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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (June 03, 2021)

June 03, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you for joining us on yet another edition of our weekly media briefing. Today, as always, we have a number of questions and I'd request Yatin to take us through the questions.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir first set of question is on vaccine from USA. Aditya from CNN News18 is asking, "How soon will India be able to get the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?” Sidhant is also asking about "India stocks on pharma major like Pfizer for bringing vaccine” and Parikshit is asking, "whether India agreed to grant full indemnity to Pfizer and Moderna?” Nayanima from the Print is asking, "US Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday said that President Biden will soon announce the allocation of 80 million vaccine doses promised. Those 20 million Astrazeneca doses that were stuck with US FDA, been cleared? During EAM's visit was there any discussion on how much will India get out of this?” Similar questions were from Maha from CNN news18 and Suhasini from the Hindu.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, Yatin. I think they cover a variety of issues. Let me try to address three broad elements. Look, as you all know, Government of India has been making all efforts to augment availability of vaccines in India, whether through enhanced production in the country, or through supply from abroad. We remain engaged with US vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson as part of this effort. We are separately also engaged with the US administration to ensure that necessary components and raw materials for vaccine manufacturing and production in India are readily available and that the supply chains remain open. This issue was taken up most recently, during the visit of External Affairs Minister to the United States. It is in our mutual interest to combat the global pandemic by expediting vaccination efforts. As regards the US government announcement of making available vaccines to other countries, we are waiting for the details on this. I think that covers most of the topics.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on vaccine export Shailendra from News18 is asking, "WHO ne kaha hai ki Bharat ke vaccine ko baahar bhejane par ban se 91 deshon par covid ka khatra hai. kya vaccine ko aane vaale samay mein bhi export kiya jaega? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) The WHO has said that 91 countries are at risk of Covid due to the ban on exporting the vaccine out of India. Will the vaccine be exported in the future as well? Sidhant from WION is asking, "How many countries have returned to India for vaccines in the last one month?” Agni Roy from ABP is asking, "Bangladesh is raising concern for their nearly 15 lakh citizens who had taken first shot of Indian vaccine, two to three months back, similar situation prevailed in Nepal also, will India be considering any vaccination plan for them?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As all of you are aware, India has been at the forefront of extending a hand of assistance, be it in vaccine or other things to other countries. But look, I just responded to a series of questions on what steps the government has taken to ensure adequate supply of vaccines from abroad. I think you'd appreciate that against this background it would not be right to talk about supply of vaccines abroad just now. As we have repeatedly conveyed we are currently purposing domestic vaccine production for our own vaccination programme.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir next set of question is on fugitive Mehul Choksi. Aditya from CNN news 18 is asking, "Fugitive Mehul Choksi remains in custody of the Dominica police and the court is likely to hear the matter again today. How soon can India ensure his deportation? Does India maintain that he is an Indian citizen? Choksi’s advocates have suggested that he was abducted from Antigua while opposition politicians in Caribbean islands maintain that Choksi’s disappearance was planned one and Antigua, Dominica and India were aware. Is there response to this accusation?” Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "Is India in touch with Dominica to get back Choksi? If we have what have we asked them? Is India keen to be party to the current lawsuit?” Pranay from ABP News is asking, "Kya aap pushti karenge kee Charles Douglas airport par 28 May se khada jahaaj Mehul Choksi ki vaapasee ki jaroorat ke liye rakha gaya hai?” (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) Will you confirm that the aircraft, which has been parked at Charles Douglas Airport since May 28, has been kept in need for the return of Mehul Choksi?” Paulomi Saha from India today has asked, "On what basis is India claiming that Mehul Choksi is an Indian citizen?” Similar questions were from Shailendra from News 18, Sidhant from WION, Vijay Lakshmi from India TV, Maha from CNN News18 and Suhasini from the Hindu.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: This is of course a very topical issue. Let me emphasise that India remains steadfast in its efforts to ensure that fugitives are brought back to India to face justice. Regarding the specific case of Mehul Choksi we understand that he is currently in the custody of Dominican authorities and certain legal proceedings are underway. We will continue to make all efforts to ensure that he is brought back to India. But on the further details and variety of questions that have been asked on the legal and technical parts of this case, I would have to refer you to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Thank you.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha is asking, "Videsh Mantri S. Jaishankar ke haal ki America yaatra ke parinaam saamane aaye. Covid virodhee teeke, hind- prashant kshetr ki sthiti, dvipakshiye sambandh aadi ko lekar kya pragati huee? ” (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) The results of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar's recent visit to the US came out. What is the progress on anti-Covid vaccine, situation in Indo-Pacific region, bilateral relations etc.?” Nilova Roy Chowdhury has asked, "Could we have readout of EAMs visit please? Whom did he meet in Washington, were any US congressmen or senators among those he met?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, I think details of EAMs engagements in the US, as well as the broad contours of his discussions have already been made public. EAM also held a media interaction in Washington before departure. So I don't have much to add to what has already been shared. However, I would like to emphasise the importance of his visit. EAM was the first cabinet minister from India to visit the US, to engage with the Biden administration. His comprehensive programme included meetings with the US leadership, interactions with members of the Congress, CEOs of US companies and think tanks, among others. Discussions were wide ranging, and encompassed India US bilateral relations, cooperation on regional and global issues, such as the Indo-Pacific region, the quad dialogue, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and the UN Security Council, to name a few. Both sides focused on the ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19, expediting vaccinations, enhancing access to vaccines, ensuring smooth and open supply chains for vaccines and related materials and securing a waiver under trips for COVID-19 vaccines. I think that gives a good flavour of what the overall tenor and discussions during his visit were.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sanjay from Arab news has asked, "How India reacts to the Palestinian Foreign Minister letter to Mr. Jaishankar, expressing concern over the position taken by India at a special session of UNHRC? What explains India's contradictory stand on the Palestinian issue with New Delhi expressing India’s support to the just Palestinian cause on May 17 and on May 27, India abstained from UNHRC resolution aimed at securing Israel's compliance with international human rights?” Kallol from the Hindu is asking, "The Palestinian Foreign Minister Dr. Malki has written to External Affairs Minister Dr. Jaishankar saying Indian abstention during the May 27 HRC resolution "stifles” rights "of all people”. Will MEA please explain if the abstention was contrary to India's long held policy on the Palestinian issue?” Similar questions were from Shakeel from BBC and Sandeep from Tribune.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look regarding the letter from the Palestinian Foreign Minister, I understand that Palestine has written similar letters to all the countries that abstained during the UN Human Rights Council vote. The position that we took is not a new position, and we have abstained on previous occasions. I think that explains our position quite clearly and addresses some of these questions that you mentioned.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shankar from IVD, is asking, "How many countries have offered medical assistance to India till now?” Whether Indian overseas people or organisations also supplied medical aids to India? How many officials from the MEA are involved in coordination with foreign countries on COVID-19 related supplies?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Let me begin by saying we appreciate the solidarity and assistance extended by foreign governments and diaspora organisations across the world in our efforts to combat the second wave of COVID-19. COVID related equipment and material have been received from over 40 countries. A dedicated COVID cell in MEA has been active since the pandemic began and is coordinating our external and domestic activities related to COVID.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Basant from Mathrubhumi is asking, "When was the permission given to customs to arraign former Consul General and Admin Attache of UAE in the gold smuggling case in Kerala. Has the customs approached MEA for access to them? Is the MEA in touch with UAE regarding access to these persons?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look this is a quasi-judicial matter and I have no comment on this for the moment.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha is asking, "Corona virus ki utpatti ko lekar Vishv Swasthya sangathan ke praarambhik adhyayan ke baad thoss nishkarsh par pahunchane ke lie anek deshon ne aur jaanch ki maang kee hai. Is par mantraalay ki kya pratikriya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) After a preliminary study by the World Health Organization regarding the origin of the corona virus, many countries have demanded further investigation to reach a solid conclusion. What is the ministry's reaction on this?” Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "Does India support further investigations into the origin of COVID virus?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: This is a very important issue. The World Health Organisation is undertaking a global study on the origin of COVID-19. You would recall we had recently issued a statement welcoming this as an important first step and sought cooperation of all for further studies. I think that explains our position clearly.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Aditya from CNN News 18 is asking, "Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that he will talk to India only if India restores Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. How do you react to his latest condition?” Shailendra from News 18 is asking,"Pakistan mein bollywood ke bade sitaare Raj kapoor aur Dilip kumar ke pushtainee gharon ko museum banaane ka phaisala liya hai. Bharat ki kya koi pratikriya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) In Pakistan, it has been decided to convert the ancestral homes of Bollywood stars Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar into museums. Is there any reaction from India?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Our position on this issue is well known and consistent. I have nothing further to add for the moment. That is with the comments relating to the Prime Minister of Pakistan. About ancestoral property, this is an internal matter administrative matter of Pakistan and I have no real comment on it.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Deepak from PTI Bhasha is asking, "Afghanistan ki shanti, Sulah prakriya vaarta ko lekar ab tak kya pragati hui hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) What progress has been made so far in Afghanistan's peace reconciliation process talks?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Dekhie haal hee mein afghanistan mein hinsa kee badee vrddhi hui hai isiliye ham yuddh viraam, comprehensive ceasefire, ke apane aahvaan ko doharaana chaahate hain. Jahaan tak shaanti prakriya ka sambandh hai hamne hamesha kaha hai ki is mein Afghan ke netritv mein hona chaahie, Afghan led hona chaahie, Afghan owned hona chaahie, Afghan control process hona chaahie aur hamne yeh bhee doharaaya hai ki pichhle 20 varshon mein Afghanistan mein jo pragati hui hai usko hamein surakshit rakhana chaahie to is vishay mein hamaaree yeh position hai jo who kaafi clear hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) Look, there has been a huge escalation of violence in Afghanistan recently, so we want to reiterate our call for a comprehensive ceasefire. As far as the peace process is concerned we have always said that it should be Afghanistan led, Afghan owned, Afghan controlled process and we have also reiterated that the progress made in Afghanistan in the last 20 years should be preserved safely, so our position in this regard is very clear.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Ranjeet Kumar from Rakshak news is asking, "There are reports that China is increasing its military deployment and raising fresh infrastructure along the friction points on India China line of actual control. Has India raised the issue with China?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I would like to reiterate what I have shared earlier that the process of disengagement remains unfinished. The two sides have agreed 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 do anything that is not in keeping with these understandings. An early completion of the disengagement in the remaining areas could lead to de-escalation of forces in Eastern Ladakh, which would hopefully lead to full restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas and enable overall progress in the bilateral relationship.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "Will PM participate in G7 virtually?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sidhant, as and when the details are finalised we certainly share it with you.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Huma from Financial Express is asking, "Do we have any update on oil import from Venezuela? Was it discussed in External Affairs Minister’s interaction with US government officials during his visit to USA last week?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I'm not aware of any update on this issue or that it was discussed recently.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Deepak from PTI Bhasha is asking, "Rus se Bharat ko S-400 missile pranali ki aapoorti ke saude ke kriyaanvayan ko lekar kya koi badlaav aaya hai? Iski aapoorti kab tuk ho sakegi? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) Has there been any change in the implementation of the deal to supply the S-400 missile system from Russia to India?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Is maamale mein koi badlaav ke baare mein mujhe koi jaankaaree nahin hai aur aapoorti ke maamale mein aur aise technical sawal hamaare mantraalay,Ministry of defence se hi poochhe to behatar rahega. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) I am not aware of any changes in this matter and in terms of supply and technical questions like this, it would be better if you ask our Ministry of Defense.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep from Tribune is asking, "Has any schedule been fixed for the India Russia two plus two?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you would be aware, during the last telephonic conversation between Prime Minister and the President of Russia on April 28, we agreed to the Russian proposal to institute a two plus two dialogue mechanism at the ministerial level. Dates for the meeting, however, are yet to be finalized.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times is asking, "America aur England sahit kayi deshon ne bharat se air service par Covid ke kaaran rok laga rakhee hai. Kya ab jab haalaat sudhar rahe hain videsh mantraalay un deshon ke saath sampark mein hai ki ise jald se jald chaaloo kiya ja sake? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) Many countries including America and England have banned air service from India due to Covid. Now that the situation is improving, is the Ministry of External Affairs in touch with those countries to make it operational at the earliest?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Dekhiye jab ye Covid-19 ka doosra lahar shuroo hua, kuchh deshon ne koi temporary travel restrictions lagae hamaare oopar. Hamari yeh apeksha hai ki jo rok laga rakhee hai, ye hataain jaise hi hamara situation normalize ho jae. Hamne dekha hai ki kuchh deshon ne yah shuroo kar diya hai, yeh process of easing the restrictions. Isi tarah se agar baakee deshon mein ho,hamaaree to yahee apeksha rahegee. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) See, when this second wave of Covid-19 started, some countries imposed some temporary travel restrictions on us. It will be our expectation, hopefully, that the ban which has been imposed should be removed as soon as our situation is normalized. We have seen that some countries have started this process of easing the restrictions. Similarly, we will expect the same from other countries as well.

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

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay, thank you very much for joining at today’s evening Media Briefing. Good evening.

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