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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (July 08, 2021)

July 08, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very Good evening to all of you. Welcome to this week's Media briefing. I'll hand over to Yatin to take us through the questions.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, Dhairya from Sputnik has asked, "Could you please share some details about Mr. Jaishankar stopover in Tehran yesterday? Does India back Iran's inclusion in JCPOA now”. Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha is asking,”Videsh mantri S. Jayashankar ki Rus aur Iran yaatra ke kya nihitaarth rahe? (Questioned in Hindi;Approximate Translation) What were the implications of External Affairs Minister Jaishankar's visit to Russia and Iran?” Meghna from Doordarshan is asking, "Is there any discussion on the situation in Afghanistan on the agenda of talks between EAM and his Russian counterpart?” We have similar question from Maha from CNN News18 and Archana from Bloomberg.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you Yatin. As you know, EAM left for a visit to Russia yesterday. During his technical halt in Tehran EAM called on the President-elect of Iran Ayatollah Sayyid Ebrahim Raisi, and also held a meeting with his counterpart the Foreign Minister of Iran, Dr. Javad Zarif. EAM carried a personal message from our Prime Minister to the President-elect of Iran. The two sides exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest. They also discussed the evolving situation in Afghanistan, and expressed concerns over the deteriorating security situation in that country. Both sides also discussed joint connectivity initiatives in the region, including the international North South Transport corridor, and the Chabahar Port. EAM reiterated India's interests in the region and support for efforts to maintain peace, security and stability. As regards the JCPOA, we have always maintained that issues that have arisen from that should be resolved peacefully through constructive diplomacy and dialogue amongst all parties. And on the Russia leg we had subsequently you would have seen the press release that we have issued, highlighting the importance of the visit, and its scheduled interactions in Russia. Are there any other questions on the Russia perspective?

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Archana from Bloomberg is also asking, "What outcomes are we to expect from Foreign Ministers visit to Russia”.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As we have said the press release was quite detailed. This includes in terms of his engagements, meetings with the Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov and the chair of the State Duma Committee on international affairs, Leonid Slutsky. External Affairs Minister will also deliver a lecture at an important Think Tank later today. We will of course share updates as the visit progresses. Over to you Yatin.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Maha from CNN News 18 is asking, "Is the Indian government looking at possibility of closing its consulate in Kandahar due to the Taliban making inroads there?” Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times has a question, "Afghanistan mein jaari taaja haalat par Bharat ka kya stand hoga? vahaan pichale kuchh dinon mai hinsak sangharsh badh gae hain. (Questioned in Hindi;Approximate Translation) What will be India's stand on the current situation in Afghanistan? Violent conflicts have increased there in the last few days.” Sidhant from WION is asking, "How do you assess the situation in Afghanistan? Is there any plan to bring Indian nationals back?” Archana from Bloomberg is asking, "How concerned are you about the possible Taliban takeover of Afghanistan? Is India currently bolstering its military support to the Afghan forces to stop the Taliban at once?” We have similar question from Huma from Financial Express, Munish from PIO TV, and Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, this is an evolving and fluid situation. And there are various aspects to those questions. Let me say that there was a clarification issued by our embassy in Kabul earlier this week, you would have seen that. The clarification indicated that our embassy in Kabul and our consulates in Kandahar and Mazar- e- Sharif are functional. We are, however, carefully monitoring the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, and its implications on the security and safety of Indian nationals in Afghanistan. Our responses will be calibrated accordingly, depending on how the situation evolves.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Dhairya from Sputnik is asking, "Pakistan's NSA Moeed Yusuf has blamed India for the Lahore bomb blast. He has also said in an interview that Pakistan is no longer involved in backchannel talks with India. Response from MEA would be much appreciated.” Nayanima from The Print is asking, "Pakistan has made severe allegations on how India is behind the Lahore blast that took place last month. What is India's reaction to that?” Deepak from PTI Bhasha has a question, "Pakistan ke Raashtrapati dwara haal mein bharat par aarop lagaaya gaya ki vah Afghanistan ki jameen ka Pakistan ke khilaf hybrid yuddh mein istemal kar raha hai. Is par mantraalay kee kya pratikriya hai? (Questioned in Hindi;Approximate Translation). Recently, India was accused by the President of Pakistan that it is using the land of Afghanistan in a hybrid war against Pakistan. What is the reaction of the Ministry on this?” We have similar question from Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times, and Sidhant from WION.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: What can I say? It is not new for Pakistan to engage in baseless propaganda against India. Pakistan would do well to expend the same effort in setting its own house in order and taking credible and verifiable action against terrorism, emanating from its soil and terrorists who have found safe sanctuaries there. The international community is well aware of Pakistan's credentials when it comes to terrorism. This is acknowledged by none other than its own leadership, which continues to glorify terrorists like Osama Bin Laden as martyrs.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Gautam Lahiri is asking, "Neighbouring countries are awaiting second dose of Covishield vaccines which is overdue, can India allow commercial agreement as token gesture?” Praveen Gautam from News Point is asking,”Videshon se aayat hone wali Covid vaccine ke baare mein abhee taaja update kya hai? (Questioned in Hindi;Approximate Translation) What is the latest update regarding Covid vaccine being imported from abroad?”, Mahafrom CNN News 18 has a question, "What is the progress of Covaxin’s clearance from WHO”, Munish from PIO TV is asking, "Any progress on discussions with major countries like USA and UK on approving Indian Covaxin for travellers?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Again, there are a number of questions on that issue. Let me try to address some of them. First of all, let me reiterate that our current focus continues to be on purposing domestic production towards the India's domestic vaccination programme. We are also actively pursuing the enhancement of vaccine availability through imports. This has helped increase the pace of vaccination in recent weeks. Aur jahan tak ke vaccines ke ayaat ki baat hai, usmein main to yahee kah paunga ki ye aarogya mantraalay se aap sampark karen kyonki ye unke under aata hai aur wo hi is aayaat ke vishay mai aapko sthitee bata paainge (Answered in hindi;Approximate Translation) And as far as the import of vaccines is concerned, in that regard I can only say that you should contact the Ministry of Health as it comes under them and they will be able to tell you the exact position regarding this import. Regarding Covaxin approval by WHO we continue to monitor the progress, but I would refer you to Bharat Biotech for the exact status of where it stands. We also hope that individual countries would increasingly recognise made in India vaccines.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Gautam Lahiri is asking, "How many countries have shown interest to adopt Indian CoWIN application, how India will proceed to transfer the technology and whether India has decided to start with neighbouring countries?” Praveen Gautam from Newspoint is asking,” Ab tak kin-kin deshon ne teekakaran abhiyaan ke liye digital manch CoWin ko apanaane mein ruchi dikhai hai? kya bharat software ko nihshulk sajha karne ke liye bhi taiyaar hai? (Questioned in Hindi;Approximate Translation) Which countries have shown interest in adopting CoWin digital platform for vaccination campaign so far? Is India even ready to share the software for free?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you are aware, a very important event, the CoWIN Global Conclave was convened earlier this week on July 5, which was actually addressed by our Prime Minister and other dignitaries. This was an opportunity to offer to the world our indigenously developed digital solution, digital platform CoWin and which is an open source that can be shared with all. More than 400 participants from over 140 partner countries participated. For the moment I'd leave it at that, but discussions will continue with our partner countries.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Rajiv Menon from Malayalam Manorama is asking, "Indian experts could not go back to Gulf because of travel ban and vaccine brand related prohibitions. Whether MEA is having any talks with Gulf countries for relaxation in travel for Indians? Visas of many have expired, but they could not make it to get there. Whether India would ask this country to give relaxation in visa norms under the present circumstances?” Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times is asking, "kai saare students ko alag-alag deshon ki embassy ke band rahne ke karan visa lene mein dikkat ho rahi hai. Kya sarkar inse koi sampark kar rahi hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Many students are facing difficulty in getting visa due to the closure of embassy of different countries. Is the government in touch with them?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As we have said earlier, we hope that with the vastly improved COVID situation in India, countries would ease restrictions for travel from India. We have been taking up this issue with foreign partners, wherever possible. Recently, External Affairs Minister and MOS Shri Muraleedharan held a meeting with our ambassadors in Gulf countries where our ambassadors were requested to take up with their host countries the issue of resumption of flights with India. EAM has also raised this issue during bilateral meeting with Saudi Arabia on the margins of the recently held G20 ministerial meeting in Italy, Foreign Secretary has raised this issue with his counterparts, this issue of normalisation of travel, and mobility of students, professionals and enabling family reunions. So in summary, we are actively trying to help Indians who need to travel back to various countries across the world.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "What is the update on Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi?” Deepak from PTI Bhasha is asking, "Bhagode hira kaarobari Mehul Choksi aur Nirav Modi mamle ki taaja stheeti kya hain (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What is the latest status of fugitive diamond merchant Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi case?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Well, while we share your concern at the need to bring such fugitives back to India to face justice I actually don't have an immediate update on the legal proceedings that are underway. We will continue of course to closely follow developments in these cases.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Vishnu Som from NDTV is asking, "Does Government of India property in Paris, which has reportedly been attached as per court order include the residence of Indian Ambassador and the Embassy in Paris?” Elizabeth from Live Mint is asking, "What is the Indian Government's strategy going to be as Cairn energy has secured a Paris court order to freeze Indian assets in France.” Kadambini from NDTV is asking, "Your reaction to French court order to seize 20 Indian properties in Paris Cairn case.” I have similar question from Archana from Bloomberg and Amiti Sen from Hindu Business Line.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, we've seen the media reports on this. This is actually a matter that's dealt with by the Ministry of Finance. And I understand they have issued a detailed statement earlier in the day. I would refer you to that for answers to these queries.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Devi Roopa from The Wire is asking, "What was the purpose of the meeting of Indian Ambassador with OIC Secretary General? What was the review of OIC resolutions as mentioned in press release? Has there been previous meeting like this?” Kalol from Hindu is asking, "Will MEA please inform about the details of the meeting between the Indian ambassador and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Secretary General, what prompted India's envoy to discuss Kashmir with Secretary General of OIC. Is this not violation of India's traditional stance on Kashmir as a bilateral dispute? Will India allow an OIC delegation’s visit to Kashmir?” Sidhant from Wion is asking, "Indian envoy to Saudi Arabia had met OIC Secretary General, what were the points of conversation and OIC wants to send a team to Kashmir. Pakistan has also issued a statement on it. What is your reaction to that?” I have similar question from Nayanima from ThePrint, and Kadambini from NDTV.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We have seen the press release issued by the OIC Secretariat regarding the meeting between our Ambassador and the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia and the Secretary General of the OIC earlier this week on July 5th. The meeting was actually held in response to an earlier request made by the OIC Secretary General to meet our Ambassador. During this meeting, a wide range of issues were discussed. Our Ambassador conveyed the need to correct some of the misperceptions about India that are perpetrated by vested interests in the OIC. Further he conveyed that the OIC should be watchful that their platform is not subverted by these vested interests for comments on internal affairs of India or for anti-India propaganda through biased and one sided resolutions. Well as regards Pakistan, I've already referred to vested interests in my comments. I think that's very clear.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times is asking, "Stan Swamy ke nidhan ke baad vishv ke kaee maanavaadhikaar sangathanon ne sawaal uthae hain. Videsh mantraalay ne is baare mein sarkar ka paksh rakha tha lekin iske baavjood America ke ek sangathan ne is par savaal uthaaya. Is par kya kehna chaahega videsh mantraalay? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) After the death of Stan Swamy, many human rights organizations around the world have raised questions. The Ministry of External Affairs had clarified the views of the government in this regard, but despite that, an organization of America raised questions on it. What would the Ministry of External Affairs have to say on this?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: "Ji jaisa ki aapane khud kaha, hamne is baare main, is vishay par ek press release statement diya tha. Media queries kafi aayee thi. Main sirf usko dohra sakta hoon. Abhi mere pas aur kuchh kehne ke liye us vishay pe nahin hai.(Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Yes, as you yourself said, we have given a Press release statement on this subject. A lot of media queries were received. I can only repeat that. I don't have anything more to say on that subject right now.”

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Archana fromBloomberg is asking, "Does the Indian government have a comment on French court ordering investigation of its purchase of Rafale combat jets from France’s Dassault?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look this clearly a matter for the Ministry of Defence and I would refer you to them for a response.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Huma from Financial Express is asking, "Can you share updates on MOS visit to Guatemala and CARICOM countries?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: MOS Shri Muraleedharan is on an official visit to Guatemala, Jamaica and Bahamas. You would have seen the press release that was issued prior to the visit, as well as the detailed press releases that have been issued for different legs of this visit. I would hope that these detailed statements would address your query.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "When are the commander level talks in Ladakh?” and Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha has a question that, "Poorvi ladakh mein cheen ke jaari gatirodh ki vartmaan sthiti kya hai?. (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What is the current status of standoff with China in Eastern Ladakh?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Well, you would recall that the 22nd meeting of the working mechanism for consultation and coordination on India-China border affairs was held on 25th of June. The two sides also agreed to hold the next, that is the 12th round of senior commanders meeting at an early date. We will certainly share any update once we have that. Meanwhile, I'd like to reiterate that early completion of disengagement in the remaining areas could pave the way for the two sides to consider de-escalation of forces and ensure full restoration of peace and tranquillity and enable progress in the overall bilateral relations.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now has another question, "What made the Indian government wish Dalai Lama on his birthday after a long while?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: It is the consistent policy of the Government of India to treat his holiness Dalai Lama as an honoured guest in India and as a respected religious leader who enjoys a large following in India. His Holiness’s birthday is celebrated by many of his followers in India and abroad.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Munish from PIO TV is asking, "I don't recollect the last time Ministry of External Affairs had three Ministers of State. Induction and reshuffle by Prime Minister Modi is strategic domestically, what does it imply in terms of external relations? Any particular allocations or portfolios for this MoSs?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, I can't comment on the statements made in the question, let me just say that yesterday a swearing in ceremony of new ministers in the cabinet took place in which two additional Ministers of State joined MEA. Both Ministers Smt Meenakashi Lekhi and Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, assumed their charges today, team MEA extends a very warm welcome to both of them.

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

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you Yatin. Thanks to all our viewers for joining in. I look forward to our next engagement next week. Good evening.

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