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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (July 21, 2022)

July 21, 2022

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good afternoon to all of you. Thank you for joining us for this week's media briefing. I don't have any particular announcement to make. To begin with I see hands already up. We will take some questions.

Shalinder: Shalinder Wangu News 18 se. Sir aapne dekha hoga ek video Pakistan ke Darbar Sahib Gurudwara ka jo Kartarpur mein hai, wahan par kuch nach-gane ke video samne aaye hai jisapar aapatti jataai hai Sikh community ne, isko lekar aap kya kahenge. Vahin saath hi sath unke ek CEO ko bhi corruption ke charges mein hataya gaya hai, toh corruption charges uss pure complex ko lekar chal raha hai, iss par aap kya reaction hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir, you must have seen a video from The Darbar Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan which is in Kartarpur, to which the Sikh community has objected, what will you say about it? At the same time, one of their CEOs has also been removed following corruption charges. So, corruption charges have been levelled with regard to that whole complex, what is your reaction to it?

Sandeep: Sir mera naam Sandeep hai News 18 India se, mera sawal hai ki Hong Kong media mein ek report aai hai jismen ki bataya gaya hai ki chin jo hai woh Aksai Chin se ek naye highway ko taiyar karane ki taiyari kar raha hai aur woh jo hai LAC ke behad karib se gujarega, ye iss report mein likha gaya hai, kis tarike se is development ko aap dekh rahe hai Sir? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir I am Sandeep from News 18 India, my question is that there is a report in Hong Kong media in which it has been mentioned that China is preparing to build a new highway from Aksai Chin and that is going to pass very close to the LAC, it is written in this report. How are you looking at this development, Sir?

Sidhant: Sir, connected question with Sandeep’s question. China is also building new villages in Doklam, any reaction on that?

Reza: Reza from Hindustan Times. We are hearing repeatedly from the Chinese side, from the Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson and other places that there is a so-called momentum of recovery in relations and that things have changed since the meeting in March. I mean, that's the sort of impression their statements seem to convey. I was wondering whether that squares with our assessment of how things stand.

: This is Yeshi Seli from The New Indian Express. What are the prospects of a NATO presence in the Indo Pacific, you know, earlier this month, Japan, Australia, New Zealand were participants of a NATO conference in Spain, just like to know that.

Shrinjoy: Sir Times Now. We have seen your statement, the Indian Government’s statement after the commanders’ level talks, but there is no reference to the situation on PP15. Now, can you tell us exactly where things stand vis a vis that patrolling point, and also about the situation in Depsang and Demchok.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think there are few questions on China. First Shalinder ji aapka prashn tha koi PMU mein Kartarpur Sahib ko leke? Jaise hee aa raha tha maine dekha kuch reports hai iske baare mein, mera koi immediate abhi comment nahi hai par main sirf yeh dohrana chahunga ki hamlogon ne kaafi baar pahle bhi kah rakha hai Pakistan ko ki udhar minority ko kaise treat kiya jaye, unke religious places ko safeguard kiya jaye to iske baaren mein abhi immediately mere paas koi response nahi hai kyonki abhi haal hi ka koi incident abhi aaya hai public, to I will get back to you ispe. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) First Shalinder ji, your question was regarding the PMU Kartarpur Sahib? I saw some reports just now while coming here, I don't have any immediate comment yet, but I would just like to reiterate what we have said many times before on how Pakistan should treat its minorities and that their religious places should be safeguarded. So I can't say anything about it right now because this is a recent incident that has just come to the public light. So I will get back to you on this.

Regarding China, Sandeep aap pooch rahe the koi naye highway ke baare mein baat ho rahi thi, SCMP report hai (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Regarding China Sandeep you were asking about a new highway, there is a SCMP report.

Sidhant you raised the issue of Doklam. Look, I don't want to get into commenting on media reports. I don't even know accuracy etc., but let me make a broader point, particularly in context of Doklam. Please be assured that government keeps a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard the same. I'll make that as a general comment.

Aapko bhi yahi kahunga jo bhi is tarah ke koi development ho ashvast rahen ki bharat sarkar apne desh ki suraksha ko prabhavit karne vali koi bhi aisi developments mein nirantar nazar banaye rakhta hai aur suraksha ke liye jo bhi aavashyak kadam hai woh lega, isase jyada I don't want to comment on this. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) I will say this to you as well that please be assured that the Government keeps a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard the same. I don’t want to comment on this any further.

Coming to the larger issue, I think Reza you raised about the momentum of recovery. I think it's a very broader point. I'm not sure I'm the best qualified to comment on it in this kind of briefing. You saw that we had issued after the recent commander level talks, a statement actually a joint statement from both sides, where they talked about the importance of moving ahead or trying to implement some of the agreements, understandings reached. In fact, it says frank, and in depth exchange of views, and it talked about resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest as per the guidance provided by the state leaders. And of course, our point as you know, has been a larger issue, which says that if you can resolve the issues particularly on disengagement and that would help in de-escalation and restoration of peace and tranquillity along the LAC in the Western sector and that would be the right step towards enabling a progress in the bilateral relations. I don't think I would be able to add much more to that in terms of assessment. I think that remains our view, this graded process of having de-escalation, disengagement and then peace and tranquillity on the border which would help in progress in the bilateral relations. If the Chinese side have said that there's a momentum of recovery, which again, I don't know where you're quoting from, I haven't seen that term; good, that would always be, you know, as we said, we would like to make progress, but we would like to see this path go ahead. I think there's also talk of maintaining dialogue and close contact, both through military and diplomatic channels so that a mutual acceptable resolution of the issues can be found. I think that is our focus and we will see how to take that forward.

Yeshi, I think your question is misplaced to us. If NATO is doing something in the Indo- Pacific, you've got ask NATO, we certainly are not members of it, nor can I comment on them. I think it's been repeatedly clarified what the Quad stands for, how the Quad approaches, there have been attempts to paint it as an Asian NATO or lots of things. And on this very forum, I think we've clarified how we look at Quad, how Quad members look at Quad and I don't think NATO has ever come up in that conversation. So I don't want to get into that same debate again. So I would leave it at that.

Shrinjoy, coming back to your specific area of, look specific patrolling points, Demchok etc. they're part of the discussions. I in fact probably would not be in a position to clarify more. We have issued a joint readout, a joint statement of this conversation, which clarifies how we want to make progress the way ahead. And I explained just now to Reza that's how we would see it. I don’t want to comment on specific patrolling points or what were the discussions or what are the next steps, except to say that, yes, I think we will look forward to more dialogue, both at the military and diplomatic levels to see how we can resolve the issues as I have outlined that's how we see it. Okay. I'll stop there. Next round of questions.

Shailesh Kumar:
Sir, I'm Shailesh Kumar from National Defence. Sir, it has been almost over two years that Chinese PLA is undermining our security and challenging our sovereignty and the 16th round of military talks is a stalemate. So, are we still hopeful with the next round of talks or patience is running out or there's a fatigue?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson
: You really want to put words in my mouth. Okay, I'll try to answer you.

Rajesh Mishra: Thank you Sir, Rajesh Mishra, from Kantipur Media, Nepal. Sir how is India seeing the changed situation in Sri Lanka? Does India expect condition to improve there under the new President? Will India continue its cooperation in this situation now? Thank you.

Devirupa: This is Devirupa from The Wire. You must have been aware that in Mauritius there is a major political controversy, which has broken out after the resignation of the CEO of the Mauritius Telecom. It was claimed that he was forced by the Prime Minister to give access to a foreign team, to the landing station of the submarine cable there. The Prime Minister said that, it was basically said that for the first time that, it was an Indian team and they had gone for a survey mission. So I just want to know if you can throw some light on what was the nature of the request from the Mauritian Government and what was Indian team doing there exactly?

Manas: Sir, this is Manas from PTI (Press Trust of India). Just related question to, the previous question on Sri Lanka. So as Sri Lanka looks at restoring political stability, as a key partner of Sri Lanka, is India actually looking at specific economic package at this point of time, in continuation of the previous assistance of course?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Okay, let me take that round. Let me start with the Sri Lanka one perhaps. I think I saw a couple of questions, there was one from Rajesh, you asked as well as Manas. Look on Sri Lanka, I think we have been addressing this issue quite at length. You would've seen our statements that our High Commission has put out, a couple of statements we had put out. Primarily let me emphasize, we have, I think been at the forefront of extending assistance to Sri Lanka, economic assistance as per what they required. I think we are one of the countries that the maximum amount of assistance we've been able to reach at the time of need. I think in that context, we will continue to stand by the people of Sri Lanka in whatever manner we can. You asked specifically about the election of the new President. I think our High Commission put out a statement there talking about that this was a process of the parliament that did it. I don't think I have anything much to add except to emphasize our, you know, that what we have said earlier also, the people of Sri Lanka, we would stand with them in their quest for stability, economic recovery through democratic means and values, established democratic institution and the constitutional framework. And I think the fact that this transition happened through the constitutional framework is a clear and positive indicator in that way. Specific economic package, again in the same way, look, now that they have a new President and they'll probably take more steps ahead to set up a government, and they also have these discussions with the IMF. Let's see, what is required, what happens. I don't have an immediate answer because I think, we have extended assistance in various ways and some of it is actually not even fully utilized, some of it has been utilized. So we will look at all that, as I said, we will continue to stand with the people of Sri Lanka, in whatever way we can. I think that would sum up how we look at it and our emphasis on constitutional framework, democratic institution and as well as the democratic means and values. I think that's what I would emphasize on Sri Lanka.

There was a query, I think Devirupa you mentioned something about the Mauritius one. Look, I don't know if I have the full details of that, but my understanding is that the Prime Minister of Mauritius has already made a statement and I think you referred to it in your own comment. I really don't have anything further to add to that. I think that's good enough from our perspective.

Shailesh, you had raised, back to China. You made a lot of as I call it declarative statements, those are your statements, let it be clarified. I don't know whether they're undermining sovereignty. I don't think India’s sovereignty can or should be undermined. It's not issue of patience wearing thin. None of those I think would be characterization that I may agree with. I would like to say and reiterate what I've been saying earlier that we are engaged with the Chinese side. We are having this diplomatic as well as military discussions to resolve the issues from our perspective, which is disengagement, de-escalation, having some degree of stability and normalcy on the border areas and then that would help in improving the overall relations. I think that's the path we would remain focused on.

Abhishek Jha: Sir, I’m Abhishek Jha from CNN News18. I have two questions Sir. So over the weekend there's a conference going to happen in Uzbekistan, in Tashkent regarding the Afghanistan issue. So, will India, be attending the event and in what capacity Indian representation will be there. Also there's a scheduled SCO Foreign Ministers’ Meeting next week. Can we have some greeting?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Greetings?

Abhishek Jha: I mean between the two Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan, is there any meeting scheduled between the two, because there has been media reports earlier.

Akhilesh Suman: Sir I’m Akhilesh Suman from Sansad TV. Recently former Prime Minister of Nepal Mr. Prachanda was here in Delhi. So did he meet Foreign Minister?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Yes. Please follow our Twitter, Facebook and website.

Akhilesh Suman: Is there any take away from that?

Shalinder: Sir I am Shalinder from News 18, Arvind Kejriwal Singapore jaa payenge ya nahi? (Questioned in Hindi; approximate Translation) Sir Shalinder from News 18, will Arvind Kejriwal be able to go to Singapore or not?

Sidhant: Sir we saw a statement by the Russian Embassy over Russian vessel being detained, there was this announcement that vessel has been allowed to go. So what was the controversy all about? And the statement we saw by the Russian side, asking for explanation, If you can just comment on that.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson
: Let me start with your question, actually, that's the easiest. Look, I'm not going to comment on the Russian statement. I think that's not fair to comment. This was a commercial dispute and the commercial dispute got resolved. I think the payment outstanding issue between a foreign party as well as the ship and after the payment because the party that had not got the payment, had raised an issue with the Admiralty court. The Admiralty court had intervened as per the norms in such cases. Subsequently I understand the two sides entered in agreement and the ship was allowed to leave. I think that's what, and the issue has been resolved. So I don't have much else to say. I don't think there's any real controversy in it.

Akhilesh Suman Ji you asked, this was regarding the visit, recent visit of course, of Prachanda which he had come. I'm not in a position to go into conversations that he had. You saw that External Affairs Minister put out something. This was party to party visit. He had come to the BJP and from his party. So I really don't have much about his engagements, but he did meet EAM, as EAM was also present when he was at the BJP. I think they discussed bilateral issues. But again, I don't want to comment further unless you had something specific that you want me to respond on.

Abhishek, on the issues that you mentioned, two issues. Look by now I can happily say we will not announce visits till it’s appropriate time. If there's something there with the SCO, Foreign Ministers Meeting I will let you know, I will assure you we'll share the information with you. At this point I don't have information, far less on the engagement that may happen during a visit that we haven't yet announced. As regards the other one in Tashkent, yes, I'm aware of that, but again, I don't have announcement yet, if we do, I'll let you know. This is the one about Afghanistan, right? Yeah.

Shalinder your question mushkil hai, main kaise kah sakta hoon woh jaa payenge ya nahi. Main aapko sirf itna bata sakta hoon ki abhi tak hamare paas aisi koi political clearance ki request aai nahi thi, par aaj ek entry aai hai. Abhi jab main aa raha tha mujhe bataya gaya ki hamare ek jise kehte hai entry us type ka woh aaya hai. Hamare pass ek online portal hota hai political clearance ke lie usmen ek entry aaj aai hai us visit ke baare mein, par iske baaren mein aur details abhi mere pass nahi hai kyokin aaj hi hua hai ye. But itna keh sakta hoon unka jana unke haath mein hai, main ispe kuchh kah nahi paaunga. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Shalinder your question is a bit difficult, how can I say whether he will be able to go or not. I can only tell you that so far we had not received any such request for political clearance, but today we have received an entry. Just when I was coming here, I was told that one entry has been received. We have an online portal for political clearance, in which an entry has come today about that visit, but I don’t have further details about it because it has happened today only. I will not be able to say anything more on this.

Speaker 1: Sir, the Delhi Chief Minister is claiming that he made the request for political clearance in the first week of June. So are you saying that the Ministry of External Affairs did not receive any request?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Let me repeat exactly what I am saying, in English this time. Look, as I came in, I was just informed that an entry has been made in the ministry's online portal. There's a system as you know to request political clearance. With respect to this visit, that entry was made today afternoon or today morning or whatever. And I don't have any further details on what that entry is. So clearly let me reiterate the entry was made today in our online portal for political clearance.

Speaker 2: Sir what are the chances?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: That is beyond the scope of my briefing. As I said, I've just seen an entry. I can't comment on it. Okay. Thank you very much for attending today's briefing. Good afternoon.

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