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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (30 July 2020)

July 31, 2020

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

Welcome to this weekly briefing in the virtual format.

I'll start with a readout, in fact I have two readouts. First is in the form of an update on the Vande Bharat Mission.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Under phase-4 of the Vande Bharat mission a total of 1083 flights have been scheduled so far.These flights are operated by the Air India group, Indigo, SpiceJet, and GoAir from 29 countries to 31 airports in India. As we begin dovetailing Phase- 4 into Phase- 5, 8,78,921 Indian Nationals have returned as on 29th July 2020 and of these 1,07,452 Indians have returned from Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Bangladesh through land borders. You would know that we have announced Phase- 5 of the Vande Bharat Mission which is scheduled to start from the 1st of August. A total of 792 flights, which includes 692 international flights and 100 domestic flights have been scheduled under this phase to repatriate Indians from 23 countries - the GCC countries, USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Israel, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. These slides would cater to 21 different airports across India and repatriate an estimated 1,30,000 Indians stranded abroad.

The second announcement that I have is something that you would have seen earlier today, which was the joint inauguration of the new Supreme Court building in Mauritius. Earlier today our Prime Minister and Prime Minister of Mauritius jointly inaugurated the new Supreme Court building through a video conference and you would have heard PM’sspeech on the occasion. You would have also seen the press release which was issued subsequently. Now, the Supreme Court building in Mauritius is another landmark project which has been implemented under India's development cooperation partnership, and it is also an example of our ability to implement such projects in various parts of the world. The new Supreme Court building provides state-of-the-art facilities. It is an energy-efficient building. The project has been completed on schedule and at a cost which is below the initial estimates. As PM noted in his speech on this occasion, India is making development partnerships that are marked by respect for our partners. It is marked by diversity, care for the future, and sustainable development and our development partnership footprint at this point of time transcends the globe. It includes successfully completed projects in various parts of the world like a major housing project in Sri Lanka, the parliament building in Afghanistan, the Mahatma Gandhi Convention Center in Niger, and a project for the Emergency and Trauma Hospital in Nepal which led to improvement in health services. So this is by way of my two announcements and now I'll move on to your questions. So over to you Pawan for the questions.

Shri Pawan: Sir, pehla sawal Pakistan ke upar Narendra Nath Mishra, Navbharat Times se pooch rahe hain - "Pakistan paanch August ko dhara 370 ko hatane ke ek saal poora hone par bade paimane par propaganda chalane aur uss mudde ko international platform par uthane ke liye bade scale par tayyari kar raha hai. Iska jawaab dene ke liye Bharat ki kya niti hogi?"(Questioned in Hindi, Approximate translation)-" Sir, the first question is on Pakistan and Narendra Nath Mishra from Navbharat Times is asking – " On 5th of August, on completion of one year of the removal of Article 370 Pakistan is gearing up to initiate propaganda on a large scale and take this issue to the international platform. What will be India’s policy in this regard?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Dekhiye Narendra ji Pakistan ke baare mein aur inki is tarah ki harkaton ke liye to main yahi kahunga ki woh aisi harkaten karte hain jaise ki jo vishva ki nigahen hain unke policies pe, unki niti, jo ki cross-border terrorism Bharat ke prati support karti hai usse jo hai dhyaan hatane ke liye ki jati hain. Jahan tak India ka sawal hai, main yeh keh sakta hun ki 5th August jo hai hamare liye aitihasik hoga kyunki is din do kendrashasit pradesh, Jammu Kashmir aur Ladakh ke arthik aur samajik vikas mein jo bhi badhayen aa rahi thi, hum unko door kar paye. (Answered in Hindi, Approximate translation)- See Narendra ji, Pakistan cannot divert the world’s attention through such antics from its policy of cross border terrorism which threaten the lives of common people in India. 5th August is a landmark day that saw removal of obstacles in the economic and social development of the UTs of J&K and Ladakh.

Shri Pawan: Agla sawaal Kulbhushan Jadhav mamle par hai. Shailendra Wangu from News18 has asked - "Jadhav mamle mein Pak sarkar khud hi review ke liye Islamabad court pahunchi hai, high court pahunchi hai. Aise mein Bharat ka agla kadam kya hoga? Kya Bharat ICJ ka rukh karega?(Questioned in Hindi, Approximate translation)- Next question is on the issue related to Kulbhushan case. Shailendra Wangu from News18 has asked – In the Jadhav case Pakistan on its own has approached the Islamabad high court for review. What will be India’s next step? Will India approach the ICJ? Aditya Raj Kaul has asked Islamabad high court has allegedly formed a bench to hear Kulbhushan Jadhav matter. Do you feel Pakistan is violating ICJ order and not implementing it in letter and spirit? Maha Siddiqui from CNN News18 has asked - "there is a hearing regarding Kulbhushan Jadhav in Pakistan on Monday. Has Pakistan told India what this hearing exactly is about, when India has so far been unable to even appoint a lawyer for him? Will India be amenable to any of these attempts at taking the case forward?" Athar Khan from Times Now has asked - "Islamabad High Court will hear Jadhav case on the 3rd August. Any reactions on the proceedings given that India has consistently debunked the probity and fairness of the court proceedings there?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: On Kulbhushan Jadhav, last week I had responded in great detail and I had detailed out how Pakistan has blocked India's attempts to seek remedies. I had also brought out how Pakistan is in violation of the ICJ judgement as well as their own ordinance. I had described how they have not provided unhindered, unimpeded and unconditional access to Shri Kulbhushan Jadhav, how they have not provided documents requested by us, their actions with regard to the ordinance, all of which expose the farcical nature of their entire approach to this. I had also explained what is our position in this as of now, which is that we reserve our position in this matter and which includes the right to avail of further remedies and I will also reiterate that we stand committed to protect the life of our national Shri Kulbhushan Jadhav.

Shri Pawan: Athar Khan from Times Now has asked - "would the spokesperson comment on the recent remarks by the Bangladesh foreign minister where he said that India should prevent making moves that can fracture historic ties with Bangladesh. He has maintained that Ram Temple construction is an internal matter for India, but his comments taken it there entirety are quite significant." A similar question has been asked by Anish from UNI.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: India-Bangladesh relations are exceptionally close and you would have seen the recent remarks by EAM where he has said that India-Bangladesh is a role model of good neighborly relations in this region. As regards the question that you're asking, we are confident that both sides appreciate mutual sensitivity and mutual respect in building further on this relationship.

Shri Pawan: Kalol from The Hindu has asked - "Bhorer Kagoj of Dhaka has reported with Bangladesh government officials saying that the locomotives India sent to Bangladesh this week are second hand and are at least seven to five years old. Will MEA please respond to this?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Kalol, we have seen other mischievous stories from the same source, which pertain to our ties with Bangladesh. In fact, there was also a concocted story recently about our High Commissioner. Particularly on the locos that you are asking, I can tell you that it is my understanding that these locos have been provided from our existing inventory based on a specific request and an urgent requirement of Bangladesh.

Shri Pawan: Nirmala Ganpati from Straits Times has asked - "how many more members of the Afghan-Sikh community are expected in India and when? How many visas have been issued? Thanks." Athar Khan from Times Now has asked - "the Afghan minority Sikhs who came to India, what plans for them? Will they be given long-term visa and are more such families coming to India, from Afghanistan or other neighboring countries?" Shailendra Wangu from News18 has asked - "Sikh, Hindu, Afghan naagrik haal mein hi Bharat aaye hain, kya unki naagrikta par jald faisla hoga aur kitne Afghan naagrik Bharat aane wale hain?"(Questioned in Hindi, Approximate translation)-"Sikh, Hindu, Afghan citizens have recently come to India, Will the issue related to their citizenship will be sorted out soon and how many Afghan citizens are expected to come to India?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I had responded to these questions last week where I had said that how there has been a recent spurt of attacks on minorities in Afghanistan, belonging to the Hindu and Sikh communities. I had also described how it has been done by terrorists at the behest of external supporters. See our mission in Kabul despite the Covid situation, facilitated the visas for the return of the first group which arrived here last week and what I can also say is that their cause for permanent settlement here will be examined and will be facilitated as per extant rules and policies. We are in touch with others who would like to return and we would facilitate their return.

Shri Pawan: Abhishek Jha from DD News has asked - "reports suggested that Darchula district administration officer has written a letter to Indian authorities in Darchula, Uttarakhand stating that Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani are Nepal’s territories as per Article 5 of the Sugauli treaty. MEA's reaction on it." Similar questions have been asked by Mr Suresh from Kantipur media and Sidhant Sibal from WION.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: On more than one occasion I have laid down our position on the India-Nepal boundary issue and our position is clear and consistent. So I would not like to go further into this.

Shri Pawan: Manoj Menon from Mathrubhumi Daily. Anoop and Saju Mohan from Manorama News have asked a question - "please share the updates on Trivandrum gold smuggling case. Has MEA sought permission from UAE authorities to take statement of attache of UAE consulate, Trivandrum?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I'd already responded on this last week. I have no further updates at this point of time.

Shri Pawan: The next question is from Parikshit Luthra from CNBC TV18 - "after US, Germany and France, which are the countries are we likely to establish air bubbles with?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Parikshit, this is something which the Ministry of Civil Aviation is involved in. My understanding is that there are discussions going on with some countries in this regard. I would ask you to seek more information from them.

Shri Pawan: Mr Anoop and Saju Mohan from Manorama News has asked - "Kuwait has imposed temporary travel ban to Indian citizens. Our response?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I don't think this ban is specific to Indian Nationals. These are some restrictions on travel because of the Covid situation and the civil aviation authorities of both sides are holding discussions to work out related arrangements at this point of time.

Shri Pawan: Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News has asked - "China has claimed complete completion of disengagement on most of the LAC. Can you confirm?" Shridhar from Asian Age has asked - "what is the status of disengagement on LAC? Is it true as claimed by China that the process is almost complete?" Maha Siddiqui from CNN News18 has asked - "China says there is disengagement at most places, does it mean that at Pangong Lake, China has gone back to status quo ante?" Anish from UNI has asked - "what is the current status of ongoing disengagement process on LAC? There are reports that Chinese are not pulling back. Is it true?" Similar questions have been asked by Abhishek Jha from DD News, Vijayalakshmi from India TV, Nainima from The Print, and Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha."

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: See to respond to these questions on disengagement I will first give you a background. As conveyed in our press release issued after 17th meeting of the Working Mechanism the two sides reviewed the situation in the India-China border areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Western sector. They agreed that early and complete disengagement of the troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and de-escalation from India-China border areas in accordance with bilateral agreement and protocols and full restoration of peace and tranquility was essential for smooth overall development of bilateral relations. This was also the agreement reached between the two Special Representatives, NSA and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in their conversation on 5th July.

There has been some progress made towards this objective but the disengagement process has as yet not been completed. The Senior Commanders of the two sides will be meeting in the near future to work out steps in this regard.

As we have stated earlier, the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas is the basis of our bilateral relationship. Therefore, we expect that the Chinese side will sincerely work with us for complete disengagement and de-escalation and full restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas at the earliest as agreed by the two Special Representatives.

Shri Pawan: Athar Khan from Times Now has asked - "The foreign ministers of Pakistan, China, Nepal and Afghanistan met virtually recently to discuss the covid response. Was there an invitation extended to India and if an invitation was not extended isn't that odd since it was India that had pushed for a joint-stock response, which was initiated by the Prime Minister himself in the initial days of the outbreak of the virus?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Athar, we have seen media reports in this regard. As you would recall that it was the initiative of our Prime Minister to convene a meeting of all SAARC countries on the 15th of March. A video conference was held following which COVID-19 emergency fund was agreed upon. India contributed US$10 million to the fund, other countries have also made the contribution. The fund has been operationalized and we have already extended humanitarian assistance to countries in the SAARC region, including supply of essential medicines, antibiotics, consumables, Covid protection, testing kits, and other laboratory and hospital equipment.

Shri Pawan: Geeta Mohan from India Today has asked - "after the announcement of India's new education policy, have other countries of foreign universities expressed interest to open institutes in India?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Well Geeta, I don't have any information on this at this point of time.

Shri Pawan: Anita Joshua from The Telegraph has asked - "has MEA given BCCI the clearance required for holding the IPL 2020 in UAE?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Anita, again I don't have information at this point of time. If there is something I'll revert to you.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Are there any further questions?

Shri Pawan: I have no further questions, Sir!

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. So this concludes the weekly briefing.

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