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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (09 July 2020)

July 10, 2020

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
Friends,
Namaskar and Good evening!


Welcome to this weekly briefing in the virtual format. I have two announcements with me. The first is on the India European Union Summit. The 15th meeting of the India-EU Summit will be held in virtual mode on 15th July 2020. The summit will be co-chaired by Prime Minister and the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission. The summit will review India-EU cooperation, covering political and security relations, trade and investment, and economic cooperation. The summit is also expected to discuss developments around the COVID-19 pandemic and contemporary global matters of interest to both sides. You will recall that the 14th India-EU Summit was held on 6th of October 2017 in New Delhi. This is by way of the first announcement.

The second one is an update on the Vande Bharat Mission.

Phase 4 of VBM is currently underway. Under this phase, 637 international flights have already been scheduled in this Phase. These flights would service 29 airports in India. Details of these flights are available on our website.

As on 8 July 2020 against a total number of 6,61,352 persons, who registered their request with our Missions abroad for repatriation to India, over 5,80,000 have returned under this mission. This number includes more than 97,000 Indians who have returned through land border immigration checkpoints from Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

The demand of stranded Indians to return is now mainly from the GCC countries, Malaysia and Singapore. Our Missions are proactively working out modalities in repatriating our citizens from remote areas. In this regard, we have scheduled flights from Amsterdam to bring passengers from Latin American countries, as well as flights out of Lagos, Nairobi and South Africa to meet requirements from Africa.

MEA in coordination with Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Air India and private airlines of India, is committed to continue our efforts in repatriating all such Indian nationals who are stranded outside and are desirous of returning to India.

We will now move on to your questions and I will request Yatin to read them out.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, the first question is on India-EU Summit, Ranjit Kumar from the Rakshak News has asked - "During forthcoming EU-India Summit, any progress expected on FTA negotiations?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
Ranjit ji, I just read out to you, the announcement of the India-EU Summit. And, as I said, the summit will review the entire gamut of our cooperation and it will also cover trade and investment and economic cooperation issues. Regarding progress on FTA negotiations, I don't think it'd be right for me to prejudge the outcome of the summit.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, the next question is on Vande Bharat. Suchithra from News18 Tamil has asked - "About 637 Indian students, stranded in Kyrgyzstan who are studying in various medical universities have made an appeal to EAM to bring them back. Is there any plan to schedule additional flights to Kyrgyzstan to bring back these students?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Suchitra, we are cognizant of this requirement and we are scheduling additional flights. I am confident that after these flights are scheduled, we will be able to cater to this requirement from Kyrgyzstan.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next question is on students issue with the US. Pushkar Banakar from the New Indian Express has asked - "The US visa issue was taken up during foreign office consultations, any update on this?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We have seen the news release from the US Student and Exchange Visa Program and we are concerned over the possibility that this may lead to the return of a large number of Indian students studying in the US. We have conveyed our concern to the US side and this was raised by Foreign Secretary with his counterpart during the Foreign Office Consultations on the 7th of July. We have urged the US side that we need to keep in mind the role that educational exchanges and people-to-people relations have played in the development of our relations and the US side has noted our concerns in this regard.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): So, the next question is on bill from Kuwait. Andrew from BBC has asked - "Is there a statement issued by the Ministry regarding Kuwait's proposed Expat Quota Bill and its effect on the Indian expatriate community? How does such bill affect India's foreign remittance from Kuwait?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
Andrew, we are closely following developments in Kuwait and I can tell you that this matter was recently discussed between the Foreign Ministers of both sides. We share excellent bilateral ties with Kuwait, and these ties are deeply rooted in our people-to-people linkages. The Indian community is well regarded in Kuwait as well as the rest of the region, and their contribution is well recognized. So, we have shared our expectation with the Kuwaiti side that their decision will take this into account.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): So, next set of question is on Enrica Lexie case. Jomy Thomas from Malayala Manorama has asked - "In the Enrica Lexie case, the ITLOS order came on 21st May. On 6th March 2017, the Supreme Court had ordered that the court and the State of Kerala should be informed about the tribunal's decision, as and when it happens, especially as the case was pending in the Supreme Court and the accused were on conditional bail. Why it took 40 days for the center to inform the court and the state of Kerala?" Pushkar Banakar from New Indian Express has asked - "Have India and Italy discussed the compensation in the Italian marine case, following the tribunal's ruling that India was entitled to it for the loss of life suffered?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: See, I would say it is inaccurate to suggest that the sharing of the award was delayed. In fact, GOI only received this award a few weeks after it was delivered and then it required legal assessment on our side. When this was completed, we informed the Honorable Supreme Court as well as the Government of Kerala.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, the next set of questions are on Kerala gold seizure. Jomy Thomas from Malayala Manorama has asked - "What is MEA's stand on the case regarding smuggling of gold using the diplomatic baggage of UAE consulate in Trivandrum? Has MEA sought any clarification from the UAE government or its Ambassador in Delhi?" Srinjoy from Times Now has asked - "In the gold smuggling case has India taken up the issue with the UAE?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: To give you a background of this case, the Customs Authorities, following established protocol and procedure, have seized a consignment sent from abroad in the name of an official working in the Consulate General of the United Arab Emirates in Thiruvananthapuram.

Ministry of External Affairs had kept the Embassy of the UAE informed regarding the matter. The UAE Mission has extended all cooperation to the Customs Authorities in examining the said consignment. The matter is under further investigation.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): So, the next set of question is on Shri Kulbhushan Jadhav. Srinjoy from Times Now has asked - "The government has decided to protect Kulbhushan Jadhav. What measures will the government take? Will it mean going to the ICJ?" Devirupa from Wire has asked - "India has said that the ordinance violates the ICJ Judgment, please provide details on how does it do that?" Another question from Devirupa - "What are the options open, if India does not use the options allowed under the new ordinance?" Next question - "Will India accept the offer for the second consular access, as well as, approve the visit of Jadhav's wife and father to Pakistan?" Athar Khan from Times Now has asked - "Pakistan has tried claiming moral high ground by keeping an option of review at the ICJ open for the Indian Government, notwithstanding the farcical attempt at trying to intimidate Mr Jadhav to only go for a mercy petition. Does the government plan to go back to ICJ?" Sandeep Dixit from Tribune has asked - "Will Indian High Commission be filing the review petition on behalf of Kulbhushan Jadhav?" Kadambini from NDTV India has asked - "Will India be filing review petition on behalf of Jadhav, as Pakistan says under the ordinance, it can be done?" Next question - "Pakistan has offered a consular access, is India taking it up?" Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha has asked - "Kulbhushan Jadhav maamle mein Pakistan ke dawe par mantralaya ki kya pratikriya hai? Antarrashtriy nyayalaya Hague mein is maamle ki kya stithi hai?" (Questioned in Hindi, Approximate translation) "What is the Ministry's response to Pakistan's claim in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case? What is the status of this case in the International Court of Justice, Hague? ", Pranay from ABP has asked - "What is your response to Pakistan's offer of second consular access for Kulbhushan Jadhav? Also, has there been any call taken to facilitate a meeting of Mr Kulbhushan Jadhav with his father and wife? If so, when is it possible?" Shailendra from News18 has asked - "Will India avail the offer of consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav?" Sidhant from WION has asked - "Will India go to ICJ?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Well, all of you would have seen the detailed statement that was issued yesterday. Essentially in the statement, we had pointed out how Pakistan's claim that Shri Kulbhushan Jadhav who is in their custody has refused to initiate a review petition, is a continuation of the farce which has been playing out for the last 4 years. To respond to your questions, at this stage, we are assessing our legal options and we remain committed to protect the life of our Indian national. I'll respond in Hindi to Deepak Ranjan who has asked the same question in Hindi.(Answered in Hindi, approximate translation) Deepak, we issued a detailed statement yesterday and in this statement we told that Pakistan claims that Mr. Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is in their custody, has refused to initiate review petition is a continuation of the farce that has been in play for the last four years. We are currently assessing legal options and we are fully committed to protecting the life of an Indian national.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on Nepal. Kallol from The Hindu has asked - "Nepalese authorities have accused India of dynamiting rocks for the ongoing broadening of Dharchula Lipulekh road which has destroyed parts of the road that Nepal is building near Mahakali river in their part of the territory. Nepal has claimed the land and asked for discussion on the area of Kalapani saying status quo should not be altered. When is India planning to engage Nepal on the border related talks?" Another question - "Chinese Ambassador has been mediating with Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, Madhav Nepal and PM Oli to help mend the internal divisions of Nepal Communist Party. There has been some public protest against her actions that some believe are violative of the established rules of diplomacy. Do you think Ambassador Hou's interaction with top Nepali leaders amount to interference in Nepal's internal political process by China?" Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha has asked (Questioned in Hindi, Approximate translation) " What are the steps being taken against Nepal who is disrupting the construction work at Sitamarhi-Raxaul and other places in Bihar?” The second question is "what the Government & Ministry is doing on the increasing influence of China in Nepal?” Neeraj Kumar from News18 has asked -"Nepal ki siyasat mein jis tarah se Cheeni rajdoot aur Cheen ka dakhal bada hai, Bharat ise kaise dekh raha hai?" (Questioned in Hindi, Approximate translation) "How India is viewing the increased interference of the Chinese Ambassador and China in Nepal's politics?”

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We have clearly stated our position on the India-Nepal boundary issue, and we have no comments to offer on the internal political matters of Nepal.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on Kartarpur. Aditya Raj Kaul has asked - "Pakistan has opened the Kartarpur gurudwara unilaterally, where does India stand on the opening of the corridor?" Another question - "India recently designated 9 Khalistani terrorist, many of whom are based in Pakistan. Does India feel that Pakistan could use the Kartarpur corridor for Khalistani terror in India?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Aditya, you would know that we have an agreement on Kartarpur Sahib and we are presently consulting various stakeholders in this regard.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR):
So, next question is from Sidhant from WION on Sri Lanka - "Has the Sri Lankan request for debt relief been accepted?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sidhant, you would have seen a recent press release which was issued by our High Commission in Colombo as as update on this particular request from the Sri Lankan Government. What I can inform you there is that the matter has progressed and technical level discussions are presently underway.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): So, the next question is from Pushkar Banakar from the New Indian Express - "US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said yesterday, that he has spoken to EAM Shri Jaishankar many times over the Galwan Valley issue. How many times have they spoken and what was the outcome of these conversations?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Well, Pushkar in today's diplomacy, you would know that many conversations take place between Heads of States, Heads of Government and Foreign Ministers, and particularly in the times of Covid the number of such conversations has gone up. We have had many interactions over video conferencing, over telephone calls. We share with you from time to time readouts of such conversations and obviously ongoing matters of mutual interest form a part of such conversations.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): So, next set of question is on China. Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News has asked - "Has China agreed to any timeline to restore status quo ante along the line of actual control?" Agni Roy from ABP has asked - "Whether India will raise the issue of deployment of PLA from along LAC on upcoming WMCC meeting or next round of SR-level talk?" Another question from him - "Creating a buffer zone on our own side, India has actually pulled back from our own territory. What would be our near future strategy on this?" Srinjoy from Times Now has asked - "Are the PLA soldiers also moving out from finger 4 in Pangong and Depsang area?" Athar Khan from Times Now has asked - "Can the Spokesperson confirm that disengagement in Galwan began on 2nd July before a SR-level talks on the 6th?" Also, do we have a comment on Chinese MOFA statement after SR-level talks indicated that they to this day hold India responsible for so-called aggression in Galwan Valley, a claim completely at odds with our understanding of the clash?" Sandeep Dixit from Tribune has asked - "When is the next meeting of India China WMCC?" Kadambini from NDTV India has asked - "Is a border mechanism meeting scheduled anytime soon?" Pranay from ABP has asked - "What schedule has been worked out for the next round of military and diplomatic engagements worked out between India and China? Can you please share dates for the WMCC and military commander level meetings?" Next question - "Who initiated the call for SR-level contact that took place on July 5th, 2020? Has there been any agreement to create a buffer zone or no patrolling zone in the contested area of Galwan Valley?" Next question - "Did MEA formally launch protest with Chinese authorities regarding the claims of sovereignty over Galwan Valley, especially after the talks between two SR's? If yes, when and how this protest was launched?" Abhishek Dhulia from NHK Japan has asked - "Could you provide any update on proposed next round of engagement between Foreign Ministers of India and China to further diffuse the situation?" Sidhant from WION has asked - "What is the status at LAC?" Neeraj from News18 has asked -"Rajneyik star par Bharat aur Cheen ke beech diplomatic star par agli baithak kab hai?" (Questioned in Hindi, Approximate translation) "When is the next meeting at diplomatic level between India and China?”Abhishek Kapoor from Republic has asked - "Can we get little more clarity on the Chinese MOFA statement of 6th July, as it was silent on LAC and what is the present status of disengagement of troops?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Well, in response to these questions I have a detailed readout. The Special Representatives (SRs) of India and China on the Boundary Question – Shri Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor of India and Mr. Wang Yi, State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of China had a telephone conversation on 5th July 2020. As we have noted in our press release issued on 6th July, the two Special Representatives had a frank and in-depth exchange of views on the recent developments in the Western Sector of the India-China border areas.

During the conversation, the NSA conveyed categorically India’s position on the recent developments along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) including in the Galwan valley area. NSA emphasised in this context that the Indian troops had always taken a very responsible approach towards border management and at the same time, our forces were deeply committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and security.

During their conversation the two SRs agreed that peace and tranquility in border areas was essential for the overall development of bilateral relations. In this regard they also shared the view that it was necessary to ensure at the earliest complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation in the India-China border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquility in accordance with the bilateral agreements and protocols. One of the key provisions of these bilateral agreements is the commitment by two sides shall strictly respect and observe the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The two SRs have also agreed that the two sides should work together to avoid any incident in the future that could disturb peace and tranquility in border areas.

The diplomatic and military officials of both sides will continue their meetings to take forward the process of disengagement and de-escalation as agreed to by the Special Representatives. The next meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC) is expected to take place soon.

We have also noted that there have been some inaccurate and uninformed comments about the disengagement process and its implications. Let me remind you that in the last few weeks, we have made several statements spelling out categorically the position of the Government on different aspects of the current situation in the Western Sector of India-China border areas. They include our position that recent Chinese claims to the Galwan Valley area are exaggerated and untenable; that the LAC must be strictly respected and observed as this is the basis for peace and tranquility in the border areas; and that neither side should take any unilateral action to alter it. We remain convinced of the need for maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas and the resolution of differences through dialogue, at the same time, we are also strongly committed to ensuring India's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

So that was by way of my read out in response to these questions. Any further questions Yatin.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): No sir, no further questions, no followup.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. That concludes today's briefing.

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