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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (15 October 2020)

October 16, 2020

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
Namaskar and good evening.
Let me start this weekly virtual briefing with two announcements today.
First is a short update on the Vande Bharat Mission.

As on 15 October, 18.32 lakh Indians have been repatriated through different modes of the Vande Bharat Mission. Under Phase 7 of VBM, operational since 1 October 2020, 444 international flights have been operated from 18 countries. These include flights from among the 14 countries with which India has a bilateral ‘air bubble’ arrangements.These flights have reached 21 airports across India, repatriating an estimated 80,000 persons.

The second announcement that I have is about the first edition of lectures designed to introduce India to foreign diplomats posted in New Delhi. These lectures were inaugurated today by Foreign Secretary. They are called "Sushma Swaraj Lectures 2020", after our former External Affairs Minister, and this is the first time that we have had lecture series particularly for foreign diplomats posted in India, 45 foreign diplomats who have newly arrived to take up their assignments, are attending this "Sushma Swaraj Lectures 2020", which will give them an introduction to Indian history, politics, culture and economy. Now I'll move on to your questions and Yatin can you please take over.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, the first set of question is on Two Plus Two. Shridhar from the Asian Age has asked - "could we have the dates for the Two Plus Two dialogue with the US? Are the US ministers travelling to India for this? Also, is the third defence pact BECA being signed during the dialogue?" Sandeep Dikshit from the Tribune has asked - "what are the dates for the Indo-US Two Plus Two?" Similar question has also been asked by Suhasini from The Hindu.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: See, we look forward to holding the Two Plus Two ministerial dialogue in New Delhi at an early date and we will keep you updated on further details.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on Pakistan NSA's interview. Deviroopa from The Wire has asked - "has India sent a message conveying desire for conversation to Pakistan? If true at all, when was it done? Also, is Kashmir still a topic of dialogue with Pakistan? What does India think of Yusuf's demand that Kashmiris must also be present at the talks?" Nainima from The Print has asked - "recently in an interview to The Wire, Pakistan Prime Minister Special Assistant on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning, Mr Moeed Yusuf stated that India had expressed a desire for a conversation and they had put certain conditions. Can the MEA please confirm this?" Shailendra from News18 has asked - "Pakistan NSA Moeed Yusuf ne Bharat se baatcheet ke prastav milne ka dawa kiya hai. Kya Bharat ne koi bhi prastav rakha hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation): Pakistan NSA Moeed Yusuf has claimed to have received proposals for talks with India. Has India communicated any proposal?. Similar questions were asked by KB Naik from Sputnik, Suhaisni from Hindu, Rezaul from HT, Shankar from India vs Disinfo and Manas from PTI.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We have seen reports on the interview by a senior Pakistani official to an Indian media outlet. He has commented on India’s internal matters.

As always, this is Pakistan’s effort to divert attention from domestic failures of the present government and mislead its domestic constituents by pulling India into headlines on a daily basis. The Official is well advised to restrict his advise to his establishment and not to comment on India’s domestic policy. The statements made by him are contrary to facts on the ground, misleading and fictitious.

As regards the purported message, let me make it clear that no such message was sent from our side.

Pakistan continues to support, aid and abet cross-border terrorism against India and has also been resorting to unprovoked ceasefire violations to support terrorist infiltration. The Pakistani leadership continues to indulge in inappropriate, provocative and hate speech against India. Such support to terrorism against India and use of derogatory and abusive language are not conducive to normal neighbourly relations.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Pushkar from the New Indian Express has asked - "any update on the Kulbhushan Jadhav case?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Pushkar, I have conveyed our position on this on a number of occasions, including last week during the briefing. Pakistan needs to respond to core issues concerning this case.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep Dikshit from The Tribune has asked - "could you please give a sense about the visit of Foreign Secretary and Chief of the Army Staff to Myanmar?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sandeep, this visit, as you would know took place on the 4th and 5th of October and Chief of Army Staff and Foreign Secretary visited Myanmar for two days. You would have seen our detailed press release that was issued after the visit. In terms of the context and I would like to give you a few pointers, you would know that our bilateral relationship has been marked in recent years by regular high-level visits and interactions. Recently, we had extensive discussions during the foreign office consultations which were held on the 1st of October and therefore this visit provided an opportunity to review the progress in bilateral relations. In terms of meetings during the visit, COAS and FS called on State Councilor and Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services. COAS also met Vice-Senior General and FS met his counterpart, which is the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Myanmar. The discussions and outcomes, in terms of these, both sides agreed during these discussions to strengthen the partnership in connectivity areas in capacity building, in power and energy. They also agreed to deepen economic and trade ties and broad base their defence exchanges across all three services. In the present context of the Covid pandemic, it was also agreed that we would deepen our cooperation to overcome the challenges posed by this pandemic. COAS and FS presented 3000 vials of Remdesivir to the State Counselor, as a symbol of India's commitment to assist Myanmar in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. We have also indicated our willingness to prioritize Myanmar for sharing vaccines as soon as they become available. And, in terms of other tangible outcomes of the visit, I would say providing debt service relief under the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative for the period up to December 31, 2020 which was announced during the visit, a project agreement for upgrading of the agricultural mechanization under the Rakhine State Development Program was signed. There was also an announcement of a grant of two million dollars for the construction of a border haat bridge in Chin state, for increased economic activity between Mizoram and Myanmar. There was an announcement of a quota of 1.5 lakh tons of Urad for import from Myanmar till 31st of March, 2021. There was the inauguration of a Center of Excellence in Software Development and Training in Myitkyina. There was a joint inauguration of our Embassy liaison office in Nay Pyi Taw. And, in terms of other elements, you would know people-to-people linkages and our shared cultural heritage form an important part of our bilateral relations, and there was appreciation of our offer for preservation of cultural heritage, particularly the repair of pagodas in Pagan which were damaged during the 2016 earthquake. There were also discussions on plans to install a bust of Lokmanya Tilak in Mandalay, as part of his 100th death anniversary. So basically in overall terms, I would say the visit reflected the high priority that both countries attached to sustaining the momentum in expanding our bilateral ties.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Akhilesh Suman from Rajya Sabha TV has asked - "there are reports that India has gifted a submarine to Myanmar. Can you share more details on that please?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Akhilesh ji, you would know that cooperation in the maritime domain is a part of our diverse and enhanced engagement with Myanmar. In this context, India will be delivering a kilo class submarine INS Sindhuvir to the Myanmar Navy. We understand that this will be the first submarine of the Myanmar Navy.

This is in accordance with our vision of SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region, and also in line with our commitment to build capacities and self reliance in all our neighbouring countries.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Gautam Lahiri has asked - "US, UK, EU and the UN refugee agency will co-host a donor conference for support for Rohingya refugees on 22nd October. What is India's stand on this and whether India will join?" Similar question from Sidhant from WION.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: On the issue of displaced persons from Rakhine State, you would know that our stand is very clear. As a neighbor of both Bangladesh and Myanmar, India has highest stakes in this issue. We are committed to ensuring an early, safe and sustainable repatriation of the displaced persons to the Rakhine State in Myanmar and towards this end, we have committed resources to both Bangladesh and Myanmar. As far as this donor conference is concerned, I understand we have received an invitation.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Nainima from The Print has asked - "Nepal is undergoing a major cabinet reshuffle, will India now discuss the Kalapani border issue with Nepal?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Nainima, I have already conveyed our position on the boundary issue with Nepal, I have nothing further to add.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Idriss Hashimi from Morocco News Agency has asked - "how do you see the Morocco's initiative to strengthen dialogue between the various Libyan parties to reach a political solution to the conflict in that country in the framework of the rounds of inter-Libyan dialogue organized in Bouznika in Morocco?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Mr Hashimi, you would have seen a statement that we issued on the 28th of September on this issue. We have been closely monitoring the developments in Libya and we have noted the progress in intra-Libyan dialogue, facilitated by the Kingdom of Morocco and the talks in Montreux, Switzerland under the auspices of the UN support mission in Libya. This is following the Berlin Conference and the Cairo Declaration. We welcome these international efforts, aimed at a peaceful settlement of the conflict, through an intra-Libyan dialogue, taking into account, the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people, while preserving Libya's sovereignty unity and territorial integrity.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Brahma Prakash from Zee News has asked - "Bhagode Zakir Naik ke pratyaparn ko le kar kya Malaysia sarkar se koi baatcheet ho rahi hai, usme koi pragati hui hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation): Has there been any progress with the Malaysian government regarding the extradition of fugitive Zakir Nayak? Similar question from Madhurendra from News Nation.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Brahma Prakash ji, ispe filhaal mere paas koi update nahin hai. Jaisi hi kuch aayega main aapko bataunga. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) Brahma Prakash Ji, I do not have any update on this at the moment, I will tell you as soon as something comes.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Rezaul from the Hindustan Times has asked - "Afghanistan has seen a big spike in Taliban attacks and targeted assassinations in the last few weeks. Has India raised this issue in its recent meetings with US officials?" Similar question from Kallol from The Hindu.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Rezaul and Kallol, I think your questions are in the context of the visit of the US Deputy Secretary of State, Mr Stephen Biegun from the 12th to 14th of October and you would have seen our press release after the visit, and what I can tell you is that during the meetings the entire gamut of engagements under the US-India comprehensive global strategic partnership, including political, security, defence, economic, commercial, technology and people-to-people contacts, various areas of this partnership, they were discussed. While I cannot share the specifics, there were also exchange of views on a number of issues of regional and global interest.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Vasant from Mathrubhumi has asked - "has the MEA received legal opinion in Life Mission project in Kerala? The Kerala high court has said that this project doesn't fall under organizations that need FCRA clearance, MEA has said earlier that State has not taken permission from government for receiving foreign funds. Could you please clarify the position?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Vasant, I have nothing further to add beyond what I told you last time.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Pushkar from the New Indian Express has asked - "China has said that India's infrastructure development in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh is the root cause of problems between the two countries. Will the MEA respond to the comment?" Similar questions by Madhurendra from News Nation and Manas from PTI.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: The government of India has been focused on creating infrastructure in the country for improving the livelihood and economic welfare of its people. In this regard, government gives careful and specific attention to the improvement of infrastructure for the development of border areas, in order to facilitate the economic development of these areas, as also to meet India's strategic and security requirements. As for restoration of peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas, this is best done by scrupulously observing all relevant agreements in their entirety.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Brahma Prakash from Zee has asked - "Cheen jis tarah se kendrashasit pradesh Ladakh ko le kar baar baar apna rukh zahir kar raha hai aur uske punarghatan ko manne se inkaar kar raha hai. Isko Bharat kis tarah se dekh raha hai? Kya Taiwan ke prati Bharat ke rukh mein bhi badlav aa sakta hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) The way China is repeatedly expressing its stand on the Union Territory of Ladakh and refusing to accept its reorganization, how is India looking at it? Can there be a change in India’s attitude towards Taiwan as well? Sidhant from WION has asked - "China has again said it doesn't recognizes Arunachal Pradesh and said the same for Ladakh, any reaction to that?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: See we have made our position on this very clear. Our position on this has always been clear and consistent. The Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been, are, and would remain an integral part of India. China has no locus standi to comment on India's internal matters. We hope that countries will not comment on India’s internal matters, as much as they expect the same of others.

Our position on Arunachal Pradesh has also been made clear several times. Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India. This fact has also been clearly conveyed to the Chinese side on several occasions, including at the highest level.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now has asked - "the seventh round was on 12th October in Chushul. What are the takeaways? Has there been any forward movement?" Narendra Nath Mishra from Navbharat Times has asked - "Jab bhi Bharat-Cheen ke beech baatcheet ho rahi hoti hai, Cheen ki aur se bhadkane wala bayaan aa jata hai. Kya iske peeche Cheen ki koi mansha dikh rahi hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) Whenever India is negotiating between China, a provocative statement comes from China, is there any intention of China behind it. Deviroopa from The Wire has asked - "will there be another round of Senior Commander level talks as there is no explicit mention of that in the press release unlike last time. Sidhant from WION has asked - "any plans for WMCC between India and China?" Similar questions by Madhurendra from News Nation, Suhasini from The Hindu, Nainima from The Print, and Elizabeth from the Live Mint.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: To respond to your questions, I would like to draw your attention to the Joint Press Release issued after the 7th round of the Senior Commanders talks held on 12 October. This is the second joint press release issued after the one issued after the previous round. As indicated in the Press Release, the talks were positive and constructive. The two sides have a better understanding of each other’s positions. Disengagement is a complex process that requires redeployment of troops by each side towards their regular posts on their respective sides of the LAC. To achieve this, the two sides will maintain the current momentum of communications based on the guidance of our leadership to not to turn differences into disputes and work towards a mutually acceptable solution for complete disengagement in all the friction areas along the Line of Actual Control and restoration of peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Are there 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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