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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (July 14, 2022)

July 15, 2022

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Very good evening to you. Thank you for re-joining us. As we continue with our Weekly Media Briefing, we've just had a pleasure of the briefing on the recently concluded I2U2 Summit, now on to other issues of the week. I don't have any particular announcement to make, so maybe I should open the floor for questions and comments. Okay, one by one. Okay. I saw your hand first, today. Go ahead.

Sudhi Ranjan: Sir, Sudhi Ranjan from Bloomberg. I wanted to draw your attention to the events in Sri Lanka and on that two quick questions, does India have an idea as to where President Gotabaya ultimately wants to head for and how concerned is India given the political instability in Sri Lanka?

Sidhant: Hi Sir, Sidhant from WION. My question is on Sri Lanka. They have been reports of India facilitating Gotabaya’s exit from the country. If you can talk about it or perhaps give a reaction on it.

Kallol: Kallol from the Hindu. The Rajapaksa brothers were accused of human rights violation during the war against the LTTE. Would India support an international move to bring them to justice?

Madhurendra: Sir Madhurendra News Nation se, mera sawal bhi Sri Lanka ko lekar ke hai, basically main janana chahta hoon ki jo refugee influx ki sthiti hamare borders par dikhai de rahi hai ussse nipatane ke lie bharat ki kya taiyari hai aur abhi tak jo udhar se refugee idhar move kar rahe hai kya unko vapas kiya gaya hai iska koi data hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir I am Madhurendra from News Nation, my question is also about Sri Lanka, basically I want to know about India’s preparation to deal with the situation of refugee influx that is being seen on our borders and whether any data is available regarding return of the refugees who are moving here from there so far?

Neeraj: Sir News 18 India se Neeraj hoon, mera sawal hai ki Sri Lanka ke sankat ko lekar bharat kitna chintit hai, abtak jo madad ki gai hai aur aage kya karne ki taiyari hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir I am Neeraj from News 18 India, my question is how worried is India about the crisis in Sri Lanka, the help that has been given so far and what is planned next?

Shahid Siddique: Sir Shahid Siddique from Sadbhawna Today. We have seen that, when President reached to Maldives there was some protest there as well that there were not…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
You mean the Sri Lankan President?

Shahid Siddique: Sri Lankan, they were protesting. So how it was being seen there, is it the good place to let there, and again, to see the Indian side also, that how the India is taking that (inaudible)?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I've taken a lot of question of Sri Lanka. Is there any other questions on Sri Lanka? Let’s do it in one go.

Akhilesh Suman: Sir Sri Lanka is our immediate maritime neighbour. There are security situations also in Sri Lanka. So how sensitive we are about any untoward incident in Sri Lanka, as far as you know, violence is concerned and also is India in touch with various political stakeholders in the country?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Any other person on the Sri Lanka situation? Am I missing out anybody? Okay, good. Look, there are multiple set of questions, some of them, I think you would've seen some responses already from our High Commissions, in fact, in Sri Lanka and Maldives, but let me just try to give you a sense of where we are and I'll try to answer some of that as part of this question. Look let me make a larger point, I think ensuring peace, stability and prosperity of all countries in the region in our region is an important aspect of Neighbourhood First policy, as well as our vision for Security and Growth for All, SAGAR. This is in the case of Sri Lanka clearly evident in the close and multifaceted relationship that we have with that country and the commitment we have demonstrated in helping the Sri Lankan people, to address the challenges that are rising out of the current situation in that country. We will, of course continue to stand with the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realize their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means and values as well as established institutions and a constitutional framework.

There were some questions about what assistance, etc.? Look, let me just go over, you've already heard this about what we've been assisting them. We responded with urgency to assist the people of Sri Lanka in overcoming the economic hardships. This year itself, as I mentioned, I think the previous week, India has expeditiously finalized and delivered assistance as well as support worth about US$ 3.8 billion. This is in the form of currency swaps, deferment of repayment of Sri Lanka's liabilities to the Reserve Bank of India under the Asian Clearing Union mechanism. Apart from of course, credit assistance, of about one and a half billion dollars for financing of imports of fuel, food, medicines, fertilizers, and other essential commodities from India. While the line of credit for fuel, I think has been now fully utilized the credit facility of US$1 billion continues to be under implementation. And India, of course remains engaged with Sri Lanka in this regard.

There were some specific questions regarding the situation and how does it concern us? Of course, Sri Lanka is a neighbour and in our neighbourhood developments that might affect us, we, of course, remain very cognizant of what are the challenges that may emanate from that. We are monitoring the evolving situation in that country. Let me emphasize our ties with Sri Lanka are historic and comprehensive, and we continue to remain engaged with all relevant stakeholders in Sri Lanka. We look forward to an early solution of the situation related to the government and its leadership through democratic means and values as I said, established institutions and constitutional framework.

As regards some of the other queries that was posed, one regarding, President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Look, I think you would've seen the comments that our High Commission said. We have categorically denied having any role on facilitating his departure or his travel from Sri Lanka. So I am not in a position to even guess where he is. I've seen some media reports right now as we came in that I think he's right now in Singapore, but that's a media report. So these are all general comments on that. There was some comment about, there was some protests in Maldives, I think you had mentioned. Look again, I have nothing to say on that. We are not involved in that process. I’m not aware of exactly what his plans were and what he has done. There were some issues, as I said about concerns about instability I think I answered that. How sensitive we are - we are in touch with all relevant stakeholders, Akhilesh you were asking about that.

Neeraj ji aap pooch rahe the ki Sri Lanka mein kis tarah ke madad ke baare mein? Hum unke saath hai, Sri Lanka ke logon ke sath hai aur hamane abhi tak kafi had tak unko madad kiya hai. Aur abhi dekhte hai kaise hota hai, kis tarah se sthiti ubharati hai aur kis tarah ke assistance or chahte hai aur sarkar unki taraf se kya hoti hai par hamara jo support hai aur jo Sri Lanka ke logo ke sath jo hamari solidarity hai ye rahega. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) Neeraj ji, you were asking about what kind of help to Sri Lanka? We are with them, with the people of Sri Lanka and we have helped them to a great extent so far. Let's see how things evolve, how the situation emerges and what kind of assistance they want and situation related to the government, but our support and our solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka will continue.

Madhurendra ji aapne kuchh refugee influx ke baare mein poochha tha. Dekhiye aapne suna hoga kuchh dinon pahale hamare videsh mantri ne kaha tha is vishay pe ki aisa koi immediate situation nahi hai. Mere pass aur koi immediate update nahi hai. Aur aapne kaha tha kuchh log jo aa gaye the wapis chale gaye hai, again usmen bhi mujhe koi update nahi hai. Kuchh badi kam sankhya mein log kuch dino pehle aaye theey. Abhi recently maine haal hi mein suna nahi hai kuchh, toh abhi immediately aisa koi situation, aisi koi sthiti nahi bani hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Madhurendra ji, you asked about refugee influx. Look, you would have heard a few days ago, our External Affairs Minister said on the subject that there is no such immediate situation. I don't have any further immediate update. You said that some people who had come have gone back. Again I don't have any update on that also. Some people in very small numbers had come few days back. But recently, I have not heard anything, so no such immediate situation has arisen.

I think Kallol had a question. You made declaratory statement; this is a declaratory statement that is not part of our position. So let me clarify that at the beginning. And it's a very hypothetical situation. He's the current President of that country. I'm not sure yet if the resignation, of which it is being talked about, is there. So, look this is an issue that is really for the Sri Lankan people. And as I wanted to emphasize that, as External Affairs Minister also said a few days ago, Sri Lankans need to find a way forward. They need to find a solution ahead. We are there to support the people of Sri Lanka in any which way we can. And we have demonstrated that with the economic assistance, as well as other support that we have announced. I think that covers broadly the different set of queries. Happy to take any further questions if there is.

Speaker 2: Arindam, this is on China -India, even ahead of the next corps commander level talks, last week, there were reports of a Chinese aircraft flying very close to the LAC. Has that been perceived as an airspace violation? Has that matter been taken up diplomatically with China?

Rishikesh: Sir Rishikesh from Sputnik News. Australian Defence Minister has asked the US India or Japan to enhance military presence in Indo-Pacific region to prevent South China Sea like situation. So would you like to comment?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Could you repeat that part, I didn’t get Australian Defence Minister has requested...

Rishikesh: ...US, India and some other partners to enhance military presence in Indo-Pacific region to prevent situations like South China Sea in other areas like Indian Ocean or South Pacific.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: What would you like me to do?

Rishikesh: Would like you to comment.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Oh, I see. Sorry, apologies. Who else? Okay, Shalinder go ahead.

Shalinder: Shalinder News 18 se, Sir aapne reports dekhi hogi Pakistani journalist Nusrat Mirza ne claim kiya hai ki woh India aaye the, paanch baar unhonne yahan se information ikattha karke DG ISI ko handover kiya. Kya hamare pass jo unke claims hai unpar comment karna chahenge? Kya yeh fact hai, halanki kuchh tasveere bhi samne aai hai.(Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) From Shalinder News 18, Sir you must have seen the reports, Pakistani journalist Nusrat Mirza has claimed that he came to India, five times he collected information from here and handed over the information to DG ISI. Would you like to comment on what he is claiming? Is this a fact? Some pictures have also surfaced.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Any other queries?

Kadambini Sharma: Kadambini Sharma from NDTV India. Kadambani Sharma from NDTV India, ek report aai thi ki U.S Consulate General ne Mumbai mein kaha tha ki Russian ships bharatiye ports par dock na kare ispar koi reaction hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Kadambani Sharma from NDTV India, there was a report that the U.S. consulate General had said in Mumbai that the Russian ships should not dock on Indian ports. Is there is any reaction?

Neeraj: Yes Sir supplementary hai Shalinder ji ke sawal se ki poorv up-rashtrapati ke taraf se statement aaya jismein Nusrat Mirza ke daave ko khaarij kiya ki wo mile the ya amantran diya gaya tha Nusrat Mirza ko tatkalin up-rashtrapati ki taraf se. Uss jankaari par bhi prakash daaliye. (Question in Hindi; Approximate translation) Yes sir, supplementary to Shalinder ji's question - there was a statement from the former Vice-President rejecting Nusrat Mirza's claim that he had met him or was invited by Nusrat Mirza. Please throw some light on that information as well.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look on the issue. I think, let me start with the China LAC. Look, it's very difficult on these kind of issues to be specific about it. Okay, let me go back to what we were saying. I think we have made quite clear. And most recently, I think by External Affairs Minister, I think he spoke a few days ago that India will not countenance any unilateral attempt to change the status quo at the LAC. Let me also add here that it is also essential that appropriate agreements between India and China of 1993 and 1996 are scrupulously followed. But as regards your specific query, look, I think I'll refer you to the Ministry of Defence, but this is what we would say from a diplomatic perspective.

Rishikesh, I frankly didn't get your query too well, even after you repeated it. I am not fully aware of that statement, I've seen some media reports, so let me not comment on something that is, you know, I am not fully aware. I don't think we have been asked, at least I'm not aware, you mentioned India, that we should deploy forces in the Indo Pacific, or are we talking about deploying forces in other parts of the world? I don't really have a response to that. We have advocated our position on the South China Sea, quite clearly. We're talking about free and open Indo-Pacific, we have been talking about rules-based order, but I don't know if you extend that to other places and what was meant and what we should be doing. So sorry I don't have any specific detailed comment on that without knowing what is expected from us.

I think Shalinder aur Neeraj aapne ye Nusrat Mirza vaale statement ke baaren mein kuchh kaha, uske baren mein up-rashtrapati, bhootpurv up-rashtrapati ke baaren mein jo bayan unka aaya hai uske baare mein. Dekhiye, maine kuchh media reports dekehen hain par ispe main koi tippani nahi kar paaunga aise media reports jiske baare mein mujhe koi detail nahi hai aur uncorroborated bhi hai, donon points per main koi tippani nahi karna chahunga (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) I think Shalinder and Neeraj, you said something about Nusrat Mirza's statement, and about the statement by the former Vice-President. See, I have come across some media reports, but i will not be able to comment on such media reports about which I have no details and which are also uncorroborated. I would not like to comment on both the points.

Regarding the issue, I think Kadambini, you asked about on the US consulate, right? I think that was the query you had put. This was that again, a media report. You always ask me about media reports, it’s very difficult to respond to that. Okay, let me say yes the matter has come to our attention, the relevant embassy has been advised that the appropriate channel for any such diplomatic communication is through the Ministry of External Affairs and the Embassy in New Delhi. On the larger issue of economic and trade linkages with Russia, I think our position has been articulated, I think quite clearly on a number of occasions in the past and I have no specific update really to share for the moment on that. So I'll leave it at that.

Abhishek: I’m Abhishek, I’m from CNN IBN. Sir there has been advisory from certain Embassies regarding the citizens and their safety in Sri Lanka. Swiss embassy has issued advisory yesterday and other Embassies also. Have we also advised our citizens, who are living in Sri Lanka about this turmoil that we are facing there, about their safety and how should they operate?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, I am not really aware of any specific advisory that our High Commission has issued. We are not aware of any untoward incident involving Indian nationals in Sri Lanka has been reported in the context of the current developments. As far as we are aware, all Indians in Sri Lanka or traveling to Sri Lanka I mean, we would urge them to keep themselves abreast of the latest developments and plan their movements and other activities accordingly. Our High Commission there is in close touch with the Indian community organizations and members. Of course, the High Commission officials are also available all the time for possible assistance that may be required by our citizens in Sri Lanka and the contact details, including emergency contact numbers are available on the website of the High Commission as well as I think also on social media. Thank you very much. Thanks for joining. Namaskar.

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