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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (May 09, 2024)

May 09, 2024

Shri Randhir Jaiswal, Official Spokesperson: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I warmly welcome you to this Press engagement and with that I open the floor for questions.

Huma: Sir, what were the outcomes of the meeting which the Foreign Minister had with his Maldives’ counterpart? That is one. Am I allowed to ask a second question now? So, there was this plane which has come back from Jamaica and had 218 Indians on board. So if you can share more details.

Yeshi: Yeshi Seli from the New Indian Express. Was there any talk of the last batch of Indian military men coming back from Maldives? And Dr. Jaishankar talked about reviewing all dimensions of the bilateral. What does that imply? Will there be a rethink on certain projects that India is doing over there? And also any update on the 16 sailors when they are coming back from Iran?

John: John Reed from the FT. I wanted to ask about the commission of inquiry about the Khalistani alleged killing in the US. And I was wondering whether and indeed when it was going to report back to the public or would these findings be kept private? And when will we be briefed on that? Thank you.

Pranay: Pranay Upadhyaya Zee News se. Sir, mera sawaal Canada me jo teen Bharatiya giraftaar kiye gaye hain aur unko jo bhi aarop lagaye gaye hain. Kya Bharat ne consular access manga hai in teeno ke liye aur abhi tak Canada sarkar ke saath kya koi official is maamle me baat hui hai?

[Question in Hindi: Approximate Translation] Pranay Upadhyaya from Zee News. Sir, my question is regarding the three Indians arrested in Canada and the allegations against them. Has India sought consular access for these three, and has there been any official communication with the Canadian government on this matter?

Sidhant: Sir, Sidhant from WION. Sir, related question to Pranay Sir’s. When it comes to Canada, we saw the comments by the Foreign Minister saying that she stands by the allegations. Have the Canadian side provided any evidence so far, when it comes to Indian government’s link when it comes to Nijjar killing?

Shri Randhir Jaiswal, Official Spokesperson: Okay, let me first go over these questions. Huma, your question was regarding EAM's meeting with the Foreign Minister of Maldives. The Foreign Minister of Maldives, as you know, he's here in town. Sometime back, we had released remarks of External Affairs Minister, which is there on our website. I will ask you to please refer to those as well. Both leaders discussed all aspects of the relationship. They also discussed regional issues, regional security issues. They also went over development cooperation program and cooperation that happens between India and Maldives. EAM, as you must have seen, in his remarks, he noted that as close and approximate neighbors, the development of India-Maldives ties was based on mutual interest and reciprocal sensitivity. He further noted that as far as India was concerned, these were articulated in terms of our Neighborhood First and SAGAR vision. We also looked at several other issues that form part of our overall engagement, capacity building, training, security issues on which we work together, and disaster relief, in many cases, India has been the first responder for Maldives. All those, the entire gamut of relationship was discussed when the two Foreign Ministers met this afternoon here in New Delhi.

Your question regarding the plane in Jamaica, we are given to understand that a chartered flight from Dubai landed in Jamaica, Kingston. There were several Indians on board. They had prior travel bookings. They also had prior hotel bookings, but the local authorities were not satisfied with them as tourists. And therefore, after a few days, after due formalities being done, they decided that they return to their point of origin, which is Dubai, and then they were sent back to Dubai on 7th May. So that is where we are.

Yeshi, your question regarding last batch of personnel in Maldives; so, you know, both Maldives and India, they have been engaged for quite some time to see how best they can continue the operation of the aviation platforms. And in that regard, you've seen developments that the first and second batch of our people who were providing support there, they had come back. And now what I can confirm to you is that the deputation of the competent Indian technical personnel has taken place. So that is where we are. And these platforms, as you know, they provide Medvac services and humanitarian services to the people of Maldives.

On 16 sailors who are there on the ship in Iran, we had made it very clear also that their coming back depends on their contractual obligations. Once those contractual obligations are taken care of, it is for them to decide, because the contractual obligation is between them and the company, them and the captain in charge. But we are in touch with Iranian government to take things forward, to get them released as early as possible.

Yeshi: [Inaudible] have they been replaced by civilians? Can we get any clarification on that because when the first batch returned…

Shri Randhir Jaiswal, Official Spokesperson: Yes, we had already said that we have replaced them with technical personnel from our side. Technical people who can operate those aviation platforms, they have been sent there and they will take care of the services.

John, your question regarding high-level committee, this question has been asked in this presser several times. High-level committee was constituted some time back to look into all the security concerns that were shared and we take those security concerns very seriously ourselves, for it impinges our own national security. The high-level committee continues to work. And as and when we are ready to share more information, we will do that with you and with several of our friends who have asked this question before.

Pranay, apka sawaal teen Bharatiyo ko le ke tha, jaisa ki aapko gyat hai, sab logon ko yaha sangyan hai, ki teen Bharatiyo ko hirasat me liya gaya hai, Nijjar ke mamle me. Hum logon ko bhi bataya gaya hai iske baare me. Halaaki iske baare me koi formal, aupcharik roop se koi rajnayik communication humare pas nahi aaya hai. Lekin humko bataya gaya hai ki ye teen logon ko hirasat me liya gaya hai is mamle me. Jaha tak consular access ki aapne baat ki, alag alag desho me alag alag praavdhan hota hai. Kai ek desho me aisa praavdhan hai ki agar consular access jisko hirasat me liya gaya hai agar wo na mange to phir waha ki sarkar humse humko ye baat… matlab ye request humare tak nahi laati hai. Suo moto nahi hota hai ki aapne waha ke nagarik ke, kisi desh ke nagarik ko hirasat me liya aur us desh ko aap counselor access de de.

[Answer in Hindi: Approximate translation] Pranay, your question was about the three Indians, as you are aware, all here are aware that three Indians have been arrested in the Nijjar case. We have also been informed about it. However, there has been no formal diplomatic communication to us regarding this. But we have been informed that these three individuals have been arrested in this matter. As far as your query on consular access is concerned, different countries have different provisions. In some countries, there is a provision that if the person arrested does not request consular access, then the government of that country does not communicate this request to us. It does not happen suo moto, that if you arrest a citizen of a country, and you give consular access to that country.

Sudhi: Is that official channel information? Can we say that Canada has informed us about the arrest? I mean I am just..

Shri Randhir Jaiswal, Official Spokesperson: Canada has informed us about the arrest. That’s correct.

Speaker: [Inaudible]

Shri Randhir Jaiswal, Official Spokesperson: What happens is in consular access in different countries, there are different norms. In certain countries if a person, say a national of a particular country, if he has been apprehended, then it is for that national to make a request that please give consular access to my Embassy. And thereafter, it is granted.

Yeshi: All three are Canadians or are they Indian nationals?

Shri Randhir Jaiswal, Official Spokesperson: Beyond that, we do not have any information. As I told you that we have been informed that three people have been arrested and they happen to be Indian nationals. That is what we have been told.

Sidhant, your question was regarding whether any evidence has been shared with us. Let me first make it clear that no specific or relevant evidence or information has been shared by the Canadian authorities in regard to this particular matter, till date, with us. You will therefore understand our view that the matter is being prejudged when people say X or Y. Obviously, there are political interests at work. We have long maintained that separatists, extremists and those advocating violence have been given political space in Canada. Our diplomats have been threatened with impunity and obstructed in their performance of duties. We have also pointed out to the Canadian authorities that figures associated with organized crime with links in India have been allowed entry and residency. Many of our extradition requests are pending with them. We are having discussions at the diplomatic level on all these matters with the Canadian side.

Ayanangsha Maitra: This is Ayanangsha Maitra, Foreign Secretary Kwatra Sir is in Dhaka. Sir during his visit, ahead of Prime Minister's tentative visit, is there any announcement or update on security on the Chicken's Neck corridor, adjoining Siliguri's area? Also Bangladesh is also increasing its interest in Indo-Pacific, they released the IPO. So, in the front of Teesta water sharing as well as IPO or border killing, is there some announcement there? Thank you, Sir.

Rishabh: Sir, earlier today, we heard a Spokesperson from the Russian Foreign Ministry saying and accusing West of interfering in Indian elections, specifically when it comes to the alleged plot to kill Pannun case or for that matter, the way Canada has been accusing India. Any comment on that?

Ileana: Good afternoon, Ileana, TASS News Agency. There were reports from Indian colleagues, in Indian newspaper, at least in one, on the issue which was discussed for, I guess, more than a year, including by our Foreign Ministers, Russian and Indian one. It is said that the problem with these billions of Rupees which were accumulated in Indian banks is resolved. And these Rupees are used for investment in India. So can you this report and if it's so, on what they were spent? And is it really no longer this problem exists? Thank you.

Umashankar: Umashankar NDTV India se. Mera sawaal ye hai ki, jo abhi pucha bhi gaya hai, ki Bharat ne America ke aaropo ko kharij kar diya sire se. Lekin kai wajaho se high level committee bhi banai hai. Is beech me Russia ki taraf se bayaan aata hai ki kisi bhi tarah ka sabut saja nhi kiya gaya hai. To Bharat Russia ke is bayaan ko kya endorse karta hai?

[Question in Hindi: Approximate Translation] Umashankar from NDTV India. My question, also asked earlier, is that it has been said that India has outrightly rejected the allegations made by America. However, a high-level committee has also been constituted for some reasons. Meanwhile, a statement came from Russia that no evidence has been provided in any way. So, does India endorse this statement from Russia?

Emerson: Good afternoon, Sir. I'm Emerson from Central News Agency. The 77th World Health Assembly is going to take place in Geneva, starting May 27, with the theme of ‘All for Health, Health for All’. Taiwan has been kept out of the WHA for many years, even as an observer, due to political factors. And this year, Taiwan is again appealing for international support for its participation as an observer. May I know India's position on this? Thank you.

Shri Randhir Jaiswal, Official Spokesperson: Okay. Thank you. Can we come back for the third round? Regarding your question, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, he visited Bangladesh on 8th and 9th. During the visit, he had meetings with his counterpart, the Bangladeshi counterpart. In addition, he also called on the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh. We have also put out a read-out of the meeting. Please have a look at the document to get more details. But to tell you that, you know, in the meeting with the Foreign Secretary, our Foreign Secretary and the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary, the entire gamut of relationship between India and Bangladesh was discussed. We have, as you know, a very strong development partnership, a very strong economic and trade partnership. We collaborate in political areas, in security areas; water resources is an important cooperation area as well; power, energy, defence, connectivity and subregional cooperation. So, all these matters were discussed in the meeting between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries.

Rishabh, your question regarding interference, you know, we had made some statements on reports emanating from the United States. We have made our position very clear whether it is United States Commission on International Religious Freedom or any other report that came out which made certain observations on that. And therefore, I'll leave your question to that point.

Umashankar Ji, apka bhi sawaal ka jawab yehi hai ki jo hum logon ka kahena tha American jo reports aai unpe, jo humko tippani karna tha, humne kaha aur aap dekhenge usme humne ye baat kahi hai ki kisi parakar ki koi influence baahar se karna chahe ya interfere karna chahe, bilkul sara sar galat hai, aur kabhi saksham nahi hoga hamare desh mein.

[Answer in Hindi: Approximate translation] Umashankar Ji, the answer to your question is same, that what we had to say, to comment on the reports that came from America, we have said. And as you can see, we have stated that any kind of influence or interference from outside is completely wrong and will not succeed in our country.

Ileana, your question is regarding investments of the money that is here on account of the trading arrangements between Russia and India. I don't have an update for you on that. But let me come back to you with more details. These are very technical issues. But I'm sure…let me come back to you on this in a few days time.

Emerson, your question regarding World Health Assembly; see, as far as Taiwan is concerned, India has cultural ties, scientific ties, trading ties, investment ties with Taiwan. And we want to facilitate these exchanges and take it forward.

Sudhi: Sir Sudhi Ranjan from Bloomberg. Sir just seeking a clarification, you, in your previous reply on Canada, you said, there is discussions, talk between the two countries going on, on the issues. Can you give us an understanding of the level and the format where the talks are? We've also seen Indian High Commissioner in Canada saying that there are talks going on. So what is the level of the talks? And also, Sir, we understand that the Joint Terror Mechanism between India and Canada was supposed to meet this year. Can you give us a clarity as to whether that meeting is happening?

Gautam: Sir, I'm Gautam Lahiri. Sir, coming back to questions on Foreign Secretary's visit to Bangladesh, he has begun his visit by meeting Prime Minister first. Then he met Foreign Minister and after that, counterpart. So whether is there any possibility or whether he has invited, on behalf of India, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to visit India soon.

Pia: Hi Pia with The Print, Sir, I have two questions. First is on Maldives. Was debt relief discussed in the talks between External Affairs Minister Jaishankar and his Maldivian counterpart? And secondly, a report had come out today claiming that India's rise on the world stage under Modi is a mirage. And it even said that in the US and the UK, Modi ranks 23 and 26 out of 35 popular foreign political leaders. In fact, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are placed above him. Any response on this report? Any reaction? Thank you.

Santosh: Sir, main Santosh Thakur Navbharat se. Sir mere do sawaal hai. Sir, ek toh Chini raajdoot ki, kaafi dino baad niyukti hui hai Bharat me, uspar apki pratikriya. Dusara Sir Nepal ne Kalapani sahit do aur sthaano ke, jinko le kar bich me vivvad tha, wo apne note pe chhapne ka ailaan kiya hai. Toh uspe apki partikriya. Dhanyavaad.

[Question in Hindi: Approximate Translation] Sir, I'm Santosh Thakur from Navabharat. Sir, I have two questions. First, Chinese Ambaasador has been appointed in India after a long time. Your reaction to that? Second, Nepal has announced to print images of Kalapani and two other places, on which there was a controversy, on its currency note. Your response to that? Thank you.

Speaker 3: Sir, I'm from German TV. So, there are arrests of gangs operating in India sending people to Russia. And eventually they are ending up in Russian Army. So, the question is that, is it a kind of a link to the Russian state or what is your comment on that?

Pranay: Sir, this is a supplementary to the same question. Recently, there were actions by CBI against some recruiting agents. So, is there any follow up? Did you get any information on that?

Huma: Sir, there are reports that Indian workers in Israel are feeling exploited and they are regretting the decision because they are not getting the pay and they are being made to work for longer hours. So, have you heard any such thing and if yes, what is Indian government doing?

Shri Randhir Jaiswal, Official Spokesperson: So, Sudhi, first regarding your question about discussions happening; yes, discussions are happening between India and Canada on some of the issues that I pointed out. You know, we have been telling them that you are giving political space to separatists, extremists and people who advocate violence. They are acting against India. We also have asked them to extradite several people. We have also conveyed our concerns regarding our diplomats being threatened and not being allowed to carry out their functions. So, on all these issues, discussion is happening between India and Canada. As far as the Joint Terror Mechanism that you said, I understand that it is something that should be happening, but I don't have the exact details. But these are normal talks, normal exchanges that happen between two countries, security and counter-terrorism. So, I will have an update as to when exactly it is happening, but it is there in the offing.

Gautam Ji, regarding Foreign Secretary's visit; yes, you know, the relationship between India and Bangladesh is very special, as you know. Foreign Secretary called on the Prime Minister, he also called on the External Affairs Minister. All issues were discussed and we gave a lot of importance, in keeping with our Neighborhood First policy, to Bangladesh. India is the leading development partner and also it is the largest trading partner of Bangladesh in the region. So, the visit of the Foreign Secretary will give a major boost to the partnership and impart a new momentum to this relationship as well.

Pia, regarding your question; yes, you know, I had said in my remarks when I talked about External Affairs Minister's engagement that development cooperation matters were discussed between the two leaders. Regarding the report that you are talking about, I have not seen any report. So, let me first have a look…

Pia: Sir, debt relief, not development cooperation. I have asked about debt relief.

Shri Randhir Jaiswal, Official Spokesperson: So, debt relief, these are issues which are part of development cooperation, you know. Development cooperation, development assistance, they form part of that pillar of work.

Santosh ji, apka sawaal Chini raajdoot ko le ke tha. China me humare raajdoot hain aur unke ab naye Chini rajdoot yaha aa rahe hain, toh ye chalta raheta hai. Ye to humare raajdoot waha hai, unke bhi raajdoot yaha hone chahiye, tabhi aadan pradan chalta rahega.

Nepal me note ko le ke jo apne baat kahi, uspe Videsh Mantri haal hi ke dino me Bhubaneswar me shayad unhone kaha ki ye jo masle hain, ye Nepal aur Bharat ke bich me jo bhi dialogue humare chal rahe hain boundary ko le ke, simawarti kshetra ko le ke, uske tehet chal rahi hain, aur koi unilateral action agar liya jata hai, usse jamini haqikat nahi badalta hai. To yeh masla jo hai dono desho ke bich me baat chit chal rahi hai.

[Answer in Hindi: Approximate Translation] Santosh ji, your question was regarding the Chinese Ambassador. We have our Ambassador in China, and new Chinese Ambassador is coming here, it's a normal routine. Our Ambassador is there, so their Ambassador should also be here, so that the exchanges can be continued.

Regarding your query about the currency note in Nepal, the External Affairs Minister, recently, in Bhubaneswar perhaps, stated that the dialogues between Nepal and India regarding boundary, border areas, are ongoing within that framework; and any unilateral action does not change the ground reality. So, this issue is being discussed through dialogue between the two countries.

Regarding your question, you know, we also understand that four people have been arrested, who were part of the network which were duping people or misguiding them and sending them away on false promises and false contracts. Four people have been arrested. CBI is investigating the matter. There are several others on whom the investigation is on and hopefully we will have better results soon.

Huma, regarding your question about Indian workers; see, if there is any matter of consular nature, those are issues which our Embassy handles. Our Embassy is always in touch with the community, our professionals who are staying abroad, our diaspora. And as and when there are issues, the Embassy looks into. So, hopefully now that you have told me, I am sure our Embassy is looking into all these matters.

Srinjoy: Sir, there has been a meeting between Tim Barrow and the EAM. Can you tell us a little about the meeting, what happened? Also, Sir, on the 24th of April, in five areas, in Chushul, at the Vasundhara gap, at Doka La, at Gora La and another place in the Northeast, there have been five meetings between Indian and Chinese military personnel. So, can you tell us if there is any forward movement?

Abhishek: Sir, Abhishek Jha from CNN News18 this side. My question is regarding this Tim Barrow-NSA, Tim Barrow’s meeting with EAM also. Did the issue of Khalistani or pro-Khalisthani activists active in UK was also discussed? We know that India is also investigating some of the activists who participated in last year March attack on India House. So, those issues were discussed or not? And my second question is Afghanistan Embassy's Consul General, Mariam Wardak, she has stepped down. Also, there are allegations, in fact, that she was found smuggling a substantial amount of gold. You have any comment on that?

Speaker 4: Sir, just in addition to the previous question, do you have any number of Indians who are trapped in Russia, in Russian army? And there are kind of reports in Punjab and other part of India, they are getting SMS to the family members, but we don't have any official confirmation how many people are there and what are their status. And also, this gang which is operating in India, do they have any link with the Russian state? What is your comment on that specifically?

Shri Randhir Jaiswal, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. So, first, coming to your question, you know, this is not the first time that we are answering this question. We have said in the past that over 20 people have approached us who want to be released from the Russian Army. We have taken up the matter with the Russian side. As a result, 10 people have returned back home. Because of this problem, some time back, CBI launched an investigation and raided several places. As a result of that, four people have been arrested. I understand that investigation is on in other locations and involving other people and people who are into this business. So, that is where we are. So, 20 plus people who are yet to come back, we have successfully been able to bring back 10 people and four people have been arrested so far here in India.

Abhishek and Srinjoy, your question relates to the visit of UK NSA, Sir Tim Barrow; the UK NSA is in India, today. He is co-chairing UK-India Strategic Dialogue along with our NSA. As part of this engagement, the two sides, they have had extensive discussions covering all security issues. Also, the meeting focused around technology and security initiative, which will be a major bilateral mechanism to strengthen cooperation in critical and emerging technologies. So, that is an important piece of discussion, an important piece of emerging collaboration between India and the UK. They also discussed bilateral issues, as I said, and also regional issues and global matters of mutual interest. This visit will give a major boost to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership that we have with the United Kingdom. As part of the visit, UK NSA also called on the External Affairs Minister and they reviewed bilateral ties. They also discussed regional and global issues.

Srinjoy regarding your question about the 24th April meeting, there are several engagements that happen between the two countries and these engagements are part of those ongoing talks. We have been updating you on the WMCC process and whenever we have military-to-military or diplomatic conversation with the Chinese side at the diplomatic level, we have been updating you on what is happening on peace and tranquility issues in border areas.

Abhishek, your question regarding CG of Afghanistan, we have seen some reports regarding the incident that you highlighted. We also have seen the statement issued by the diplomat. Further than that, we have nothing to add.

Thank you very much. See you next week.

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