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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (March 17, 2022)

March 18, 2022

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good evening to all of you. Thank you for joining us for this Weekly Media Briefing. Of course, in last few weeks, we've been more focused on the daily presser that we did on Ukraine but we are back to our regular events. I am happy to see all of you in person here with the restrictions on COVID having been lifted. Before I begin, on the question part, we have a couple of announcements. So let me begin with the announcements. The first announcement relates to the forthcoming India-Japan Summit, which will be held on March 19th, day after tomorrow. At the invitation of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of Japan, His Excellency Mr. Kishida Fumio will be undertaking an official visit to New Delhi from 19th to 20th March for the 14th India- Japan Annual Summit. This summit will actually be the first meeting of these two leaders. As you would recall, the previous annual summits till then took place in Tokyo in October 2018. India and Japan have multifaceted cooperation within the ambit of their special Strategic and Global Partnership. The summit will provide an opportunity for both sides to review and strengthen the bilateral cooperation in diverse areas, as well as exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest, so as to advance partnership for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo Pacific region and beyond. So we look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Kishida on Saturday.

My other announcement that we have is on the India-Australia virtual summit that is going to be held on March 21, Monday. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Australia, His Excellency Mr. Scott Morrison will hold the second India- Australia virtual summit on 21st March. This summit actually follows the historic first virtual summit, which was held on 4th of June 2020 when our bilateral relationship was elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. During this forthcoming virtual summit, the leaders will take stock of progress made on various initiatives under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The virtual summit will lay the way forward on new initiatives and enhanced cooperation in a diverse range of sectors. The leaders are expected to come into closer cooperation in trade, critical minerals, migration and mobility and education among others. Views on of course, regional international issues will also be discussed. And I think this summit highlights the importance that both countries attach to their bilateral relations as well as their close cooperation on global and regional issues. The India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership has maintained the momentum of an upward trajectory with both countries continuing to collaborate closely, despite the COVID- 19 pandemic in areas such as science and technology, cyber, defense, critical and strategic minerals, water resources management as well as public administration and governance.

Prime Minister Modi of course met Prime Minister Morrison in Washington for their first in- person meeting after the COVID- 19 pandemic. This meeting was held last September on the margins of the Quad leaders’ summit and they jointly launched the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States in Glasgow subsequently on the margins of the COP 26 in November 2021. So again, we expect this to be a very fruitful and important virtual summit. We will of course, try to brief you on the developments, as well as share with you other details of the events. Okay, having said that, let me open the floor for questions. Let me start off okay, first here, please. I see lots of hands, but let me start with you. Please introduce yourself and organization for the record.

Vineet Dikshit:
Vineet Dikshit from NewsGate. There is news in the air that Chinese Foreign Minister is scheduled to visit India. If he's coming what are the dates and what is his agenda? Is the failed talks of the LAC will be figuring in that.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Anybody else on this specific thing on visit?

Sidhant: Sir a lot of Indian students are facing problems when it comes to; they want to go to China, they are not able to go to China, I know that our Embassy in Beijing have been engaging. What's the status? Will China allow Indian students to go to China and complete their studies?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay, anything left on this? Okay, please.

Speaker 1: Sir, cheen ki taraf se kya unke videsh mantri ka bharat daure ka prastav aaya hai kya? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir, have we received proposal from China regarding visit of Chinese Foreign Minister's to India?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay, so let me just answer this set of things. I have a very short answer on this. I don't have any information to share on this at this moment. Let me repeat that I don't have any information to share on this at this moment. But Sidhant you asked additional element, on that I would like to emphasize. Look our Embassy in Beijing, our consulates, our Ministry has been taking up this matter with the relevant authorities in China on numerous occasions since the restrictions were first imposed, as you yourself alluded to. We have highlighted the plight of the students and how the continuation of these stringent restrictions, putting their academic careers, their education careers of thousands of students in jeopardy. In fact, the External Affairs Minister personally raised this issue with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, when he met him in Dushanbe in September last year. We have noted the statement made by the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, I think it was on 8th of February, when in response to a query from the Indian media, he said that China is considering in a coordinated manner, arrangement for allowing foreign students to return to China for their studies. You of course, would have also seen the more recent statement of the Chinese Spokesperson, I think that was on 14th of March, where in response to another query from the Indian media it was said that they take into consideration the developments in the pandemic situation and the features of the different majors of international students and they were coordinating for the return of a few international students who do have such needs. But let me clarify that till date, the Chinese side has not given any categorical response about the return of Indian students. We will continue to urge the Chinese side to adopt a congenial stance in the interests of our students and that they facilitate an early return to China so that our students can pursue the studies. So I think that issue will be on our agenda on all occasions.

Neeraj aapka sawal tha ki kya prastav aaya hai, i think mere pahle statement mein hi clarity ho gai hai ki mere pass abhi kuchh nahi hai jo main aapko share kar sakunga (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Neeraj, your question was that has the proposal come, I think from my first statement itself it is clear that I have nothing to share with you.

Okay, please let’s moving on, other topics please.

Masood: My name is Masood. My question is regarding that there are reports in Western media that China is helping Russia with arms. How do you view this development?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I apologize but I don't think it's related, but since you asked that question I don't know how we would be in a position to comment. It's a media report about some things being done by two other countries. I certainly don't think I have an immediate comment on that.

Yashi: This is Yashi from the New Indian Express. From March 27 we are opening all international airlines, every schedule carrier can come into India. But there is a little concern, you know, with the surge of COVID in Hong Kong, South Korea and 16 districts of China, are you looking at restricting passengers because we are just about getting into the endemic stage. I just like your views on that.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Restricting passengers?

Yashi: No. Would you try and restrict passengers from these three countries in particular, because there's a surge in Covid, if one guy comes, it can lead to the same situation that we had last.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Anything related to this, so I'll take it in one go? No. Okay. Look, first of all, I don't think the Ministry of External Affairs is perhaps the best place to answer all the nuance of this question. Let me just try to answer it in two different elements. As you know, we've been trying because of the restrictions since almost two years plus now, of having air bubbles and Vande Bharat flights etc., to ensure that the restrictions due to COVID can be overcome. I think taking into consideration the declining status of cases, I think the Minister of Civil Aviation has announced that from 27th of March we will resume regular commercial international operations. Separate issue is about restrictions or what are the restrictions of people from abroad when they come? There are certain procedures in place. Again, I think the Health Ministry and the Civil Aviation Ministry would be better placed. We cannot foresee or speculate on what might happen, I think decisions will be taken based on circumstances at that point when it happens. So I think we've always been based on fact and what's happening and developments; and these decisions have been taken.

Yashi: (.......inaudible)

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Possible. It could happen in other countries and we have had to change our guidance and instructions on foreign travel depending on what the reality is. Of course, our interest is to be able to get back to normalcy as soon as possible, subject to this health and COVID and other restrictions on that. So we will keep you updated if we hear of anything but the nodal ministries in this would be Civil Aviation and Health of course.

Rajini: Hi, Rajini from BBC News. I've tried to get a comment from the petroleum ministry to no avail. I just wanted to get something from you on the multiple reports that India is buying crude oil from Russia at a discounted rate. There are reports that the deal would be done with Indian oil and Hindustan Petrol Corporation and that India is going to do a deal with some 15 million barrels. So what do you have on the latest around these reports?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Anybody else on that? Okay, please.

Shalinder Wangu: Sir, Shalinder Wangu News 18 se, issko lekar ke statement America ki taraf se bhi aaya tha ki ye dekhna hoga bharat ko ki woh history jab likhi jaegi woh kis taraf hoga? iss Statement ko aap kaise dekhte hai? ispe kya reaction hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir, Shalinder from News 18, a statement in this regard also came from the US side that India will have to see that when history is written, on which side will it find itself? How do you see this statement? What is the reaction?

Tawqeer Hussain: Tawqeer Hussian from Yomiuri. Has India actually received any offer from Russia in this regard?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay, you have a question on this. Please go ahead.

Vedika: Hi, I’m Vedika from CNN. My question is - is India considering Rupee payments for trade with Russia? Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Let me try to answer. I think these are slightly different issues. Look, as you're all aware, India does import most of its oil requirements. So it's met by imports. So, we are always exploring all possibilities in global energy markets, because of this situation that we face of importing our oil requirement. I don't think Russia has been a major supplier. But as regards the specific query, I think it was implicit in both of them of imports of energy from Russia. Let me just highlight that a number of countries are doing so, especially in Europe, and for the moment I'll leave it at that.

Rajini: And what about India?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As I said, a number of countries in the world are doing so especially in Europe. As I said, we are always exploring possibilities in global energy markets.

Rajini: (.......inaudible)

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As I said we are a major oil importer and we are looking at all options at all points as we need the energy, but specifically I think one of the queries was - Shalinder aapne puchha tha aur woh US ke baaren mein tha. Abhi maine jaise kaha ki hamari jarurate rehti hai, hum importing country hai, aur Russia se tel ya gas vagerah k imports ke baaren mein jaisa maine kaha ki hum jaante hai ki kafi desh unse le rahe hai, aayat ho rahi hai vahan se, europe ki kantriyaan, main sirf itna hi kehna chahunga. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Shalinder, you asked about the US. As I said that we have needs, we are an importing country. About the imports of oil or gas from Russia, as I said, we know that a lot of countries are buying from Russia; imports by the countries of Europe, that's all I would like to say.

As regards, I think Tawqeer - your question on the offer from Russia, was the same thing. I don't have exact details. To be honest, this is an area where I would ideally refer you to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas for any details that you are asking - about exactly whether it's an offer, or what we are doing, or how much.

Rajini: (.......inaudible)

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sorry, I have no idea. As I said, details of that would probably be available with that ministry. From our perspective, I highlighted our position. Regarding the Rupee mechanism, look, as you're aware, in the past we've had that with Soviet Union certainly, perhaps it relates even with Russia, that system of mechanism of Rupee- Rouble. I'm not aware of the current status of it. It will probably be with the Ministry of Finance, or RBI - that would be leading that. But let me make a larger point that we will await details of any unilateral sanctions and the exact details to examine their impact on our economic exchanges with Russia. So let's see exactly what are the sanctions, how they impact before we look at what are the options. Yes, I've seen a lot of people mentioning the Rupee- Rouble option again or reviving it. That mechanism exists, but I don't know to what extent it will be used now or whether it's even feasible. So I don’t have an immediate response on it. Okay, moving ahead. Srinjoy go ahead.

Srinjoy: Sir, Srinjoy from Times Now. Sir there has been a lot of criticism of India also, in Pakistan on this Kashmir files issue, you would have seen volumes of material criticizing India, per se. How do you react to it?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I don't react to it and it's a movie. People are free to comment on it I guess. I think it shows developments in our country that happened over a certain point of time. I'm not even sure it's a foreign policy issue on which I need to really comment on. Pakistan has made various allegations which have almost all occasions you know, are either not correct or completely unfounded, or is the interference in our internal affairs. I haven't seen this specific comment that you made. So I'm not going to comment on that. Related question?

Shalinder Wangu: Sir, abhi jo Islamabad mein OIC ki meeting hone wali hai, Foreign Ministers ki uske liye phir se ek baar hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq ko invite kiya gaya hai halanki vah abhi house arrest mein hain. Innke is invitation ko aap kaise dekhte hain, Pakistan ki taraf se ek baar phir se Hurriyat ke Leaders ko invite kiya ja raha hai.(Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir, the OIC Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is scheduled to take place in Islamabad. Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has once again been invited. However, he is still in house arrest. How do you see this invitation of theirs? Once again the leaders of the Hurriyat are being invited by Pakistan?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Ye 22-23 march vaale meeting ki baat kar rahe hai aap? dekhiye ismen hamane dekha hai ki isake baare mein hame pata chala hai ki videsh mantriyon ke parishad ki jo baithak hai usme all party hurriyat conference ke adhyaksh ke diye gaye nimantran ke baaren mein media reports jo hamne dekhi hai aap usi ke baaren mein shayad jikr kar rahe hai. Bharat sarkar aise karvai ko bahut gambhirta se leti hai jinaka uddeshy sidhe taur par bharat ki ekta ko nasht karana aur hamari samprabhuta aur kshetriya akhandata ka ulanghan karna hai. Hum ummid nahi karte ki OIC aatankwad aur bharat virodhi gatividhiyon mein lage deshon aur sangathano ko protsahan karega. Hame ummid yahi rehti hai ki woh nahi karega is tarah se protsahan. Ye bahut durbhagya purn hai ki OIC anya mahatvapoorn vikas aur gatividhiyon par dhyan kendrit karane ke vajah ek hi sadasya k rajnaitik agenda dwara nirdeshit kiya ja raha hai. Hum pehle bhi keh chuke hai hamne baar baar OIC se bharat ke aatanrik mamlo par tippani ke liye vested interest ko apne manch se fayda uthane ki anumati dene se bachne ka avvahan bhi kiya hai. Main fir se isi ko dohara sakta hoon. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Are you talking about this 22nd- 23rd March meeting? We have seen that, we have learnt that in the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers invitation has been given to the President of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference, you are probably referring to the media reports in this regard. The Government of India takes such actions very seriously, which are directly aimed at subverting the unity of India and violating our sovereignty and territorial integrity. We do not expect the OIC to encourage countries and organisations engaged in terrorism and anti-India activities. We hope that it won't do this kind of encouragement. It is very unfortunate that the OIC is being guided by a political agenda of a single member rather than focusing on development activities. We have said earlier also that we have repeatedly urged the OIC to refrain from allowing vested interest to exploit its platform for comments on India's internal affairs. I can repeat it again.

We have seen in India media reports regarding invitation extended by the OIC Secretary General to I think the Chairman, All party Hurriyat conference, to attend the forthcoming I think the 48 session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Islamabad on 22nd 23rd of March. The government of India takes very serious view of such actions, which are aimed directly at subverting India's unity, and violating our sovereignty and territorial integrity. We do not expect the OIC to encourage actors and organization engaged in terrorism and anti-India activities. It’s highly unfortunate that OIC continues to be guided by a single member's political agenda rather than focusing on other important development activities. We have repeatedly called upon the OIC to refrain from allowing vested interests to exploit this platform for comments on India's internal affairs. Okay, next. Yeah, please. Let me start here, please.

Speaker 2: Sir, we've seen reports that the International Court of Justice, Justice Dalveer Bhandari, Indian judge has voted against Russia. And while we recognize that, of course, the judge is supposed to deliver a verdict independently, but in this case, the Russian and the Chinese judges have dissented and that echoes their national positions, whereas in our case, we have been abstaining during the voting, and the judge has voted against Russia. So what are your views on this?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
I'm not sure what the question is yet. You gave me the background I'm aware of it. What's the question?

Speaker 2: The question is, does the government of India have any views on the fact that the Indian judge has voted against Russia?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
My short answer is no. Look, I do not wish to get into a situation where I am commenting on how judges on the ICJ should be voting. They vote. I think they are on their individual capacities and they vote on the merits of that. So, I have some concerns on all three statements that you made, but I limit myself to this. I don't want to comment on how judges; I think it’s not appropriate for us to comment on how judges on the ICJ vote. Second, you said our position is abstention? No, I think that's a very, very loose comment. We have abstained in voting on a certain resolutions in certain organizations based on the text that is on the table. Our position has been clarified on various occasions through explanation of vote, which highlight various aspects. These are very nuanced issues. And I don't wish to accept that argument. And on the specific thing of the ICJ, I think that they work in their individual capacities. I'm not going to comment on whether the Russian citizen judge or the Chinese citizen judge voted one way or the other.

Ayan: The New Indian’s Ayan. The OIC question I'd like to take from there the floor. Bangladesh once actually encouraged India to be a member; India having a considerable Muslim population, which I suppose India is also leveraging its Muslim population, second largest. Do we have any kind of official invitation from any other OIC State? This is my first question. Second is from the last interaction with you, Sir there is some serious issue with the SWIFT code and banking system. Russia is actually hammered by a couple of European actors as well. So are we getting any kind of appealing from China for using it CIPS system? Thank you, Sir.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look on the OIC part I'm not sure I got your question. I'm not aware of any invitation for this. Simple. As I said, history we can look at, I'm not aware of any immediate thing and on the SWIFT I'm again not aware of any such request. Your specific question was has China requested something? The other is a commentary I am not aware of any specific request of that nature.

Nayanima from The Print. Related to Sridhar’s question, on the ICJ. What is it you know, the signal does it give out on India's position? I mean, we take one stance in UN. I mean, justice Bhandari seen as India's Judge. I mean, I know what you said.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Either you know what I said, or you want to repeat it, I'm happy to repeat it since you asked. So, ‘he is India's judge’ - I think, loose use of the words in English. I think we should say that he happens to be an Indian national who is a member in his individual capacity on the International Court of Justice. And let me repeat again, I'm not going to comment on how judges vote on issues that come to the ICJ. Our position on the other hand, we have been repeatedly saying how we have been looking at the entire issue, and that is, I think, by now pretty clear. So let me move on. Yeah. Anybody else? Okay, please.

Rajesh Mishra: Thank you, Rajesh Mishra from the Kantipur and Kathmandu Post. Sir my question is about India - Sri Lanka cooperation. Sri Lanka is going through an economic crisis and Sri Lankan Finance Minister is now in India. Is India waiting to announce something new for Sri Lanka, any announcement from India? Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Look, I think you just missed the recent developments in the last few hours, so let me just update you on that. As you know, the Sri Lankan Finance Minister, His Excellency Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, is here on a visit, he is on an official visit from I think the 15th to the 18th. He called on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi yesterday. You would have seen a Press release that was issued after that. He also met External Affairs Minister late last evening. Earlier in yesterday the Foreign Secretary had called on him. This morning, Minister Rajapaksa met I think with our Power and New & Renewable Energy Minister, Shri R K Singh. And later in the day, in fact, in the afternoon, Minister Rajapaksa met Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman as well as EAM jointly. There was a signing ceremony which took place about an hour or hour and a half ago of $1 billion concessional credit facility being extended to Sri Lanka. This will be used for importing food, medicine and other essential items from India. The signing ceremony took place in the presence of all the ministers and as you are very well aware in the past, also in the recent past, at the request of Sri Lanka, we have been extending assistance and support to Sri Lanka. I think here also from the same forum we had mentioned, there was a 400 million currency swap under the SAARC format. RBI deferred, I think it was called Asian Clearing Union facility, there was a $515.2 million settlement facility that has been deferred till May. We have also earlier extended $500 million line of credit for procurement of fuel from India. In addition, I think we supply 40,000 metric tons of diesel etc. So, I wanted to emphasize that India has always stood with the people of Sri Lanka and we will continue to extend all possible support in this juncture, and I think we are cognizant of the economic difficulties that the country is facing, and this is part of that. On a larger aspect of course, I think both sides understand the benefit of closer economic engagement and I think Indian Investments Sri Lanka has been trying to attract and hopefully that will also strengthen with various cooperation projects that have moved a bit and are on the anvil and we are happy to see the renewed momentum in overall economic engagement, overall linkage with Sri Lanka. I think that's where I would leave it at that.

Uma Shankar: Uma Shankar Singh NDTV se, agar Chinese videsh mantri aate hain to Dushanbe ke baad ye pehla aamne - samne ki mulakat hogi apne videsh mantri ke saath? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Uma Shankar Singh from NDTV, if the Chinese Foreign Minister comes, then this will be the first face-to-face meeting after Dushanbe with our External Affairs Minister?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Main yaad kar raha hoon kahi aur mile the? abhi bilateral meeting hui thi, nahi main aapko batata hoon exactly main galat khabar nahi dena chahunga, kafi din se nahi mulakat hui hai par beech mein ek mulakat hui thi. Main yaad karne ki koshish kar raha hoon kab pichhale saal hui thi, Bilateral ke margins pay (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) I am recollecting where else they met? There was a bilateral meeting. I will tell you exactly, but I don't want to give the wrong news, they haven't met for a long time, but there was a meeting in between. I'm trying to remember when it happened last year.

Kallol: This is Kallol from the Hindu. Russia and Ukraine have been holding talks on (inaudible) of resolving the crisis and one of the issues that has come up is the neutrality of Ukraine, which is now on the table, and both sides are discussing it. So what's India's position on a possible Ukrainian neutrality? Does India support the kind of scenario when Ukraine could become a neutral country in the lines of say, Austria, Switzerland?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Let me step back. This is all media reports. I am not aware of all the exact details of who's proposing what and what are the contours of any. So let me emphasize how we look at it. Of course, EAM made a very detailed and comprehensive statement in both houses of Parliament. So let me not go too much beyond that. But you are aware that we have been in touch with all sides, including at the highest levels, our basic message has been that the need for diplomacy and dialogue, that's the way forward. The exact contours of what kind of an understanding that can be reached, I would leave it to the protagonists involved, rather than comment on our views on what could be and what is on the table, which is we are not even aware, because I've just seen some regular media reports.

Speaker 3: I wanted to know about Indian policy on the Ukraine issue. Also of a Japanese Prime Minister visit to Delhi does Indian government called cessation of violence and dialogue between both sides.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I can't hear you properly. So could you repeat the last part.

Speaker 3:
That Quad countries including Japan (inaudible)

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I understand you are very well known. I just can't hear you that's why. I think on the Indian policy on Ukraine we've been clear and consistent, we've been saying it repeatedly. Our preference, we feel the only way out is through diplomacy and dialogue. This has been emphasized by Prime Minister in his conversation President Putin, President Zelenskyy. This is what we have been emphasizing. At the UN we've been highlighting the need to respect the UN Charter, the territorial integrity of countries. We have I think said this, I think as I refer to you the External Affairs Minister’s statement in Parliament also emphasize that, so yes, we have been talking about the need for dialogue and diplomacy, not hostilities, clearly. On the Quad related element look, instead of looking only at the next Quad Summit, which I understand Japan has offered to host, let me just refer you to the recent Quad virtual meeting that took place and as you saw that where we had a reference to discussions on international issues, of course, we feel that the main focus of Quad should continue to be and is continuing on the Indo Pacific but of course, topical issues, live issues, as very close partners and friends naturally they are discussed at length and I'll stop there. Kadambini please go ahead.

Kadambini Sharma: Kadambini Sharma from NDTV India. Main janana chahti hoon abhi do-teen din pehle aapne Moscow ke raaste Ukraine se 3 aur bharatiy nagarikon ko nikala hai. Kya aur bhi bhartiya nagrik aise chitput phanse hue hain, jinhen abhi nikalna baki rehta hai? (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Kadambini Sharma from NDTV India, I want to know that just two-three days ago you have evacuated 3 more Indian nationals from Ukraine via Moscow. Are there more Indian nationals who are still stranded?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Dekhiye hamne jaisa us din kaha tha, aapne dekha hoga hamne kaaphee briefings ki thee pichhale haphte ya thode pahale. Hamane kareeb 22,500 se jyaada hamaare desh ke naagarik to nikaal diya hai. Par hamesha jaise hota hai, jaisa aapne kaha kuchh isolated pockets mein kuchh log hain, par ye ek ubharatee huee situation hai, kuchh log kam ho jaate hai, kuchh log aana nahee chaahate hai. Hum contact mein hai inke saath, jo baaki hain wahan pe, har kisi ke sath, kareeb 50 log the. Hamane aaj parliament mein bhee kuchh 50 ke baaren mein baat kee hai, par ye do teen din pahle kee baat hai, usake baad bhee kuchh aur log nikal aae hai. Hamaara assesment to yahee hai ki 15 se 20 log aise hai jo abhee nikalana chaahate hai, baaki log vahaan hai jo abhee nikalana nahee chaahate hai aur jitana sambhav ho sake ham unko sahaayata de rahe hai. Abhee yuddh ka maahaul hai par jitana ho sake ham karate rahenge inako nikaalane ka koee tareeka nikale. Jo aapane jikr kiya russia ke raaste jo aae ha. Dekhiye jo main hamesha se kah raha hoon ki hamaara jo focus hai unako kis tarah se nikaal sakate hai, koee bhee route de sakate hai. Ye log aisee jagah the jahaan se unko Crimea jaana aasaan ho raha tha, russian control area mein the, to Crimea hote hue Simferopol se vahaan hote hue Moscow ke raaste hamaare Embassy ne unako assist kiya. Agar aise aur bhee kuchh hai, ham jaanate aur bhee kuchh log hai Kherson mein par vo agar is route ko lena chaahate hai aur agar ye route open raha, us samay tha, us samay vo nahee nikalana chaahate the to ham koshish karate rahenge. Aur agar western side se route se nikal sakate hai western border se to vo bhee. Toh operation ganga bahut log keh rahe hai ki band ho gaye hai, aisa baat nahee hai. Jo bhee vahaan phase hue hai jo naagarik hai ham unakee madad kare ja rahe hai warsaw mein jo hamaaree embassy hai jo vahaan se operate kar rahee hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) See, as we said that day, you must have seen that we did a lot of briefings last week or a little earlier, we evacuated more than 22,500 of our nationals but as always like you said people were there in isolated pockets. But this is an evolving situation, the number of people reduces, people do not want to come. We are in contact with people who are still there. There are about 50 people. We have talked about some 50 in the parliament today too, but this was two or three days ago, even after that some more people have come out. Our assessment is that there are 15 to 20 people who want to leave now, there are other people who do not want to leave now and we are extending help to them as much as possible. There is war going on now, but we will continue to do as much as we can to find a way to evacuate them. You mentioned about those who have come through Russia. See, I have always been saying that our focus is on finding ways to evacuate them, any route can be chosen. These people were in such a place from where it was easy for them to go to Crimea, which is a Russian control area. Then through Crimea, they went to Simferopol to Moscow, our Embassy assisted them in this regard. If there are more such people like this, we know there are some people in Kherson, but if they want to take this route and if this route stays open, then we will keep trying. If we can take the route from western side, then that also we will take. Many people are saying that Operation Ganga has stopped, it is not like that, our citizens who are trapped there, our Embassy, which is operating from Warsaw, is helping them.

Speaker 4: Operation Ganga ke tahat aur bhi videshi nagarik ko laya gaya hai, Sir us sankhya ko ek baar bata sakte hain finally? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Foreign nationals have been brought under Operation Ganga, Sir can you tell that final number?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Dekhiye videsh mantree ne parliament mein 147 ka number diya tha mujhe uske baad koi aur gyat number nahee hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation). See, the External Affairs Minister had given the number of 147 in the Parliament, I do not have any knowledge about other numbers.

Ayan: Sir, are we opening a mission a full-fledged mission in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
I'm happy to tell you that as soon as we are in a position to share information on this I will share with you.

Thank you very much. Good evening.

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