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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (27 August 2020)

August 28, 2020

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Friends, Namaskar and good evening.

Welcome to this weekly briefing in the online mode.

I will start with a short update on the Vande Bharat Mission. As on 26 August 2020, more than 12 lakh Indians stranded abroad have been repatriated by different modes under VBM. Phase 5 of this mission will be completed on 31 August 2020. In this phase, around 900 international flights have been operated from 22 different countries reaching 23 airports across India.

Phase 6 of VBM is scheduled to begin on 1 September 2020. Based on an assessment of demand by our Missions/Posts abroad, flights are being scheduled by Air India Group and private carriers. Bubble arrangements with different countries will continue as per schedule in the next phase too.

So, this is what I have by way of announcement. We will now move on to your questions. So Yatin if you could please take over.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, first set of questions is on Kerala gold smuggling case. Balagopal from Mathrubhumi has asked - "did the government of Kerala or any of its agencies seek the mandatory clearance from MEA before accepting aid from the UAE Red Crescent, for the construction of houses for landless and homeless families under Life Mission scheme of the state government? Has the government of Kerala replied to clarifications sort by the MEA?" Prashant from Asianet has asked - "the Kerala government signed an MoU with the Red Crescent of UAE for building apartments under a government project last year. Is this a violation of protocol? Did Kerala seek approval of MEA for the project? Please clarify whether the Red Crescent has approval to conduct any type of work in India?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: On this I understand from our records that no approval was taken from MEA for signing this MoU with the UAE Red Crescent Society.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Second set of question is on Shri Kulbhushan Jadhav. Sidhant from WION has asked - "on Kulbhushan have we taken any call on if India will be present at 3rd September case?" Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - "Kulbhushan Jadhav mamle mein kya update hai? Kya Bharat ne kanooni madad ke liye koi kadam uthaya hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) What is the update on KulbhushanJadhav issue? Whether India has taken any step with regards to legal assistance?Similar question has also been asked by Srinjoy from Times Now.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: On Kulbhushan Jadhav I have no further updates from what I told you at the last briefing and we continue to take up this matter with Pakistani authorities.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shailendra from News18 has asked - "Pakistan has rejected the Pulwama chargesheet like 26/11. Is government considering to share the proof with Pakistan this time too?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: The charge sheet has been filed after investigation of an year and half since the attack took place on 14 February 2019. It has been filed to address the act of terrorism and to bring perpetrators of such a heinous crime to justice. Our aim is not to simply issue statements or notifications.

Jaish-e-Mohammad had claimed the responsibility of Pulwama attack. The organization and its leadership is in Pakistan. It is regrettable that Masood Azhar, the first accused in the chargesheet continues to find shelter in Pakistan. Enough evidence has been shared with Pakistan but it continues to evade responsibility.

Pakistan has not yet taken any credible action against perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack of 2008 which resulted in loss of 165 innocent lives including 25 foreign nationals.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on Dawood Ibrahim. Sidhant from WION has asked - "under the UN 1267 list, evidence support that Dawood is in Pakistan. Pakistan in a press release denied that. How do you see the development?" Anish from UNI has asked - "Pakistan government has accepted Dawood Ibrahim’s address as in Karachi and also imposed financial sanctions on him along with other terror groups and their leaders. What is India's response?" Sanjeev Trivedi from News 24 has asked - "Dawood Ibrahim's presence in Pakistan was denied by Pakistan foreign ministry by rejecting the NIA chargesheet. Masood Azhar's role in the incident was also denied. How does India plan to take Pakistan's penchant to harbor terrorists and hide their misdeeds to FATF?" Similar question has also been asked by Sridhar from Asian Age.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Pakistan’s assertion that the SRO does not mean that it admits to the presence of listed individuals on its territory or that it would impose any new measures on these listed individuals, lays bare the insincerity of Pakistan in responding to legitimate expectations of the world that they will track down international terrorists based on its soil. Pakistan has not only maintained its opposition to this international consensus but it has also chosen not to act against them.

Pakistan has never taken any credible and verifiable action against terror entities or listed individuals, including the most wanted ones. This subsequent denial by their Foreign Office calls into question their intentions and it would not mislead the world community in believing its propaganda. Pakistan must take credible action and ensure that the listed individuals are prosecuted.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sridhar from Asian Age has asked - "Can you give some clarity on what happened at the UN earlier this week on India's assertions with regard to Pakistan?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sridhar on 24th August, the PR of Pakistan to the United Nations had put out a statement which claimed that Pakistan had in the UN Security Council discussions held on Monday, on threats to International Peace and Security caused by terrorist acts, made a statement there. Now, the briefing and discussions at this UNSC meeting was confined to members only and we had sought clarification from the Indonesian chair who informally confirmed to us that there was no scope for any non-member to speak in this discussion. So you would have seen that our permanent mission to the UN in New York has clearly rebutted all the allegations made by Pakistan in the so-called statement, and it is there for you to see on their Twitter handle.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION has asked - "On Kartarpur, are we going to have a meet with Pakistanis on building a bridge on Ravi river?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: See on Kartarpur as you're aware that movement across the land border was suspended in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and due to the monsoon season, we have also been cautious about the safety of our pilgrims in view of the lack of infrastructure on the Pakistani side. We are in touch with all concerned authorities on this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Anita Joshua from Telegraph has asked - "the Trump campaign has used the footage from "Howdy Modi!" and "Namaste Trump" in a campaign video released last weekend. How does India view this effort to use the prime minister in the US presidential campaign as an endorsement for President Trump?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Anita in general, we do not comment on the ongoing electoral process of any other country.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Vijay Naik from Sakal has asked - "last month the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proposed a new grouping of like-minded nations, a new alliance of democracies to deal with communist China. Has India as the largest democracy in the world taken any initiative in that direction? Are we engaging with other democracies on this subject?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Vijay, I am not aware of any discussions that the ministry has held on this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Smita Sharma has asked - "can you please share an update on dialogue with countries or embassies on their Nationals still in India as part of the Tablighi Jamaat row? Can you clarify as to what exactly is the visa category that such Nationals must apply for attending similar events in future?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: In my briefing last week, I had informed the status on this and by way of further update as of August 24th, the figures that I have are that 1095 LOCs, that are lookout circulars, were deleted and 634 foreign members of the Tablighi Jamaat have left India. I can tell you that MEA has been actively facilitating their consular access. We have also facilitated the deletion of these LOCs. We have also facilitated the smooth repatriation to their countries. We have kept the respective foreign embassies informed through this entire process. On the second part of the question, on the visas, see these members of the Tablighi Jamaat who were charged, under the foreigners act, they were charged for indulging in activities which were incompatible with their visa status and therefore for such activities, the appropriate category of visa has to be sought.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Archana from Bloomberg has asked - "is there a bilateral meeting plan between minister Jaishankar and China's Wang Yi on September 10th at the SCO conference?" Naima from The Print has asked - "have the dates for the SCO Summit next month been finalized? Will EAM be travelling to Russia next month for the same, can you confirm?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: EAM has received an invitation to participate in the SCO foreign ministers meeting to be held in Moscow next month and as soon as we have a decision on his participation, we’ll inform you.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Prashant from Asia Net has asked - Supreme Court recently directed the government to provide Vande Bharat flights to students who wish to reach India to write the NEET exam. Is there any update on the number of students applied for this?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Look all Indian Nationals, OCI card holders and foreign nationals of certain categories which have been identified by MHA, can avail of Vande Bharat flights. All those who wish to return on these flights have to go through a process of registration. This registration is for purposes of quarantine. So that is what is the status on this. Students who wish to return on this flight can undergo this registration process and come back.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - "Zakir Naik mamle mein koi update ho to bataiye?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) " Please update on Zakir Naik issue?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Madhurendraji, is mamle pe koi further update nahin hai is samay. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) Mr.Madurendra, as of now there is no update on this issue.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shailendra from News18 has asked - "Beijing University is to reopen and asking all returning non-local students to undergo COVID-19 test. Any advisory for Indian students?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Our mission has issued an advisory on the 17th of August and the background to this is that following the outbreak of this pandemic, the Chinese government had restricted the entry of foreigners into China and were permitting such entry only in specific circumstances. Now in this advisory of 17th August, our mission is informed, that while some exceptions have been made with regard to certain categories of foreigners, foreign students have not yet been included in any of these categories. The Ministry of Education of China has also not come out with any information so far on the conduct of the next educational semester by universities and colleges and on the process for foreign students to return to China. At this point of time, our embassy and our consulates in China, they are in regular contact with Indian students and we will keep them informed of all the latest updates on this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep Dixit from Tribune has asked - "Indian envoy to USA, Taranjit Singh Sandhu has spoken on the prospects of a mini-trade deal with the US. Will it be signed before the two-plus-two meeting?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sandeep, the government has been engaged with the US in concluding a limited trade deal and you may recall that during the visit of President Trump in February earlier this year, it was agreed that both sides recognizing the increasing importance of trade and investment dimension in their bilateral relationship, would promptly conclude the ongoing negotiations and give it a legal shape. Specific details on this, you may obtain from the Ministry of Commerce.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep Dixit has asked another question - "could you please give some more details on Foreign Secretary’s Dhaka visit, especially if the next EAM level meeting will consider the Teesta barrage project?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I had briefed in detail in last week on the outcome of the visit and broadly the visit was useful in discussing specific initiatives in several key areas of mutual interest, particularly, there was a discussion on the COVID-19 situation, our assistance in this regard, particularly in areas of vaccine and therapeutics. There was a discussion on the celebration of the 100th birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The 50th anniversary of the liberation of Bangladesh, India's development assistance, our cooperation in the area of security, etc. So these are some of the areas of discussion and you can see those details in the transcript of the last briefing. There was a proposal that the joint consultative commission at the level of Foreign Ministers would be convened shortly and this meeting will discuss the entire gamut of bilateral relationship.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Naynima from The Print has asked - "Economic Ministers of the RCEP member countries met and decided to sign the final RCEP pact in November, however, they reiterated that the door still remains open for India to join. Will MEA react to it?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: This is something which is dealt with by the Ministry of Commerce, but we've articulated our position several times in the past. Our views are that there are issues of core concern in this agreement and which the members are well aware of.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Last set of questions are on line of actual control. Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News has asked - "any fresh round of India-China WMCC meeting expected a plan in near future?" Anish from UNI has asked - "what are the updates on India-China border standoff in Eastern Ladakh?" Sanjeev Trivedi from News 24 has asked - "our insistence that Chinese army revert back to the pre-May position on the LAC has not been met with favourable action by them, despite the several rounds of talks, diplomatic and military. Why do you think the talks have not been able to yield results?" Shankar from India vs Disinfo has asked - "will there be more rounds of diplomatic and military level talks with China for the disengagement purposes on the border?" Similar questions have been asked by Madhurendra from News Nation, AkhileshSuman from Rajya Sabha TV and Srinjoy from Times Now.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: As you know last week, the 18th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) took place. During the meeting the two sides had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on the existing situation in the India-China border areas. Both sides have reaffirmed that the two sides will continue to sincerely work towards complete disengagement of the troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Western Sector in accordance with the agreements reached between the two Foreign Ministers and the two Special Representatives (SRs) during their conversation on 5th July.

As I had conveyed earlier, complete disengagement 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. Thus it is important to bear in mind that achieving this requires agreed actions by both sides.

In this context, in the last meeting of the WMCC the two sides have agreed to resolve the outstanding issues in an expeditious manner and in accordance with the existing agreements and protocols.

Both sides also agree that full restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas would be essential for the overall development of bilateral relations. The two sides had also agreed to continue their engagements both through diplomatic and military channels.

I would also refer you to the recent interview of External Affairs Minister wherein referring to various past border incidents he had noted that what was common was that all borders situations were resolved through diplomacy. EAM had further noted that "when it comes to finding a solution, this must be predicated on honouring all agreements and understandings. And not attempting to alter the status quo unilaterally”.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Any further questions Yatin?

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

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

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