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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (June 10, 2021)

June 10, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Namaskar and a very Good evening. Welcome to this week's media briefing from the Ministry of External Affairs. Before we get on to the questions this evening, allow me to share some information regarding the forthcoming meeting of guest countries and the group of 7, the G7 which is happening in a hybrid format. I would like to read out a statement. You would recall that Honourable Prime Minister had announced and we had conveyed on May 11, that he would not be attending the G7 summit, to which he had been invited in the United Kingdom. And he would be participating virtually because of COVID restrictions. Let me state that at the invitation of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will participate in the outreach sessions of the G7 summit on 12th and 13th June in virtual format. UK currently holds the presidency of the G7 and has invited India along with Australia, Republic of Korea and South Africa as guest countries for the G7 summit. The meeting will be held in hybrid mode. The theme for this summit is "Build Back Better”, and the UK has outlined four priority areas for its Presidency. These are leading the global recovery from Coronavirus, while strengthening resilience against future pandemics; promoting future prosperity by championing free and fair trade; tackling climate change and preserving the planet's biodiversity and championing shared values and open societies. The leaders are expected to exchange views on the way forward and on global recovery from the pandemic with the focus on health and climate change. This is the second time that the Prime Minister will be participating in a G7 meeting. India had been invited by the G7 French Presidency in 2019 to the Biarritz summit, as a "Goodwill Partner”, and Prime Minister participated in the sessions on ‘climate, biodiversity and oceans’, as well as on ‘digital transformation’. I would now take the questions, we have received a number of them and may I hand over the floor to you Yatin to take us through the questions.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, Sidhant from WION is asking, "Pakistan has made official remarks on media reports on seizure of suspected material in Bokaro last week, how would you like to respond to that?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, let me say that the Department of Atomic Energy of the Government of India, after due evaluation and laboratory analysis of the material sample has stated that the material seized is not uranium and not radioactive. The gratuitous remarks about India by Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, drawing upon a media report indicate their disposition to malign India without caring to check or verify facts. Let me also reaffirm that India maintains a stringent law based regulatory system for internationally controlled items, which is reflected in our impeccable non-proliferation credentials recognised by the international community.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on vaccine from USA. Pranay from ABP News is asking, "America ki taraf se vaccine sahayog ko lekar beete dinon kafi baat aur phone call hue. Kya bharat ko aavantit kiye ja rahe America nirmit Covid vaccine ki sankhya ya maatra par koi sthiti spasht ho sakee hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) There has been a lot of talk and phone calls in the past regarding vaccine cooperation from the US side. Is there any clarity on the number or quantity of US-made COVID vaccine being allocated to India?”Pankaj Yadav is asking, "How many COVID vaccine doses will India receive or expects to receive as part of Joe Biden's global vaccination initiative?” Parikshit from CNBC is asking, "Any further clarity on how many vaccines are we getting from US through the first donation of 25 million doses?” We have similar questions from Sidhant from WION, Madhurendra from News Nation and Suhasini from the Hindu.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you are aware, the US administration has announced that it will donate a first tranche of 25 million doses of COVID vaccines to identified countries. On June 3rd, the US vice President Kamala Harris, called Prime Minister on phone to confirm that India will be among the recipient countries. We are awaiting details of the exact quantity and type of vaccines to be given to India and the timelines for the same.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Praveen Gautam from News Point is asking , "kuchh maamalon mein dekha gaya hai ki jin students ko bharat mein Covaxin lagee hai, vaheen America jaise deshon mein pahunchane par unse kaha gaya ki unhen doobara vaccine lagani padege. Bharat sarkar ka is par kya rookh hai? kya Covaxin ko lekar is tarah ki sthiti aur deshon mein bhee banee hui hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) In some cases, it has been seen that students who have got Covaxin in India, while on arrival in countries like America, they were told that they will have to get vaccinated again. What is the stand of the Government of India on this? Does this situation with Covaxin persist in other countries as well?” Rekha Dixit from the Week is asking, "With neither Covaxin nor Sputnik having WHO approval will it be a problem for Indians vaccinated with these shots to travel overseas?” Saurav from News Mobile is asking, "With daily count of COVID-19 cases now steadily declining will India ask other countries to relax travel restrictions?” Madhurendra from News Nation is asking, "Cheen Bharatiyon ko vaccination ke baavjood visa nahin de raha hai. Bharat ka is par kya stand hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) China is not giving visas to Indians even after vaccination. What is India's stand on this?” We have similar question from Dhairya from Sputnik.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think there are three distinct elements of that. So let me break it down accordingly. First on the issue of Covaxin, look we are aware that Bharat Biotech has sought WHO emergency use listing for Covaxin. We hope that this process of getting this approval is completed at an early date. I understand that Sputnik has also applied for WHO emergency use listing and getting emergency listing for Covaxin would help this process. Moving on to the difficulties being faced regarding students and others who reside abroad but are currently stuck in India, let me mention that MEA in line with GOI policies and priorities has been working actively to protect the interests of Indians residing abroad, be it for education, employment, or other reasons. We are aware of the challenges being faced by Indian students who are unable to join or return to foreign countries to pursue their studies. We've been taking this issue up with the concerned governments on priority. We have also requested students facing difficulties to contact the Ministry of External Affairs. The details are available on our website and social media handles.

As for the specific case of China and the Chinese visas, look currently persons from China, including Chinese nationals are able to travel to India despite the absence of direct air connectivity. However, for Indian nationals, travel to China has not been possible since last November, as the Chinese side had suspended existing visas. In March this year, the Chinese Embassy issued a notification about facilitating visas for those taking Chinese made vaccines. It is understood that several Indian nationals have applied for Chinese visas after getting vaccinated in that manner. But they are yet to be issued visas. Since these Indian nationals have apparently met the requirements laid down by the Chinese Embassy we would hope that the Chinese Embassy would be able to issue them visa soon. As conveyed earlier we have been in touch with the Chinese side in order to seek an early resumption of travel by Indian citizens to China, especially those who work and study there. While we recognise the need to ensure safety and strictly follow COVID protocols, essential two-way travel should be facilitated, especially keeping in view that the fact that Chinese nationals are able to travel to India.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times is asking, "Kya Afghanistan ke maamale mein Bharat purane stand mein badlav kar Taliban se bhi sampark karne ke vikalp par vichaar kar raha hai? (Questioned in Hindi; ApproximateTranslation) Is India considering the option of approaching the Taliban by changing the old stand on Afghanistan?” Manash from PTI is asking, "There was a report that India has reached out to certain factions of the Taliban which are not close to Pakistan. Can you clarify on engagement with the Taliban?” We have similar questions from Suhasini from the Hindu and Sidhant from WION.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, I'm not going to comment on any particular reports. Let me just say that our relations with Afghanistan are historical, and multifaceted. We have been engaging with Afghans across ethnicities as a friendly neighbour. We are concerned about peace and security in Afghanistan and the region. We support all peace initiatives, and have been engaged with several stakeholders, including regional countries. As you are aware External Affairs Minister participated in the inaugural ceremony of the intra Afghan talks held in Doha last year. A senior official delegation attended the talks in Doha. In the recent past, we have had visits by multiple Afghan leaders to India. We have also had official visits to Kabul. We are in touch with various stakeholders, as I said, in pursuance of our long term commitments towards development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Anish from Asia Net is asking, "What's the update on TRIPS waiver on vaccine production and what India’s response?” Sidhant from WION is asking, "What has been progress on India South Africa proposal at WTO on COVID vaccine patent, we have seen consensus for tax based negotiations, any reaction to that?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, as you are aware, India and South Africa have put forward a proposal to WTO last October for relaxation in norms of the agreement on trips to ensure quick and affordable access to vaccines and medicines for developing countries. We are happy to see that our initiative has gathered support from a number of countries. As regards the current status of this process, I would refer you to the Ministry of Commerce.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on economic offenders. Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "India is committed to the return of Mehul Choksi. Where do things stand as of now?” Pranay from ABP News is asking, "Dominica mein Pradhan Mantri Roosvelt Skerrit ke bayan se lekar sarkari vigyaptiyon mein ab tak Mehul Choksi ko Bharat ka nagarik bataya gaya hai. Aise mein ab tak bharat sarkar ne apane ko is mamale mein paksh banane ka faisla kyon nahin kiya. kya ab Bharat ek paksh ke taur par shamil hone ki appeal daakhil karega?” (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) From the statement of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit in Dominica till now in government releases, Mehul Choksi has been described as a citizen of India. In such a situation, why has the Government of India not decided to make itself a party in this matter. Will India now file an appeal to join as a party?” Gautam Lahiri is asking, "Whether MEA has initiated any process to extradite fugitive Vinay Mishra from West Bengal, who has been charged with cow smuggling. It is reported that CBI has requested to impound his passport. Any update on this issue?” Madhurendra from News Nation is asking, "Mehul choksi ke gunaahon ka doosra partner Neerav modi ke mamale mein kya update hai? ” (Questioned in Hindi; ApproximateTranslation) What is the update in the case of Nirav Modi, the second partner of Mehul Choksi's crimes?” We have similar questions from Suhasini from the Hindu and Sidhant from WION.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think the questions pertain to various people and some different kinds of issues. Let me just try to convey that as I have said earlier, we will continue to make all efforts to bring fugitives to face justice in India. As regards the specific case of Mehul Choksi, I don't have any particular update this week. He remains in the custody of Dominican authorities and certain legal proceedings are underway. As for Nirav Modi, you are aware that on April 15 this year, UK Secretary of State had ordered his extradition to India. We understand Nirav Modi is seeking to appeal against this decision. He remains in the custody of UK authorities. In respect of Vinay Mishra, I don't have any information to share on this. I would actually request you to check with MHA on specific details about all three cases. Let me add that the issue of extradition of economic offenders was discussed in the India- UK virtual summit on May 4. The UK side conveyed that there are some legal hurdles because of the nature of the criminal justice system in the UK, but that they are aware of the issue and that they will do whatever possible to make sure that these people are extradited at the earliest.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "Has Iran offered India the port of Jask to build strategic oil reserves?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
I'm not aware of any such proposal.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Manash from PTI has a question, "The Maldivian President has said that no decision has been taken on allowing India to open a consulate in Addu city. The Union Cabinet has already approved a proposal about opening of the consulate. How do you see comments by President Solih?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, I'm not going to comment on media reports. We actually don't see any room for any controversy on this. The opening of any posts or consulate is always done in consultation with the host government.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation has asked, "Islamabad sthit Bharteeye mission suraksha ki chunautiyon se joojh raha hai. Bharat ne is pe Pakistan se kisee tarah kee aapatti darj karaee hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) The Indian mission in Islamabad is grappling with security challenges. Has India lodged any objection with Pakistan on this?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: The Ministry of External Affairs maintains regular contact with local authorities regarding the safety and security of all our diplomatic premises, which we believe is the responsibility of the host government. I would not like to have a comment on any specific instance of this regard.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "There are reports from all over the world that the Coronavirus, as we know, is the result of tweaking in Wuhan lab. Is India looking for more investigations on the issue?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look I think we've been very clear that we support the need for a follow up to the World Health Organisation report on the origin of COVID-19 and for further studies, and we have called for understanding and cooperation of all in this regard. I don't have anything further to add on that.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR):
Next set of question is on EAM’s visit. Dhairya from Sputnik is asking, "Could you share some details about the meeting between EAM Jaishankar and the Qatari National Security Adviser Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al Mesned? Was there a discussion on the Afghan peace process?” Huma from Financial Express is asking, "If you can please share more details about the agenda of talks in Kenya. Will food security be on the agenda? And what about space sector?” She is also asking, "when is the Indo Africa summit and will it be virtual or in person?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look as you know, External Affairs Minister is on a visit to Kuwait and Kenya. During his transit through Doha he met the National Security Adviser of Qatar and had a chance to discuss bilateral issues. External Affairs Minister also appreciated Qatar’s support in India's fight against COVID. External Affairs Minister is currently in Kuwait and we will keep you updated of his engagements and interactions. As for the Kenya leg of his visit, you would have seen the detailed press release that has been already been issued. External Affairs Minister will be chairing the third meeting of the India-Kenya Joint Commission meeting, which will provide an opportunity to review all aspects of our bilateral relations. I don't have anything else to add for the moment. As for the India Africa summit, you are aware that this was to be held last year, but had to be postponed due to COVID. We will certainly share with your details as soon as these are worked out.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Nirmala from Strait Times is asking, "India- China trade went up by more than 70% year on year to over $48 billion in the first five months of 2021. What are the factors behind this rise even though ties are going through a downturn?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
I can't comment on specific trade data. I would like to highlight that trade between any two countries is dependent on several factors. And simplistic correlation may perhaps not be accurate. In any case, trade related matters are handled by our Ministry of Commerce. And I would request you to raise your query with them.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Anish from Asia Net is asking, "When would the 12th round of military talks be held with China?, Madhurendra from News Nation is asking, "Bharat-Cheen ke beech aglee WMCC ki baithak kab honee hai? Disengement ki prakriya mein aai rukaavat par bharat ka kya kehana hai? (Questioned in Hindi; ApproximateTranslation) When is the next WMCC meeting between India and China to be held? What does India have to say on the interruption in the process of disengagement?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: You would recall that the 21st meeting of the WMCC was held on March 12. And the 11th India China core commander level meeting was held on April 9th. During these meetings, both sides agreed on the need to resolve the outstanding issues in an expeditious manner in accordance with the existing agreements and protocols. We have repeatedly stressed that completion of disengagement in other areas would pave the way for the two sides to consider de-escalation of forces and ensure full restoration of peace and tranquillity and enable progress in our bilateral relations.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): I have no further question sir.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Thank you. Yatin, I think that brings us to the end of this media briefing. Thank you all for joining us. Good evening.

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