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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (July 27, 2023)

July 27, 2023

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Very good afternoon to all of you. Thank you for joining us for this weekly media briefing. I don't have any particular announcements, so maybe I'll open the floor for questions.

Sidhant: Hi, Sir. Sidhant from WION. My question to you is the readout from China's side over the meeting between NSA Doval and China's Wang Yi. They claim that there was a consensus between Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President in Bali. If any comments can come from the Indian side from the MEA.

Reza: Reza from the Hindustan Times. Same question, but actually since Sidhant has already asked it, three members of an Indian Wushu team couldn't travel to China because they were given stapled visas because they're from Arunachal. I was wondering if you'd like to comment on that and what is our stand now on this issue of stapled visas.

Yeshi Seli: Yeshi Seli from the New Indian Express. The Parliamentary Standing Committee yesterday has suggested, amongst other things, that India starts, considers economic cooperation with Pakistan. Any comment?

Ayushi Agarwal: Sir Ayushi Agarwal from ANI. Sir this is regarding the Indians trapped in the fake job racket in Myanmar. We saw this statement by our Mission yesterday. Just wanted to know how many Indians are still trapped in the region in Yangon and in the neighboring like Laos and Cambodia if we can have a sense of that. How many Indians are trapped and how many are still, that needs to be get rescued?

Abhishek Jha: Hi, Sir. Abhishek Jha from CNN News18. My question is regarding this statement by the Government that illegally from Myanmar about 700 more, 700 plus people have entered India. So have you escalated this with the Myanmar government as well?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay. Let me try this round of questions and I'll come back for a few more. Sidhant, on your question regarding the statement I think about the NSA meeting with his counterpart, I think that was what you were referring to. Look, we have already issued a readout of the conversation, but your question I think was specific to a meeting, in reference to a Bali meeting. Now if you would recall that during the Bali G20 Summit last year, we had said, Foreign Secretary had said at briefing, that Prime Minister and President Xi Jinping at the conclusion of that dinner hosted by the Indonesian President, they exchanged courtesies and also spoke of the need to stabilize our bilateral relations. As you are aware, we have steadfastly maintained that the key to resolution of this whole issue is to resolve the situation along the LAC on the western sector of the India-China boundary and to restore peace and tranquility in the border areas. So that's what would be my response to that. Reza, your question regarding stapled visas, you mean yesterday evening or yesterday night's development. Look on that issue, let me just take you back…this has been something that we have discussed many years ago, our long-standing and consistent position is that there should be no discrimination or differential treatment on the basis of domicile or ethnicity in the visa regime for Indian citizens holding valid Indian passports. It has come to our notice that stapled visas were issued to some of our citizens representing the country in an international sporting event in China. This is unacceptable and we have lodged our strong protest with the Chinese side, reiterating our consistent position on the matter and India reserves the right to suitably respond to such actions.

Yeshi, on your question…look on the Parliamentary Standing Committee, this is the 22nd, I think Committee report…there are Parliamentary conventions and we cannot comment on recommendations. There is a process under which we will respond to the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee in all its depth, there are a number of recommendations on various aspects, particularly Neighborhood First as well as our other relationships. So I am afraid today won't be an opportune or corrective time for me to comment on that. Our position on, of course, relations with Pakistan is well known. But let us wait for what the Ministry will formally convey to Parliament, I think that would be the right way of going about it.

Speaker: Sir, isko Hindi mein.

[Question in Hindi: Approximate translation] Sir, in Hindi.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Maine jaise kaha aapko ki…jaise Yeshi ko kaha abhi, Parlimentary Standing Committee ki report ke bare mai woh prashn tha. Ye uchit nahi hoga ke hum abhi ispe koi jawab de. Kyuki uska ek niyam aur ek system rehta hai unka ke humko jawab Parlimentary Standing Committee ko hi dena padta hai. Toh uske liye wait kar le. Pakistan pe hamara kya rawaiyya aur kis tarah se cooperation karta hai ye toh sabko bhali bhanti malum hai par Parliament ke jo specific recommendations hain iske bare mai detailed response hum Parliament ko hi de payenge, abhi uspe comment karna uchit nahi hoga.

[Answer in Hindi: Approximate translation] As I said, just like I told Yeshi, the question was about the Parliamentary Standing Committee's report. It's not appropriate for us to give any answer on it right now. Because there is a rule and a system in place that we have to answer to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. So, let's wait for that. Everyone knows well our stand on Pakistan and how our cooperation is, but when it comes to the specific recommendations of the Parliament, we will provide a detailed response to Parliament itself. Commenting on it right now would not be appropriate.

Ayushi, your question, I wasn't sure what you exactly had in mind, because this issue has been coming, you know, every now and then it pops up. We haven't heard too many new cases, except of course there was a statement by our Mission in Yangon. But let me refer you actually to the statement that has been made, I think it was in Rajya Sabha…day before or was it in Lok Sabha yesterday, I forget. We have answered a statement where we have given a sense of the numbers. In Myanmar how many have been repatriated or rescued from there. How many are still, you know, stuck is very difficult to estimate and I would not like to speculate and we have discussed this in the past. But over 200…I think 290 odd numbers were talked about that actually come back; similarly from Cambodia, Laos. So, different routes that is happening, but I would refer you…since Parliament is in session, to refer you to our…the Parliament question that was responded to. I think that would give you exact picture of what is happening on that.

Abhishek, your query was on this media reports about, I think, Myanmar, how many people…

Abhishek Jha: Government statement.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I am not sure it is a Government statement. Somebody said, but I am not sure it is a Government statement. Atleast I have not seen the Government statement. So, let me make the following points. One, the issue of illegal migration, illegal immigration is dealt with by other agencies. So, let me refer you to them on this issue, specific issue of illegal immigration. Of course, from a larger perspective, as you are aware, since February 2021, the security situation in Myanmar has had implications for our North-Eastern states. Illegal trans-boundary movements, human trafficking, drug trafficking and smuggling are among our growing concerns and these issues have been raised with the Myanmar authorities. You would also recall, EAM met his Myanmari counterpart in Bangkok earlier this month and I think we responded to this last week. EAM had raised the importance of ensuring peace and stability along the border areas, you know, between our two countries, which have been seriously disturbed recently. So, let me leave it at that.

Pia: Hi, Pia with the Print. The US State Department recently commented on a viral video that came out of Manipur calling it brutal and terrible and it also encouraged a peaceful and inclusive resolution to the violence in Manipur. Any reaction from MEA on this?

Kallol: Kallol from the Hindu. Several leaders in Manipur have raised concerns about narco-terrorism coming from Myanmar. The language is often very aggressive and sort of seems to blame Myanmar for many things that are going wrong in Manipur. What is really your take on that? I mean, is really India's relation with Myanmar taking a hit?

Suhasini: Arindam, I would like you to clarify what you just said. Because you said that the Prime Minister met with President Xi Jinping at the conclusion dinner in Bali and you said that they exchanged courtesies and they discussed the border situation. That's not something that was said before. I am just looking right now at the Foreign Secretary's own press conference at the time and he said, I will only say that Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping who were both at the dinner yesterday hosted, exchanged courtesies at the conclusion of the dinner. So, I just wanted to confirm that there was more actually discussed because so far nobody has said anything substantial was discussed in the manner that was reported in the Chinese statement.

Ileana: Good afternoon. Ileana TASS News Agency. Today and tomorrow, Russia hosts the 2nd Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg. A lot of African leaders came to Russia and my question is, so do you follow this deliberation, these discussions, and how Russia and India, maybe, can deepen its cooperation on Africa? And also on the sidelines of the Summit, Russian President said that Russia expects that African Union will become a full member of G20. So what is India's position on such new member of G20? And maybe this issue already included in the text of the final declaration of the Summit.

Rodriguez: Good afternoon, Rodriguez from Prensa Latina. My question is related to the Summit of the Group of 77 plus China that will be held in Cuba on September 15 and 16. First, I would like to know if it is already known which Indian personality will participate in that event and I would also like an opinion about Cuba's role as President of that group. If it is possible, your answer in Spanish would be perfect. Thank You.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: While I do speak Spanish, I think there's not the appropriate forum to speak in other languages as I limited to Hindi and English. But anyway, let me try to the answer next round.

Pia, let me start with your query. You are referring to…there have been a media report recently of some different things. But look, I will limit myself to what I have actually seen…the statements. I think there was a statement by the Deputy spokesperson. Let me just mention…let me take you to Manipur perspective first. As you are aware, this is a matter on which our authorities, particularly the viral video on that incident as you mentioned, but other incidents also, on which our authorities are taking action to bring the perpetrators to justice and restore peace and normalcy in Manipur. We have seen those comments that you referred to by the US State Department, I think it is July 25th, which also acknowledge the same. So there is not much I can say beyond that, to that statement.

Kallol, I answered at length all the concerns that we had about the developments in Myanmar that is having impact, not just in Manipur perhaps, but across in our Northeast. And I did mention about drug trafficking, human trafficking, drugs, illegal smuggling, etc. So I think that is something that is of concern and we have raised it with the authorities in Myanmar. I am not going to make sweeping comments about our relationship with Myanmar, as you characterized in a particular way, I am certainly not going to do that. There are issues that we need to discuss, there are other things that we are also discussing with them, including on our bilateral aspects. As you have seen, including during the recent meeting between EAM and his counterpart, he talked about the issues that are on our agenda, so let me leave it at that.

Suhasini, you are correct on that. I should have clarified. That is my statement, so let me repeat again for clarification. During the Bali G20 Summit last year, Prime Minister and President Xi Jinping, at the conclusion of the dinner hosted by the Indonesian President, exchanged courtesies and spoke of the need to stabilize our bilateral relations. So that is the statement I am making. I think Foreign Secretary did mention, maybe he did not mention the second part of it. He did talk about exchanging courtesies and I think there was the general discussion or spoke of the need to stabilize our bilateral relationship or relations and how we see that I explained that…I am sure you would have picked up.

Ileana, your question has two parts to it. Let me start with the second part. On the African Union becoming a permanent member, they are, every time invited, they are a permanent invitee, they are there at every G20 Summit. We have invited them as the Chair of the AU, but there is also, as you know…we spoke about it I think some time ago, that Prime Minister has written to his counterparts, proposing that the African Union be admitted as a full member and we hope that this does happen. It will be premature to say this till all countries…it works by consensus. So let us see what happens in the final thing, but India would be supportive and would like to assist the AU become a full member of the G20. And I will have to check the exact dates, but I understand it was some time ago. And, of course, you mentioned Russia has conveyed its support, I have not seen that, but if it is so, obviously, that will be a positive step in that direction that we want it to go.

On the Russia-African Summit…yes, of course, we follow international developments, all international developments closely, but I would not be able to answer in any particular detail about whether we have discussed with Russia and…lets say, in the last bilateral conversation, cooperating in third countries, particularly in Africa, I would have to check that. But as I said, overall, we have ourselves a very robust cooperation mechanism with African countries. So I do not know what exactly would be the contours of what we would do with Russia in Africa, so let me not comment without further details that I do not have.

Ms. Rodriguez, well, nice to see somebody from Prensa Latina here, welcome here. Look, we obviously attach importance to the Group of 77 plus China and its meetings and as you mentioned, the Summit that is going to happen. Maybe you are not regular enough on this, my standard answer to high-level participations and in events, is very well known for the rest of the colleagues, that whenever I have something to share with you on such confirmations, I will certainly do so, but I do not have any information at this point to share with you. Of course, we would like to see a very successful event and we look forward to Cuba's leadership of that event and that it become success for…this is a group of developing countries on which we believe can voice concerns of…our concerns and particularly in the UN and once we have a decision of what level we have participation, who will be leading our delegation, we will certainly share with you.

Srinjoy: Sir, Times Now. First of all, G20 is just a month and a bit away. You would expect the Chinese leaders to be here. There are still one or two areas in Ladakh where there are differences of opinion and only a month or so remains before G20. Is there likely to be a WMCC in an effort to sort out the issue and also a Commander's Conference?

Manish Jha: Sir main Manish Jha hoon TV9 se. Mera sawal hai ki aapne bhi abhi suna hoga ki ek Indian citizen Anju Pakistan gayi aur phir Pakistan mai jis tarah se usko lekar videos vagerah sab aa rahe hain, usse lagta hai ki kahin woh ISI ya kisi aise agency ke kabje mai ho?

[Question in Hindi: Approximate translation] Sir, I am Manish Jha from TV9. My question is, you must have heard that an Indian citizen named Anju went to Pakistan, and based on the videos etc coming about her from Pakistan, it seems she might be under the control of ISI or some other such agency.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Ye aapka assessment hain na?

[Question in Hindi: Approximate translation]: This is your assessment, right?

Manish Jha: Ho sakta hai sir. Toh kya kisi tarah ka concern aapko lagta hai kyuki uska dharm change karaya gaya, nikah ho gayi hai. Toh bataya ja raha hai ki Seema Haidar jawab Pakistan ki taraf se Anju hai. Thank you.

[Question in Hindi: Approximate translation] It is possible, sir. Do you have any concerns about it, considering that she has undergone a change of her religion and got married? It is being claimed that Anju is the answer from the Pakistan for Seema Haidar. Thank you.

Neeraj: Sir, do sawal hain. Oppenheimer jo film ke scene ko lekar vivad hua hain, koi shikyat videsh matralay tak is mamle mai pahuchi hain? Dusra sawal ye hain ki pakistan (inaudible)…Toh kya is mamle ko lekar aapke sangyan mai hai? Agar hai to kya Pakistan se is bare mai baat ki jayegi unki body ko wapas lane ke liye?

[Question in Hindi: Approximate translation] Sir, there are two questions. Regarding the controversy surrounding the Oppenheimer movie scene, has any complaint reached the Ministry of External Affairs on this matter? The second question is that Pakistan (inaudible)...So, is it in your cognizance, regarding this matter? If yes, will there be a discussion with Pakistan regarding bringing back the body?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Mujhe to bataya gaya, dafnaya gaya hai. Uske baad aap keh rahe hai?

[Answer in Hindi: Approximate translation] I was told that she has been buried. After that, you are saying?

Okay, if there are no further questions, let me just close with that. Srinjoy, I am not going to speculate when the WMCC or Commander's Conference will happen. When they happen, we will certainly share with you. G20 is not too far away and we are making all efforts and preparations to ensure that it is a success with participation of all the leaders invited.

Manish aapka prashn tha hamare nagrik ke bare mai actually. Dekhiye ye foreign policy issue to nahi hai, toh ispe main kuch keh nahi paunga. Agar koi consular mudda hai ya consular se sambandhit, uske baare mei kuch issue hai toh usi prakar ki prakiya ki jayegi usi tarah se jo procedures hain woh ki jayengi. Par abhi ye niji mamla hai, ye koi foreign policy issue hamari taraf se nahi hai. Aapne baaki speculate kiya kya ho sakta hai, kya nahi, aap patrakar hain, aap likhiye ispe, main ispe koi jawab nahi de paunga.

[Answer in Hindi: Approximate translation] Manish, your question was about our citizen, actually. Look, this is not a foreign policy issue, so I won't be able to say anything about it. If there's any consular matter or any consular related issue, it will be handled through the appropriate procedures. But right now, this is a private matter, and it's not a foreign policy issue from our end. You have speculated what might happen, what might not. As a journalist, you can write on it, but I won't be able to provide any answers on this.

Neeraj, Oppenheimer, kya aap woh film ki baat kar rahe the? dekhiye videsh mantralaya films ke area mai nahi hai, woh dusri ek mantralaya hai, unse aap puche to behtar hoga.

[Answer in Hindi: Approximate translation] Neeraj, are you talking about the Oppenheimer movie? Look, the Ministry of External Affairs is not involved in the film's domain; it falls under another Ministry. It would be better if you ask them.

Shailendra aapne prashna kiya ek report hai ki koi body mila tha, keh rahe hain ki Kargil se koi missing hain unhi ka body hain. Hamein is issue pe hamari jankari hai thodi bahot, par hum abhi Pakistani authorities ke sampark mai hain. Jab jyada information aaye to batayenge. Abhi recent woh information hai, I think yahan pe pakistani authorities se hum baat kar rahain hain, aur details jaanne ki koshish kar rahe hain.

[Answer in Hindi: Approximate translation] Shailendra, you asked about a report regarding a body that was found, claiming it might be of a missing person from Kargil. We have limited information on this issue, but we are currently in contact with the Pakistani authorities. We will provide more details when we receive additional information. That is recent information. I think, we are in touch with the Pakistani authorities here, and trying to gather more information.

Neeraj aapne dusra bhi ek prashn pucha tha, woh deaf and dumb koi the wahan pe, uske bare mai mujhe pura detail nahi hai ki woh kya exactly hain. Humne bhi report dekhi hai, uske bare mai information nikalne ki koshish kar rahe hain. Information gather karne ki koshish kar rahe hain. Jab hamare paas rahegi jarur hum aapse share karenge. Individual consular cases mai main bahot hesitant rahta hoon kuch kehne ke liye, privacy aur kuch aur mudde bhi involved rehte hain.

[Answer in Hindi: Approximate translation] Neeraj, you asked another question about the deaf and dumb person there. I don't have complete details about it. We have also seen the reports and are trying to gather more information about it. When we have the information, we will definitely share it with you. In individual consular cases, I am very hesitant to speak on that, since there are privacy and other issues involved.

Srinjoy: Sir, your equivalent in Islamabad has taken offence to statement by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh saying that he has crossed the line, so on and so forth.

So how do you react to such thing?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Oh very simply, Honorable Defence Minister has said something, that stands on its own. I am nobody to clarify that or explain that, it’s pretty clear. If you have any further thing, please ask him. I have nothing further to say on that.

Thank you. Good afternoon.

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