely successful and very well liked by our partners across the world and we are continuing to try to supply to the extent possible given our domestic requirements.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Suresh from Kantipur has asked, "When Government of India is expected to give final note to export rest 1 million vaccine to Nepal. There are reports that Nepal government already approached Indian side to procure 5 million doses more. It is learnt that till date, there is no response. How Government of India could facilitate to make this deal happen.”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look I just mentioned that India has taken the lead on sending vaccines abroad. No country has shared with the world, the number of vaccines that India has, while vaccinating its own population. Till now, we have supplied vaccines to more than 80 countries across the world. We have already stated that our external supplies would be done keeping in mind our domestic requirements. At this time, I'm sure our partners understand that vaccines are primarily purposed for domestic consumption. I want to emphasise that we have not imposed any export ban on vaccines. Regarding the concerns of other countries our position has been suitably conveyed through our official channels.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Gautam Lahiri is asking, "How India Bangladesh plans to celebrate 50 years of liberation and diplomatic relations in 19 countries as mentioned in joint statement on the visit of Prime Minister, which are these countries?” He is also asking "how India is looking at outbreak of violence recently in different parts of Bangladesh.”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you are aware the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi paid a state visit to Bangladesh at the invitation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh recently. The invitation was extended in the context of three epochal events, the 100th anniversary of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, also the 50th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations and of course, the independence of Bangladesh itself. The visit facilitated significant decisions to reinforce the legacy of 1971 and is in furtherance of our close bilateral cooperation that we enjoy with Bangladesh. But as far as violence is concerned, we have always been against fundamentalism and extremism. We are confident that the government of Bangladesh will address this challenge. There was a query also regarding what are the countries with whom we celebrate, this also came up during the visit and we are still working on the details and this will be announced soon, once they are finalised.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Siddhanth from WION is asking, "Will India take part in the US climate summit? Also what will be the key focus during Kerry's meeting?” Sandeep from Tribune is asking "could you give us a sense of John Kerry's visit and whether India will put forward its standpoint of common but differentiated responsibilities during talks with him.”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you all are aware, President Biden of USA invited our Prime Minister to attend the Climate Leaders’ Summit which will be held virtually and the major economies forum later this month on 22nd and 23rd of April. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi welcomed President Biden's initiative and accepted this invitation. So that's the event that is going to happen later this month. Regarding your specific question about the visit next Monday, US Special Presidential Envoy on climate change John Kerry will be visiting Delhi from 5th to 8th April. A purpose of his visit would be to discuss this forthcoming climate Leaders’ Summit, as well as climate issues in general in the context of the 26th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is to be held later this year, the 26th COP. We expect that during his visit, Mr. Kerry will be interacting with several ministers including External Affairs Minister, Ministers of Finance, petroleum and natural gas environment, forests and climate change, power and new and renewable energy.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Akhilesh Suman from Sansad TV is asking, "Is Russian Foreign Minister coming to India? What is the agenda? Who else will he be meeting other than EAM?” Siddhanth from WION is asking "what will be the key focus during Russian Foreign Minister’s India visit”. Manisha from TV 9 Bharatvarsh has asked, "Roos ke Videsh Mantri Bharat daure ke baad Pakistan ja rahe hain. MEA ki ise lekar kya pratikriya hai? kyonki Roos Videsh Mantri ne shaayad hi ab tak Bharat - Pakistan ka visit ek saath kiya ho. Roos ki Pakistan se badh rahi najadeeki ke kya maayane hain?” (Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) "What is the reaction of MEA to the Russia’s Foreign Minister going to Pakistan after his visit to India? Because the Russian Foreign Minister has hardly visited India and Pakistan together till now. What is the meaning of Russia's growing proximity to Pakistan?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: At the invitation of External Affairs Minister, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be paying an official bilateral visit to India from April 5th to 6th. The visit will be a unique opportunity to discuss important aspects of our bilateral ties, also to review preparations for the next India Russia annual summit and also perhaps discuss regional and international issues of mutual interest. Regarding visit to any other country, all I can say is I am the spokesperson of the Minister of External Affairs of India and I will only speak about his visit to India

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Pushkar from New Indian Express has asked, "Will the issue of acquiring S400 missile systems be discussed during Russian Foreign Minister’s upcoming visit?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think it would not be appropriate for me to speculate on what specific issues that might be discussed or raised during the visit.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Siddhanth from WION is asking, "US State Department report has criticised India on human rights, your reaction to it. Pushkar from New Indian Express is asking US State Department report has listed significant human rights issues in India any comment?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We are aware of this report that has come out. This is clearly an internal exercise of the US government. We are not party to it. Nevertheless, as a general approach, we expect that there should be a proper understanding of developments in India.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation is asking, "Kin Bharat sthit videshi dootaavaason mein Bharatiya vaccine ab tak diya gaya hai? Kin deshon ke dootaavaason ne Bhartiya vaccine lene se mana kiya hai?” (Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) "Which foreign embassies in India have been given Indian vaccine so far? Embassies of which countries have refused to take Indian vaccine?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We have invited all resident foreign diplomats and their families who are above the age of 45 to get vaccinated, and we have received a very positive response from them. And I think this process is underway.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sanjeev Trivedi from News 24 is asking, "India seems to have its own doubts with respect to the "no lab-leak theory” as proposed by WHO and China. Does the MEA statement on the issue suggests that facts are being concealed under pressure from China.”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, we've already issued a very detailed media response yesterday which covers various aspects of the WHO convened global study on the origin of COVID-19. I have nothing further to add for the moment.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Siddhanth from WION is asking, "outlawed (SFJ) Sikhs for justice is claiming UNHRC has accepted their complaint against Indian leadership. Is it true? Has India raised with UNHRC for accepting donation from this radical group?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: No, I can confirm that our permanent mission in Geneva has sensitised the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, regarding the activities of this group ‘Sikhs for justice’. As I'm sure all of you are aware, "(SFJ) Sikhs for justice” have been declared by the Government of India as an unlawful Association under our relevant domestic laws. SFJ is involved in anti-national and subversive activities with the intention to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India. It is encouraging and aiding secessionist’s activities and supports separatist groups fighting for this purpose in India and elsewhere. So I think our concerns have been suitably conveyed to the United Nations.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on situation at the line of actual control. Aishwarya from AFP is asking, "Are there any fresh talks on the radar with China that are taking place or is likely to take place in near future.” Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News has asked "what is the status of talks regarding disengagement of forces along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh.” Srinjoy from Times Now has asked, "when is the next round of disengagement likely?”, similar questions from Siddhanth from WION, Madhurendra from News Nation, and Akhilesh Suman from Sansad TV.”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you're very well aware, after the disengagement in Pangong lake area, we had the 10th round of senior commanders meeting, then a telephone conversation between EAM and his Chinese counterpart, and WMCC interaction on 12th of March. There is a consensus that the two sides should quickly resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. The disengagement in pangong lake area was a significant step forward, and it has provided a good basis for resolution of the other remaining issues along the LAC in the western sector. At both the senior commanders meeting and the WMCC, the two sides held detailed exchange of views on the remaining issues. The two sides continue to remain in touch through military and diplomatic channels. As EAM had pointed out to his Chinese counterpart, a prolongation of the situation is a neither side’s interest. We therefore hope that the Chinese side will work with us to ensure that the disengagement in the remaining areas is completed at the earliest. This would allow both sides to consider de-escalation of forces in Eastern Ladakh, as that alone will lead to restoration of peace and tranquillity and provide conditions for progress of our overall bilateral relationship.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Suresh from Madhyamam is asking, "Confusion persist on levying tax on NRIs, especially those in Gulf countries, on their earning wages outside India through a provision in the finance bill passed by Parliament. The issue is being raised by many, including former Minister of State Mr. Shashi Tharoor. Can you clarify on this issue?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I would refer you to the Ministry of Finance on this query. I understand they've already issued a circular or clarification in this regard.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep from Tribune is asking, "Is there a plan to hold a ministerial meeting of the India- France -Australia trilateral.”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I assure you as soon as I have something on this, we will convey here or share with you.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Manish Shah from Business World is asking, "Has India asked Saudi government to lead OPEC to ramp up the oil production in the wake of exploding crude oil prices? And if so, then what is the reaction?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: India has been appealing since the beginning of this year to crude oil producing countries, both OPEC and OPEC plus to ease crude oil production cuts that were announced last year, so as to ensure that we have more crude availability. Since high crude prices hurt consumption rate recovery of several countries including India, particularly in the context of COVID. We've always believed that crude supply should be market determined rather than artificially managed. Our ministry of petroleum and natural gas, is reviewing closely, the global crude supplies and the price situation. We have noted that OPEC and OPEC Plus have announced last week a slight easing of crude oil production cuts, even though it is still far below the originally announced schedule of cuts. We continue to hope this process will go on. 

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): I have no further questions Sir.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay, that brings us to the end of this. Thank you very much ladies & gentlemen, for joining us. Till we meet again, goodbye
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