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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (May 20, 2021)

May 20, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:Good Evening and welcome to this media briefing. We would like to do this weekly but due to various reasons of lockdown, we had to take a break, but I'm happy that you could join us again today. At this time, we have a lot of questions focusing on vaccines and I would hand over the floor to Yatin to take us through the questions.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, first set of questions is on vaccine from USA. Maha from CNN News 18 is asking, "How many vaccines in India from USA to be sent? The 80 million is it willing to share, is there any timeline?Also the 60 million of it are AstraZeneca vaccines not approved in US, so are this rejected vaccines be taken by India?” Nainima from Print is asking, "USA said that it has still not decided how many vaccines India and other countries will get out of their plan to ship 80 million doses. What is the MEA’s reaction to that?” Similar questions from Suhasini where she is also asking, "Whether there will be the AstraZeneca doses provided last year from USA?” Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha has also asked about supply from foreign countries. In addition, he is asking, "Kya Bharat mein in tikon ke utpadan ko lekar koi baatchit ki koi sthiti hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approx. translation) "Is there any update on thr discussions on the production of these vaccines in India?” Manas from PTI, also on the same line asking, "Is India in touch with any other country or block including EU to acquire vaccines?” and Siddhanth is also asking about vaccine from USA.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thanks, Yatin. Look, we remain engaged with the US entities on the prospect of procuring vaccines from the US and also perhaps manufacturing them in India subsequently. This would augment our vaccine availability once this is available, whether it is through procurement or subsequent manufacturing.

We of course noted the recent announcement by the US government of its intention to make some vaccines available to other countries. However, I do not have any information on this to share for the moment. I would like to emphasise that all vaccines that may be procured from abroad would need to be as per our regulatory guidelines. I understand that the US has also indicated that any vaccine that it sends abroad would be after obtaining FDA clearance for product quality. Yatin.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of questions is also on Covid vaccines. Siddhant from WION has asked, "How many countries have spoken to India on vaccine supplies? Bangladesh Foreign Minister had raised this issue with EAM.” Similarly Gautam Lahiri is also asking, "Whether Bangladesh Foreign Minister had spoken to EAM on vaccine supply and what was India's response?” He has also asked, "Have they requested to approach USA on their behalf?” Sachin from Times of India has asked, "Several neighbouring countries seem to be reeling under India's vaccine shortage and are in dire need of help. Some of them need to administer the second shot of Covishield immediately. Now that vaccine export is effectively banned and Serum is unable to honour its commercial agreements.What is the message from government to these countries who are still looking at India for help? Is the government contemplating arranging shots for these countries from abroad say USA?” Nainima from the Print is asking, "China seems to be now shipping millions of vaccine to India's neighbour as New Delhi has stopped its export of vaccines. Serum Institute has said they will be able to export only by the year end. Is MEA concerned about China gaining more grounds when it comes to vaccine diplomacy in neighbourhood?” Suhasini from Hindu is also asking about India assisting Bhutan in procuring the remainder of a half million doses promised. Devi Rupa from Wire is asking, "Whether MEA called from India's neighbour for vaccine specially to give second doses?” Sandeep from Tribune is asking,"What is government's assessment about Vaccine Maitri‘s success or lack of it? Is it true that commercially contracted vaccine doses were also clubbed in Vaccine Maitri? Devdeep from Sankei Shimbun is asking, "Can you give us the status of vaccine Maitri mission of India? Has India stopped all vaccine exports?” and Sandeep from Tribune also has a question, "Are there timelines now for the Quad initiative to finance, manufacture and distribute Covid vaccines? if there are no timelines yet, has a decision been taken on vaccines that will be manufactured by Quad in India?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Oh, that's a lot of questions on vaccines. Let me start with the ones we talked about what vaccines have been sent abroad. Look all the details of ‘Made in India’ vaccines that was supplied abroad earlier this year, be it as a grant from the government or for fulfilling contractual obligations, these are available all the details on the Ministry's website and I would invite you to have a look at that, if you're interested.

As regards the issue of further vaccine supplies abroad, I would highlight that this issue was answered in detail by Foreign Secretary when he addressed the media on April 29th. If you recall, he particularly highlighted the need to purpose currently, the vaccine that has been produced domestically towards our own domestic vaccination programme. I think External Affairs Minister made a similar point today. I don't have any further update on this issue, and nor do I have any update on the issue of vaccine manufacturing under the Quad initiative.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of questions is on foreign assistance. Gautam Lahiri has asked, "What's the update on foreign medical assistance to India and how many countries sent assistance and which are those countries? Similarly, Siddhant from WION is also asking about how many countries so far have sent assistance to India. And Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha has also asked for update on the help from foreign countries.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:Well a large number of countries have expressed solidarity with and support to India in our fight against the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. You have seen a lot of these details that have been put out in our social media. Many of these countries, I would say numbering over 40 have supplied Covid related equipment and material to us through the Indian Red Cross Society.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Gautam Lahiri is asking, "Recently Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka threatened Bangladesh not to join Quad. What's our response and whether India has ever requested Bangladesh to join Quad?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Let me address the last part. You would recall that Foreign Secretary during his media briefing after the first quadrilateral leaders virtual summit on March 12th had clearly stated that the issue of expansion of the grouping was not discussed. But as regards the Bangladesh issue, I understand that Bangladesh government has already responded to this issue. I have no particular comment on this for now.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of questions is on Israel-Palestine situation. Dehriya from Sputnik is asking,"Is India planning to back France backed UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel Palestine conflict?” Pranab Prakhar from Vision TV World is asking, "Has Israel approached India for support in UNSC discussion? What is India's viewpoint on US President’s statement that crisis should be de-escalated between Israel Gaza conflict and USA has spoken to Egypt leadership in this regard?” Siddhant from WION is asking,"Has India spoken to foreign ministers of Israel and Palestine on the ongoing Israel Palestine issue?” Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha is asking for ministry's response on this current situation. Manish Jha from Business World is asking, "While India supported Palestine and two state resolution during the ongoing conflict, what is India's position towards Hamas and its action towards Israel? Has India offered vaccines and humanitarian assistance to Palestine during ongoing conflict?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I would like to share that we are closely following developments in this regard. On May 16th, our Permanent Representative at the United Nations in New York made a detailed statement on the subject during the open debate of the United Nations Security Council. We also expect to make a statement on the issue at the UN General Assembly over the next day or two when the issue comes up. I don't have any other information to share for the moment.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Maha from CNN News 18 is asking, "Singapore Health Ministry referred to Variant B- 1617 as Indian variant. Has India taken up this issue with Singapore as it can create prejudice against Indians in Singapore?Deepak Ranjhan from PTI Bhasha is asking"Corona virus ke swaroop ko dilli ke mukhyamantree Aravind Kejriwal ki tippanee par singapore ki apatti ke baad kya dvipakshiye aur raajanayik sambandhon ko nukasaan pahuncha hai?” (Questioned in Hindi; Approx. translation)"Has the bilateral and diplomatic relation with Singapore suffered after Singapore's objection to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's comments on the nature of Coronavirus?”Anita Joshua from Telegraph is asking, "Has the ministry taken any action oris it contemplating any action with regard to Singapore High Commissioner saying that his country considered invoking the protection from online falsehoods and manipulation act against Delhi Chief Minister?” Devi Rupa from the Wire is asking, "Does the MEA plan to take up the issue of Singapore considering invocation of POFMA against Delhi Chief Minister?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, I think on this issue, we have already conveyed our position very clearly. I don't think I have anything further to add to what has been already put out in the public domain.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Siddhant from WION is asking, "Iran has dropped India from a key gas field project Farzad-B. It was discovered by ONGC.Has India raised the issue with Tehran? Do you think Iran was not keen on India or US sanctions had played the role in this?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We have seen media reports that the National Iranian Oil Company NIOC has signed a contract this week on May 17, with M/s Petropars for the development of the Farzad-B gas field in the Persian Gulf. It may be recalled that last July, July 2020, we had shared with you that Iran has decided to develop this Farzad-B gas field on its own and wanted to involve India appropriately at a later stage. The involvement of this Indian consortium is underway and we are in touch with them. The latest development of course, is part of Iran's own efforts to develop the gas field and we are in touch.Our consortium is in touch with Iranian authorities.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sanjay Roy from Aaj is asking, "Pakistan Bharat se baatcheet karne ki peshkash se palat kar phir se Kashmir ka mudda utha raha hai. In ghatanaakram par videsh mantraalay ko kya kahana hai? (Questioned in Hindi;Approx. translation) "Pakistan is raising the issue of Kashmir again, going back on its offer to engage in talks with India. What does the Ministry of External Affairs have to say on these developments?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Dekhie is vishay par hamaaree jo position hai aapako achchhee tarah maaloom hai sabako. Is samay mere paas aur kuchh aisa hai nahin jo main aapake saath share kar sakoon is vishay par. (Answered in Hindi;Approx. translation) See, you all know our position on this subject very well. At this moment I do not have anything further on this subject that I can share with you.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sanjay Roy from Aaj has also another question, "Cheen ne ladakh ke paas phir se sainya abhyaas shuroo kar diya hai. Is par videsh mantralay ki kya pratikriya hai? (Questioned in Hindi;Approx. translation) China has once again resumed military exercises near Ladakh. What is the reaction of the Ministry of External Affairs on this?”Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha is asking, "Poorvi ladakh mein Cheen ke ssaath gatirodh ki taza sthiti kya hai? (Questioned in Hindi;Approx. translation) "What is the latest situation of the deadlock with China in Eastern Ladakh?”Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News is asking, "Is there any forward movement on talks between India and China regarding disengagement of forces along friction points on LAC?” Shailesh Kumar from National Defence is asking, "What is the latest update on India-China border disengagement? Does Chinese PLA exercising in areas close to Ladakh border pose a security challenge to India? And, if yes, are these concerns communicated to China? What is their response to mitigate any escalation?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Yudh abhyaas ke bare mein hamare army chief ne May18 ko yaad mujhe jitna door aa raha hai, unhone spastikaran de rakha hai. Mujhe us paar aur kuch kehna nahin hai.(Answered in Hindi; Approx. translation)Our army chief has already provided clarification regarding the Military exercise on May 18. I don’t have to anything further on that.On the larger issue of disengagement External Affairs Minister in his most recent conversation with his Chinese counterpart on April 30th, conveyed that while the process of disengagement had commenced earlier this year, it remained unfinished. He emphasized that it was necessary that this process be completed at the earliest. In this context, the two sides have agreed also that in the interim, they would maintain stability on the ground and avoid any new incidents. It is our expectation therefore, that neither side should take any action that is not in keeping with these understandings. Full restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas would enable progress in this bilateral relationship.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Dheriya from Sputnik has asked, "More than 15000 Chin refugees have entered India from Myanmar this month, as claimed by an ad agency. Any word on their return?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I would request you to direct your query to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep from Tribune is asking, "Can you please provide an update on the major infrastructure projects agreed upon during External Affairs Minister’s visit to Colombo and Seychelles?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I don't really have any further information on this. I will share updates as and when I have them.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Nivedita from Financial Express is asking, "External Affairs Minister said in the Nikkei Conferencethat India is working on supply chain mechanisms. Which are the countries India is working with in this regard? And what is the progress?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think External Affairs Minister has addressed this issue in his statement quite comprehensively. I don't have much to add, except to highlight that this is an ongoing process. You would have noted that this issue has found mention in all our recent joint statements that we have issued with our foreign partners. That shows the focus that we've had on this issue.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of questions is on Indian students.Maha from CNN News 18 has asked, "Several students have been stranded in India as countries are not opening up for them without full vaccinations, haven't made it clear when they can re-join in personal classes.Is the MEA in touch with any of these countries like Australia, Germany specifically over issues being faced by students?” Geeta Mohan from India Today is asking, "Some US universities are seeking vaccination certificates. Will the Indian Government facilitate vaccination of students who get through colleges abroad and require such a certificate given that there is a shortage of vaccine doses?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:Look, all these questions really relate to vaccination issue. And I would therefore direct your query to the Ministry of Health on this issue.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Geeta Mohan from India today is asking, "There are cases of job scam where nurses from Kerala are stuck in UAE despite repeated advisories by the Indian mission, this continues. What is being done for the nurses who were taken to serve in Covid vaccination centres?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We have seen some media reports in this regard. Our consulate in Dubai has referred the matter to the Protector of Emigrants in Thiruvananthapuram. Since preliminary inquiries indicate the possible involvement of some Indian recruiting agents in this. So far, our Embassy in Abu Dhabi and our Consulate in Dubai have not received any requests to repatriate Indian nurses. However, they remain in touch with community associations to identify and extend help to any Indian National who approaches them with any specific request.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): I have no further questions Sir.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Thank you Yatin. That brings us to the end of this media briefing. Thank you for joining us. Good evening.

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