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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (March 16, 2023)

March 16, 2023

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Very good afternoon to all of you. Thank you for joining us for the special weekly media briefing. I don't have any announcements. So, I'm happy to take questions. I know there a lot of people who have asked me questions. Let me start with Pranay first.

Pranay Upadhyaya: Sir, Pranay Upadhyaya ABP News se. Mera sawal Australian Prime Minister ki visit ke bad jis tarike se Brisbane me ghatna hui hai, Khalistaniyon ne Indian Honorary Consulate ko ghera, to kya Australian Government ke sath is issue ko uthaya gaya hai, aur kya further jo mission ki security hai, usko lekar bhi koi bat hui hai? Aur ek cheez aur isi se judi hui ke kya Australian Government ne jo travel advisory apni revise ki hai, usko lekar notice kiya hai aapne? (Questioned in Hindi: Approximate translation) Pranay Upadhyaya from ABP News. My question is about the incident in Brisbane, post the Australian Prime Minister’s visit, where Khalistanis surrounded the Indian Honorary Consulate. Has this issue been raised with Australian Government, and has the issue of security of mission been discussed? Another question related to that is, Australian Government has revised its travel advisory, have you noticed it?

Yeshi Seli: Yeshi Seli from the New Indian Express. My question is on Qatar again. Eight months have gone, the eighth bail plea has been rejected, no charges have been claimed, where do we stand on this?

Sidhant: Sir, Sidhant from WION. My question is regarding the recent pact between Iran and Saudi Arabia, mediated by China, any reaction by the Indian side on this pact which has been brokered by China?

Runjhun Sharma: Runjhun Sharma, RT. There are reports doing the rounds that India is going to abide by the price cap which is put on Russian oil by the G7 or the West. Could you clarify?

Madhurendra: Sir, Madhurendra News Nation se. Mera sawal hai ki Bharat ne jo global chhabi apni banayi, aur MEA ne jo global forum me India ke stand ko uppar rakha khas taur pe. Appko lagta hai ki Rahul Gandhi ke bayano se India ka image worldwide tarnish hua hai? (Questioned in Hindi: Approximate translation) Sir, Madhurendra from News Nation. My question is, in light of India’s global image, especially given the fact that MEA has been promoting India’s stand in global forums, do you think that Rahul Gandhi’s statements have tarnished India’s image worldwide?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay, let me take this round of questions. Yeshi let me, actually let me start with yours. I know you've been raising this on a regular basis. I will share with you updates that have come. Let me emphasize where we stand. As you said, we attach high priority to the matter. There are continuous efforts by our Embassy for resolution of the matter so that early return and repatriation can take place of the detained Indian nationals. Our Embassy has been seeking a consular access. I think one more request is pending so that they can ascertain the welfare and well-being of our nationals. The family meetings and the family visits continue to be facilitated. Overall, look government remains fully seized of the matter but I don't have an easy solution sort of… but you were saying where we stand, so let me emphasize where we are on vis-à-vis that.

Pranay, appka prashna tha Brisbane me, hamare honorary consulate ka aapne zikar kiya tha. Kucch galat stories aa rahi thi media me ke band ho gaya hai consulate. Wo hamara honorary consulate hai, thodi der ke liye ruka hua tha. Dekhiya jaise aapne Pradhan Mantri Ji se directly suna, unhone ye sare mudde uthaye the abhi jab Australia ke Pradhan Mantri yaha aaye the. Uske bad, usi samay hua tha, usi ke thik bad hua tha. Ye mudda bhi uthaya gaya hai Australia authorities ke sath. Aur hame apekhsha yahi hai ke ye action le ispe. Jo ye kar rahe hai unke khilaf karvai kare take ye na ho. Aur ek bar Pradhan Mantri Ji ne keh liya to phir uske bad me kuch kehna nai chahunga. Aapne kaha terror advisory, uske sath mujhe nai direct lag raha hai ke link hai. Maine exact detail nahi dekhe hai, par security issue mudde pe me comment nai kar paunga is waqt. (Answered in Hindi: Approximate translation) Pranay, your question was regarding our Honorary Consulate in Brisbane. There have been some misleading stories in media that Consulate has been closed. It was our Honorary Consulate and it was disrupted for a little while. As you would have directly heard from the Prime Minister, that he raised this issue during the recent visit of Australian Prime Minister to India. This event took place right around that time and it was raised with the Australian authorities. We expect them to take appropriate action against those who are doing this. Now as Prime Minister has already commented on it, I will not go beyond and comment anymore on this issue. I don’t think terror advisory has any direct link to it. I have not gone through the exact details, but I won’t be able to comment on security concerns at this time.

Sidhant, your comment was on Iran and the latest Iran and Saudi rapprochement, I would say. Look we have seen the reports in this regard. India has good relations with various countries in West Asia, and we have abiding interests in the region. India has always advocated dialogue and diplomacy as a way to resolve differences. So that would be my comment on that.

Runjhun Sharma you had asked about price cap… or no, you had asked about a report on the price cap or at least reports that there were in the media. Look I’m extremely uncomfortable talking about reports that may be there. I don’t know which report you’re referring to. So let me just clarify. I don’t want to comment on speculative media reports. We have repeatedly made it clear that our approach will be guided by our energy security requirements. You heard this many times and I think that continues to be valid.

Madhurendra Ji, appka prashna tha ki aapko kya lag raha hai, aapne… I don’t think ye foreign policy ke area me hai. Abhi ye mudda Parliament me bhi zikar ho raha hai, to main isme nai bayan du to behtar hai. Hamara jo pura prayas rehta hai, Bharat Sarkar ki taraf se, Videsh Mantralaya ki taraf se, ke India ki chhabi aur India ki jo foreign policy aur hamare jo perspectives hai wo dusre deshon ke sath ham share kare, take hamare jo interests hai aur hamari jo zarurate, usko ham le ja sake aur jisme aage bad paye. (Answered in Hindi: Approximate translation) Madhurendra ji, your question was how do we think on the matter… I don’t think this comes under foreign policy. Also, this matter is being discussed now in Parliament, so it’s best that I don’t comment on it. It’s always an effort of Government of India and Ministry of External Affairs to maintain our global image worldwide, share our foreign policy and perspectives with other countries so that we take forward our interests further.

Kavita Joshi: Sir, main Kavita Joshi hoon Hari Bhoomi Newspaper se. Sir mera sawal ye America ke Senate me ek do dalon ka prastav do bar aa chukka hai, usme America ka ye kehna hai ke Arunachal Pradesh me jo line of actual control, McMohan jo line hai, wo Arunachal Pradesh aur China ke bich me international boundary hai. Aur dusra unhone China ka jo aggression hai, chahe wo LAC par aggression ho ya Indo-Pacific region me, usko bhi unhone kafi criticize kiya hai. To mera sawal ye hai ke India kya ye manta hai ke America ne jo kaha hai, usse Bharat sehmat hai, ya phir Bharat ka ye kehna hai ke jo boundary dispute hai Bharat aur China ke bich me, wo bilateral issue hai, us par kisi tisre desh ko bolne ka right nai hai. (Questioned in Hindi: Approximate translation) Sir, Kavita Joshi from Hari Bhoomi Newspaper. Sir, my questions is regarding the bipartisan resolution presented in American Senate twice, in which America has said that Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh or the McMohan line is the international boundary between Arunachal Pradesh and China. Secondly, the aggression of China in LAC and in Indo-Pacific region has also been heavily criticized by them. So my question is do we agree with what America has said, or India believes that this boundary dispute is a bilateral issue between India and China and a third‑party should not interfere?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Aapne bahut saare options de diye mujhe. Par dohraenge ki pehla part aapke prashn ka kya tha. (Questioned in Hindi: Approximate translation) You gave me too many options, but could you please tell me what was the first part of your question?

Kavita Joshi: Pehla yehi hai ke jo Senate ka do bar jo proposal aaya hai, jisme unhone…(Questioned in Hindi: Approximate translation) First, the proposal that’s been presented in American Senate twice, in which they…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Proposal ki baat kar rahe hain na. Main vahi soch raha tha ki aap keh rahe hain ki America ne kaha hai. Main wahi check kar raha tha. (Questioned in Hindi: Approximate translation) You’re talking about proposal, okay. I thought you said that US has said this. I was just checking what you said.

Ileana: Good afternoon. Ileana, TASS News Agency. How it is important for India, the continuation of the grain deal, the Black Sea grain deal, and what is your position on the continuation of this deal only for 60 days or only for (Inaudible).

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: That’s very specific, okay.

Kallol: Kallol from The Hindu. The US Ambassador Designate Garcetti has said that the human rights, alleged human rights violations in India would be at the center of his tenure in New Delhi. This he said in a briefing and that has actually drawn quite a few responses from the Indian side, especially from the Vishva Hindu Parishad and other such organizations. What would you like to say? Do you think Mr. Garcetti has violated something like a golden rule of diplomacy by spelling out his agenda even before arriving in New Delhi.

Neeraj: Sir, Neeraj hu News 18 India se. Hamara sawal hai SCO Defense Ministers ki meeting hone wali hai April me. Pakistan ke defense minister ko bhi nyota diya hai? Kya unhone aamantran ko swikar kiya hai? (Questioned in Hindi: Approximate translation) Sir, Neeraj from News 18 India. My question is regarding SCO Defense Ministers’ Meeting which is set to take place in April. Is Pakistan’s Defense Minister also invited and did he accept the invitation?

Akhilesh Suman: Sir, I am Akhilesh Suman from Sansad TV. Japan Prime Minister is about to visit India. So can you throw some light about the agenda and expected outcomes?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: You know what I am going to say. Okay, let me try to answer this.

Akhilesh Suman: Yeah, please say something.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay. I will say something, anything. Kavita Ji, aapka prashna thoda pechida isiliye hai, kyuki maine koi aisa resolution nahi dekha Senate me. Ho sakta hai aap zikar kar rahe hai kuch resolution prastav kiya gaya ho ya table kiya gaya ho. Hamne kuch aise reports dekhe hai. Ham uske bar me zyada details nikal rahe hai, kya exactly uske bare me hai. Par abhi to maine koi dekha nai ke unhone koi, matlab American Sarkar ki taraf see koi specific response aaya hai ispe. To abhi ke liye mere pas itna hi kehne ke liye hai ke ham usko dekh rahe hai, us resolution ka kya details hai. Abhi table nai hua hai. (Answered in Hindi: Approximate translation) Kavita ji, your questions is a tricky one, because I have not come across any such resolution being presented in American Senate. Probably you are saying that some resolution has been presented or tabled. We have seen such reports and are trying to find out more details about them. But so far I have not seen any specific response from American Government on it. So for now, I don’t have anything to comment on it, except that we are looking for the details of the resolution. It has not been tabled yet.

Ileana, on your question, look I think you or somebody else asked me a few weeks ago on this. We have always stressed the importance of having food security, energy security for the developing world. As you would recall, this grain deal, as you call it, which allowed grain to come out of that region was useful. I don’t have a specific comment on whether it’s for 60 days or what exactly is it, but yes, on a larger issue, I think it is important that the global community looks at the concerns of the developing world in terms of access to food, the right prices, affordability of food, as well as energy, and you would’ve also seen fertilizers in that list. So I think that's how we would look at the concerns vis-à-vis the so-called grain deal.

Ileana: So you welcome it?.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I don’t know if it has been renewed. Let it get renewed. Let’s see what the contours are. Let me not pre-judge it.

Kallol, your question, I was not sure how to answer it, because you made a comment right at the beginning which I'm not in agreement with. So let me clarify. I'm not aware frankly of any recent comment by Ambassador Designate Garcetti on this issue. I think there's something in social media which is pretty old, okay. So let me emphasize. We welcome the confirmation of Mr. Eric Garcetti as Ambassador to India. We look forward to working with him, to take forward our multifaceted bilateral relations. On the other issues that you mentioned, look our position on many of these issues is well known to the world.

Neeraj Ji aapka sawal tha SCO Defense Ministers ke bare me. Dekhiye maine pehle bhi dohraya tha, I think hamare Videsh Sachiva ne bhi dohraya tha, kyuki ham chair hai SCO ke to is nate ham sare SCO members ko nyota denge hamare jo sare events hai, jo inter-governmental hai. Uske tehat aisi kai invitations gai hai. Par ab unhone accept kiya? Ab har event ka main yad nai rakh patah hu, na main follow karta hu. Agar kuch specific hai aapke sath share karne ke liye, zarur karunga, par ham invitation sab ko bhej rahe hai. (Answered in Hindi: Approximate translation) Neeraj ji, your question was regarding SCO Defense Ministers’ Meeting. See, I said this earlier and so did our Foreign Secretary. We are Chair of SCO, and because of that we are going to invite all SCO members for all inter-governmental events. So such invitations have been sent. Now whether they have accepted, I don’t know. I can’t keep track of every event, nor do I follow all of them. However, if there is something specific to share with you, we’ll definitely do so, but we are sending invitations to all members.

Akhilesh, I am sorry to disappoint you. Yes, let me confirm, we look forward to the visit of Honourable Prime Minister of Japan. That's on Monday. As you know, Japan is a very important partner. We have annual summits with them. This is part of that. They're also partners in plurilateral and multilateral constructs. So, we look forward to a rich discussion. We look forward to exchange of views. Prime Minister had gone to Japan last year. Prime Minister Kishida had come here. So, we look forward to taking forward those discussions. But what will be the talking points, what will be the outcomes, let the leaders talk about it. I think it's pretty far too soon to prejudge that.

Abhishek: Hi sir, I am Abhishek Jha from CNN News 18. My question is regarding news that Indian Embassy in Kabul has conducted some course, Taliban has also said about participation, if you could give some details on that. And should we see it as some sort of engagement, a diplomatic engagement from Indian side to Taliban regime?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Could you be specific on that second part? Should we see it as some sort of diplomatic engagement?

Abhishek: Diplomatic engagement from the Indian side to the Taliban de facto government in Afghanistan? Sir, it’s a related question. What about the visas that have been pending for many students who have been held up in Afghanistan and they are not getting visa. So if you could…

Srinjoy: Srinjoy from Times Now. Sir, there are reports of another meeting at the Commander’s level because a new Commander has just reached Ladakh from the Indian side.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay. You mean with China?

Srinjoy: With China. Can you tell us about it? During that another meeting is (inaudible).

Sridhar: Sir, Sridhar from The Asian Age. My question is back to Australia. You just made a comment that the consulate was not closed in Brisbane. What exactly happened? You said, ruka hua tha (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) it was on hold or something.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I can tell you in English, fair enough, if that’s a question.

Sridhar: No, I wanted to know that footage showed that there was this group demonstrating, the Australian Police were also standing by and watching. This comes right after the PM has visited. So what are the specifics? You said you had raised the matter with Australia. Has the Australian High Commissioner been called in? How exactly… and the second is, it’s more clarification on Afghan issue. The translation of the memo from Dari, it spoke of a note…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I have no idea what memo you’re talking about.

Sridhar: Apparently issued by the Afghan, so the Afghan (Inaudible).

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Sridhar: But it said that it spoke of a note verbale being issued by the Embassy of India to the Foreign Minister.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Where did you see that? On social media?

Sridhar: It was there on social media.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Oh, okay. I got your question. What is your query on that?

Sridhar: My query is that, are the contents of that memo accurate? Did we actually issue a note verbale?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Is it related to the question Abhishek asked?

Sridhar: It’s related to that. Did we actually issue a note verbale? Thank you.

Siddhant: Sir, I am Siddhant from CNN. Sir, my question to you is that jab Pradhan Mantri Ji ne bola tha Khalistan mudde pe, mandir ke mudde pe, to unhone bola tha, hamari teams dono taraf se sampark me rahengi. Ye unke shabd the. (Questioned in Hindi: Approximate translation) Sir my question to you is that when Prime Minister commented on Khalistan issue, and temples vandalism issue, he said that, teams from both sides are in contact. Those were his words.

So yesterday, when this happened, so was there any exchange between the teams of Australia and India? First question, sir. Sir also, there are a couple of other referendums which are already planned to take place in Australia, maybe in Brisbane and one referendum is going to take place somewhere else, I don't remember exactly. So has there been any official communication made from the Indian side to the Australians that we condemn if such referendums take place, and the authorities should try to stop it to…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I'm sorry to interrupt. You're really defining what my communication will be.

Siddhant: No. No, no.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Help us draft it.

Siddhant: No, I'm just asking you, sir, that…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I will tell you.

Siddhant: Yeah.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: You've asked me. I'll tell you.

Siddhant: I hope you got my question.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I got your question very well.

Sandeep Dixit: Sir, I'm Sandeep Dikshit with the Tribune newspaper. This is about the infant Ariha Shah who's been in German foster care for one-and-a-half years, and it is said if she stays till August, she might have to be permanently separated from her parents. Are there any steps being taken to repatriate her, considering that the Romanians have been able to do so to seven children and Turks with children…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Romanian?

Sandeep Dikshit: Who were in Germany (inaudible).

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Okay. Generally.

Sandeep Dikshit: Yes. And it is said that her parents had met MEA officials today. So was there any outcome from that?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay, fair enough. Let me take this round. I think there are still a couple of hands. I'll try to squeeze in as many as I can. Okay. Look, Abhishek, your query, and what Siddhant, I think you indirectly referred to. On Afghanistan, I don't know whether that question was specific to Afghanistan, but let me answer it in the context that we see it, okay, which is that India has been extending capacity building assistance to developing countries across the world through what is called the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Program, known as the ITEC program. This includes online courses also. These courses are on numerous topics and they are conducted by different Indian institutions. These scholarship courses are open to nationals of various countries, including those from Afghanistan, and I think a number of Afghan nationals both based in India as well as in Afghanistan have been participating in these ITEC courses. Of course, the online courses do not involve travel to India.

You had asked a little more about it saying did we issue a note verbale? And I think Abhishek said is that a diplomatic engagement or something? Look, our position on how we see developments in Afghanistan has not changed and I don't think anything should be read into ITEC courses vis-a-vis that. We certainly would not be issuing note verbales, which are intergovernmental notes to, you know, entities that are not recognized. So I will not have anything further to say.

So on the issue of the visas, look, on the visas, visas are frankly not an MEA topics. I would refer you to the relevant organization.

On the issue of I think, Siddhant, let me just take that question. You talked about Australia something, right? Has it been taken up? Sridhar, your question also was on Brisbane. Look, what I meant, what I spoke to him in Hindi was there is an Honorary Consulate there. Not a Consulate General of India, but an Honorary Consulate of India. I understand small number of protestors were there and for a little while, there was some disruption, but it certainly is not closed. The Honorary Consulate continues to function normally providing necessary services. I would not like to comment on footages, particularly, you know, video footages, which have not been confirmed or sometimes they give a wrong impression. So I am not going to comment on that, but yes, we have taken it up with the Australian government. You heard the Prime Minister take it up with the Australian Prime Minister, and we have been taking up on a regular basis whenever such incidents occur. Unfortunately, they have occurred a number of times.

As Siddhant referred to that there was some degree of the teams in touch. Yes, our teams are in touch. That's how we take this up quickly. I'm not going to get into the composition or the level of the teams, but they are in touch. As regards to the so-called referendum, our views are very clear on this. I'm not going to spell it out again, what we are going to tell them, but certainly such politically motivated exercises we do not have any support for and we have flagged it to our counterpart, not just in Australia but in other parts wherever such efforts have been made.

Srinjoy, on the Commander level talks, look, I think there was a commitment on both sides to have the next round of Commander level talks at the early date in the last WMCC that took place physically in Beijing a little while earlier. I don't have a date to share with you yet. We'll certainly do that once we have more information.

Sandeep Dikshit, you mentioned about a case of a baby girl in Germany. I don't want to take her name, but you know the background to it. Let me say, frankly, it's a very sensitive case. You would have heard our Foreign Secretary deal with this topic after the, I think it was a visit of the German Chancellor in the press conference. Now let me just emphasize what he had spoken. He talked about great sensitivity, something that we care deeply and on which both the Embassy and the Ministry of External Affairs has been in close touch with the parents and with the German authorities to find a way forward. Of course, he also added, it involves a baby infant child. There are serious issues related to privacy and, you know, I don't think we can comment beyond that.

You had asked a specific question about whether they're meeting MEA officials? Yes, as I said, they are in touch with the Ministry, and I think there is a meeting that is to take place today, and I don't think it has happened yet. But again, you know, this is the more ongoing sort of conversation. So I'm not sure in today's meeting, anything in particular…

Nayanima: Nayanima from ABP Live. Just wanted a confirmation if the India-Bangladesh cross-border oil pipeline will be inaugurated later this week maybe Sunday. That's what the reports from Bangladesh has been.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Has there been a press release yet from the…?

Nayanima: No.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay. Then I can't say anything about it. No, there are appropriate times, it's not now. It's a cross border pipeline and the relevant ministry will make it public as and when they are ready to do so. We'll certainly try to share with you more details.

Rishikesh: Sir, Rishikesh from PTI. Is India concerned about the political stability in Pakistan given it may impact our security situation in bordering states like Punjab?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: No, your questions are very different. Could you reframe your questions?

Rishikesh: Is India concerned about political stability?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: From a security perspective? No, you said security and you said political.

Rishikesh: Security.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Security. Fair enough. I'll respond to the security part.

Suhasini Haidar: Suhasini Haidar from The Hindu. I'm sorry. I just got in late. I just wanted to ask about an announcement by the U.S. President, the Australian Prime Minister, the UK Prime Minister for an AUKUS trilateral involving submarines worth approximately $368 billion. Russia and China have formally raised concerns about the possibility that these violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty and that there could be proliferation in the Indo-Pacific. There have been concerns also voiced from Malaysia and Indonesia about an arms race in the Indo-Pacific. Give us a sense of how India sees the development?

Mukesh Kaushik: Yeah. Sir, this is Mukesh Kaushik from Dainik Bhaskar. Sir, recently China brokered a peace deal between Iran and…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I answered that question.

Mukesh Kaushik:
And Saudi Arabia. No, my question is different.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay. Let's hear that.

Mukesh Kaushik: So have you saw it coming or Chinese completely surprised you? Secondly, what may be the hidden agenda of Beijing behind it?

Mukesh Kaushik: And thirdly, how it is going to change the dynamics of relationship between India and Gulf countries?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay. I will answer your question right now so that there is no complication. We have seen reports in this regard. India has good relations with various countries in West Asia, and we have deep abiding interests in that region, and we have always advocated for diplomacy and dialogue as a way to resolve differences. That's all I'll say. You can ask three parts of the question.

Pranay: Pranay from ABP News. My question is regarding some media reports suggesting that the DPI, Democratic Party of India used some lobbying firm in US.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Is there a Democratic Party of India?

Pranay: So, I don't know, but there are media…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: So what's your question?

Pranay: Media reports suggesting that…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Specific question, please?

Pranay: Democratic Party of India, which is, I don't know, but allegedly registered from the Embassy of India, Washington and using some lobbying firm in US. So what is your comment on that media reports?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Fair enough. Okay. Let me take this final round of questions. Nayanima, I answered your question. You know, we have been trying to enhance connectivity with Bangladesh, various, you know, types of connectivity, including physical and otherwise. This is something that is being planned, but as I said, till the concerned Ministry give out more details, let me not comment on it yet.

Suhasini, on your query regarding AUKUS, right, which is what, look, I don't think yesterday or earlier this week was the first time we have come across AUKUS. You mentioned comments by other countries. Let me just make a very brief comment on this because this has been some time. As you are aware, India is not a participant in this trilateral security pact and in the recent visit, the Australian government has briefed us on the matter at various levels, and I don't have anything else further to say for the moment on that issue.

Rishikesh your query was, what was the exact query? I have written part of it, and I think I missed part of it. Yeah. A security part. Look we always keep an eye out on developments that might affect our security interests, on our security concerns. We take necessary measures to do that. I don't want to comment on political developments. I may not be fully aware of it, but we certainly keep an eye out on developments that impact us and certainly in our region.

Pranay, I think your query, it's a little indirect. This is that lobbying firm, there's a report and those, okay… Look, let me just mention, okay, from time to time, Government of India hires consultants and lobbying firms abroad, part of our outreach activities by the embassies. I think the name of this organization in the US is called Cornerstone Government Affairs Incorporated and it has been engaged by our Embassy in Washington D.C. We understand that lobbying firms in the U.S. have to comply with certain U.S. regulations, not ours. We are certainly not aware of any entity called the Democratic Party of India.

Now that’s why I was curious. It appears to have been a clerical error by that lobbying firm, that's what we understand, when filing its American or the U.S. government regulations, and it has subsequently corrected that. I saw a completely speculative and incorrect story in one of the Indian media. They tried to draw some inferences out of it despite knowing the facts, which are publicly available. So it's unfortunate that they did went ahead with that.

Okay. With that I will stop. Thank you very much for joining us for this weekly media briefing.

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