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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (December 01, 2022)

December 01, 2022

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very Good Evening. Thank you very much for joining this week's media briefing. I have a few announcements and then I will be happy to take few questions. Let me begin by announcements. First of all, of course, you know, today is actually a very important day, all of you know why, but I'll give you multiple reasons. First and foremost, of course, the India's G20 Presidency. You've seen it, different elements have come out from social media, but let me just try to wrap up a little bit of what we're trying to do today. A very memorable day today, formally assumed the Presidency. You know about the G20, why it is the premier forum for international economic cooperation, you would have seen Prime Minister's article in which he has penned his vision or India's vision for the G20 Presidency. This has been carried by publications across the world and in India of course. And as Prime Minister has said, we look forward to a Presidency of healing, harmony and hope. A key element of our Presidency will be taking the G20 closer to the public and trying to make our Presidency truly a people's G20. Citizen Engagement and large scale participation through various Jan Bhagidari events are planned throughout the year.

Today was the first day or today's the first day of our Presidency and to mark these numerous activities have been planned. Some of them have already taken place. As you know, earlier in the day, we had a special University Connect event, which virtually brought together students from 75 Universities across the country. External Affairs Ministers as well as Principal Secretary to Prime Minister were among the distinguished speakers. The interest of student actually bodes well for our efforts at engaging the youth in G20 activities. We are also involving school students through special G20 Sessions in various schools.

Taking this people's participation concept further, today, the Hornbill festival in Kohima, features a special focus on the G20. We will try to do that with some other festivals as we go along. 100 monuments including some UNESCO World Heritage Sites are being specially illuminated today. And citizens have been invited to join a selfie campaign that has been run by MyGov around those illuminated monuments. I wanted to stress that we want the whole of government of India approach and you will see various parts of the government, particularly coordinated by the G20 Secretariat to try to take forward, there are numerous events that we have planned across till next September and beyond as our presidency unfolds, so please follow the latest developments on the G20 Social media accounts. All of them are now active. I think Twitter, Facebook, Insta, Koo, the website, which is again now with India G20 Secretariat, as well as a special app that has been launched and we should be able to bring you events as we move forward.

Moving on, the second announcement I had was on the visit of the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany to India. Her Excellency Miss Annalena Baerbock, Federal Minister will pay an official visit to India from 5th to 6th December. During her stay in Delhi she will be hosted by External Affairs Minister for bilateral talks on 5th December. They will of course hold discussions on bilateral issues as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest. As strategic partners, India and Germany have had a longstanding relationship underpinned by common values and shared goals. In fact, in 2021, we commemorated 70 years of the establishment of diplomatic relation. This year, we have had several high level engagements between the two countries including Prime Minister's visit to Berlin for the 6th India-Germany Intergovernmental consultations, and then subsequently Prime Minister again went to Germany to Schloss Elmau for partner country of the G7 meeting at the invitation of Chancellor Scholz. So we look forward to the visit of Foreign Minister of Germany.

Coming back to important days, today we also assumed the chairmanship of the Wassenaar arrangement. Actually, the formal assumption will be from the 1st of January for a period of one year, but today, the 26th annual plenary of the Wassenaar arrangement which was held in Vienna. Ambassador of Ireland handed over the chairmanship to our Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, Shri Jaideep Mazumdar, who is based in Vienna. We joined the Wassenaar arrangement on 8th December 2017 as its 42nd participating state. As you know Wassenaar arrangement is a multilateral export control regime, which through regular information exchange among members on various issues like transfer of conventional arms, dual use goods, technologies, seeks to promote transparency and greater responsibility in such transfer and prevent destabilizing accumulations. It operates on the basis of consensus. And as incoming Chair of the Wassenaar arrangement, India remains ready and committed to work in close cooperation with other members of this grouping to contribute to regional international security and stability. So there's something positive development again.

And finally, India also assumes the Presidency of the United Nations Security Council today, for the month of December. This is the second time during our two-year tenure, that we as an elected member, we have taken over this Presidency. Last time was last year, August 2021. We have a couple of high level events coming up in the middle and we will share more details about that as we go forward. I think as you've seen in August, we managed to identify new areas and charted new directions and I'm sure this time also, we will focus on that particularly on actions on multilateralism or counterterrorism and other issues that are of interest to us and the global community. Okay, so that was my set of a few announcements.

Kavita Joshi: Sir main Kavita Joshi hoon, Hari Bhoomi Newspaper se, mera sawal hai ki Uttarakhand ke Auli mein bharat aur america ke senaon ka jo sanyukt yuddhabhyas chal raha hain, usko lekar jo cheen ne virodh kiya hain uspar hain. Cheen ne ye kaha hai apne virodh main ki bhaarat aur america ke beech mein jo exercise ho rahi hain ye LAC pe peace or tranquillity k liye jo bharat aur chin ke beech main jo agreements hain bilateral agreements 1993 or 1996 ka, uska violation hain, ispar videsh mantralay ki kya pratikriya hain? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir, I am Kavita Joshi, from Hari Bhoomi Newspaper, My question is that the India-US joint military exercise going on in Auli, Uttarakhand, has been opposed by China. China has said in its opposition that the exercises that are being carried out by India and USA are violating the 1993 and 1996 bilateral agreements between India and China for maintaining the peace and tranquillity on the LAC. What is the reaction of the Ministry of External Affairs to this?

Sidhant: Sidhant from WION. My question is on the ongoing protests in China. What's India's reaction?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Which one?

Sidhant: The ongoing protests in China the protest happening in the backdrop of the zero COVID policy we have seen protest in (inaudible), we have seen protests in Shanghai. So any plans to issue advisory for the Indian national, be safe in China?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: From COVID, from the protests?

Sidhant: From the protest and from COVID as well.

Yeshi: Yeshi Seli from The New Indian Express. A lot of countries have expressed concern over Russia and its participation in G20. They've said that it will be a tough call for India to tackle Russia during G20. So your reactions on that.

Sidhant: Could you repeat that many countries have expressed concern about which part?

Yeshi: On Russia's involvement in G20 during India's Presidency.

Altaf: Hi, I’m Altaf from Bloomberg. I'm asking a question for which I need to receive a reply after I flag it to you. Moscow has sent a list of 500 products to India for potential delivery that includes parts for trains (inaudible), do you confirm this? If yes, what is India's response to that? And where and when the agreement was made between the two nations. What was discussions between French Defense Minister and MEA when they met on November 28? Do they discuss war in Ukraine and other issues? Thank you.

Srinjoy Chowdhury: Sir, Times Now. There are reports of assault on a Korean personality in Mumbai. Has the Korean Embassy or Seoul got in touch with the MEA regarding her safety because she, appears to be an important person in Korea. She was in India and she has been assaulted. So if any efforts are also being made to provide protection to her.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay, let me take this down and I'll come back to a few set of questions. Let me actually take, which one should we do? I think Sidhant yours is always the interesting one. So, look on the issue of COVID issues let me just make the following point. I think, you know, COVID has affected across the world, we would hope that humanity as a whole is able to emerge fully from COVID, out of this COVID pandemic at the earliest. But insofar as, you know, specific COVID strategies that each country may be pursuing, I would not like to get into that. I think I would just like to hope that we are able to come out of COVID.

Kavita ji aapne prashn poochha tha hamare yuddhabhyas ke baaren mein, dekhiye ye jo aap yuddhabhyas ki baat kar rahen hain Auli mein, ye jo hamare 1993 or 1996 ke samajhaute ke baare mein baat kar rahen hain inase koi lena-dena nahi hain iska. Par chunki aapne aur chini side ne iska jikra kiya hain in samjhauton ka aur iske baaren mein hum baat kar rahen hain isliye hum kehna chahenge ki chini paksh in samjhauton ko apna hi jo ulanghan karte hain inhi samjhauton ka uspar vichar karana chahiye, unhen avashyakta hain ki woh dekhen aise samjhauton ko ulanghan kar raha hain aur bharat kiske saath abhyas kar raha hain, kya kar raha hain ismen tisre deshon ka koi VETO nahi hain (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Kavita ji, you asked the question about our military exercise. Military exercise in Auli has got nothing to do with the 1993 and 1996 Agreements. But since you and the Chinese side have mentioned about these agreements and we are talking about it, let me emphasize that the Chinese side needs to reflect and think about its own breach of these agreements of 1993 and 1996. India exercises with whomsoever it chooses to and it does not give a Veto to third countries on this issue.

Let me emphasize that these exercises that are going on with the US I think in Auli these have nothing to do with the 1993 and 1996 Agreements that was asked in the question. But since these were raised and we are talking about them, and they're raised by the Chinese side, let me emphasize that the Chinese side needs to reflect and think about its own breach of these agreements of 1993 and 1996. India exercises with whomsoever it chooses to and it does not give a Veto to third countries on this issue.

Yeshi your questions were regarding a general comment about concerns. Look, I think you would have heard the tone from everyone in general who's been speaking about G20, which is that this is an important grouping, it works on the important principle of consensus. And as Chair, our effort would be to build consensus and we have tried to do that in the final stages of the Bali Summit, and I think that would be an endeavour, I think you heard that from Prime Minister, you heard that from External Affairs Minister and other leaders. So from that perspective, that's our approach. Russia is a member of the G20 and hence, we would expect them to be participating in this process, I would not be able to say anything further except to say that we should, the grouping needs to speak with one voice on particularly on important issues that are affecting the world. And we will certainly also focus on issues that are affecting the developing world, the Global South, particularly on the impact of food, fuel, fertilizers. So we'll take that as we go along. I'm sure you'll hear a lot more of the G20 over the next one year.

Altaf, you had raised the issue of 500 products or something like that. Look, let me just give a context to that. We have regular engagement with Russia, on how to expand trade or how to sustain it, or how to expand it and this has been going on for many years. From time to time, both countries or both sides indicate areas of interest and priority that they may be looking at. And I would urge that nothing more should be read into this. I'm not sure there's an agreement or such and or if even such items have been supplied. There's whole list as you mentioned, but as I said, this is a regular feature, and I think more shouldn’t be read into that. You also asked about the discussions that were happened between External Affairs Minister and the French Defense Minister. Look, I'm hesitant to get into privileged communication. External Affairs Minister mentioned, I put out a tweet. I think for the moment we will leave it at that. Yes, of course, issues of regional and global developments do come up in such conversations, but let me leave it at that.

Srinjoy you asked about a question, which is actually quite a live story right now. It's also consular story, so I'll be a little more hesitant commenting on it. I'm not aware that the Republic of Korea Embassy has reached out to us or not, I would have to check. It's still a developing story. I've not seen any reports to indicate that they have reached out to us. On the issue of the individual question that's not an MEA issue. I certainly hope and I'm sure she would be given all the attention and protection that she requires by local authorities. And if there is something further to that, that involves MEA or if it becomes a consular aspect, we will certainly be involved in it. If there is any further update on this, we will share that with you. Okay, let me open set of next questions. Yes, please.

Manohar Manoj: Hello, Manohar Manoj from Economy India. My question is analytical one, that is the holding of G20 Presidency by India, how far it will help in getting the permanent position in the Security Council in geopolitical term and international diplomatic term.

Brahm Prakash: Main Brahm Prakash hoon Zee News se, mera sawal hai ki haal hi main report aai hain Pentagon ki taraf se ameriki raksha mantralaya ki taraf se, jisamen jikra hain ki bharat aur chin ke rishton ko lekar unko cheen ki taraf se threaten kiya gaya hain ki in sambandhon ko lekar na bolen, usako lekar bharat kis tarah se leta hain thank you ? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) I am Brahm Prakash from Zee News, my question is about a recent report from the US Department of Defence, the Pentagon, in which it is mentioned that they have been warned by China that they should not speak about the relations between India and China, how does India look at it?

P M Narayanan: Hi I’m P M Narayanan from German Television. Could you elaborate a little more about the German Foreign Minister’s visit and is there any joint press conference or anything going to happen?

Shalinder: Sir insey juda hua sawal tha, jo report Pentagon ki aai hain usmein ye kaha gaya hai ki jo 2020 mein Galwan ki ghatna hui thi uske baad 2021 mein deployment ke saath-saath jo infrastructure development tha China ki taraf se LAC par woh jari 2021 mein raha aur 2022 mein bhi jaari rahega aur batchit bahut slow chali hain, yeh American assessment hai, prash yeh hai ki yeh assessment sahi hai yah galat hai.. (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir my question is related to the previous one, in the report of Pentagon, it has been said that after the Galwan incident in 2020, China continued with deployment and infrastructure development in 2021, which is continuing in 2022 and the talks have been very slow. This is American assessment. Is the assessment right or wrong?

Anil Singh: Good Evening sir. I’m Anil Singh from IANS. Sir my question is, Indian Navy ex officer arrested in Qatar. Sir any words about their release?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay, let me take this round. Are there more questions I'll come back to them. I will take India and US. Dekhiye aap donon ne saval poochhe hain bharat aur US ke relations ke baaren mein aur chin ka koi tippani aur aapne Shalinder poochha tha ki usamen Pentagon ke saath kya ho raha hain. Sach mein poochhe main samjha nahi aapka 2nd prashn. Pahle prashn ka main yeh keh sakta hoon ki maine abhi kaha ki hamara jo relationship hai US ke saath usmein hum kisi ko Veto nahi de rahen hain, to hum jiske saath exercise karna chahenge ya us tarah ki chijen hum unse karenge, to isase jyada main comment nahi karunga aur Shalinder aapka prashn tha, aapne dhamkane ki baat kari thi? Par main ismein kya keh sakta hoon mujhe to nahi dhamka rahe naa. Nahi itana hi kafi hain or Shalinder aapka prashn tha ye defence ministry se aap pooch lein, talks ke baaren mein jo batchit chal rahi hain iske baaren mein hum beech-beech mein aapko batate hain jo abhi kitne round ke discussion hui hain aur kab agla round kaise hai or military level pe ho rahi hain, kuchh defence ministry WMCC ki bhi ho rahi hain. Slow hain nahi hain aise main kehna nahi chahunga, hum ummid karte hain ki talks ka koi fayda ho, koi objective rahen aur hamare taraf se hum kya chahte hain ye bahut clear hain hamne kaha ki disengagement ho, de-escalation ho or unki taraf se jo military assessment kah rahen hain usmein main comment nahi karna chahunga. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) I will take the India-US, see you both have asked questions about the relationship between India and US and comment from China, and Shalinder you mentioned Pentagon. I do not understand your second question. On the first question, I just said that we don’t give veto to anyone in the relationship we have with the US, so we would like to do exercise with whomsoever we like to or do things like that, I will not comment beyond that. And Shalinder your question was, you talked about warning? But what can I say about it. You may pose your question to the defence ministry, regarding the talks, how many rounds of discussions have taken place and when the next round is happening and how is it happening at the military level, WMCC level. I would not like to comment on whether talks are slow or not, we expect the talks to be productive and what we want from our side is very clear. We said that there should be disengagement, de-escalation. I would not like to comment on their military assessment.

Mr. Narayanan you had asked about the German Foreign Minister’s visit, I gave you a sense we announced the visit. It's a bit early to say a little more. Today is just a Thursday. We will share with you details, of other elements, particularly related to the media. And I'm sure we will see advisories and other details. As I said we look forward to the visit as an important part.

On the Qatar story Anil, you asked that question. Look, we have been responding on this regularly. I don't know I'll have too much of update from what I said last, we remain seized of this matter, of course, our embassy is actively pursuing the case. We understand that the detained Indians are able to speak to their families in India over telephone now on a regular basis. And some of them have family staying in Doha, those families are being allowed to have physical meetings, at least on a weekly basis, I understand. Of course, we will continue to extend all possible consular assistance. And we are also seeking and as I mentioned we are seeking further consular access as the embassy to these people. And as soon as we have some more updates, we shall bring that to you.

Mr. Manohar you asked about the larger issue of how this would help us. Look, let me make two broad points here. I think the world has changed, there are changes happening and it is important that the structures of the past change and the G20 is a reflection of that. The fact that India is on that is an indication of this change from let's say 50 years ago. And I think we have been saying repeatedly at all levels, including our leadership, that if you want to address the challenges of today, you cannot work with the structures of the past. It is important that there is reform in multilateral institutions. You'd have heard External Affairs Minister talk at length about reformed multilateralism, and how we visualize that. Certainly, the reform of the UN Security Council, particularly expansion of its permanent membership, as well as representation to other sections, other countries and groupings is important element. Now, I would hesitate to draw a direct line between G20 Membership and presidency with that. But yes, I think the larger role for India, and our presence and our contribution will be probably more heightened, more visible and more appreciated through the presidency of G20. The UNSC is a different body, but we will continue to make the point that you need to have reform in that body to ensure that it is able to address the contemporary challenges and the challenges of the future. I hope that's my attempt at a very complicated question.

Akshay: Sir, there is a report that about six Indians were lured. They were given offers of job in Oman. Now they're stranded there and their families have been reaching out to the embassy as well. But they are now headed in a place called Little India. They don't have any money left and they are pleading in front of the government that some kind of help should be provided to them. They're in Oman right now.

Madhurima Mishra: Good Evening sir. This is Madhurima Mishra from Republic TV. Sir my question is that has the government of India taken up with the relevant organization, including private media, the biased and motivated coverage of Leicester riots in United Kingdom's if yes, if we can have the details of that. Thank you.

Abhishek: Sir, I’m Abhishek from CNN News 18. My question is regarding former Chinese Minister death, President Jiang Zemin. Have we extended any official condolence on that?

Vijayalakshmi: Sir Vijayalakshmi hoon India TV se, Sir G-20 ke liye as a host country kyokin Presidency hamare pass hogi, kin-kin mulkon ko hum invite karenge apni Presidency mein kyokin host country ke pass kuchh neighbourhood se kuchh countries hongen usmein? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir Vijayalakshmi from India TV, Sir for G-20 as a host country, because we will have presidency, which countries will we invite under our presidency, will there be some countries from the neighbourhood also?

Sandhya Sharma: Sir, Sandhya Sharma with ET. Quickly just want to know on development in Afghanistan, are we resuming our projects there? Reportedly there are some 20 projects India is starting resuming in Afghanistan. And if you can name or talk a bit about the projects that we are resuming. Thanks.

Altaf: And what does this mean for India and Taliban bilateral relations? As you resume those 20 stalled projects in Afghanistan.

Speaker 1: Sir I believe a US Special Representative on Afghanistan is going to travel to India. So just give us some details on his visit and what will be on the agenda.

Amay: Amay from Sir when are we restarting our embassy in the Kabul?

Shrinjoy: Sir yesterday, the German ambassador Philipp Ackerman, when asked about this war between Russia and Ukraine, and India's possible involvement in bringing peace, he said that India has friends on both sides in the West and with Russia, India has very capable diplomats who can do the job. And if India has to intervene on this issue, they will do it at what India considers is the right moment. Now, how does the MEA look at it since your diplomats have been talked about?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, I am not aware Akshay about the specific case. Look, I'm very hesitant to get into individual cases of consular problems, unless there is something specific from a policy perspective. I'm very unhappy to learn that they are not being responded to, that’s very unlikely. We are happy to look into it or our embassy certainly, I hope they have contacted our embassy and we will extend all assistance. As you know, we have been always at the forefront of making sure Indians abroad, receive consular assistance and all other support that we can extend. So if you have details of that, and you feel I don't know where you got this information from, I would certainly ask them to contact us through Madad or directly through the embassy, I would not be in a position to accept that they are not getting a response. That's usually not the case. There may be something more complicated, but you could let us know or let the embassy know.

Abhishek you asked about Jiang Zemin. Look, I understand our embassy in China has conveyed condolences in the actually the social media that is in China, I forget which one which is allowed in China, and they've conveyed condolences on the passing of former President Jiang Zemin.

Madhurima Ji you asked about our comments regarding the Leicester violence. Look, there was some inaccurate reporting on that. We had raised our concerns about that story. There was an outlet in question that we had the wrong story and headline. And that outlet in question has corrected the story and has expressed its regret about it. I think I'll leave it at that.

Let me take actually, the developments in Afghanistan, I think Sandhya you asked, look, I am not sure I have any update on that at all. You are aware that we have a technical team in Kabul. So they are there primarily to look at the humanitarian assistance that we are extending, part of that would be looking at the project related work. But I'm not aware of any specific things about 20 projects. If we have information to share with you, we will do that. At this moment. I don't. I don't think I would agree with Altaf your characterization of bilateral relations. You said that I think so we know the technical team and that's how we have seen it. I don't have any update on a question I forget who asked about when it's I think you asked regarding when our embassy is being reopened. We have a technical team, as I said, and to that extent, yes, our embassy premises are being used for that.

And there was a question on special representative on Afghanistan. Look, we will share more information about that visit, we haven't yet announced it yet. And if there's something interesting about that, but yes, you can presume that Afghanistan will feature in the talks just from that on that.

Vijayalakshmi your question was na usmen reason maine sirf ye likha tha dekhiye, main har baar keh raha hoon ki hamane ek press release jari ki thi September mein jismein hum poore kin-kin deshon ko hum invite kar rahen hain G20 mein 19 desh hain plus European union hain unke saath kuchh international organization hain jinko hamesha bulaya jata hain, usske alava hamne kuchh countries ko bulaya hain. Hum ab formally take over kar chunke hain to formally invitations jaengi par hamne announce kar diya hain, unako bata bhi diya hai aur invitation accept bhi ki gai hain, inmein se Africa mein 6 hain aur hamare neighbouring countries mein 2-3 hain aur baki kuchh international organization jaise CDRI, ISA vagairah invited hain, aapko pura list wahan hain aur hamari apeksha aasha ye rahegi ki sab log physically aayenge or attend karenge September mein summit or usske pahle kareeb hamari jo 150-200 meetings hain unamen bhi ye participate karte hain, practice yahi hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Vijayalakshmi your question, I am saying every time that we issued a press release in September in which we gave details of countries that we are inviting. There are 19 countries in the G20 plus European Union, there are some international organizations which are always invited, apart from that we have invited some countries. Now we have now formally taken over, the formal invitations will go, but we have already announced, informed the countries and invitations have also been accepted, out of which there are 6 in Africa and 2-3 in our neighbouring countries and the rest the international organizations like CDRI, ISA etc. are invited> you have the full list there and our expectation will be that everyone will come physically. They also participate in the summit and the 150-200 meetings we have before that, that’s the practice.

On the German Ambassador question, I am not going to comment on specific, I haven’t seen the full comment and I am going by what you are saying, but let me make a larger point that we have been saying I think, our Prime Minister has said and I think External Affairs Minister also mentioned earlier in some occasion, if we can be of some assistance, of course, we will be, but as you yourself quoted German Ambassador saying, there will be right moment, I don’t have any update on that. There have been a couple of occasions where we have extended some assistance but beyond that I would not like to comment. Thank you very much for joining us. Good evening.

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