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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (22 October 2020)

October 23, 2020

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Friends Namaskar and good evening. Welcome to this weekly briefing in the virtual format. I will start with an update on the Vande Bharat Mission. As on 22 October, 19.40 lakh of our nationals have been repatriated through the Vande Bharat Mission.

Phase 7 of VBM has been operational since 1 October 2020. Of the 1050 international flights scheduled under this phase, 690 flights have already been operated from 20 countries, reaching 22 airports across the country and repatriating an estimated 1,30,000 persons.

Our Missions continue to proactively work with the respective local governments to facilitate the movement of Indians stranded in those countries. Now moving on to your questions, Yatin can you please start?

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): First set of question is on Two-Plus-Two meeting. Kamaljeet from Aajtak has asked - "what are we expecting from the Two-Plus-Two meet? Are we signing any pact on BECA or Maritime?" Kadambini from NDTV India has asked - "at Two-Plus-Two meet in Delhi happening extremely close to US Elections, what is India's expectation from it?" Suman Sharma has asked - "what agreements are likely to be signed during the Indo-US Two-Plus-Two dialogue?" Vijaya Lakshmi from India TV has asked - "our expectation from Indo-US Two-Plus-Two agreement, are we expecting some major announcements post engagement?" Parikshit from CNBC has asked - "what and how many agreements are we expecting during Two-Plus-Two?" Suhasini from The Hindu has asked - "please tell us about the agenda for Two-Plus-Two dialogue next week. US Secretary of State Pompeo said, he will discuss ways to counter challenge from the CCP and China, does India intend to discuss Chinese actions at LAC with the US? Is the visit of US officials a week before elections unusual? Could it not have been rescheduled until after the results? Will BECA be signed during the visit?" Brahma Prakash from Zee has asked - "Bharat aur America ke beech jo TwoPlusTwo varta hone ja rahi hai, usme kya Cheen ke saath takrav ki stithi pe bhi charcha hogi?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) "In the two plus two talks which is going to take place between India and America, will the situation of confrontation with China also be discussed?” Sandeep Dikshit from Tribune has asked - "will Two-Plus-Two talks with US on October 27 also cover India's concern about the trade squeeze and narrowing of employment prospects of Indian in the US?" Sidhant from WION has asked - "what will be the key focus of Two Plus Two?" Nivedita Mukherjee from Financial Express has asked - "is there an economic agenda in coming Two-Plus-Two meeting between India and US?" Similar question has also been asked by Madhurendra from News Nation.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Okay, so these questions essentially, I think cover, the agenda, the expectations, the likely outcomes, agreements to be signed, etc. To respond to these questions, let me start with going back to the announcement that we made last evening that India would be hosting the third India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue on 27 October. U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper will be visiting India on 26-27 October 2020 to participate in this Dialogue. RM and EAM would be leading the delegations from the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of External Affairs.

By way of background, the previous two Dialogues were held in New Delhi in September 2018 and in Washington DC in December 2019. The discussions in these Dialogues have enabled both sides to further progress the bilateral relationship and strengthen the institutional framework for cooperation across all sectors. India and US have a comprehensive global strategic partnership which includes political, security and defence, economic, commercial, technology and people to people contacts. We have regular dialogue for various levels to discuss ongoing bilateral cooperation and to exchange views on developments in the region.

The Third India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue will entail a comprehensive discussion on cross cutting bilateral issues of mutual interest. In addition, both sides will also exchange views on salient regional and global issues.

Secretaries Esper and Pompeo, they will also have bilateral meetings with their respective counterparts. They will also be meeting NSA and will jointly call on PM. Coming to your questions, on specific outcomes and agreements, I would request you to be patient at this moment. I would not like to prejudge the outcomes, but what I can tell you is that we will keep you briefed as it happens.

As regards, the timing of the meeting, you would know that diplomatic calendars have their logic and you would notice that the earlier two meetings have also been held towards the end of the year. On the questions on the points of discussions, as I mentioned, this is a comprehensive global strategic partnership and under this partnership discussions cover all salient regional and global issues, so therefore, I would not like to focus on a single issue.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shakeel Aakhtar from BBC has asked - "Pakistan says that Indian border forces arrest or shoot man and even children who mistakenly cross the Line of Control. What is your comment on this allegations? He has also asked Pakistan also denies Indian allegations that this man who are arrested while crossing the border are either militants, Pakistan try to infiltrate or helpers for the actual militants. To support the claim Pakistan says infiltration is not possible due to fence border. What is your comment on Pakistan's denial?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I'm glad you've asked about infiltration by Pakistan across the border. Pakistan forces have continued to engage in unprovoked ceasefire violations, often from civilian areas, to support infiltration of terrorists across the LoC. This is a clear violation of the 2003 Ceasefire Understanding between the two sides.

This year, till date, Pakistani forces have carried out more than 3800 unprovoked ceasefire violations. There have also been attempts to drop arms and ammunition close to the LoC in the garb of civilian activities.

We have also witnessed that Pakistan’s aid and abetment to cross-border terrorism, smuggling of arms and narcotic substances has spilled over to the International Boundary including through usage of drones and quad copters. Such violations are regularly highlighted to Pakistan through diplomatic channels and at the regular DGMO level talks.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Kamaljeet from Aajtak has asked - "what does India expect from ongoing FATF plenary session? Has Pakistan according to India lived up to its commitments on action plan obligations?" Nainima from The Print has asked - "tomorrow is the FATF plenary final day. Is India hopeful that Pakistan will be blacklisted?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: You would know that FATF has well laid out standards and procedures for putting a country in its Black List and Grey List. After a country is put on a List, an action plan is given to it and the country concerned is expected to fully complete the action plan within the stipulated time. Those found wanting in implementing their obligations are held accountable and subjected to appropriate action.

It is understood that Pakistan has addressed only 21 action items so far out of total 27 point FATF Action Plan. 6 important action items are yet to be addressed. As is well known, Pakistan continues to provide safe havens to terrorist entities and individuals and has also not yet taken any action against several terrorist entities and individuals including those proscribed by the UNSC such as Masood Azhar, Dawood Ibrahim, Zakir-ur-Rahman Lakhvi etc.

The issue of Pakistan’s compliance is being looked at the virtual FATF Plenary meeting is underway and will get over on the 23rd of October. FATF makes public announcements of its decisions according to its rules and procedures after its plenary meeting.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Kalol from The Hindu has asked - "Indian High Commissioner, Vikram Doraiswami met State Minister of Bangladesh for Water Resource, Zahid Farooq on Wednesday in Dhaka. He also met Railway Minister Nurul Islam Sujon. Can you please share details of these two meetings? When will India and Bangladesh hold Joint River Commission meeting? Will it be held before the summit meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Hasina?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Kalol, you know that our new High Commissioner has taken charge and as is the practice, he is having his courtesy calls and meetings with ministers and officials in Bangladesh and during these meetings bilateral issues of interest are being discussed. Regarding your question on the JRC, which is the Joint River Committee, you would know that during the recently held joint consultative committee meeting between the two Foreign Ministers, the two Foreign Ministers urged the concerned authorities to consider convening the ministerial level JRC meeting between the two countries and as of now, I understand, that both sides are currently in discussion on this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Akhilesh Suman from Rajya Sabha TV has asked - "UN day is on 24th October. How are you going to commemorate this day? Do you think United Nations is able to solve the realities of today's world? And if not, what is needed to be done? Will India on this occasion, ask the member nations to reform the UN and its Security Council and what are India's preparations for that?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Akhilesh ji, you would know that, this year marks the 75th year anniversary of the United Nations and to commemorate this occasion UN had an event, a high-level event last month where PM participated, and I think in his address, you would have seen that, I quote from there which pretty much answers your question. He underscored that while the world is a better place because of the United Nations and much has been achieved, today's challenges can't be fought with outdated structures and comprehensive reform of the UN is needed. In terms of activities, as a special initiative, tomorrow to mark this occasion, Department of Posts will be releasing a stamp, this is tomorrow, which is on the eve of the founding of the UN and the stamp release will be in the presence of EAM, who is the chief guest on the occasion. This event will be live-streamed and we invite all of you to join us on the occasion. On the issue of reforms of the UN Security Council and our preparations for the same, you are aware that India attaches the highest priority to the expansion of the Security Council and both its categories, which is the permanent and non-permanent category, so that it reflects contemporary realities of the world and even in our upcoming innings as a non-permanent member which begins in 2021, reformed multilateralism is a key pillar of our overall approach and we aim to make a decisive position this regard along with like-minded partners.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION has asked - "Ata Noor was in India, he spoke with EAM and Foreign Secretary, how were the talks? And speaking to WION he said, India should sit with Taliban. Any reaction?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sidhant on Afghan leader Ata Noor's visit, he was here yesterday, he met EAM and FS and during the meetings, views were exchanged on the current situation in Afghanistan, including on the ongoing peace process and the increasing level of violence in Afghanistan. We reiterated our long-term commitment towards the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on LAC. Kadambini from NDTV India has asked - "any update on LAC situation?" Brahma Prakash from Zee has asked - "Cheen ke saath seema par jo vivaad ki stithi hai, usko le kar kya agle daur ke varta ki tareeq teh ho gai hai? Aur akhir kya wajah hai ki seema vivid sulajh nahin pa raha?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Regarding the status of the dispute on the border, has the date of the next round of talks been fixed and what is the reason that the border dispute is not getting resolved? Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News has asked - "can you report any progress in the ongoing negotiations between India and China on troops disengagement and de-escalation in the border areas of Eastern Ladakh?" Srinjoy from Times Now has asked - "has there been any changes on the ground in East Ladakh, particularly with reference to the drawdown of armored vehicles?" Shashidhar Pathak from Amar Ujala has asked - "Bharat aur Cheen ke beech, Ladakh mein seema vivid ko le kar kya sambhawna hai? Cheen Bharat ke shantipoorn pahal par kyun dhyan nahin de raha hai? Kya mamle ke samadhan ke liye shirsh star ke rajnitik netritva ke hastakshep ki aavashyakata mehsoos ki ja rahi hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What is the possibility of border dispute between India and China, why China is not paying attention to the peaceful initiative of India, what is the matter? Is the need for intervention of senior political leadership is felt to resolve the issue? Similar question from Madhurendra from News Nation and Mukesh Kaushik from Dainik Bhaskar.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: As you are aware, India and China continue to have discussions through both diplomatic and military channels to peacefully resolve the issues along the LAC in India China Border areas. This is in keeping with the agreement reached between the two Foreign Ministers during their meeting in Moscow on 10 September 2020. The immediate task is to ensure a comprehensive disengagement of troops in all the friction areas.

In this context, the 19th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was held on 30 September 2020. This was followed by the 7th meeting of Senior Commanders in Chushul on 12 October 2020. The two sides have reiterated their desire to maintain dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels, and arrive at a mutually acceptable solution for disengagement as early as possible.

We continue to remain engaged with the Chinese side and will let you know when there is further information to share.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Balaram from Mathrubhumi has asked - "286 Indians, returned from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, UP and Orissa have approached MEA and Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia regarding non-payment of end of service by a private employer. What is the status of said complaints? What steps are being taken by MEA for dealing with such grievances by Indian migrant laborers returning from foreign countries? Is there any negotiation with host countries, especially GCC countries, to deal with grievances of non-payment of salary, end of service benefits, etc to Indian migrants by foreign employer?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Mr. Balaram, all such cases, including the case that you mentioned of 286 Indian workers who were working for an Indian company in Saudi Arabia are raised by our Missions in these countries with employers as well as local authorities. And in this particular case, what I can tell you is that this has been followed up by our Embassy and we are hopeful for a positive resolution. As regards, on your other question on what steps are being taken, we have a portal called the "Madad" portal, where all such cases, people who are affected, they can register their grievances and our Missions and Posts in these areas and in these regions, proactively follow up with concerned authorities to get a resolution.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep Dikshit pictures from Tribune has asked - "can you elaborate on India-South Korea ties in the context of conversation between our Prime Minister and South Korean President preceded by interactions between the Ambassadors and respective Foreign Secretaries?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sandeep, you would know that India and ROK share a special partnership which spans a whole range of areas and this relationship has made great strides in recent years, particularly, since the visit of PM to ROK in 2015 and this relationship has become truly multi-dimensional. It is spurred by a significant convergence of interests, of mutual goodwill, and through high level visits. To just to give you a flavor of high-level visits, in the last two years, both sides had several of such visits, President Moon visited India in July 2018, First Lady Kim was here in November 2018, PM visited Seoul in February 2019, and even this year despite the COVID-19 situation, we have maintained high-level communication. PM and President Moon have had two telephonic conversations. One was in April and the other, most recently was yesterday. EAM had DVC with his counterpart in May 2020 to take forward bilateral cooperation. So, in these conversations, the two sides have exchanged views on the COVID-19 situation, the challenges it poses to the global health system, and as well as the ongoing diversification of the international value chain. So, this is essentially in terms of the discussions during these calls. Are there any further questions?

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

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

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