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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (November 12, 2020)

November 14, 2020

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Friends, welcome back to the regular weekly briefing. I will start with a couple of announcements. The first is on our humanitarian aid to Africa. In keeping with India’s tradition of reaching out to people of Africa in times of need, Government of India has decided to provide humanitarian assistance to Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea. This is in the form of food aid of 270 MT to people affected by natural calamities and the Covid pandemic in these countries.

INS AIRAVAT left Mumbai on 24th October on a visit to this region with this aid comprising of wheat flour, rice and sugar.

The Indian naval ship is presently in the Port of Djibouti. It has delivered 50 MT of food aid and it will depart Djibouti today and reach Mombasa (Kenya) on 20th November to deliver 70 MT of food aid meant for South Sudan.

As per its schedule, INS AIRAVAT had earlier delivered 100 MT of food aid after reaching Port Sudan on 2nd November. Thereafter it reached Massawa Port in Eritrea on 6th November and delivered 50 MT of food aid meant for that country.

This gesture of Government of India has been greatly appreciated by the countries concerned.

I have a short update on the Vande Bharat Mission. As on 12 November, 23.41 lakh Indians have been repatriated through different modes of the Vande Bharat Mission.

Phase 8 of VBM has been made operational since 1 November 2020. In the first 10 days of operations under this phase, We have repatriated 80,000 nationals through 436 international flights from 22 countries. Of these 436 flights, most one from GCC countries, followed by USA (35), UK (34), Singapore (17) and Germany (10).

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, first set of question is on USA President elect. Suhasini from the Hindu has asked - "has Prime Minister Modi requested a call with US President elect Joseph Biden and when is it likely to be scheduled? Also, is he expected to speak to Ms Kamala Harris?" Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - "US mein satta hastantaran ka daur jari hai. Bharat US ke saath apne sambhando ko President-elect Biden ke saath kaise dekhta hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) "The transfer of power in America continues, how India sees its relations with US with President Elect Biden.” Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times has asked - "kya America mein navnirvachit President Joe Biden se Prime Minister Modi ki baatcheet ki koi yojna hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) "Is there any talks planned between Prime Minister Modi and the newly elected President Joe Biden of America?” Similar question from Parikshit from CNBC.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: PM had congratulated US President-elect Mr. Biden through a tweet on the 8th of November and PM had appreciated Mr. Biden's contribution to strengthening India-US relations in his capacity as former Vice President. He had also conveyed that he looks forward to working with him to take India-US relations to greater heights. As regards the call between the two leaders, it will happen in due course at a mutually convenient time. Now, responding to Madhurendra's question. Madhurendra ji aapne dekha hoga ki Bharat aur America ke dwipakshiye sambhand ki buniyad kafi mazboot hai aur ye jo comprehensive global strategic partnership hamare do desho ke beech mein hai, iska dwipakshiye samarthan hai, dono dalo ka samarthan isme hai aur yeh bhi dekha gaya hai ki ek ke baad aane wale rashtrapati ne in sambhando ka star aur bhi badaya hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) "Madhurendra Ji you must have seen that the foundation of bilateral relations between India and America is very strong and this Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership is there between our two countries, it has bipartisan support and support of both parties and it has been seen that the subsequent President and have always raised the level of these relations even further.”

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on Nepal. Sidhant from WION has asked - "will Foreign Secretary visit Nepal? If yes, what will be the key agenda?" Devirupa from The Wire has asked - "has India conveyed to Kathmandu that Indian Foreign Secretary will be visiting Nepal? If yes, what are the dates and will there be a separate meeting on the border issue?" Similar questions from Suhasini from The Hindu, Madhurendra from News Nation, Shankar from India versus Disinfo.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Before Foreign Secretary's official visits, we do make a media announcement. So as and when any such visit takes place you will get to hear from us.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION has asked - "WION reported that Pakistan has accepted the presence of 11 Pakistani terrorists involved in 26/11 in its Most Wanted Terror list. Any reaction?" Shailendra from News18 has asked - "Pakistan ki FIA ne pehli baar mana ki 26/11 ke gyarah atanki Pakistan mein rehte hain. Kya is admission ke baad Pakistan se Mumbai hamlo ki barsi se pehle karyawahi ki umeed ki ja sakti hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) "For the first time Pakistan’s FIA has accepted that the eleven terrorists of 26/11 are living in Pakistan. After this admission, can we expect action from Pakistan before the anniversary of the Mumbai attacks?” Similar question from Madhurendra from News Nation.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Yes, I have something on this. We have seen media reports in Pakistan about Pakistan’s Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) releasing an updated ‘book on Most Wanted / High Profile Terrorists’ listing several Pakistani nationals involved in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. While the list includes a select few members of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a UN designated terror entity based in Pakistan, including the crew members of the boats used to execute the 26/11 attack, it glaringly omits the mastermind and key conspirators of the heinous terror attack.

It is a fact that the 26/11 terror attack was planned, executed and launched from Pakistan’s territory. The list makes it clear that Pakistan possesses all the necessary information and evidence on the conspirators and facilitators of the Mumbai terror attack based in Pakistan.

The Government of India has repeatedly called on the Government of Pakistan to give up its obfuscation and dilatory tactics in discharging its international obligations in the Mumbai terror attacks trial. Several other countries have also called upon Pakistan to expeditiously bring the perpetrators of the dastardly terror attacks to justice. It is a matter of serious concern that, despite its own public acknowledgement as well as the availability of all necessary evidence, including that shared by India, Pakistan is yet to show sincerity in delivering justice to the families of 166 victims from 15 countries across the globe, even as we near the 12th anniversary of 26/11 attacks.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Gautam Lahiri has asked - "when India-Bangladesh land and rail connectivity is to open? Whether Covid situation is reason for not opening for the time being?" He has also asked - "any update on India-Bangladesh air bubble service?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Firstly, responding on the air bubbles. You would know the air bubble arrangement commenced on 28th of October and it has been working well. It is expected to ease the movement of people on two sides, as well as, it will particularly help those who need medical attention. Now, coming onto land connectivity, you would know that limited movement is taking place and full movement will resume once the COVID-19 situation is addressed. Talking of rail connectivity, both sides have taken measures to strengthen trade via rail route and this was in view of the fact that the border trade faced disruption due to the COVID-19 situation. So, on rail connectivity, we have taken active measures to strengthen rail connectivity.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on China. Suhasini from The Hindu has asked - "India and China agreed to a disengagement proposal on north and south bank of Pangong Lake. If so, please share details. Has there been any discussion on the withdrawal of Chinese troops from Depsang plains and a full restoration of the status quo ante to april." Taukeer from Yomiuri Shimbun has asked - "multiple media reports say that China proposed pull back at Pangong. Has India received any such proposal officially. If yes, has India responded to such proposals." Srinjoy from Times Now has asked - "China has made several proposals regarding disengagement, how does India see them? When is the next meeting?" Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News has asked - "have India and China reached any agreement on military disengagement and de-escalation on the Eastern Ladakh border areas?" Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times has asked - "Cheen ke saath agli diplomatic varta ka koi date tey hua hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) "Has any date been fixed for the next diplomatic level talks with China?” Similar questions from Nainima from The Print, Agni Roy from ABP, Sidhant from WION, Shailendra from News18, and Madhurendra from News Nation.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: See as regards, certain news reports on which you seek a confirmation, when we have something to share, we will share. Discussions are ongoing.

You may have already seen the Press Release issued after the 8th round India-China senior military commanders talks held in Chushul on 6th November. The talks were candid, in-depth and constructive and both sides exchanged views on disengagement at all friction points along the Line of Actual Control in the Western Sector of India-China border areas. India and China have agreed to maintain dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels, and, taking forward the discussions at this meeting of the Senior Commanders, push for the settlement of other outstanding issues. They have also agreed to have another round of meeting soon.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - "Covid vaccine ko le kar kya Pfizer se koi baatcheet shuru hui jisne safal vaccine ka report kia hai? Kya Moderna se vaccine lene ke liye bhi Bharat tayaar hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) "Has there been any talks initiated with Pfizer for Covid vaccine which has reported about its successful vaccine. Is India ready to buy vaccine from Moderna also?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Madhurendra ji, yeh jankari aapko swasth mantralaya se leni padegi. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) "Madhurendra Ji, this information you have to gather from the Health ministry”.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times has asked - "Covid ke kaaran abhi videsh mein kitne Bhartiya fase hain, iska koi figure hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) "How many Indians are still stranded in foreign countries due to Covid, is there any figure?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Narendra ji, aapko maine abhi update diya tha Vande Bharat Mission pe. Is mission ki shuruaat May mein hui thi aur pichle 6 mahino mein kareeb 23 lakh se zyada Bhartiya nationals ko hum logo ne repatriate kia hai. 18 se zyada desho ke saath hamara air bubble arrangement hai aur jin desho ke saath ye hamara air bubble arrangement hai wahan air movement kareeb kareeb samanya hai. Aur jahan jahan hum dekhte hain ki badi sankhya mein Bhartiya hain aur woh aana chahte hain wahan VBM flights schedule ki ja rahi hain. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) "Narendra Ji, I have just given update on Vande bharat Mission. This mission was launched in May and in the last 6 months we have repatriated app. 23 lakhs Indian nationals. We have air-bubble arrangement with more than 18 countries and wherever we have air-bubble arrangement with a country there the air movement is now almost normal and we feel that there are large number of Indians and they want to come back, there we are scheduling VBM flights.”

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Aditya Raj Kaul has asked - "killing of minorities has seen a sharp rise in Pakistan, the latest being killing of the Ahmadiyya in Peshawar and two Christians in Pakistan. How does India react to it? Will India provide shelter to such marginalized minorities of Pakistan?" Similar question from Shailendra from News18.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We have seen these media reports on the killing of an 82-year old Ahmadi man by some gunmen, apparently because of his faith in Peshawar. This is unfortunately a sad reflection of the state of minorities in Pakistan. Over a period of time, we have seen the space for people from the minority community to practice their own religion, shrinking. Besides, the condition remains deplorable. We have been consistently raising this issue with Pakistan. We have been raising the need for safety, security and well-being of the minority community, which is in that country.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Dehriya from Sputnik has asked - "could there be a reaction from the MEA on the Russia brokered ceasefire agreement in Nagorno-Karabakh?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We had put out a statement earlier and you would know that we have always advocated resolution of the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region between Armenia and Azerbaijan peacefully through diplomatic negotiations. We hope that the latest agreement of 10th of November 2020 facilitated by Russia will diffuse immediate tensions and result in peace and security in the region. India welcomes the efforts of parties concerned in this regard.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Kalol from the Hindu has asked has Prime Minister sent invitation for the SCO Head of Government meet this month and how many countries will participate and at what level?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Kalol, I had announced earlier that India will be hosting the SCO Heads of Government Summit in the virtual format on 30th of November and the country hosting the SCO Summit invites all SCO member states to attend the meeting. We have accordingly informed all eight SCO member states, the four Observer States, the SCO Secretary General and the Director of SCO RATS. So these are the details I have as of now.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Are there any further questions?

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): No further questions Sir.

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

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