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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (14 August 2020)

August 15, 2020

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
Namaskar and Good evening!

Welcome to this weekly briefing. I have a few announcements to start with. First is on something which is a recent development of great interest. EAM received a call this afternoon from the UAE foreign minister on the announcement yesterday of the full normalization of relations between UAE and Israel. India has consistently supported peace, stability and development in West Asia, which is its extended neighborhood. In that context, we welcome the full normalization of ties between UAE and Israel. Both nations are key strategic partners of India. India continues its traditional support for the Palestinian cause. We hope to see early resumption of direct negotiations to find an acceptable two-state solution.

My second announcement is again a development from today morning on our humanitarian assistance to Lebanon. In response to the massive explosion in Beirut on 4th August, we had offered our assistance to Lebanon and sought from them an assistance of their requirement. Based on this, today morning, an Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft was deployed to deliver 58 metric ton of emergency humanitarian aid on behalf of the Government of India to Lebanon. The aircraft landed in Beirut a few hours back and the aid has been handed over by our ambassador to senior officials of the Lebanese Armed Forces which is coordinating all the relief efforts. The aid contains emergency medical supplies, wheat flour, sugar and pulses and also relief material like blankets, dignity kits and sleeping mats which are required as large number of people have been rendered homeless. In light of the spike in the COVID-19 cases in Lebanon, Government of India has also separately sent personal protection equipment, including surgical gloves and surgical gowns. The consignment is expected to reach Beirut in the coming days.

I also have an update on the Vande Bharat Mission. You would recall that earlier this week on 11 August, we crossed the one million mark under the Vande Bharat Mission. As of date, a total of about 10.5 lakh stranded Indians have returned through various modes under this Mission.

Phase 5 of the Vande Bharat Mission is presently underway. Under this phase from 1 – 12 August, 300 international flights and 70 domestic feeders have been operated reaching 22 airports across India. Around 500 international flights are scheduled to be operated this month.

Based on a continuous assessment of demand received from our Missions and Posts, flights have been added for repatriation from Armenia, Bangladesh, Japan, Israel, New Zealand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Ukraine. In addition, the number of flights from GCC countries and South East Asia have been further augmented.

In addition to the bilateral ‘travel bubble’ arrangement with the US, Germany and France which are operational, the arrangement with UK is scheduled to start from 1 September 2020. Similar arrangements with others including our neighbouring countries are expected soon. Yesterday we announced a travel bubble arrangement with Maldives.

After the unfortunate accident of IX 1344 from Dubai to Kozhikode on 7 Aug 2020, MEA had set up a 24x7 control roomwith helplines to provide information and assistance to the affected. This control room was operational until the 10 August.

On 8 August, the Ministry of Civil Aviation launched an online portal called ‘Air Suvidha’ which enables incoming passengers to apply online for exemption from institutional quarantine. This would apply to those passengers who are eligible for such exemption as per guidelines issued by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare

This is by way of the announcements that I have. Now, we can move to your questions. So over to you Yatin.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, first set of questions are on Israel-UAE diplomatic ties. Akhilesh Suman from Rajya Sabha has asked, what is India's reaction on Israel-UAE deal and how will it impact on issues related to Palestine? Similar questions have been asked by Sidhant from WION, Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times, Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News, Devirupa from The Wire and Suhasini from Hindu asking for reaction.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Our statement lays down our position very clearly and I will reiterate the same in response. We reaffirm our traditional support to the Palestinian cause and we hope to see early resumption of direct negotiations to find an acceptable two-state solution and India's approach has always been guided by the objective of peace, development and stability in West Asia.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next question is from Mr. Bala Gopal from Mathrubhumi News - "there are reports in the media that the UAE Government has distributed around 6000 Holy Quran in Kerala during Ramzan. Has the UAE Government taken the prior approval from the Government of India for distributing religious books in our country? If not, is there any protocol violation in this? Is there any inquiry going on in this matter?" Another question from him - "any update from UAE on the Kerala gold smuggling case?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Well Mr. Bala Gopal, to respond to your first question, I have no information as of now on this and on the gold smuggling case, as I had said earlier, the matter is under investigation of NIA and MEA is extending all necessary facilitation for the investigations. So I have no further update beyond this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Pushkar from the New Indian Express has asked - "will there be talks between PM Modi and his Nepalese counterpart Oli on August 15th over the border issues?" Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times has asked -"Nepal media mein khabar aai haiki 15 August ko PM Oli aur PM Modi ke beech baat ho sakti hai, kya koi soochna hai?" (Questioned in Hindi, Approximate translation) " In the Nepalese media, there is a news that there is a talk scheduled between PM Oil and PM Modi on 15th August, is there any update on this? Nainima from The Print has asked - "is there a telecon planned between PM Modi and Nepal PM Oli, this week?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I have no information on this. I will need to check.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question on Shri Kulbhushan Jadhav. Sidhant from WION has asked - "on Jadhav, India has been invited for 3rd September case and India has asked for documents. Any development from Pakistani side?" Pushkar from the New Indian Express has asked - "any update on the Kulbhushan Jadhav case?" Srinjoy from Times Now has asked - "what steps are being taken to ensure Kulbhushan Jadhav gets a fair trial?" Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - "Kulbhushan Jadhav maamle mein koi update ho to bataiye." (Questioned in Hindi, Approximate translation) " Is there any update on Kulbhushan Jadhav issue?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: As I had mentioned in my earlier statement, Pakistan has consistently failed to address the core issues for implementation of the ICJ Judgment in its letter and spirit and these issues pertain to the provision of the relevant documents, as well as, providing unimpeded consular access to Shri Kulbhushan Jadhav. So that is our position on this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Parul Chandra from Straight News Global has asked - "Nepal's Foreign Minister, Pradeep Gyawali recently said that the tripartite agreement of 1947, which allows Nepali Gorkhas to serve in the Indian and British armies has become redundant and that it needs a review. Would appreciate the MEAs response to this.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Parul, we are aware of the remark, but I have no information of any official communication in this regard.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Kallol from The Hindu has asked - "will the floods in UP and Bihar figure in upcoming oversight mechanism talks with Nepal?" Suresh from Kantipur Express has asked - "there are report that India and Nepal are sitting this week for oversight mechanism, what all issues could be discussed? What is the current status of possible talks on border issue?" Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha has asked - "kya Nepal ke saath Bharat ki koi uchh stariya varta prastavit hai?" (Questioned in Hindi, Approximate translation)" Is there any high level meeting proposed between Nepal and India?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Look on the scheduled oversight mechanism, I think you're referring to the meeting which is to take place on the 17th of August. Now, this is a mechanism which was set up in 2016 to review all our bilateral economic and developmental projects in Nepal. So this meeting will review all such projects, all over Nepal. Regarding the other part of the questions on the boundary issue, I think our position on this India-Nepal boundary issue, I have clarified this on more than one occasion and I have nothing further to add to this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION has asked - "can we have India's reaction to Afghan peace process as the Afghan Government has decided to release prisoners?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sidhant we have taken note of the development and as far as India is concerned, we strongly support peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. We also support the intra-Afghan negotiations.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now has asked - "Pakistan got Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to speak at one of its missions in Afghanistan recently. He is remembered for human rights abuses in the past. How do you react to such provocation?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Look Srinjoy, we have seen the media reports of participation of the former UN designated terrorist in an event organized by the Government of Pakistan. This is nothing new, Pakistan not only harbors terror outfits, but also encourages them. We hope that such participation in public events by a former UN designated terrorist would not go unnoticed.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shailendra from News18 has asked - "former Prime minister of Malaysia, Dr. Mahathir attended an event hosted by the Pakistani High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on 8th August 2020 and said that now he would address Kashmir issue without restraint. Would MEA like to comment on this?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Well, you are aware of the outlook and position of Dr Mahathir Mohamad on this issue. As a saying goes, you are known by the company you keep.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR):
Suhasini from The Hindu has asked - "has the Government, our Indian Embassy in Washington congratulated Kamala Harris on her nomination to the Democrat presidential ticket, given that this is the first time a person of Indian extraction has reached there?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Look in general, we would not like to comment on the electoral process of any other country.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR):
Maha from CNN News18 has asked - "have the Chinese sought consular access for Charlie Pang and has the MEA launched any probe so far on how Charlie Pang managed to get an Indian passport from Guwahati?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Maha we have seen the reports and we are awaiting more information at this stage.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation has asked -"Zakir Naik mamle mein koi update ho to sajha karen." (Questioned in Hindi, Approximate translation)” Please share, if there is any update on Zakir Naik issue?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Madhurendra, is mamle mein hum Government of Malaysia ke sampark mein hain aur jab bhi is pe koi update hoga, aapko bataya jayega. (Questioned in Hindi, Approximate translation) Madhurendra, We are in touch with Malaysia and whenever there is an update, we will keep you informed.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sridhar from Asian Age has asked - "has the Chinese pull out in Ladakh gone into a deep freeze? What are the options now available to India since it seems the de-escalation process has been stalled indefinitely?" Srinjoy from Times Now has asked - "you would have heard, the Chinese Ambassador mentioned that it is up to India to meet China halfway. What is halfway really? How does India react to China saying the onus is on India to find solution?" Pushkar from the New Indian Express has asked - "Ambassador Vikram Misri today met Major General Ci Guowei, Director of the Office of International Military Cooperation of the Central Military Commission and briefed him on India stands vis-à-vis the situation on the borders in eastern Ladakh. Was there any road map breach on the disengagement process?" Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - "pichle do dino mein Cheen stith Bharat ke rajdoot ne Cheen ke political leadership aur military leadership se mulaqat ki, iska kya parinam raha? Disengagement se Cheen inkaar kar raha hai, standoff ka onus Bharat keupar thop raha hai,Cheen ke is stand par kya awab hai?" (Questioned in Hindi, Approximate translation)During last two days the Indian Ambassador in China met the political and the military leadership, what is the outcome? China is refusing disengagement and putting the onus of standoff on India, what is our reply to the Chinese stand? Elizabeth from Live Mint has asked - "when are the next WMCC talks?" Similar questions have been asked by Maha from CNN News18, Nainima from The Print, Abhishek from Doordarshan, Sachin Badhoriya, Neeraj from News18 India, Shailendra and Suhasini from The Hindu.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: In response to these questions, I have a readout.

​As you are aware India and China remain engaged through both diplomatic and military channels to ensure complete disengagement along the India-China border areas. This is in accordance with the agreement of the Special Representatives of India and China that early and complete disengagement of the troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and de-escalation from India-China border areas in accordance with bilateral agreement and protocols and full restoration of peace and tranquillity was essential for the smooth overall development of bilateral relations. Several meetings of WMCC and also of Senior Commanders have taken place wherein both sides have discussed the implementation of the ongoing disengagement process and further steps to ensure it is completed at the earliest. Further meetings are likely to happen in the near future.
I had conveyed last month that both sides have agreement on broad principles of disengagement and based on it, some progress had been earlier made. I must add that translating these principles on ground is a complex process that requires re-deployment of troops by each side towards their regular posts on their respective sides of the LAC. It is natural that this can be done only through mutually agreed reciprocal actions.
While we would like the ongoing disengagement process to be completed at the earliest, it is important to bear in mind that achieving this requires agreed actions by both sides. We therefore expect that the Chinese side to sincerely work with us towards the objective of complete disengagement and de-escalation and full restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas as agreed by the Special Representatives.
This is also necessary and essential in the context of overall development of our bilateral relationship. As External Affairs Minister had noted in a recent interview "the state of the border and the future of our ties cannot be separated”.

So this was my readout and response. Yatin are there any further questions?

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): No, sir.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. So this concludes the weekly briefing.


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