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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (03 September 2020)

September 04, 2020

Friends Namaskar and good evening!

Welcome to this weekly briefing in the virtual format.
I will start with a small announcement in the form of an update on the Vande Bharat Mission and then we'll go on to your questions. The Vande Bharat Mission, as on 2nd of September has already repatriated almost 13 lakh Indians through different modes. These modes are Air India, private and foreign carriers, chartered flights, naval ships and land border crossings. The Phase 6 of this mission has been operational from the 1st of September and in this phase 1007 international flights from 24 countries have been scheduled to operate during this month. They are expected to repatriate over 2 lakh people. Bilateral travel arrangements in the form of the travel air bubble flight operations from 11 countries form the bulk of this phase. Similar arrangements are being negotiated with more countries by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. As always this ministry continues to closely monitor the demand for repatriation and travel to India from different countries through our missions and posts and is working with the airlines to ensure assistance. Now we'll move on to your questions and I will request Yatin to take over.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR):
Sir, first question is from Akhilesh Suman from Rajya Sabha TV. He has asked - "there are reports that India-Bangladesh Inland Waterway is to be operational soon. Can we have more detail please?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
The Protocol for Inland Water Trade & Transit (PIWTT) was signed between India and Bangladesh in 1972 to provide inland waterways connectivity between the two countries. This facilitates bilateral trade as well improves connectivity to the North Eastern Region of India. In 2019-2020, approx. 3.5 million MT of cargo was transported between India and Bangladesh on the protocol routes.

With the signing the 2nd addendum to PIWTT in May 2020, two new protocol routes have been added. Of particular significance is the Sonamura – Daukandi route as it connects Tripura with the National Waterways of India through Bangladesh for the first time. A trial run has commenced from Daukandi and would conclude at Sonamura on September 05, 2020 in the presence of chief minister of Tripura and India’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh. This is yet another recent connectivity initiative with Bangladesh, which will greatly enhance connectivity with our North Eastern region and boost bilateral trade with Bangladesh.

Enhanced connectivity through inland waterways in the present Covid–19 scenario will provide an economical, faster, safer and cleaner mode of transportation for traders and business communities of both countries.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shankar Kumar from India vs Disinformation has asked - "how many bilateral meetings Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will have during his visit to Moscow to attend SCO meet. Will he meet his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the meeting?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: See as you would know, RM is visiting Moscow for the SCO Defence Ministers Meeting and during his visit he will be meeting with the Russian Defence Minister to discuss bilateral issues of interest. As far as the other meeting that you mentioned, as of now I have no information on that.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of questions are on vaccine cooperation. Elizabeth from Live Mint has asked - "is there anything you can share on cooperation between India and Bangladesh on COVID-19 vaccine?" Huma Siddiqui from Financial Express has asked - "Beximco Pharmaceutical Limited has tied up with Serum Institute of India to produce COVID-19 vaccine, while the Chinese have only been allowed to conduct trials, but are yet to enter into any commercial agreements with local firms. Can we see this as an outcome of foreign secretary's visit to Dhaka?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: The issue of COVID-19 vaccine was discussed between both sides during the recent visit of Foreign Secretary to Dhaka. As a close neighbour and strategic partner, we have assured the Bangladesh side that Bangladesh will get high priority in supply of vaccine, once ready. We are glad to note that enterprises on both sides are also taking steps towards this end.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of questions are on EAM's participation at SCO conference. Neeraj Kumar from News18 India has asked - "kya 10 September ko SCO ki Moscow mein hone wali baithak mein Videsh Mantri S Jaishankar hissa lenge? Kya Cheen ke videsh mantri se seema vivad par baatcheet hogi?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) Will EAM S. Jaishankar will participate in the SCO meeting on 10th September in Moscow? Will there be any talk with the Chinese Foreign Minister on the border issue? Sridhar from Asian Age has asked - "can you give us details on EAM Jaishankar's forthcoming visit to Moscow for the SCO Foreign Minister Conference?" Himanshu Mishra from Amar Ujala has asked - "kya Rus mein hone wali Shanghai Sahyog Sanghatan ki Videsh Mantriyon ki baithak mein Videsh Mantri Shri S Jaishankar apne Cheeni samkaksh ke saath alag se baatchet karenge? Kya Videsh Mantri SCO ki baithak mein shirkat karenge?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) Will EAM Shri S. Jaishankar will have separate talks with his counterpart in the SCO meeting scheduled to be held in Russia? Similar questions have been asked by Sidhant from WION, Srinjoy from Times Now, Maha from CNN News18, Devirupa from The Wire.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: EAM will be visiting Moscow to attend the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting and this meeting is scheduled on the 10th of September. As regards the meetings that you are asking about, once his engagements are finalized, we will let you know.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - "Nepal ke saath jari seema vivad ke samadhan ke liye Bharat kya kar raha hai? Is front par, Nepal ki sarkar ke saath koi development ho to batayen?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) What is India doing to resolve the ongoing border dispute with Nepal? Please tell, is there any development on this front with the Government of Nepal?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Madhurendra ji, seema mamle pe hamari kya position hai, maine isko spasht kia tha kuch hafton pehle aur ispe filhaal aur koi change nahin hai, to main aur kuch kehna nahin chahunga. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) Mr. Madhurendra, I have already given clarification on the border issue a few weeks back and at present there is no change in the situation, hence no more comments.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION has asked - "is Quad meet being planned in Delhi?" Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News has asked - "is India hosting Quadrilateral Group Ministerial Meeting next month?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Yes, we look forward to holding the Quad Meeting later this year and details are being worked out.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR):
Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - "Cheen ne Bharat mein apne app ban ka virodh kia hai aur iss ban ko avedh keh raha hai. Bharat ki kya pratikriya hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) "Chine is opposing the ban imposed in India on the Chinese apps and saying that it is illegal. How India is reacting to this?” Sidhant from WION has asked - "has Chinese side taken up the issue of app ban with the Indian authorities and what is our reaction to that?" Similar question has also been asked by Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
As conveyed in my response, it was on July of 2nd that India has one of the most open regimes for FDI in the world and this includes for internet companies as well as for digital technology companies. Now, digital technology companies while operating here, they have the responsibility to abide by the rules and regulations issued by relevant Ministries and Departments of the Government of India and particularly those rules and regulations which pertain to data security and privacy of data. You would have seen the announcement by MEITY yesterday where they have said that the activities that these apps have engaged in are prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, to the security of state and public order. What I can say is that we remain open, we continue to welcome Foreign Direct Investment in the country, including in the area of internet technology. However what we would like to say is - Companies when they operate here, they have to operate in accordance with the regulatory framework of the Government of India.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - "bhagode Zakir Naik ke mamle mein koi update ho to avgat karayein?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) "Is there any update on fugitive Zakir Naik issue?”

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Madhurendra ji, Zakir Naik ke mamle mein filhaal koi update nahin hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) Mr. Madhurendra, there is no update on Zakir Naik issue.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra has asked again that - "Kulbhushan Jadhav masle mein Bharat ne kya kadam uthaya? Is case mein kya development hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) "What steps India has taken in Kulbhushan Jadhav case? What is development in this case? Kadambini from NDTV India has asked - "any update on Kulbhushan Jadhav case, lawyer and consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: See we are in touch with Pakistan through diplomatic channels on this matter and the Government of India is taking all possible steps to ensure the safety of Shri Kulbhushan Jadhav.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR):
Manoj from PTI has asked - "has India finalised the dates for hosting the next edition of Two-Plus-Two dialogue with US? If so, can you share it? Will the US delegation visit India, or will it be a virtual meeting?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We look forward to holding this (2+2) meeting. The details, including the timing of this meeting are being worked out.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now has asked - "Pakistan recently wanted Indians to be proscribed by the UNSC. What is the current situation?" Similar question has also been asked by Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: See there was a proposal from Pakistan to add two Indians to this 1267 ISIS and Al-Qaida sanctions list. This was objected to by some council members and thereafter the Secretariat blocked this proposal from Pakistan and issued a notification. So what has happened with this is Pakistan's attempt to list all 4 Indian Nationals in this 1267 sanctions list has failed. You may also have seen the tweet from our Permanent Mission in New York, thanking the council members for blocking this blatant attempt by Pakistan to politicize the working of this 1267 procedure, by giving it a religious colour.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Suman Sharma has asked - "given that both UAE and Israel have cordial relations with India, in what way and in which sector can India provide assistance to both in strengthening their newly-formed relationship? Has Israel or UAE approached India for any kind of help?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Suman, you would have seen a statement welcoming the full normalization of relations between UAE and Israel. Now both countries are our strategic partners and we work closely with each of them in several areas. And as far as opportunities for cooperation in projects of common interest, we will be happy to work with them.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on LAC. Neeraj Kumar from News18 India has asked - "Bharat-Cheen seema par taaza vivad ke baad abhi kya stithi hai? Sainiye baatcheet ke alawa kootnitik star par koi baatcheet prastavit hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) What is the current situation after the recent Indo-China border issue? Are diplomatic level talks proposed in addition to the military level talks? Shridhar from Asian Age has asked - "is de-escalation process with China in the Ladakh sector as good as dead, given China's latest military provocation? Does India believe the process will get any result now?" Venkat Narayan has asked - "India and China have been talking about withdrawal and disengagement of troops from the border, is there any plan on the table to settle the border issue for good and to restore normalcy?" Srinjoy from Times Now has asked - "China says India crossed the LAC. It's a reference to India's precautionary deployment. What is the situation in the North Bank and Depsang?" Maha from CNN News18 has asked - "what did the Chinese side tell MEA when the matter of 31st August attempted ingression in Chushul sector was taken up?" Devirupa from Wire has asked - "there have been several rounds of talks at Brigade Commander level, following the August 29-30 intrusion by China, but this have not been fruitful. Are there going to higher-level diplomatic talks, possible phone call between NSA's and Foreign Ministers?" Sanjeev Trivedi from News 24 has asked - "attempts by Chinese to alter the LAC are now taking place even as the military and diplomatic talks are on. Will it be proper to conclude that even the talks instead of diffusing the tension have become a part of Chinese combat strategy?" Vijaya Lakshmi from India TV has asked - "LAC par mojuda halaat ko le kar Cheen ki taraf se baar baar yahi kaha ja raha hai ki Bharat ki taraf se niyamon ka ulanghan hua. Is par videsh mantralaya ka kya kehna hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) "Regarding the current situation on the LAC, it is being said repeatedly by the Chinese side that there has been a violation of the rules by the Indian side. What does the Ministry of External Affairs has to say on this?” Kamaljit from India today has asked - "where do things stand as of now between India and China on Ladakh? Has previous engagements resulted in any dividends and what measures are in place to resolve current crisis? How many points are there on escalation on currently?" Elizabeth from Live Mint has asked - "after the fresh tensions with China over the weekend, are there any diplomatic talks planned with China? Is EAM likely to meet Chinese Foreign Minister for a bilateral next week?" Similar questions have been asked by Sidhant from WION, Kadambini from NDTV India, Madhurendra from News Nation, Manas from PTI, Nainima from Print, Devdeep from Sankhaei , Shailendra from News18, Naas Asghar from India News Stream and Anish from UNI.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: GoI position on the developments post the attempt by Chinese troops to unilaterally change the status quo in the South Bank of Pangong Lake on the night of August 29 and early morning on August 30 has been clearly articulated in our statement made on September 1. I am not going to go over the Chinese actions that caused the recent escalation.

I can say that the ground commanders are still holding discussions to resolve the situation. We reiterate the consensus reached between the two Foreign Ministers and SRs that the situation in the border should be handled in a responsible manner and either side should not take any provocative action or escalate matters. It is clear that the situation we witness over the past four months is a direct result of the actions taken by the Chinese side that sought to effect unilateral change of status quo. These actions resulted in violation of the bilateral agreements and protocol which ensured peace and tranquility in the border areas for close to three decades.

Now the way ahead is negotiations, both through the diplomatic and military channels. The Indian side is firmly committed to resolving all outstanding issues through peaceful dialogue.

We therefore strongly urge the Chinese side to sincerely engage the Indian side with the objective of expeditiously restoring the peace and tranquility in the border areas through complete disengagement and de-escalation in accordance with the bilateral agreements and protocols.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Any further questions Yatin?

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): No, sir.

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


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