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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (July 22, 2021)

July 22, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good evening to all of you. Thank you for joining in for this weekly media briefing. Let me begin with an announcement regarding the Foreign Secretary's visit to the United Kingdom that starts tomorrow. Foreign Secretary, Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla will visit the United Kingdom on 23rd and 24th of July. It may be recalled that the recently held India-UK virtual summit in May 2021, both countries adopted an ambitious Roadmap 2030 to elevate bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership and guide cooperation over the next decade in key areas of trade and economy, defence and security, climate, health and people to people relations. During his visit, Foreign Secretary will meet with his counterparts and conduct a detailed review of bilateral relations with particular focus on the implementation of the 2030 Roadmap. He will also discuss regional and global issues of mutual interest. Naturally, we will continue to provide you updates of the visit, throughout the visit and when he is back. With this announcement let me now turn to the questions that we have received. Yatin the floor is yours.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, the first set of question is on Afghanistan. Brajesh from Delhi Guardian has asked, "There are reports that India may help Afghanistan government military in its fight against Taliban. Is there such a plan to help Afghanistan in terms of military cooperation?” Madhurendra from News Nation is asking, "Taliban ke badhte prabhaav ke chalte Bharat ko Afghanistan ki zameen par kis tarike kee mushkilon ka samna karna pad raha hai? Bharat apne projects ki hifajat ke liye kya kar raha hai? kya Taliban ke khilaf Bharat Afghanistan ko sainya madad dega? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What kind of difficulties is India facing on Afghan soil due to the increasing influence of Taliban? What is India doing to protect its projects? Will India give military aid to Afghanistan against Taliban?” Umashankar from NDTV is asking, "Afghanistan ke sena pramukh Bharat daure par aa rahe hein. Bhaarat mein Afghanistan ke rajdoot ne interview mein kaha hai ki haalat bahut hee kharaab hue to Afghanistan Bharat se sainya madad bhee maang sakata hai. Kya Bharat kisi bhi soorat mein aise anurodh par vichaar kar sakta hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) The Army Chief of Afghanistan is visiting India. The Ambassador of Afghanistan to India has said in the interview that if the situation worsens, Afghanistan can also ask for military help from India. Can India consider such a request under any circumstances?” We have similar question from Sanjay Roy from Aaj News, Praveen Gautam from Newspoint and Pranay from ABP News.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thanks Yatin. Look, India-Afghanistan bilateral relations are guided by the strategic partnership agreement which was signed in October 2011. As a contiguous neighbour, India supports the government and the people of Afghanistan in realising their aspirations for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future where the interests of all sections of Afghanistan or Afghan society including women and minorities are protected. At the Afghanistan Conference 2020 held in Geneva to reaffirm the commitment of the international community towards Afghanistan, EAM emphasised India's long term commitment to the development of Afghanistan. I think for the moment that would address the queries that you have raised Yatin.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Nilova Roy Chaudhury has asked, "Has India been invited for a meeting of Russia, China, USA trilateral on Afghanistan? If yes, when is the meeting? How is it different from the myriad other regional meetings on Afghanistan?” I have a similar question from Dhairya from Sputnik.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, we have only seen media reports on this. I'm not aware of any such proposal having been made.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now has asked, Pakistan has accused India of misleading the world on the abduction of an Afghan diplomat’s daughter in Pakistan. Your comments please. Umashankar from NDTV is asking, "Pichhle dinon khabar aayi ki Islamabad mein Afghanistan ke rajdoot ki beti ko agva kar torture kiya gaya. Haalaaki bharatiye raajanaayik aur karmachaaree pahle se hi suraksha ehatiyaat baratate rahe hein. lakin kya is ghatna ke bad unki suraksha ke liye kisi tarah ke naye disha - nirdesh diye gaye hain? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Recently, news came that the daughter of the Ambassador of Afghanistan was kidnapped and tortured in Islamabad. However, Indian diplomats and employees have already been taking security precautions. But have any new guidelines been issued for their safety after this incident?” We have similar question from Sidhant from WION.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: This is, of course, a very shocking incident. It involves two other countries, that's Afghanistan and Pakistan, and usually would not comment on it. However, since the Interior Minister of Pakistan has dragged India into it, I would only like to say that even by their standards, Pakistan's denial of the victims account is stooping to a new low. As regards the security of the Indian High Commission and our personnel in Pakistan, I would not like to get into specific security related measures. Yatin.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Suhasini from The Hindu is asking, "US has recently announced a quadrilateral arrangement on connectivity with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan. Was India invited to join as EAM met US deputy NSA just before the announcement?”

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

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "Is India investigating the death of Danish Siddiqui in Afghanistan, who was responsible for it? Dhairya from Sputnik is asking, "A report claims that Indian journalist Danish Siddiqui’s body was mutilated by the Taliban before being handed over to ICRC. Could this be confirmed or denied?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I have no information on the details what being sought. As regards the incident itself it's in Afghanistan, and I don't have any particular comment to make regarding security investigations on that. We know the circumstances in which the Taliban killed him.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation is asking, "Vaccine ke front par Moderna aur anya companiyon ke vaccine import ko lekar kya update hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What is the update on the vaccine front regarding vaccine imports from Moderna and other companies?” Rajiv from Malayalam Manorama has asked, "How many EU countries have approved Covishield vaccines so far?” Manish Gupta from PIOTV is asking, "What’s the status of recognition of Indian vaccines particularly COVAXIN by WHO and other major countries? Why the delay as it seems required information has been provided? This prevents travel for trade, business, student and is a big impediment for India's recovery. During travels and meetings, has EAM raised this issue with other nations?” Gautam Lahiri is asking, "Bangladesh Foreign Minister has requested EAM for urgent supply of vaccine when they met in Uzbekistan. Can we have any readout on this meeting?” We have similar question from Akhilesh Suman from Sansad TV.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, I think there are various elements of it and perhaps if I miss any, Yatin, please add that. Let me take up the issue of vaccines from the US. As you know our domestic vaccination programme has been continuing at a rapid pace. To supplement domestic production, we have been in touch with various partners regarding the possibility of import of vaccines. Regarding the exact details of status of such discussions, I would request you to get in touch with the concerned regulatory authorities. As for COVAXIN and WHO approval for the same, we understand that Bharat Biotech had submitted its request, along with all necessary documentation to WHO earlier this month. Again, I would refer you to the company for further updates on this issue. Moving on to the issue of Covishield recognition by the EU, this is a figure, that is a number of countries, there is a figure that is updated on a regular basis as more countries issue the necessary guidelines. So instead of a specific number, let me just note that more than half the EU member states have already recognised Covishield. As regards the meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Minister, as EAM had shared after his meeting in Uzbekistan, it was a good opportunity to review the progress in our bilateral ties, including its connectivity aspects. As regards vaccines, we have been saying, and you all know that our current focus remains on the domestic vaccination programme. I think that covers it. You had raised the issue, of course of travel restrictions, but I'm happy to hear if I missed out anything on that.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): I have a question on travel restrictions.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay, we will take it up.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Rajiv from Malayala Manorama is asking, "About 24,000 Indian students studying in various Chinese institutes are stranded due to travel restrictions, they are deprived of physical classes which are important for them. Is there any move from our part to take up this issue with China?” Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times is asking, " America ne Bharat ke lie Covid alert ke level ko kam jaroor kiya lekin abhee bhee seedhi udaan dono deshon ke beech shuroo nahin hui hai. Is par kya update hai ? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) America did reduce the level of Covid alert for India but still direct flight between the two countries has not started. What is the update on this?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, instead of responding to specific countries, let me just say, with the improvement of the COVID situation in India, we have been taking up with foreign countries, the need to ease travel restrictions for Indians. This has been taken up at various levels and at various platforms. We believe that this easing will be an important step towards economic recovery post COVID for all our countries. There have been some positive steps in this direction of easing restrictions. And we would have seen media reports on this and we hope that more countries will continue to take steps towards normalising the movement of people from India. We will certainly share with you updates as we get them.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "What was the key focus point during Prime Minister Modi and new Nepal Prime Minister Deuba’s talks?” Kallol from The Hindu has asked, "Did Prime Minister Modi extend an invitation to Prime Minister Deuba to visit India during their latest telephone talk?” I have a similar question from Madhurendra from News Nation.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you are aware, Prime Minister spoke to the newly appointed Prime Minister of Nepal, Sher Bahadur Deuba on July 19, to congratulate him on his appointment, as well as for winning the vote of confidence in Parliament. You are all aware that India and Nepal share a unique relationship and during this telephone conversation, both leaders agreed to work together to strengthen this even more. They also discussed ways to strengthen cooperation and coordination in the context of ongoing efforts against the Covid19 pandemic. I think that captures the essence of the conversation.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Jai Prakash from Dainik Jagran has asked, "Bharat mein aarthik apraadh kar ke videshon mein sharan liye aparaadhi Nirav modi, Vijay mallaya aur Mehul choksi ko swadesh laane ki koshishon ki maujooda stheeti kya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What is the current status of efforts to bring home criminals Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya and Mehul Choksi who have taken refuge abroad after doing economic crimes in India?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Dekhiye is mein aapne do-teen naam ka jikr kiya tha. Mehul Choksi ke baare mein jo developments Commonwealth of Dominica mein ho raha hai, ham us pe ek najar rakhe huai hain. Un ko bail mila kuchh dinon pahle aur abhee vo Antigua aur Barbuda mein chale gaye hain. Is ke baare mein hamen pata chala hai. Medical treatment ke liye gae hain aur hamein ye bhi bataaya gaya hai ki unke against mein jo legal proceedings hai vo sthagit hai, Jab tak vo dominica se baahar hai. Aur jab vo vaapas aayenge doctor ke certificate ke bad ki wo fit hain trial ke lie aur Nirav Modi aur Vijay Mallya ke baare mein hamare paas koi immediate update nahin hain. Par mein ye kehna chaahoonga ki hamaaree pooree koshisen jaaree rahengee taaki ye sab jo hamaare yahaan se justice system se bhaage hue hain. Unko ham la paein India mein aur unke trial ke liye aur justice ho. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Look, you mentioned two or three names in this. We are keeping a watch on the developments that are happening in the commonwealth of Dominica regarding Mehul Choksi. He got bail a few days ago and now he has moved to Antigua and Barbuda. We have come to know about this. He has gone for medical treatment. And we have also been told that the legal proceedings against him are adjourned as long as he is out of Dominica and when he comes back after getting doctor's certificate that he is fit for trial. And we don't have any immediate updates about Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya. But I would like to say that our efforts will continue so that those who are running away from justice system, we can bring them to India for their trial and bring them to justice.”

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News is asking, "Has India accepted Iran's invitation to attend swearing-in ceremony of the new President? If so, at what level India would be represented?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you know during his transit halt in Tehran on July 7, EAM called on the President elect of Iran, Ayatollah Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi. We have received an invitation to attend his formal swearing-in ceremony, which will be held on August 5th. We will certainly share updates on this once a decision has been taken in the matter.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep from the Tribune is asking, "Has the government been asked by foreign missions about allegations of hacking?” Suhasini from The Hindu is asking, "Has any Government or Embassy contacted the MEA about reports on surveillance of diplomats from US, UK, Afghanistan, Nepal, China, Pakistan and Iran? Has India requested Israel government for more details on the Pegasus investigation?” Praveen Gautam from Newspoint is asking, "Pegasus maamle ko lekar Pakistan ne aarop lagaaya hai ki Israeli software istemaal karke Bharat sarkar phone ki jaasoosi kar rahi hai. Is par kya pratikriya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) With regard to the Pegasus case, Pakistan has alleged that the Indian government is spying on the phone using Israeli software. What is the reaction to this?” We have similar question from Srinjoy from Times Now, Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times and Maha from CNN News18.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, a detailed statement on this entire issue has already been made by our Minister of Information Technology in our parliament. I don't really have anything much else to add to that for the moment.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Maha from CNN News 18 is asking, "When is Secretary Blinken expected to visit India?” Pranay from ABP News is asking, "America videsh mantri Tony Blinken ka pehla Bharat daura agale hafte apekshit hai. Unki is yaatra ke dauran Afghanistan mein shaanti aur stheerata kee kosheeshon par aur kin muddon par Bharat charcha karega? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) US Secretary of State Tony Blinken's first visit to India is expected next week. During his visit, India will discuss efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan and on what issues?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Well, as you're well aware, such visits are announced at the appropriate time. We will certainly share with you all the details as soon as we have any updates on this. I promise to get back to you.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR):
Pranay from ABP News is asking, "Agle maah sanyukt raashtr ki suraksha parishad ki adhyakshata bharat ke paas hogi. Is dauraan Bharat ki kya praathamikataain hogi aur Afghanistan ke mudde par kya bharat koi bahas satr aayojit karane ka prastaav karega? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) India will chair the UN Security Council next month. What will be India's priorities during this and will India propose to hold any debate session on the issue of Afghanistan?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Dekhiye jaise aap ne theek kaha, pahli August se Sanyukt Raashtriya Sangh ki suraksha parishad ki adhyakshata Bharat paas hogi. Praathamikata ke muddon ki ek soochi banai ja rahi hai. Is pe kaam jaari hai aur jaise hi ye finalize ho jae ham aap ke saath isko share karenge. Mein ye kah sakta hoon ki yeh hamare liye ek important time hai aur ham chaahenge ki ismein ham poori najar aur gaur se ham jo bhee kar paain hamari adhyakshata me wo ham karenge (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) See, as you have rightly said, India will have the chairmanship of the UN Security Council from August 1. A list of priority issues is being prepared. Work is going on it and as soon as it is finalized, we will share it with you. I can say that this is an important time for us and we would like to do whatever we are able to do with full attention, we will do that under our chairmanship.”

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Pranay from ABP News is asking, "Turkey aur Cyprus ke beech Varosha ke mudde ko lekar tanaav badha hua hai. UNSC ka jimmedaar sadasy hone ke naate Bharat is par turkey ki bhoomika ko kis tarah se dekhata hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Tensions are rising between Turkey and Cyprus over the issue of Varosha. As a responsible member of the UNSC, how does India see Turkey's role in this?” Sidhant from WION is asking, "Cyprus has approached UNSC on Varosha. What we have to say on this as a UNSC member?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, this is an issue that the UN Security Council is seized on. We are deeply concerned over the recent unilateral announcements with regard to the status of Varosha. We've always advocated peaceful resolution of this issue, in accordance with UN resolutions. Unfortunately, the voice of the UN Security Council, as reflected in its presidential statement of 9th October 2020, has not been adhered to. We have consistently supported the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of the Republic of Cyprus.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "When are the commander level talks?” Pranay from ABP News has a question, "Bharat aur cheen ke beech jald hi sainya Commander star vaarta bulae jaane kee baat pahale 25 June ko WMCC kee baithak aur phir donon deshon ke videsh mantriyon ke beech Dushanbe mein 14 july ko hui pratyaksh mulaakat mein kahee gayi. Phir kya vajah hai ki donon mulkon ke sainya commander star vaarta kee taareekh abhee tak tay nahin ho paee? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) The talks of having military commander level talks between India and China soon was said first in the WMCC meeting on 25 June and then in the direct meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries on July 14 in Dushanbe. Then what is the reason that the date of military commander level talks of both the countries has not been decided yet?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you are aware, EAM met the State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China Mr. Wang Yi on 14th July this month in Dushanbe on the sidelines of the SCO Foreign Ministers meeting. We had already shared some details of this meeting. Let me highlight some of them. EAM recalled that both sides had agreed that a prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interests of either side, and that it was visibly impacting the relationship in a negative manner. EAM emphasized that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas has been the foundation for the development of ties since 1988. Attempts to change the status quo last year, which also disregarded commitments under the 1993 and 1996 agreements have inevitably affected ties. It was therefore in mutual interests that the two sides work towards early resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols. The two leaders agreed that the next round of commander level talks should be convened at the earliest. We are still awaiting dates for the same. We expect that the two sides will discuss all remaining issues at this meeting and seek a mutually acceptable solution. In Dushanbe meeting, there was also an understanding that both sides will continue to ensure stability on the ground. And neither side will take any unilateral measure or action that could increase tension.

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

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much for joining us. That brings us to the end of this virtual media briefing. Good evening.

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