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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (February 04, 2021)

February 05, 2021

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Friends, good evening and Namaskar. Welcome to this weekly briefing in the virtual format. Today, I don't have an announcement to make so we'll move straight away to your questions. Yatin, could you please take over.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): So first set of question is on Indians standard in Chinese waters. Siddhant from WION has asked "Any update on MV Anastasia stranded off the coast of China?" Shrinjoy from Times Now is asking any forward movement on the sailors on MV Anastasia.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Yes, I have an update. I've been briefing you on the efforts made by our Embassy to address the humanitarian needs of Indian sailors onboard MV Anastasia. After sustained follow up by our Embassy in Beijing, the Chinese Central authorities have conveyed their clearance to the local foreign office in Tangshan and to the port authorities for the transfer of the crew of MV Anastasia. This information has also been shared with the shipping company. The shipping company agent, we understand, has submitted a request to the concerned authorities and is coordinating with them on the modalities to effect this crew change and we hope that the crew change is effected at the earliest.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Rezaul from Hindustan Times has asked, "The US while backing farm reforms to open up India's economy has said protests and access to information and internet are hallmarks of a thriving democracy. There have also been further comments by foreign personalities and lawmakers on farmers’ protests. Could we have a response please?" Nainima from the print is asking, "What is MEA's viewpoint on the international campaign against farmers’ agitation? The US Embassy has also reiterated the same statement that the State Department has said, "Has the Government taken it up at the Diplomatic level? Suhasini from the Hindu is asking, "Despite the MEA’s statement on Wednesday putting out the government's position on farmers’ protests, US Government Embassy issued a statement on the protests and the internet ban. What is MEA's response? "Has the Government taken up these comments with US in Washington or Embassy in Delhi?" Similar question from Sandeep from Tribune.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I have a response to this. We have taken note of comments of the US State Department and what we would say is it is important to see such comments in the context in which they are made and in their entirety. As you can see the US State Department has acknowledged steps being taken by India towards agricultural reforms. Any protests must be seen in the context of India's democratic ethos and polity and the ongoing efforts of the Government and the concerned farmer groups to resolve the impasse. India and the United States are both vibrant democracies, with shared values. The incidents of violence and vandalism at the historic Red Fort on the 26th of January have evoked similar sentiments and reactions in India as did the incidents on the Capitol Hill on the 6th of January and are being addressed as per respective local laws. The temporary measures with regard to internet access in certain parts of the NCR region were therefore understandably undertaken to prevent further violence.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Aditya from CNN News 18 is asking, "There have been several reports of Khalistan link terror groups from outside India trying to incite violence in New Delhi. Has India considered seeking extradition of designated Khalistani terrorists from Canada and UK?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Aditya, the information that I have is that we have issued a mutual legal assistance request to USA for investigation in the matter of Sikhs for Justice Referendum 2020. And as per procedure, the request has been sent directly by the concerned authorities to the US Department of Justice. So you may wish to contact MHA for further information on this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on East Container Terminal. Rekha Dixit from the week has asked, "Has Sri Lanka explained why it cancelled the East Container Terminal deal? How will this impact other Indian projects ongoing or proposed in Sri Lanka? Have they offered development of West Terminal and what is India's response to it?” Reni from Kyodo news has asked, "Can MEA share the response to the recent development by the Government of Sri Lanka on the East Container Terminal project?” Siddhant from WION is asking, "Any reaction to Sri Lanka scrapping 2019 Trilateral deal for the development of the Eastern Terminal of the Colombo Port?” Ranjeet Kumar from Rakshak news is asking, "After canceling East Container Terminal Agreement, Sri Lanka is reported to have offered to India to develop Western Container Terminal. Would India consider this offer?” Similar questions were asked by Shankar from India Vs Disinformation, Sandeep from Tribune and Suhasini from the Hindu.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I have a statement in response. As is well known, the governments of India, Sri Lanka and Japan had signed a Memorandum of Cooperation in May 2019 to develop and operate the East Container Terminal of Colombo Port under a Trilateral Framework. We sincerely believe that the development of infrastructure in Sri Lanka in areas such as ports and energy, with foreign investment from India and Japan will be a mutually beneficial proposition. Our High Commissioner in Colombo is in discussion with the Government of Sri Lanka including on the importance of adhering to International commitments.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on Pakistani Army Chief’s comments. Aditya from CNN News 18 is asking, "Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa recently said that Pakistan and India should resolve disputes in peaceful and dignified manner with mutual coexistence and respect. How does India react to the statement? Would India be ready for a fresh dialogue process?” Siddhant from WION is asking, "How do you see comments by Pakistan Army Chief calling for coexistence?” Nainima from the Print has a question, "According to Pakistan media reports, the Army Chief General Bajwa has said, "It's time to extend hand of peace in all directions.” How will the MEA react to it?” Madhurendra from News Nation is asking, "Pakistani Army Chief Bajwa ke shanti ki pahal ko Bharat kis nazariye se dekhta hai? (Questioned in Hindi; approx. translation) "How does India view Pakistan Army Chief Bajwa's peace initiative?” Similar questions from Shanker from India Vs Disinformation, Sandeep from Tribune, Suhasini from Hindu and Akhilesh Suman from Rajya Sabha TV.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Look our position on this is well known. India desires normal neighborly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. The onus is on Pakistan to create such an environment.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation is asking, "Cheen ke saath jaaree tanaav par latest update kya hai? Kya diplomatic sthar par bhee koi baatcheet ka masauda phir taiyaar kiya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; approx. translation) "What is the latest update on the ongoing tension with China? Has any dialogue been again planned at diplomatic level as well? Elizabeth from The Mint is asking,” When is the next round of WMCC see talks?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Elizabeth and Madhurendra, I had given you an update last week. This was on the basis of the press release which was issued after the Ninth Round of the Senior Commanders Meeting held on the 24th of January. The two sides had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on disengagement along the Line of Actual Control in the western sector of China-India border areas and we have also agreed that the next round of Senior Commanders Meeting will be held at an early date. Our objective remains to ensure complete disengagement from all friction areas along the LAC in the western sector and to restore peace and tranquility. We will continue our discussions with the Chinese side through both Diplomatic and Military channels for achieving this outcome at an early date.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Aditya from CNN News 18 has asked, "The strongly-worded MEA statement yesterday indicated that motivated campaigns against India will never succeed. Who according to the Government is running these campaigns and what action is being taken by the government?” Siddhant from WION is asking, "In Rihanna and Greta raking farmers’ protests, while the actions have been slammed. Do you think a specific entity is behind the action or just global concerns?” Neeraj from News 18 India has asked, "India against propoganda hashtag se Bharat virodhee videshee muhim ko counter karne mein kitnee madad milee? Bharat ke har kshetr se jude logon ne iska samarthan kiya hai. (Questioned in Hindi; approx. translation) "How much help we got from hashtag India against propaganda in countering the foreign anti-India campaign? People from every walk of life of India have supported it. Aditya from CNN News 18 has asked "Climate activist Greta Thunberg had tweeted and later deleted a toolkit which clearly indicated a global PR campaign against Indian Government on Farm laws. How does India react to it?” Similar questions were from Akhilesh Suman from Rajya Sabha TV, Sanjeev Trivedi from News 24.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: In terms of my response what I will say Aditya, Siddhant and Sanjeev, our statement of yesterday is very clear and I do not want to add to it. What I will say broadly is that the debate on reforming the agricultural sector is an issue being addressed by the Indian democratic polity. Those following it should have an informed and objective view. We are making sure through our activities that this is what happens. Neeraj to respond to you. Main kahoonga ki yeh hamaaree jimmedaaree hai ki ham apana najariya, ham apana drshtikon saamane rakhen, aur iska kya samarthan hai aur iska kya prabhaav hua hai, iska aakalan mein aap logon ke oopar chhod deta hoon (Answered in Hindi; app.Translation) "I will say that it is our responsibility that we put our point of view in front of you, and I leave it to you to assess its support and its impact.”

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on development in Myanmar. Gautam Lahiri has asked," Whether Government of India will continue to engage with new military ruler of Myanmar? Any contact has been made to know the well-being of detained former State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi?” Siddhant from WION is asking, "When it comes to the Myanmar coup, how do you see the situation? Will India call for early release of Aung San Suu Kyi? Have you had conversations with global community on the issue? US has said, they are in touch with India.” Nainima from the Print is asking, "Does the Military coup in Myanmar come as a setback for India's 'Neighborhood First' Policy?” Similar question was also asked by Suman Sharma.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: You know that India and Myanmar are neighbors. We have close cultural and people-to-people ties. These ties have been bolstered by trade, economic, security and defense related exchanges. So we are therefore monitoring the situation very closely in that country. We are also engaged on the issue as a member of the UN Security Council. Nainima, to respond particularly to your question, as per our 'Neighborhood First' Policy, we attach priority to our neighbors. You know that we have extended assistance to Myanmar and its fight against Covid-19 by providing medicines, test kits and vaccines. We remain committed to continuing our humanitarian support for the people in Myanmar in mitigating the health and economic impact of the pandemic. Siddhant and Gautam, you would have seen our press statement on the developments in Myanmar on the first of February and you would have seen there that we have called for the rule of law and the democratic process to be upheld there in that country.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Huma from Financial Express is asking, "Which countries are seeking the vaccine commercially, please share details? Mexico has asked for vaccines commercially. Is it correct? Any other country from the West Asia seeking vaccines from India and what is the timelines for the delivery?” Madhurendra from News Nation is asking, "Bharat se ab tak kitne deshon ko Covid vaccine bheji ja chuki hai. Aane wale dinon mein aur kitne deshon ko vaccine bheji jani hai? Kya Bharat Pakistan ko bhi vaccine supply karega? (Questioned in Hindi; approx. translation) "To how many countries India has already supplied vaccine. To how many more countries the vaccine will be supplied in the coming days? Will India supply vaccine to Pakistan?Similar question from Pankaj Yadav.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We have so far supplied vaccines to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, the UAE, Brazil, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, Algeria, Kuwait and South Africa. So this is by way of further update. I had provided you an update last week also. The supplies which have been made under grant assistance amount to 56 lakh doses and supplies which have been made on a commercial basis, they amount to over hundred lakh doses. So this is the list of countries where we have already supplied on grant as well as on commercial basis. Our external supplies of vaccine are an ongoing process depending on availability and domestic requirements. We will continue to supply in the coming weeks. In terms of countries where our supplies will reach, the next set of supplies are for CARICOM countries, which is the Caribbean, Pacific island States, Nicaragua, Afghanistan and Mongolia. Neeraj, Pakistan ke request ke bare mein mujhe koi jaankari nahi hai. (Answered in Hindi; approx. translation) I don’t have any information with regard to Pakistan’s request.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Siddhant from WION is asking, "How many foreign missions have agreed to be part of the vaccination offer by India? Is Pakistan included in it?”

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Siddhant, I think you're referring to the proposal to vaccinate foreign diplomats and we have offered to vaccinate all members of the diplomatic corp accredited to India with Indian made vaccines. The modalities like the time frame the venue etc. are being worked out at this stage and the program will cover all eligible foreign diplomats and their family members. The prioritization, ofcourse, will be in accordance with the protocol established for Indian nationals. In terms of numbers, I understand the response from missions is still being collated, and I do not have details with regard to specific countries.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Dehariya from Sputnik is asking, "Would the MEA like to react to Japan's reported reluctance to invite India in an expanded G7 Summit scheduled to be held in UK later this year? Similar reservations have also been expressed by some European diplomats as per media reports.”

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Well, we've seen these media reports. As per our information, these media reports are inaccurate.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Aditya from CNN News 18 is asking, "Has a high-level security and investigation team from Israel arrived in India to assist with the investigation of blast outside Israel Embassy in New Delhi. What's the latest update on the investigation so far? Does India suspect an Iranian hand?”

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
Aditya, what I can tell you is that the investigation into this terror attack is still underway. The security at the Israeli Embassy and other locations has since been strengthened. You would recall that PM while speaking to Prime Minister Netanyahu on 1st of February conveyed his strong condemnation of the attack and assured that all measures will be taken to ensure the safety and security of Israeli diplomats and the premises of the Embassy. He also conveyed that every effort would be made to find and punish the perpetrators of the attack. So that is the information that I have which I can share with you.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: 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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