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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (18 June 2020)

June 19, 2020

Sh Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Okay friends, welcome back. I'm resuming with the weekly media briefing in the virtual format. I'll start with an announcement. This is an update on the Vande Bharat Mission. As mentioned last week, phase 3 of Vande Bharat Mission started on 11th June 2020. The updated flight schedules are available on our website. In this phase, we would have 550 flights, including 191 feeder flights and we would be covering 41 countries and operating from 55 international airports and 27 domestic ones. As of today, under the Vande Bharat Mission, 2,50,087 Indians have returned. 21% of these returnees are migrant workers. More than 75,000 Indians have returned through land border immigration checkpoints from Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. About 4,50,000 persons have registered their request with our missions abroad for repatriation to India on compelling grounds. Chartered flight operations commence from 26th May 2020 and since then the pace of operation has picked up. As of date, more than 57,000 Indian nationals have been brought back by chartered flights. On 16th June itself more than 6,400 Indian nationals returned on 36 flights. The Ministry of Home Affairs, on recommendation of the MEA on 12th June liberalised the guidelines on travel to include even such categories where some members of the family of foreign nationals and do not have OCI cards. You would be aware that from time to time, we have been expanding the criteria, so as to include more and more persons who would like to return to India. So this is by way of update on the Vande Bharat Mission. Moving on, we will respond to your questions. I will request Pawan to read them out.

Mr Pawan Badhe, OSD (PR): The first set of questions are on Vande Bharat Mission. Huma Siddiqui from Financial Express Online has asked - what is the update on the Vande Bharat Mission? How many Indians have come from Africa and Latin America? There are a large number of students stuck in Kyrgyzstan, any plans to send a flight that way?

Sh Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Huma, I have already given an update on in terms of numbers of people who've returned through the Vande Bharat Mission. You want to know how many Indians have come from Africa and Latin America. The figures that I have, more than 5,700 have returned from Africa and more than 750 from Latin American countries. From Kyrgyzstan, we have had more than 550 Indians return and under phase 3 we have 10 more flights from Kyrgyzstan to India, 9 feeder fights in India itself for this purpose and the details of the flights are available on our website.

Mr Pawan Badhe, OSD (PR): The next question is from Prashant from Asia Net. Some states are demanding covid tests of all persons returning from abroad on the Vande Bharat flights and chartered flights, before boarding. May I get a reaction?

Sh Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Prashant, I think I have mentioned this earlier in one of my briefings that we take all due health precautions while bringing back people on Vande Bharat flights. Everyone who's boarding this flight goes through a medical screening and only asymptomatic passengers are taken on board and before embarkation during the flight and after disembarkation, all health protocols are followed. So therefore, there should not be any area of concern on this.

Mr Pawan Badhe, OSD (PR): Sir, the next set of questions are on Nepal. Sidhant Sibal from WION has asked - can we have MEA reaction to the Nepal parliament passing the new map amendment bill? Kadambini Sharma from NDTV India has asked - has any communication taken place on the new map between India and Nepal? Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - Nepal ke naye nakshe par Bharat ki pratikriya pe Nepal ne kya jawaab diya hai? Kya diplomatic route se yeh mamla kisi nishkarsh ki aur jata hua dikhai deta hai? Bharat Nepal ke is anuchit kadam par aage kya karyawahi karna chahega? (What is Nepal’s answer on India’s reaction on the Nepal’s new map? Do we see any diplomatic route to find a solution to this issue? What action India is planning to take on Nepal’s inappropriate step?) Abhishek Jha from DD News has asked - with a new map endorsed by Nepali Parliament, will it change the status quo in bilateral relationship with Nepal? Parul Chandra from the Strategic News Global has asked - now that Nepal has passed the Constitution Amendment Bill to change its map on its national emblem. Does this close the doors for talks in the immediate future with this government? Mr Suresh from Kantipur Press Nepal has asked - when Nepal and India are going to sit for talk on the border issues?

Sh Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: See on this issue, I've already made our position clear responding to a media query on 13th of June. We had said that we have noted the developments when the House of Representatives of Nepal had passed the Constitutional Amendment Bill. So we have already made our position clear on this and I don't think I have anything further to add.

Mr Pawan Badhe, OSD (PR): The next topic is on China. We have received a number of questions on China and it will not be possible for me to read them all out. So we have clubbed them in different sets as per the topics and try to accommodate all of them. The first set is on questions are on diplomatic and military level engagements between India and China. I will read out a few of the questions. Srinjoy Chowdhury from Times Now has asked - are meetings between Indian and Chinese diplomats being planned? Can we have some details about when and where and at what level? Sidhant Sibal from WION has asked - are both sides in touch with each other? If yes, how on the diplomatic front have we summoned the Chinese Envoy? Aishwarya from AP has asked - what is the current status of talks between India and China? Has there been any response from the Chinese Authorities on the last night's response to the claims on the Galwan Valley? Sheela Bhatt from rediff.com has asked - when was the first diplomatic contact established after the Chinese intrusion in May? Why it failed to yield results? Others including Dave D from Shanghai Shinbun, Neeraj from News18 India, Madhurendra from News Nation, Azhar Khan from Times Now have asked questions similar on this topic. The second set of questions on China - Maha Siddqui from CNN News18 has asked - there are some reports that not all Indian soldiers are accounted for yet since the 15th June violent face-off, is this correct? Similar questions have been asked by Sanjay Rai from Archdaily, Neeraj from News18 India and Sridhar Kumaraswamy from Asian Age. The third set of questions are on Chinese claims on the Galwan Valley. The questions are: Parul Chandra from Strategic News Global asks - the Chinese have claimed sovereignty over the entire Galwan Valley, while India has described this claims as untenable and exaggerated, don't such claims mean that China is effectively trying to change the status quo? NB Nair from Sputnik news has asked - India and China held 22 rounds of talks at the level of special representatives on the Border issue, what was the understanding so far between both the sides on the LAC in Galwan Valley? Has Beijing gone back on an earlier understanding or it is making fresh claims on the Galwan Valley? Abhishek Jha from DD News has asked - did the issue of sovereignty of Galwan Valley come up in the foreign minister level talks? On the same topics, we have questions from Brahm Prakash from Zee News and others. The fourth set of questions on China are related to engagement with the international community. They are: Sidhant Sibal asks - how many countries have we briefed on the issue? Mr Shankar Kumar from India Vs Disinformation asks - is India getting support from the US, Japan, South Korea, Europe, Australia, Brazil, and Africa at a time when tensions between China has increased on the LAC? Manas from PTI has asked - has India briefed the US, Russia, France, and the UK on the situation along the LAC in the eastern Ladakh? Kadambini Sharma from NDTV India has asked - have the envoys of any other countries been briefed on the LAC situation? Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News is asking -International community has issued a call for peaceful resolution on the situation on border in eastern Ladakh. Is India engaging with important partners? The next set of questions on China are on what the government is planning to do. They are on this lines. Manas from PTI is asking - the PM delivered a very strong message to China that India will give a befitting reply if instigated. What are the options India is mulling if Chinese troops do not vacate Indian areas in Pangong Tso and Galwan? Manas has also asked - is India mulling any economic measures against China or Chinese companies as the external affairs minister clearly said that the Galwan clash will have impact on bilateral ties? Shankar Kumar from India Vs Disinformation has asked - how many foreign companies currently operating from China have evinced their interest to ship their business to India and what facilities are they going to get from the country? Parikshit Luthra from CNBC TV18 has asked - has China's actions put its reliability as a supply chain partner in severe doubt? Will this action now lead to greater scrutiny of all Chinese investments and working of Chinese companies in India? The last set of questions on China are seeking details of the incident and the present situation at the LAC. Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - Cheen ka aarop hai ki Bharatiya sainik uske ilaake mein ghuse aur Cheen Galwan ke uss ilake ko apna batane laga hai, jo Bharat ka hissa hai, Bharat ke niyantran mein hai. Cheen ke is aarop ka kya jawaab dena chahenge? (China has blamed that Indian soldiers have entered their territory and China has started claiming Galwan as its own territory but actually it belongs to India and it is under India’s control. Would you like to answer China's this allegation?) Kadambini Sharma from NDTV India has asked - are there any changes visible on ground at the LAC after yesterday's development? Alasdair Pal from Reuters has also asked a number of questions on this topic.

Sh Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Thank you Pawan. I will try and give a comprehensive response to all of them. You would have already seen our earlier statement of 16th, June and the readout issued yesterday of the phone conversation between EM and the Chinese foreign minister on the recent developments in the western sector of the India-China border. To give you a background, India and China have been discussing through military and diplomatic channels the de-escalation of the situation in the border area in eastern Ladakh. On 6th, June 2020 the core commanders of India and China held a meeting in the Chushul Moldo region, where an agreement was reached on de-escalation and disengagement along the line of actual control. Ground commanders were meeting regularly to implement this consensus throughout last week. While it was our expectation that this would unfold smoothly, the Chinese side departed from the consensus to respect the LAC in the Galwan Valley. On the late evening and night of 15th June 2020, a violent face-off happened when the Chinese side unilaterally attempted to change the status quo there. They took pre-meditated and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and casualties suffered by both sides. This could have been avoided had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side. Given its responsible approach to border management, India is very clear that all activities are always within the Indian side of the LAC. We expect the Chinese side to also confine its activities to its side of the LAC. During his telephone conversation with the Chinese foreign minister, EAM conveyed that the need of the hour was for the Chinese side to reassess its actions and take corrective steps. They should strictly respect and observe the line of actual control and not take any unilateral action to alter it. It was agreed that both sides would implement the disengagement understanding of 6th June sincerely. Neither side would take any action to escalate matters and instead ensure peace and tranquility as per bilateral agreements and protocols. The two sides are in regular touch through the respective embassies and foreign offices. At the ground level, the two sides have maintained communication at the commander's level. Meetings of other established diplomatic mechanisms, such as, working mechanism for consultation and coordination on border affairs, WMCC, are under discussion. While we remain firmly convinced of the need for maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas and the resolution of differences through dialogue, at the same time, as Honorable PM stated yesterday, we are also strongly committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

I'll also respond to specific questions on the status of Indian soldiers. This has been clarified by the Army earlier today afternoon that there are no Indian troops missing in action. Specifically on the questions on the Chinese claims on Galwan Valley, I would refer you to my statement of last evening.

Mr Pawan Badhe, OSD (PR): So the next set of questions are on the RIC Summit. Sidhant Sibal from WION has asked - will India participate in the RIC Summit on 23rd June? Aishwarya from AP has asked - is the RIC meeting still going ahead as planned? There were comments from the Russian side yesterday, would be grateful for a confirmation from our end as well? Maha Siddique from CNN News18 has asked - is the External Affairs Minister going to participate in the Russia-India-China meeting on 23rd, despite the current standoff with China? Can this trilateral help in creating a conducive atmosphere for resolving matters. Shishir Soni from HariBhoomi Samuh has asked - kya Bharat, Roos aur Cheen ke saath hone wali bethak mein shaamil honge? (Will India participate in the joint meeting of India, Russia and China?) Abhishek Jha from DD News has asked - has India agreed to the RIC virtual meet on 23rd June proposed by Russia or are new dates being explored? Abhishek Dhulia from NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation has asked - sir, whether foreign minister will be joining RIC foreign ministers meeting scheduled on June 22nd and could you share some details of the agenda on the meeting? Sridhar Kumaraswamy from Asian Age has asked - can the MEA give us details about Indian participation at the forthcoming RIC meet?

Sh Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: The Russia-India-China foreign ministers meeting is scheduled on 23rd June. Russia is the chair this year. Russia has called for a special session of the RIC meeting to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the victory in the second world war over Nazism and creation of the United Nations. It will be the first meeting of the RIC foreign ministers, which will be taking place through video conferencing. EM will be participating in this meeting. The agenda, as someone has asked, the three ministers are expected to discuss the current situation of the global pandemic and the challenges of global security, financial stability and RIC cooperation in that context. This is going to be a trilateral meeting.

Mr Pawan Badhe, OSD (PR): Pranay Upadhyay from ABP News and Neeraj Kumar from News18 have asked for an update on the meeting between India and Pakistan on the locust management.

Sh Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I had briefed you last week on the developments in this context and you would recall that in May 2020 we had taken the initiative to call for intensifying contacts between locust warning organisations of the two countries and these contacts have been taking place over the last 60 years. We thought it was important in wake of the threat posed by desert locust and we even proposed to Pakistan coordinated locus control operations and we also proposed that we can facilitate the supply of pesticide for locust control operations. In fact, we have already delivered 20,000 litres of Malathion pesticide to Iran for desert locust operations in their territory. As per available information, Pakistan side has refused to join this meeting which was supposed to be held today. We find it unfortunate that Pakistan maintains its reticent attitude, even when its own people face the threat of food security. We will continue to coordinate with FAO in this matter. Are there any further questions Pawan?

Mr Pawan Badhe, OSD (PR): Sir, I have some follow-up questions? Sidhant from WION has asked - do we have any update on the extradition of Vijay Mallya?

Sh Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sidhant, I briefed you last week in my doing the weekly briefing that in the case of Vijay Mallya after this application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected, we are in touch with the UK side for his early extradition to India. And we have requested the UK side not to consider his asylum request. So there's nothing further in terms of update beyond that.

Mr Pawan Badhe, OSD (PR): So, on China I have a couple of follow-up questions. Pranay Upadhyay has asked - there is a statement by the Russian foreign ministry regarding an Indian initiated phone call between ambassador in Moscow and the deputy foreign minister of Russia. It also mentions a discussion regarding India-China LAC tensions. Did similar exercise was carried with other strategic partners like US, France, etc? Did we brief other foreign partners? Uma Shankar from NDTV India has asked - videsh mantriyon ki phone par baat cheet ko Cheen baar baar apne tarah se pesh kiye ja raha hai. Woh aisa sandesh de raha hai ki shanti purn samadhaan ki taraf kadam badhane ki bajaye usne is phone call ke mauke ka istemal dhamkane ke liye kiya hai, aise mein kisi natije ki kaise umeed ki ja sakti hai? (China is interpreting the discussions held over phone between the Foreign Ministers in their own way. China is giving the message that instead of taking steps towards peaceful resolution of the issue they have used the opportunity of the phone call for threatening. Under what circumstances how we can expect resolution to the issue?)

Sh Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Pranay I haven't seen those reports so I won't be able to provide you more information on that. I will check. Uma on the telephone conversation between EM and the Chinese foreign minister you've seen our read out, it is fairly comprehensive and it gives you a sense of that conversation. I wouldn't like to add anything further to that. Are there any further questions Pawan?

Mr Pawan Badhe, OSD (PR): No, sir. No, sir. I do not have any further questions.

Sh Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. So this concludes the weekly briefing.

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