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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (June 17, 2021)

June 17, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Namaskar and Good evening. Welcome to this edition of media briefing. We have a number of questions in front of us. May I hand over the floor to Yatin for the questions please.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir first set of question is on recently concluded External Affairs Minister’s visit. Pushkar from New Indian Express is asking, "EAM visited Qatar twice within a week. Could you please share details about his meetings with top Qatari leadership?” Sidhant from WION is asking, "EAM was in Qatar two times in span of few days. What was the key focus and how much Afghanistan was part of conversation?” Sandeep from Tribune is asking, "Could you tell us about EAM's recent interaction in Qatar, Kenya and Kuwait?” Agni Roy from ABP is asking, "EAM visited Qatar twice in a week and met leadership there. Doha being the centre of US Talib talk, does this double visit has any significance for Kabul diplomacy?” I have similar question from Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, Yatin. Look EAM recently visited both Kuwait and Kenya. During these visits he transited Qatar, and during these transits he met with his Qatari counterpart as well as the senior members of the Qatari leadership. As Qatar is involved in the Afghanistan peace process, the issue of Afghanistan was also discussed during EAM’s conversations. US Special Representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad happened to be in Doha during this period of EAM’s visit, and called on EAM to brief him on the recent developments regarding Afghanistan. As regards Kuwait and Kenya, I think we have issued detail press releases, apart from sharing other information through social media and on our website. I really don't have much more to add for the moment on that. Yatin.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Dhairya from Sputnik is asking, "Turkey says that it would provide security cover at the Kabul International Airport. The Turkish leadership has also asked Pakistani security agencies to help in the effort. How does the MEA views the development? Overall, are there any concerns about such calls for Pakistan's greater involvement in Afghanistan after US troops exit?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think our position regarding the Afghan peace process is well known and I need not repeat it today. As regards your specific question we can only speak for ourselves. India has been pro-development, pro-democracy, pro-human rights, pro-progress. It is for the people of Afghanistan to judge how each of their partners on how the actions of these partners have affected the Afghan people. I think I will leave it at that.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Dhairya from Sputnik has another question, "Pakistan's Foreign Minister has written to the UN Security Council expressing concern that India seeks more administrative changes in Jammu and Kashmir. Is India planning a rebuttal of these claims at UNSC?” Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha is asking, "Pakistan ke videsh mantri ne haal hee mein sanyukt raashtr ke adhikariyon ko Jammu kashmir maamale par patr likha. Vahaan ka sheersh netritv is mamle mein dushprachaar karne mein laga hua hai. Is par aapki kya pratikriya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) The Foreign Minister of Pakistan recently wrote a letter to the UN officials on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. The top leadership there is engaged in spreading propaganda in this matter. What is your reaction on this?” I have a similar question from Madhurendra from News Nation.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, I will only say that the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. No amount of questioning can change this reality. Also cross border terrorism is unacceptable and no amount of justification can make it acceptable.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Manash from PTI is asking, "Was there any problem between India and Pakistan on issuance of assignment visas? If yes, has the issue been resolved?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look these are routine administrative matters. I understand both sides cleared all pending assignment visas yesterday.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha is asking, "Pakistan ki adalat mein Kulbhushan Jadhav ke lie vakil niyukt karne ki yaachika par sunavaee october tak badhaee gaee hai. Is mamle mein taaja sthiti kya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) The hearing on the petition to appoint a lawyer for Kulbhushan Jadhav in the Pakistani court has been extended till October. What is the current situation in this matter?” Pranay from ABP News is asking, "Pakistan mein Islamabad High Court mein Kulbhushan Jadhav ke lie vakil niyukt karne ke mamle par sunavai ko October tak taal diya hai. ICJ nirnya ke mutabik Kulbhushan Jadhav ki sazza par punarvichaar sunischit karne ke liye kya kya kadam uthaye ja rahe hain (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) The hearing on the matter of appointing a lawyer for Kulbhushan Jadhav in the Islamabad High Court in Pakistan is postponed for October. What steps are being taken to ensure reconsideration of the sentence of Kulbhushan Jadhav as per the judgment of ICJ?” Elizabeth from Mint asks, "In the case of appointing counsel for Kulbhushan Jadhav, Islamabad court has adjourned proceedings till October. What is our response on this?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We have seen the news reports relating to the review and reconsideration Bill 2020 that has been passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan. The bill codifies into law, the earlier ordinance, frankly, with all its shortcomings. It does not create a machinery with to facilitate effective review and reconsideration of Shri Jadhav’s case as mandated by the judgement of the International Court of Justice. The ICJ had ruled that Pakistan was in breach of its international obligation, because of the failure to provide consular access to Shri Jadhav. The ordinance and now the bill invites the municipal courts in Pakistan to decide whether or not any prejudice has been caused to Shri Jadhav on account of the failure to provide consular access. This is clearly breach of the basic tenet, that municipal courts cannot be the arbiter of whether a state has fulfilled its obligations under international law. Not only this, it further invites a municipal court to sit in appeal, as it were, over the judgement of the ICJ. We call upon Pakistan to take appropriate steps to address the shortcomings in the bill, and to comply with the judgement of ICJ in letter and spirit. Yatin.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation is asking, "Bharat ko milne wali videshi vaccine ko lekar kya update hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What is the update on the foreign vaccine which India is getting? ”. Sandeep from Tribune is asking, "Is there any clarity on how many vaccines will be gifted to India by US and by when?” Praveen Gautam from News Point is also asking similar question.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As I have said earlier, we are awaiting further details regarding the timeline and the quantity of vaccines that the US government has announced that it would share with various countries, including India. I don't have any particular update for the moment on that.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Pushkar from New Indian Express is asking, "The US Embassy has opened visa applications. However, universities are insisting on vaccines by Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson. Is any alternate being worked out for those students who have taken Covaxin or Covishield?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, there is no uniformity in these requirements. The US government has clarified that the vaccination is not a mandatory requirement for travelling to the US for our students. I also understand that there are multiple conversations going on between our students and the universities. We would obviously support our students. I think everyone concerned is interested in ensuring that the students are able to reach their universities and undertake regular classes and we hope that a constructive solution is found.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "Japan has said that it will issue vaccine passports to its citizen. Do you see its wider implication with more countries soon issuing such passport and will India issue such passports?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you are aware, there is an ongoing global debate on this issue of so called vaccine passports. We feel that this has to be linked to the larger issue of vaccine equity, given that many developing countries have not yet been able to vaccinate a large percentage of their population. We would favour discussions on the subject of vaccine passport with greater focus on vaccine equity. I don't have any information about India issuing any vaccine passport.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation is asking, "WHO mein Covaxin ke approval ko lekar kya update hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What is the update regarding the approval of the Covaxin in WHO?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: "Ye Covaxin ka WHO mein jo emergency use authorization ke liye jo approval ki baat ho rahee hai, ham is par kafi najar rakhe hue hain. Hamari yahee apeksha hogee ki jaldi se jaldi yeh pooree prakriya complete ho jae. Baaki iski detailed jaankari ke lie main request karoonga ki aap company se directly poochen. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Discussions are going on in WHO for emergency authorization approval of Covaxin and we are keeping a watch on it. We expect this whole process to be completed as soon as possible, for the rest of its details I will request that you ask the company directly.”

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Amiti Sen from Hindu Business Line is asking, "Can you share some information on the government panel constituted to oversee foreign vaccine supplies? What is its composition and what are the issues it will consider, how soon do you think it can take decision on indemnity for Pfizer and others as this matter has been pending for long?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, this vaccine panel as you call it has been set up under the Niti Ayog, Chairmanship of Dr. Paul. And I think it will best if you contacted them for details regarding this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on fugitive Mehul Choksi. Pushkar from New Indian Express is asking, "Any update on Mehul Choksi?” Shrinjoy from Times Now is asking, "India has spoken about bringing back both Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi. What progress has been made?” Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha is asking, "Bhagode heera kaarobari Mehul Choksi ko Dominica se pratyarpan kar bharat lae jaane ke mamale mein ab tak kya pragati hui hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What is the progress made so far in the matter of repatriation of fugitive diamond merchant Mehul Choksi from Dominica to India?” I have similar question from Madhurendra from News Nation and Pranay from ABP News.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We understand that Mehul Choksi continues to be in the custody of authorities in the Commonwealth of Dominica, and legal proceedings are underway. Government of India is actively engaged with the Dominican government to seek the early deportation or handing over to India of Mehul Chokshi to face justice in our country. The criminal charges that Mehul Choksi faces in India, and the facts relating to his continued Indian citizenship have been suitably brought to the attention of the authorities in the Commonwealth of Dominica.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Praveen Gautam from News Point is asking, "Bataya ja raha hai ki Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi is saal ke ant tak america ka daura kar sakte hain. Aisa hai to is yaatra ka kya uddeshya rahega is par thoda prakaash daalen. (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) It is being told that Prime Minister Narendra Modi can visit America by the end of this year. If so, please throw some light on what will be the purpose of this visit.” Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "Is the Prime Minister expected to visit Washington DC in the fall of this year?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, I don't have any information to share on this, as you know, and announcements of such kind of visits are made at the appropriate time. And for the moment I don't have anything to share with you.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Gautam Lahari is asking, "Some senior leaders from Myanmar have taken shelter in India's north eastern states. What's the government view on this development? What is India's view on shadow government of Myanmar formed by the dethroned Democratic leaders? How India looking at the corruption charges framed by Junta government of Myanmar against Aung San Suu Kyi?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I would refer you to the Ministry of Home Affairs on queries of this nature. As regards the situation in Myanmar we support the ASEAN initiative. And we are in regular touch with ASEAN countries.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep from Tribune is asking, "Now that over three weeks have passed, is there clarity on the Sri Lankan law on Colombo port city? And what is the status of Indian infrastructure projects that were discussed by EAM Jaishankar in January? Surely there should be clarity on these aspects by now.”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think you're mixing up two quite different issues. I don't know about whether there should or should not be any clarity. Regarding the Colombo port city project, we have been closely following recent developments from our security perspective. We have also noted the concerns that have been raised in Sri Lanka regarding several aspects of the framework for the Colombo port city project. We expect Sri Lanka will remain mindful of our excellent bilateral cooperation, including for mutual security in our shared environment, which includes the maritime domain. As regards our projects, India has a very extensive portfolio of Development Partnership projects in Sri Lanka and we are in regular contact with Sri Lankan Authorities regarding the implementation of these projects.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation is asking, "Imana sahit kayi Pak samarthit organizations ne Bharat ke Covid Crisis ka faayda uthaate hue madad ke naam par videshon se fund jutae aur phir isi Fund ko Bharat virodhi gatividhiyon mein istemaal kiya gaya. Pakistan ke is shadyantra par sarkar ka kya stand hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) IMANA and many Pak-backed organizations took advantage of India's Covid crisis and raised funds from abroad in the name of help and then this fund was used in anti-India activities. What is the stand of the government on this conspiracy of Pakistan?” Sidhant from WION is asking, "US based Pakistan linked charity organisation IMANA collected funds for assistance to India to deal with the COVID crisis. Has MEA investigated it, If they have sent assistance to India? Since the report by disinfo lab says the money they collected went to terror outfits in Pakistan. Has this been taken into cognizance by MEA?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We have seen media reports in this regard. I do not have any further details to share for the moment. And we are trying to ascertain more information. As soon as we have something I'd be happy to share them with you.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "Will India join B3W project announced at G7?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I recall this question was asked in the media briefing immediately following the G7 summit to Additional Secretary (ER) in the ministry, let me reiterate that relevant agencies of the Government of India would study the proposal and engage as appropriate at a later stage. I don't think I have much else to add for the moment.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Maha from CNN News 18 is asking, "Any response to the UN rapporteur on human rights calling the incarceration of Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita as deeply concerning?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Well, I don't have an immediate response. However, I understand that this refers to an ongoing judicial process. And we would expect you and special rapporteurs to respect and have a more informed understanding of our legal proceedings.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Pranay from ABP News is asking, "America media mein haal mein kuchh commentary dekhee gaee jo Covid-19 ke haalat aur Bharat-America sambandhon ke bhavishya tatha QUAD ki saajhedaari par tippaniyaan kartee hain. Ise aap kis tarah se dekh rahe hain? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Some commentary was recently seen in the US media that commented on the Covid-19 situation and the future of India-US relations and the partnership of QUAD. How are you looking at this?” Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "There have been reports about India being the weakest link of the QUAD. How do you view the statement?” Similar question from Aditya from CNN News 18.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look by now the QUAD and the world know India’s value. The article in question is clearly uninformed. Whether the article has an inherent bias has been answered already through the tweet by Lisa Curtis, who herself had been quoted in the article, but has dissociated herself from the overall message or target of the article.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "Is WMCC or commander level talks likely very soon?” Ranjeet Kumar from Rakshat News, "Is asking has China proposed a new round of military talks at the level of divisional commanders?” Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha is asking, "Poorvi Ladakh mein cheen ke saath gatirodh ki taaja sthiti kya hai? Is ghatna ke ek saal gujarne ke baad kya pragati hui hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What is the latest status of standoff with China in Eastern Ladakh? What progress has been made after a year of this incident?” I have a similar question from Madhurendra from News Nation.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Let me reiterate that early completion of disengagement in the remaining areas could pave the way for both sides to consider de-escalation of forces and ensure full restoration of peace and tranquillity and thereby enabling progress in bilateral relations.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): I have no further question, sir.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, Yatin. Before I close, let me just remind all our viewers that International Day of Yoga is on Monday, 21st of June, and all our embassies and consulates across the world will be celebrating this event. In fact, over the weekend itself, as well as on 21st and beyond. Please tune into this channel as well as on our social media platforms to keep abreast of how MEA celebrates Yoga across the world. Thank you. Good evening.

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