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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (November 26, 2021)

November 26, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Before we begin today, I have a couple of announcements so, if you permit I will read that. The first relates to the inaugural 2 plus 2 dialogue of the Foreign and Defence ministers of India and the Russian Federation. The first meeting of the two plus two dialogue between India and the Russian Federation at the level of Foreign and Defence ministers will be held in New Delhi on 6th December this year. Honourable Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh and honourable External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar will represent the Indian side in the dialogue. Russian Foreign Minister His Excellency Mr. Sergei Lavrov and the Russian Defence Minister, His Excellency Mr. Sergei Shoigu will be visiting New Delhi on 5th and 6th of December for this two plus two dialogue. As you're aware, the two plus two dialogue is being held pursuant to the agreement reached between Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and the Russian President His Excellency Mr. Vladimir Putin during their telephonic conversation on 28th of April this year. The agenda for the dialogue will cover political and defence issues of mutual interest. The establishment of this new mechanism of 2 plus 2 dialogue is expected to further strengthen the strategic partnership between our two countries. We will issue this as a press release after this.

My other announcement we have is related to the visit of the Russian President for the next India-Russia Annual Summit on 6th of December. The President of the Russian Federation, His Excellency Mr. Vladimir Putin will pay an official visit to New Delhi on 6th December 2021 for the 21st India-Russia Annual Summit with Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. The last India-Russia Annual summit was held in September 2019 during the visit of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to Vladivostok in Russia. The annual summit could not take place in 2020 due to the COVID 19 pandemic situation. This will be the first face to face meeting between the two leaders after their meeting on the side-lines of the BRICS summit in Brasilia in November 2019. Since then, there have been six telephonic conversations between the two leaders apart from the virtual meetings that they've attended for multilateral summits. The leaders will review the state and prospects of bilateral relations and discuss ways to further strengthen the strategic partnership between our two countries. The summit will afford an opportunity to exchange views on regional, multilateral and international issues of mutual interest. The visit is in continuation of the tradition of annual summits alternately in India and Russia. And we are confident that the visit will further provide an impetus to the India Russia special and privileged strategic partnership. We will also issue this as a press release immediately after this press interaction.

Those are the couple of announcements that I had to make. As you know, some other summits etc. have happened yesterday. Today the ASEM Summit is still going on, we have informed you, we had RIC earlier today, we had the SCO yesterday and of course ASEM was over the last couple of days. Anyway, may I now open the floor for questions.

Madhurendra: Main Madhurendra News Nation se, mera pehla sawal Sir 26/11 ko lekar hai jis babat pakistani diplomat aaj summon kiya gaya tha, note verbale bhi diya gaya, kya ummid karte hain hum Pakistan se ki jo victims hai unake gunahgaron ko pakistan saja de paaega kyonki lagatar remind karne ke baad bhi pakistan ki taraf se aatankvad ke khilaf aisi koi bhi karravai nahi hui hai jisase yeh samjha jaaye key 26/11 ke gunhgaron ko saja dega (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) I am Madhurendra from News Nation, my first question is regarding 26/11, related to which Pakistani diplomat was summoned today, Note verbale was also issued. Can we hope that Pakistan will be able to punish the perpetrators of the victims, because even after constant reminders, no such action has been taken against terrorism from Pakistani side which can make it clear that they will punish the culprits of 26/11.

Nayanima: Nayanima from The Print. I wanted to understand what is India's stance on Pakistan's allowance to send the wheat and drugs to Afghanistan? Have you officially responded what is our stand? Thanks.

Speaker 1: With the new Corona variant being detected in South Africa and several countries banning flights, there is also a question of flights coming from there and Indian cricket team is supposed to visit South Africa on 9th of December. So does MEA have anything on this?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay, let me take this round of queries. Let me start with the 26th November, aap ne puchha tha, dekhiye aaj special din hai 26-Nov ka, iske baare mein hamne abhi thodi der pahle ek press release jari ki hai, jisme aap ne dekha hoga hamne fir se doharaya hai ki jo 26 Nov ke gunehgar the unko saja di jaye isliye aaj hamanen ek senior diplomat ko Pakistani dutavas se bulaya bhi tha or unko ek note verbale diya gaya hai jisme doharaya gaya hai ki hum chahte hain ki unka jo trial ho wo shighrata se ho, mumbai terror attack case mein or Pakistan ki sarkar jo apne commitment hai ki woh terrorism na kare hamari apeksha to yahi hai ki hamare or pure vishv ka jo hamara demand hai ki justice rahe unke lie is pay Pakistani sarkar thos kadam ley hum yahi apeksha rakhenge or isliye hamne aaj ye step liya tha. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) You had asked, see today is a special day 26 Nov. We have just issued a press release about this a while back. In which you must have seen, we have again repeated that those who are guilty of 26 Nov should be punished. That's why today we had also called a senior diplomat from the Pakistan embassy and they have been given a note verbale, in which it has been reiterated that we want that their trial should be done expeditiously in the Mumbai terror attack case and the Government of Pakistan have made a commitment not to commit terrorism. Our expectation is that the Pakistani government should take concrete steps on this for us and the whole world who demands justice. This is what we would expect and that's why we took this step today.

Moving on to the issue of supply of wheat to Afghanistan. Look, we would like to say that India has always stood by the people of Afghanistan, be it humanitarian support, or development assistance. We received earlier this week, on Wednesday I think, a response from the Government of Pakistan to our proposal made on October 7th this year on 2021 for providing humanitarian assistance access into Afghanistan on the delivery of 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat to the people of Afghanistan. This also has lifesaving medicines that we wanted to send. This was about humanitarian assistance access into Afghanistan on the delivery of the 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat and lifesaving medicines, we are supplying to the people of Afghanistan. We are examining the response of the Government of Pakistan. We are also working on the modalities with the Pakistan side. We believe that humanitarian assistance should not be subject to conditionalities.

As regards the issue of the South African variant, this is a developing incident, we just saw a report or a briefing by the World Health Organisation. I don't have any immediate information on steps that we are taking, this is actually as you would agree is the issue more for our health authorities, as well as our civil aviation authorities. I think there was reference to the cricket team, but look, as of right now, I think we'll defer to them to give us a response on what they're thinking. But this is also a very developing story. So let's see what happens.

Srinjoy: Sir few days ago, the flights that were taking off from Srinagar to Sharjah after three or four flights were denied overflight facilities by Pakistan. You had taken up the case with Islamabad. Meanwhile, the number of flights has increased, the number of cargo going is increased except that it has to go all the way from Srinagar to Gujarat and then Oman and then finally to Sharjah. This request for overflight facilities, has Pakistan responded? And India had considered stopping PIA flights to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore over Indian Territory. Is that something India is going to do?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Somebody else had a hand up. Yeah.

Sandeep: Sandeep, News 18 india se, mera sawal hai ki rashtrapati Putin aa rahe hain toh kai saare aise defense deal hai jisko lekar kaafi dinon se charchaaen bhi thi, mera sawal hai ki kya AK-203 ko lekar kya koi ek final koi confirmation mill sakti hai ismen? or doosra ye hai ki S-400 k bheje jaane ka yani key uske bheje jaane ka kuchh khabren hai jo aa rahi thi ki delivery ho rahi hai, usaka filhal kya status hai sir? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) Sandeep from News 18 India, my question is that President Putin is coming, there are many such defence deals about which there were discussions for a long time, my question is whether there is any final confirmation regarding AK-203? And the second is that there is some news of the S-400 being dispatched; there was some news that it was being delivered, what is its status at the moment, Sir?

Pranay: Sir, Pranay from ABP News. RIC ki meeting mein aaj kya is baare mein bhi koi baat hui ki jo kshetriya tanav hai yah jo Regional tensions hain RIC countries ke beech mein, jo border disputes ya tension hai unko bhi Resolve karna jaruri hai trilateral cooperation ke liye or dusri cheez ye hai ki kya RIC summit ko lekar koi baat hui hai ki kya RIC next summit kab ho sakti hai, leaders summit? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) Sir Pranay from ABP News, in the meeting of RIC today, was there any talk about the regional tension or regional tensions between RIC countries, it is necessary to resolve the border disputes or tensions also for trilateral cooperation. And the second thing is whether there has been any talk about the RIC summit, when can the next RIC summit be held, leaders summit?

Speaker 2: Last week a cargo ship going from Karachi to China was detained by Indian authorities. So what is the status of the inquiry of that ship? What the ship contained and all that?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Let me begin with Srinjoy. Look, as you correctly said, we have taken up the matter with the Government of Pakistan for overflight clearances of the flights from Srinagar to Sharjah. I don't have any update on that. Yet we haven't received a response and nor do I have any indication whether we are looking at the kind of steps you had alluded to. I don't have any specific information on that. Sandeep, aapne jikr kiya hai Putin ki visit ke baare mein, dekhiye ab defence cooperation ek important mudda hai hamare relationship meh Russia ke saath per specific projects pe ek to kahana theek nahi hoga, pahale summit mein kya hone wala hai or doosra ye hamaare raksha mantralaya bata paaenge, vahi isme expert hai, us issue pey. mai isamen nahi comment karna chahunga S-400 bhi aesi ek Topic hai jiski delivery ya baki jo usaka progress status hai mai aapki raksha mantri ki taraf hi refer karunga vahi bata paaenge usaka kya exact status hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) Sandeep You have mentioned about Putin's visit. See now, defence cooperation is an important issue in our relationship with Russia, but it will not be right to comment on any specific project, or what is going to happen in the summit. And secondly, our Defence Ministry will be able to tell as they are the expert on that issue. I would not like to comment on this. S-400 is also such a topic, for which I will refer you to Defence Ministry for details on delivery or whatever is its progress status. Only they will be able to tell what is the exact status.

About the RIC meeting today, Pranay main yeh kehana chaahunga, dekhiye usmein hamne ek kafi detailed joint statement/joint communique nikali hai, usmein aapne dekha hoga ki regional situations pay kaafi paragraphs hain. Discussions hui thi, par kuchh discussions internal thi to main usmein jyada kuchh kehna nahin chahunga par jahir hai ki regional issues ki iss mein charcha hui hai. Aapne suna tha ki opening remarks mein bhi videsh mantri ne kaha tha uske baare mein, hamare region mein kya situation hai. RIC summit ke baare mein mere pass aesi koi information nahin hai. Mujhe nahin lagata hai ki usmein itna detail mein charcha hui hai. Na koi Joint communique main koi statement hai. To usske baare mein abhi mere paas koi khabar nahin hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) Pranay, see regarding this we have issued a very detailed joint statement / joint communique. In which you must have seen that there are many paragraphs on regional situations. Discussions took place, but some discussions were internal, so I would not like to say much on that. But obviously regional issues have been discussed in that. You had heard that even in the opening remarks, the External Affairs Minister had mentioned about what is the situation in our regions. And, I do not have any other related information on RIC summit. I do not think that it has been discussed in so much detail nor is there any statement in any joint communique. So, I don't have any news about that yet.

Look, there was a seizure of that ship, rather of containers and the Department of atomic energy is sending a team or has sent a team to look at what exactly is the cargo or the containers contain. Once they've completed that, we will be in a position to share exactly what the situation is. Any other queries? Please.

Speaker 3: Sir, you just mentioned that there were some internal discussions at the RIC meet today. So did the situation in the Ladakh sector, did it figure at all, during the talks in any of those internal discussions?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, maybe you missed it. I think External Affairs Minister has just put out a series of tweets, very interesting, giving a sense of what are the topics that came across and what are the important issues. Usually bilateral issues do not feature in such things. And I would probably think that this would not have come up in that context because this is a bilateral issue. But the discussions on regional issues and regional developments did take place. There's also an opportunity to talk about issue or reform of multilateral institutions, our situation in Afghanistan, he also referred to Myanmar, terrorism, radicalization, drug trafficking. On a larger issue, the need for global supply chains to adapt, and also vaccination certificates, which was very interesting. So I would leave it at that.

Speaker 4: Sir at the SCO meet, External Affairs Minister had said that there must be a consultative, transparent and participatory measure on connectivity initiatives. So any such a thing on connectivity initiatives being discussed in the RIC meet today?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Yes, you're right. External Affairs Minister did talk about that, that's been one of our policy issues, that such connectivity measures must measure up to these parameters. I would not be in a position to confirm whether such discussion in that depth happened because these are our perspective on this. But I think it would have been reiterated how we see connectivity projects working. But as I said, our RIC discussions went on a number of issues which the External Affairs Minister has outlined in his public tweets. So I would refer you to that as a sense of the meeting.

Speaker 5: You have referred to unilateral sanctions in the RIC Joint Statement. If you could just elaborate if the S400 and the issue of CAATSA sanctions feature in them and what is India's position on it?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I wouldn’t like to go into exactly what was discussed as after all, it was internal discussion. But let me just mention that, of course, the defence procurement issue itself, as I've said, is a matter for the Ministry of Defence. But regarding the CAATSA waiver, let me just say that India and the US have a comprehensive global strategic partnership and India has a special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia as I mentioned earlier, we also pursue an independent foreign policy. This also applies to our defence acquisition and supplies, which are guided by our national security interest, and I would leave it at that. Okay, so I see no more queries. Oh, you had a follow up on the RIC. I see. Yes, please.

Speaker 6: During discussions, did any of the countries Russia or China raise issues like QUAD or Indo Pacific groupings?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I don't have a specific response to that, as I said, regional developments were discussed, and I'll check whether I'm in a position to share that information. Okay, thank you very much for being here today in our weekly media briefing. Good evening.

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