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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (February 06, 2020)

February 07, 2020

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Friends, Namaskar, good afternoon and welcome to this weekly briefing. Before I open the floor to questions I have two announcements and one update.

Two announcements on the State visit of the President of Portugal and the official visit of the Vice President of Vietnam and the update will be on n-Coronavirus from this ministry’s perspective.

On the State visit of the President of Portugal to India. The President of Portugal, His Excellency Mr. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa will be paying a State visit to India from 13-16 February at the invitation of Hon’ble President of India. He will be accompanied by a high-level delegation. This will be President Marcelo’s first visit to India. The last visit by a President of Portugal to India was in 2007. 14th February is the main engagement day. There will be a delegation level talk with the Prime Minister. President of India will meet the visiting President on the same day. Vice President will call on the President and thereafter the President will also travel to the state of Maharashtra and Goa.

India’s relationship with Portugal are marked by warmth and friendship and have assumed dynamism in recent years. I will update the full press release on our website.

The second announcement is regarding the official visit of Vice President of Vietnam from 11 – 13 February. Vice President of Vietnam Ms. Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh would be on an official visit to India on 11 – 13 February 2020. The delegation level talks with the Hon’ble Vice President will take place on the 12th February and the visiting Vice President will also call on the Hon’ble President of India. During the visit, the direct flight between India and Vietnam would be announced. India-Vietnam links are built on firm foundation of close cultural, historical, civilizational links and are marked by mutual trust and understanding as well as strong cooperation in regional and international forums. The visit of the Vice President would strengthen the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership established in 2016 between the two countries. After Delhi, the Vice President is scheduled to visit Bodhgaya on 13th February 2020.

On the update, you are aware that the situation is being reviewed by the Government of India at a high level on a regular basis. Ministry of External Affairs in coordination with the other ministries and institutions, we have undertook a very comprehensive, very elaborate and very proactive steps following the n-Coronavirus outbreak in China. We have successfully carried out evacuation of 640 Indian nationals and 7 nationals of Maldives on two flights. These Indian nationals belonged to the city of Wuhan and nearby areas and who did not show any symptoms of any illness. It was a complex operations as you are all aware and we do appreciate the support and facilitation extended by the Government of China during this exercise.

We have also issued regular advisories on this issue. You are aware that we had asked Indian nationals to refrain from travelling to China. There was an updated yesterday that people travelling to China henceforth will be quarantined on return. Separately travel to India from China on e-visas they have been temporarily suspended and we have also announced that all existing e-visas are no longer valid. Similarly the normal visas which have been issued are no longer valid. Those who have compelling reasons to visit India, they should contact embassy or their nearest consulates to apply for a visa. The visa sections of our embassies and consulates will extend all possible facilitation.

So this was the update. What I propose to do is to take questions on n-Coronavirus first and then we can move on to other topics.

Question: Aapne bataayaa ki n-Coronavirus ko lekar 640 Bharatiya aur 7 Maldivians ko evacuate kiyaa gayaa hai. Main jaanana chaahtaa hoon ki abhi aur kitne Bharatiya un khsetron mein hain to Coronavirus se prabhaavit China ka ilaakaa hai aur kyaa unke evacuation ka bhi koi plan hai?

(You told that due to n-Coronavirus 640 Indians and 7 Maldivian nationals have been evacuated till now. I want to know how many Indians are still there in the n-Coronavirus affected areas of China and is there any plan to evacuate them?)

Question: As a neighboring country are we helping China in any way possible by any supplies because we saw the tweet by Chinese Foreign Ministry listing out the countries, are we also helping out?

Question: As you know we have banned the export of masks and some protective clothes to our neighboring country but I want to know how can India reach out to those who are suffering with these disease in Wuhan and other areas and there are certain organizations which have collected certain material and they are waiting for Indian Government’s response to reach out to China?

Question: I have a question about India’s visa policy. India has announced to suspend all the visas including regular e-visas. So how about those visas for the Chinese diplomats who have to perform the official duty here, I mean do they have to apply for new visas if they come back from China or if they have to apply for a new visa, do you have some more efficient way to give the visa, like now you have given one email on their website and sometimes email don’t work and I mean if Chinese Ambassador today goes back to China for meeting, does he has to apply for a new visa to come back to India?

Question: e-visa ke cancellation ke baad jo OIC cardholder hain uspe kya status hain kyonki Gujarat ki ek ladki hai jo OIC cardholder hai aur 7 ghante ke safar ke baad India aai hai aur India mein IGI par wo bheetar rakhi gaii hai, use baahar nahi aane diyaa jaa rahaa hai aur kahaa jaa rahaa hai ki usko waapis bhejane kii baat ho rahii hai.

(What is the status of OCI cardholders after the cancellation of e-visa because there is a girl from Gujarat who is OCI cardholder. She has come to India after traveling for seven hours and now she has been kept inside the IGI airport and she is not allowed to come out and it is being said that she will be sent back.)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Fir to unka visa nahi lagaa hoga, main koshish karta hoon, jo nahi pataa hogaa wo baad mein bataaunga.

(This means she would not have required visa, I will try to answer your question. Whatever I don’t know I will let you know later.)

Question: How are ensuring the safety of Indian diplomats or any other Indian employees who are in Wuhan or away from Wuhan and also that what is the status of commercial flights between India and China, have they all been cancelled or there is any provision?

Question: Wahaan Wuhan mein Maharashtra, Dhule ke do kshaatron ne ye bolaa ki Government of India humko le to jaayegi par wapas aane ke hamaare pass paise nahi hain, hum khatre mein hain hum jaante hain lekin hum waapis isliye nahi jaa paa rahe hain kyonki ye scholarship ke alaawaa hamaari poori family ke paas aisii koi aamdani nahii hai aur unhone bola aise sirf hum do nahi hain, aise bahut saare chhatra hain jo waapis jaanaa chaahte hain lekin ab ye hai ki wahaan se waapis kaise aayenge is wajah se khatra hote hue bhi wahaan par rahne ke liye mazboor hain, to un logo ka kyaa aap log kuch soch rahe hain?

(Two students of Dhule, Maharashtra in Wuhan said that Government of India will take them to India but we don’t have money to come back to China later. We know we are in danger but we are not able to go back to India because we don’t have any money other than the scholarships and neither do our families have any income as such. They also said that it is not just two of us, there are several such students like us who want to go back to India but since they don’t have money to come back once things get normal and hence they are forced to stay in Wuhan in spite of the danger there, so what are you thinking about such people?)

Question: Similar updates, can you give on Hong Kong and other parts of China?

Question: Since the existing visas that have been issued are no longer valid what is the process of refund of visa fee?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Look, what I realized was perhaps I may not have the answer to many of the technical questions which have been raised but I will try my best to give you answer to most of the questions which have been raised.

You see when we started this exercise, I shared with you last time that we did contact the people, the Indian nationals who were living in the city of Wuhan and also in that province. We ascertained their willingness to travel to India based on that we prepared a list, we had a list ready with us and based on the number of people who had indicated their desire to come back to India we had mounted these two flights and in those two flights we got several hundred Indians back.

Some people who were not well and you during these times there are very strict health protocols at place both in China as well as in India. So because they could not go through that health screening process, I think between the two flights you had 10 such people who had indicated their willingness but they could not travel because of the screening failure. And of course apart from these 10 there are several other people who are in that province who chose to stay back and of course in the wider Chinese mainland there are several other hundreds and thousands of people but we are talking about Wuhan and Hubei.

We got in touch with the Chinese authorities, I am talking about people who stayed back like the 10 of them who could not come back in the flight and especially we sought their assistance to monitor the health and welfare of these Indian nationals. Our mission is in regular contact with them and we are exploring all possible options to ensure their safety and their well-being.

As far as other Indians are concerned, as far as Indians perhaps in some adjoining provinces are concerned, look, we are very closely monitoring the situation. You it is an outbreak of huge proportions and we are committed to the welfare of Indian nationals who are abroad and we will take steps as necessary. You are aware that we have these high level meetings taking place at a very regular basis and as and when any decision is taken you will be briefed through the press releases or from Ministry as far as the MEA angle is concerned I will be always here to brief you.

Again updating you that we had asked for their willingness that if you want to come, you please come and people who signed up, people who indicated their preference, they came. Now regarding the people according to your questions, now we will have to deal with the situation as and when it comes, I mean I don’t have a definitive answer as to how it is going to be resolved. Anybody who wanted to come and who passed the screening test they are already in India. What happens in the next stage, I think that is being monitored and discussed and as and when we come to a situation where some action is to be taken, that will be done.

About the staff and officials who are at the embassy, you see again we are very closely monitoring the situation. As and when the situation demands or as and when there is necessary we will take steps in that direction. So nothing in that direction as of now.

There was a question about the applicability of this whole thing, the visa restriction, it is applicable only to Chinse mainland and not to Hong Kong and other areas.

On the relief assistance to China, look, as I said that we are of course closely looking at the situation. China is making all efforts to deal with the outbreak. If required we will be willing to extend all possible assistance to China.

On Chinese diplomat visas, you see let me again clarify. You have a provision of e-visa and e-visa is available for certain categories of visits to India, short tourism and short term business visa are among few of them. Diplomats do not fall in that category. You can’t apply foreign e-visa and get posted to embassy of China in Delhi as diplomat. Diplomat visa is done through a diplomatic process which basically means that they have to apply at the embassy for facilitation of their visa. So to the best of my understanding it may not impact the diplomatic process. Because you in any case are going through the Embassy process. It is however true, that normal visas that were issued to other Chinese nationals before the Embassy had tweeted, they stand cancelled and they will have to apply again at the Embassy; you know if there are compelling reasons for them to visit India. On who is going to foot the bill, whether there will be any additional charges for visa if they again apply, I am afraid I do not have that information at this point of time. I will get it from concerned people and will be happy to share it with you. On the commercial flights, you see I am not aware of any restriction which has been imposed by the Government of India in the operation of any commercial flight between India and China. Now the airlines, they are free to take a decision based on their own assessment on the ground. I mean, they know the risk of infection, they know how the virus is spreading. Now, based on those assessments and also keeping in mind the Health Protocol which has been issued by the Government of India and Government of China, it is up to them. I mean, if they think that they have passengers who are willing to go back and forth, it is a call the airlines have to take. You would have seen in the advisories and press releases issued by the Government of India that we have not announced any suspension of any commercial connections between the two countries. I frankly could not really understand about the OCI card; I think you are talking about a very specific issue which happened at the airport. If you can give me more details then I will be happy to find out. The OCI card holders they don’t need a visa, so they can actually come I think at the airport. The drill will be the same, I think there will be screening process, but what exactly happened in this case if you can share the details with me then I will be happy to check it for you.

Question Contd.: Sir unke pass British passport hai aur wo kuchh dino ke liye China gaye they, aur yesterday jab wo yahaan aai to unko nahi aane diyaa jaa rahaaa ye kah ke ki aapke pass OIC card hai aur kuch certain restrictions hain government ki taraf se to aapko waapis bhejaa jaayega.

(Sir, that girl has British Passport and she went to China for few days and yesterday when she came to India, she is not being allowed to enter, it is being said that since she has OIC card, there are certain government restrictions and so you will be send back.)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye main galat jawaab nahi denaa chaahunga isiliye main pahle pataa karunga fir main iske baare mein aapko jaankaari de paaunga.

(See, I would not like to give you any incorrect reply hence first I will get information on this case and then will get back to you on this.)

Question: Can you give us details about the quarantine of the passengers coming in from China will be quarantine and also will this apply to the diplomats also who are coming back from China?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Please try to understand that my domain is very limited here belonging to the Ministry of External Affairs. Quarantine etc. this all comes under the Ministry of Health, I think there was a press release issued by cabinet secretariat, I think there are details in that. So I will not be able to really respond as to the nature of the quarantine and how that is going to happen.

Question Contd.: For diplomats you are not very sure if they are covered

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Again, that is what I am saying quarantine process happening in India is something for which you need to connect to the Health Ministry have to answer.

Question: Wahaan par jo Pakistani students fasey hue hain, video dekh rahe they hum to usmein unhone bola ki Modi hai to Mumkin hai, Modi jindabad aur unhone bola ki Pakistan government hamein nahii le jaa rahi hai to Bharat Sarkar hamaari madad kare. To aap logon mein iski koi charchaa huii ya koi vichaar kiya?

(Pakistani students who are stuck there, we were watching the videos, in those videos they said it’s possible when Modi is there and hail Modi. They also said that since Pakistan government is not evacuating them hence Government of India should help them. So have you discussed this?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye filhaal to Pakistan Sarkar ki taraf se aisi ko request hamaare pass aayi nahii hai but agar aisi situation banti hai aur agar hamaare pass resources hain to hum is par jaroor vichaar kar sakte hain.

(See, as of now we have not received any such request from Pakistan Government but if such condition arises and if we have resources then we can definitely think about it.)

Question: I just wanted to ask about the visit of American President. American Rashtrapati ke visit ko lekar kaafi charchaa ho rahi hai in fact Gujarat ke Chief Minister ne bhi bolaa ki wo Sabarmati riverfront mein aayenge.

(A lot of things are being discussed regarding the visit of American President to India. In fact Gujarat Chief Minister has said that he will visit the Sabarmati Riverfront.)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Pichhale saptaah mere se kisi ne ye sawaal poochaa thaa, jawaab bilkul wahi hai mera ki abhi filhaal stithi yahi hai jaisa maine pahle kahaa thaa ki aapsi baatcheet chal rahi hai aur iske aage abhi mere pass usmein jodne ke liye kuch nahi hai.

(Last week somebody asked the same question and the answer is still the very same and that is what I had said earlier discussions are ongoing between the two sides and I have nothing further to add to that.)

Question: Any update on the Choksi issue?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I will have to look in my file and see if I have some update for you.

No, there is no update as such. What we have done is we are impressing upon authorities in Antigua and Barbuda to kind expedite the process. We are hopeful that the legal proceedings will be completed soon and extradition can happen as early as possible.

Question: We have very good import-export relations between China and India. So what is the situation of imports from China, whether they also have been given some guidelines whether which goods can be imported from China?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, I think again you will have to contact the relevant ministry. If you follow the update which is coming almost on a regular basis from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and cabsec, it actually lists out all the steps.

Question Contd.: ……….. Inaudible………..

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: If there has been an announcement then it is there for everybody but to the best of my knowledge I am not aware of any such restrictions which have been imposed. However I would suggest you contact the relevant ministries and departments for any update on these matters.

Question: American Rashtrapati India aane wale hain to kaun se areas hain jisko lekar…….

(American President is slated to visit India, so what are the areas)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Aapka ye sawaal pahle sawaal se bhi do step aagey ka hai.

(Your question is two steps beyond the first question on this issue.)

Question: Bhutan ne wahaan par jaa rahe Indians ke liye ek per day fees lagaane ka faisla kiyaa hai joki abhi tak free thaa. To kya ye hamaare dwipaksheey sambandh kharaab ho rahe hain, achhe ho rahe hain, iski kya wajah hai ki pahli baar aisi fees lagaai gaii hai?

(Bhutan has decided to impose a per day fee on Indians visiting there which was free till now. So, are our bilateral relations going sour, what is the reason that for the very first time such a fee has been imposed?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye ismein sambandh kharaab hone ka koi logic hi nahi hai. Iske baare mein main thoda background de doon. Dekhiye unke parliament mein abhi discussion chal rahaa hai, ek bill hai jiska naam hai Tourism Levy and Exemption Bill of Bhutan 2020. Ismein kuch additional provisions hain. Is region ke jo tourists hain wo agar Bhutan jaate hain to unke liye kuch provisions banaaye gaye hain. Jo fee hai, unhone indicate kiya hai ki Bhutan mein jo tourism facilities hain unko upgrade karne ke liye hai aur hamein Bhutan Sarkar ki taraf se ye aashwaasan diya gayaa hai ki jo ye bill aur jo ye act banega uske implementation ke dauraan kisi bhi Bharatiya ko koi asuvidha

nahi hogi. Jahaan tak rishtey ki baat hai, dekhiye kuch rishtey hote hain jo reciprocity ke beyond hote hain aur Bharat aur Bhutan ka rishta usi bracket mein aataa hai.

(See, there is no logic of our relations being sour. I would like to give some background regarding this. See there is a discussion going on in their parliament on a bill which is named as Tourism Levy and Exemption Bill of Bhutan 2020. There are certain additional provisions in this bill. If the tourists of this region visit Bhutan then certain provisions have been made in this bill. They have indicated that the fee is levied to upgrade the tourism infrastructure of Bhutan and we have been assured by the Bhutan Government that during the implementation of this bill which will later become an act no Indian will face any hardship because of it.

As far as relations are concerned, see there are certain relations which are beyond reciprocity and India and Bhutan relations come under that bracket only.)

Question: 1200 rupaye per person per day yaani ausatan 5 logo ki family hai to rozana 6000 rupaye per day ka.

(Rs. 1200 per person per day which means if there is any family of 5 people then on an average they will have to spend additional Rs. 6000 per day.)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Maths to main bhi kar sakta hoon. Main samajh rahaa hoon lekin aap samajhiye unki bhi ek requirement hai jaisa unhone kahaa hai, indicate kiya hai ki unko tourism facility develop karni hai aur iske liye wo ek sustainable development fee ke taur mein isko impose karna chaahte hain.

(I can also do the math, I understand and would also like you to understand that they also have a requirement as they have indicated that they need to develop the tourist facilities and for that they wish to impose it like a sustainable development fee.)

Question Contd.: …………Inaudible………….

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: That is what I just announced that it is being discussed in their parliament, this is the provision. It is not only applicable only to Indian tourists it is applicable to tourists from the region.

Yahi main bataa rahaa hoon ki kuch rishte aise hote hai jisme aap reciprocity demand nahi kar sakte. Aur Bharat aur Bhutan ka jo humara itna purana, unique rishta hum batate hai , ek model sa batate hai aapsi bhaichare ka, ek doosare ke partner hain development mein to isko is sandarbh mein dekhna chaahiye.

(That is what I am saying that we are mutual partners in the development and hence it should be seen in that context.)

Question: ……………. Inaudible………….

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, it is too early in this stage. The event is slated for the second half of this year and at some appropriate time invitations will be sent.

Question: China claims that they have been able to give recovery to certain n-Coronavirus patients. Is India looking at taking any help from China on that front? Second question on Pakistan, are we planning to rename our envoy given that the envoy to Pakistan has been names as the Ambassador to Canada now?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You mean announcement of an Ambassador to Pakistan, you know this is an administrative process but at this point of time there is no exchange of Ambassadors at that level, so we don’t have an Ambassador in Pakistan and they don’t have an Ambassador here. So as and when the situation moves in that direction we will take a call.

Regarding your first question, look, I think the Health Ministry will decide. To the best of my knowledge we have technical competence to handle this at this point of time. If, as and when, Health Ministry feels that they need some cooperation, some technical assistance from other countries I think that is something which then they will indicate to them.

Question: Actually yesterday Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan has proposed a new regional group of China, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan for addressing regional issues. So has Indian been taken…….

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, it’s a loud thinking proposal and anybody can go and say a lot of things. I don’t think there is anything concrete has been going on between the four countries which you mentioned.

Question: Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister is coming tomorrow. Though you have announced it you didn’t tell anything about what are the issues that are going to be discussed, any agreements to be signed because Sri Lankan President was also here and now Prime Minister is coming, so is something important happening?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think for the deliverables of the visit I think for that you will have to wait till the main engagement day. We of course have a system of putting out those announcements but yes I think beyond that there is nothing I can share at this stage. It is on 8th of February which is day after tomorrow. And yes he is arriving tomorrow evening.

Thank you so much. I don’t see any other hand, this concludes the official weekly briefing. Thank you for joining.

(Concludes)

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