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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (19 Nov 2020)

November 20, 2020

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Friends, welcome back, now resuming the weekly briefing, I'll start with a few announcements.

The first is on the 15th G20 Leaders Summit. At the invitation of His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will be attending the 15th G20 Summit chaired by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, under the theme "Realising the Opportunities of 21st Century for All” on 21-22 November 2020. The meeting will be held in a virtual format. The upcoming summit is the second G 20 Leaders’ meeting in 2020. Following the telephonic conversation between PM and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the last G 20 Extraordinary Leaders’ summit was held in March 2020, where the leaders developed a timely understanding among the G20 countries to help contain the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic and to forge a global coordinated response. The focus of the upcoming G20 Summit will be on an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19. During the G 20 Summit, the leaders will discuss pandemic preparedness and the ways and means to restore jobs. The leaders will also share their vision for building an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future. India will enter the G20 Troika, along with Saudi Arabia when Italy will take over the Presidency of the G-20 on 1st December, 2020.

The second announcement is on the virtual ceremony for the launch of the RuPay card Phase 2 in Bhutan, which is scheduled on 20th of November. This virtual joint launch of RuPay card phase 2 will be done by PM and Prime Minister of Bhutan and it will be held on the 20th of November, as I mentioned. The two prime ministers had jointly launched Phase 1 of the project during the state visit of PM to Bhutan in Aug 2019. The implementation of phase 1 of RuPay cards in Bhutan has enabled visitors from India to access ATMs and points of sale terminals across Bhutan. Phase 2 will now allow Bhutanese card holders to access RuPay network in India. You would know India and Bhutan share a special partnership anchored in mutual understanding and respect, reinforced by a shared cultural heritage, and strong people-to-people links.

And lastly, an update on the Vande Bharat Mission. Phase 8 of this Mission, you would know, is operational from the 1st of November and under this phase as on date 763 international flights have been operated from 24 countries, reaching 21 airports across India and repatriating an estimated 140,000 persons. This brings the total number of Indians repatriated as of date through different modes of the Vande Bharat Mission to 30.9 lakhs. Now, let's move on to your questions. Yatin, would you like to take over.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, the first question is from Aditya Raj Kaul, he has asked - "has India decided to open the Kartarpur corridor for pilgrims for upcoming 551st jayanti of Guru Nanak Dev ji and are there any fresh advisories being issued in this regard?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Aditya this and related issues have been discussed in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs. It has been decided that a Sikh jatha from India will visit Janamsthan Gurdwara Shri Nankana Sahib from 27th November to 1st of December, on the occasion of the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. This visit will be as per the 1974 bilateral protocol, on visit to religious shrines between India and Pakistan. And in view of the Covid pandemic, all health related protocols will be strictly followed and the size of jatha is likely to be reduced. So this is the information that I have that this Sikh jatha will be visiting the Janamsthan Gurdwara Shri Nankana Sahib from 27th November to 1st of December.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Saroj Ganpat from Dinamani has asked - "there are repeated representation prevailed upon the Sri Lankan government to release the Tamil Nadu fishermen boats. The news coming now is that the Sri Lankan court has ordered to destroy 121 boats in which, about a 100 boats are of Rameshwaram and other places. Now this issue being taken up by all the political parties in Tamil Nadu. In this regard has the Ministry of External Affairs taken any step?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We have seen these media reports. As per the information that I have, the 121 boats in question have been deemed unsalvageable by a team from Tamil Nadu and their disposal is to be done through auction. We are presently in close touch with the government of Sri Lanka to take this process forward. You would know that the government of India has been taking up the issue of release of Indian fishermen and their boats at the highest level. We've also been taking it up through diplomatic channels from time to time and presently the information that I have is that there are no Indian fishermen in custody in Sri Lanka.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Parul Chandra from State News Global has asked - "has Nepal responded to the Indian proposal to start an air bubble between India and Nepal? And are Indian Nationals being allowed to enter Nepal via the land border and vice versa?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Parul, we are exploring the possibility of an air bubble arrangement with Nepal and as far as the land border goes, you would know that from March 2020 onwards, since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Nepal stopped the entry of all foreigners through the land route and regular entry of foreigners has not been allowed since then. It is only granted in very compelling cases. As per MHA guidelines, Nepalese nationals are allowed to come to India.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Maha from CNN News18 has asked - "is the foreign secretary traveling to Nepal next week, what is on the agenda?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Maha, before any official visit of foreign secretary, we do make media announcements. So whenever the visit like this takes place you will get to know.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep Dikshit from Tribune has asked - "how does India respond to Biden transition team listing strengthening of democracy at home and abroad as one of his priorities of working with India?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sandeep, you would have seen the press release that we have put out. Now during this phone call which took place on the 17th of November between PM and President-Elect Biden, the two leaders affirm their interest in working together to strengthen the India-US comprehensive global strategic partnership. They also exchanged views on working together on shared priorities and global challenges and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. Now as two mature and vibrant democracies, our relations are based on a foundation of shared values and common interests, including a commitment towards democratic principles.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR):
Next set of question is on RCEP. Sidhant from WION has asked - "RCEP has invited India to be part of observer status, will we accept that?" Suhasini from The Hindu has asked - "will India accept the offer to attend RCEP meetings as an observer, as made by RCEP countries, when they signed the FTA on last Sunday?" Ramesh Maan from UNI has asked - "what is India's reaction to RCEP, will India consider joining it?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: See, our position regarding joining RCEP is very well-known. We conveyed our decision not to join RCEP, as some of the significant issues of core interest remain unresolved. Now as for the specific issue that you asked about, I would direct you to the Ministry of Commerce which deals with this subject.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION has asked - "Russian president at BRICS Summit said, India can produce Sputnik vaccine. As of now how many countries are engaged with New Delhi for producing Covid vaccine in India?" Sandeep from Tribune has asked - "could you elucidate on the India-South Africa proposal for a moratorium on certain RPR laws. Is there a realistic chance of it being passed, considering the opposition from EU, US and Brazil?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: First to respond to Sidhant. See Sidhant, I think the specifics of your questions, you will have to ask the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as well as the Department of Biotechnology which deals with this, but what I understand is that authorization has been given to Dr Reddy's to conduct trials of Sputnik-V vaccine in India and depending on the outcome further steps will be taken by the company in accordance with the regulatory guidelines. Talks are ongoing with Pfizer, that is what I understand and the Serum Institute is already working on the Oxford vaccine. And, what I can tell you broadly is that since March 2020, India has proactively engaged with its partner countries in a joint fight against COVID-19 by supplying medicines, diagnostic kits, and medical equipment. We have also organized online training programs for testing and case management, and as our development program has progressed, we have made it clear that we stand ready to expand this program of cooperation with all interested countries. I think I'll also respond to what Sandeep has asked specifically. Now, I think Sandeep you are referring to PM's address at the BRICS Summit on the 17th of November where he called upon BRICS countries to support our proposal for exemption from intellectual property agreements. Now, see this proposal is in keeping with the spirit of our commitment to work with the international community to ensure affordable and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine diagnostics and therapeutics. So that is broadly the guiding force behind this proposal. As for the specifics, I would direct you to the Ministry of Commerce which deals with this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Suhasini from The Hindu has asked - "India had asked Saudi Arabia to change the G20 currency note issued with the wrong map on October 29th. Has there been any response from the Saudi Arabian government yet, given that G20 Summit is this weekend?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Suhasini, you would recall that the matter of the incorrect depiction of the boundaries was taken up with the Saudi authorities and we have taken it up both here in New Delhi as well as in Riyadh. We have been informed by the Saudi authorities that they've noted our concerns in this matter.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sumit Sharma from Asia Times has asked - "any comment on China's claims of having used microwave style weapons to get Indian troops to vacate some hilltops?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I think you would have already seen the response from the Army spokesperson who has conveyed that these reports are not true. They are completely baseless.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - "Cheen ke saath jari baat cheet ke beech aisi khabar hai ki Cheen ne seema par apne sainiyabal ko aur badha diya hai. Bharat is badlav ko kaise dekh raha hai?"(Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) "Amidst the ongoing talks with China, there is news that China has increased its military force along the border, how India is seeing this change. "Shailendra from News18 has asked - "Cheen ke saath agli Corps Commander star ki varta ka bhogi?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) "When will be the next Core Commander level talks with China?."Srinjoy from Times Now has asked - "has there been any change along the LAC in recent days? Is anything likely to happen?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: As I conveyed last week, the 8th round of talks of the India-China senior military commanders took place in Chushulon 6th November. These discussions were candid, in-depth and constructive and both sides exchanged views on disengagement at all friction points along the Line of Actual Control in the Western Sector of the India-China border areas. The objective of these discussions is to ensure complete disengagement and full restoration of peace and tranquility along the LAC in the Western Sector.

We will continue our dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels and have also agreed to have another round of talks soon with a view to achieve this objective.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now has asked - "in a recent press conference the British acting High Commissioner mentioned that there is a legal issue that is coming in the way of extradition of Vijay Mallya. What is the issue? What has Britain told India and what is India doing?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Srinjoy, we have been told that there is this confidential legal issue which needs to be addressed and following the completion of the legal issue, Vijay Mallya can be extradited to India. No particular timeline has been indicated to us and we continue to take up this matter with the UK authorities.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra from News Nation has asked - "Bharat ke virodh ke bawjood, Pakistan ne Gilgit-Baltistan ke maujuda swaroop ko badal dia hai. Wahan ki chunaavi prakriya ke khilaaf sthaniye virodh dekha ja raha hai. Bharat is badalte ghatnakram ko kaise dekh raha hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) "Despite India's opposition, Pakistan has changed the present form of gilgit-baltistan and there is a local protest against the electoral process, how India is seeing this changing scenario?”

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Madhurendraji, Gilgit-Baltistan ke tathaakathit kshetron sahit Jammu and Kashmir par hamari stithi pehle ki tarah hi susangat hai. Maine chunav ke pehle kuch prashano ke jawaab diye the. Gilgit-Baltistan mein chunav sirf aur sirf ek dikhawa aur dhong se zyada kuch nahin hai, aur iska udeshiya Jammu Kashmir ke Kendra shasit Pradesh ke kshetron par Pakistan ke awedh kabje ko kewal chupana matr hai. Hum logo ne yeh bhi kaha tha ki is baat ko hum dohrate hain ki Kendra shasit pradesh Jammu and Kashmir aur Ladakh ke saath saath Gilgit-Baltistan ka kshetra 1947 se hi Bharat ka abhinn ang hai.(Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation)”Madhurendraji! Our position on Jammu and Kashmir including the so-called areas of Gilgit-Baltistan is as consistent as before. I had answered some questions before the election. Elections in Gilgit- Baltistan are nothing more than a mere pretense and a motive. It is only to hide the illegal occupation of Pakistan on the territories of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. We also said that we reiterate that the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh as well as the area of ​​Gilgit- Baltistan is an integral part of India since 1947.”

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Madhurendra has asked another question - "Kulbhushan Jadhav mamle mein kya update hai?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation)What is update in KulbhushanJadhav case?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Jaise ki maine bataya tha, Pakistan sarkar aisa mahol banana mein nakaam rahi hai jiske tehat Shri Jadhav par lagaye gaye aaropon ko gambheerta aur prabhavi dhang se chunoti di ja sake. Humne Pakistan sarkar se Shri Jadhav ke liye England mein Queen's Council ki anumati dene ka anurodh kia hai. Saath hi saath aapko yaad hoga ki ICJ ka faisla July 2019 mein sunaya gaya hai lekin abhitak Pakistan ne is maamle se sambandhit dastavej abhi tak hume uplabdh nahin karayen hain aur hum yeh kahenge ki ICJ ke faisle ka poori tarah se implementation hona chahiye aur yahi hamari position hai.(Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation)” As I told you, the Government of Pakistan has failed to create an environment under which the allegations leveled against Shri Jadhav can be seriously and effectively challenged. We requested the Government of Pakistan to allow Queen's Council in England for Shri Jadhav. At the same time, you will remember that the ICJ verdict has been announced in July 2019 but as of now Pakistan has not yet provided the documents related to this case to us and we will say that the ICJ decision should be implemented in totality and that is our position.”

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on cross-border terrorism from Pakistan. Madurendra from News Nation has asked - "Bharat ke khilaf Pakistan ka atanki khel lagatar jari hai. Aaj hi 4 Pakistani atanki surakshabalo ke haton dher hue, wahi LoC par cease-fire ulanghan ke naye record Pakistan kayam kar raha hai. Pakistan prayojit aatankwad par lagam lagane ke liye Bharat aage kya kadam uthayega?" (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) "Pakistan's terrorist gameagainst India continues unabated today; 4 Pakistani terrorists were shot dead by the security forces, while new records of ceasefire violations on LoC, are being made by Pakistan everyday; What steps will India take to curb Pakistan sponsored terrorism?”Shailendra from News18 has asked - "aaj Nagrota mein 4 Jaish-e-Mohammad ke atanki mare gaye, kya yeh wahan hone wale chunaav ko vifal karne ki Pakistan ki saajish ho sakti thi?"(Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation)”Today in NagrotafourJaish-e-Mohammed terrorists were killed, could it have been Pakistan's conspiracy to thwart the proposed elections there?” Aditya Raj Kaul has asked - "4 terrorists have been killed by Indian security forces in the wee hours today at Nagrota in union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, reports suggest terrorist had infiltrated into India from Sialkot Pakistan yesterday. Will India raise the issue with Pakistan?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Despite repeated calls for restraint and adherence to the ceasefire understanding of 2003 for maintaining peace and tranquility, Pakistani forces continue to engage in providing supporting cover fire to infiltrators. The incessant infiltration of terrorists and induction of weapons to fuel terror activities continues unabated. Such activities are not possible without the support of Pakistani forces deployed along the LoC.

The Charge d’Affaires of the High Commission of Pakistan was summoned by the Ministry of External Affairs on 14 November and a strong protest was lodged over unprovoked ceasefire violations by Pakistani forces, on multiple sectors along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir on 13 November 2020, resulting in the death of four innocent civilians and serious injuries to 19 others.

India also strongly protested Pakistan’s continued support to cross border terrorist infiltration into India. Pakistan was once again reminded of its bilateral commitment to not allow any territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India in any manner.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Agni Roy from AVP has asked - "government of Bangladesh and Shipping Ministry jointly addressed 'Make for the World' seminar today. May we have a press statement on that?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
Agni, I don't have any information on this as of now. You may also like to check with the Ministry of Shipping.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION has asked - "who will represent India at the International Conference on Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan in Geneva on 23rd, 24th of November?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sidhant, External Affairs Minister will be representing India at this conference and I understand this conference will be held in the virtual format.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): No further question Sir.

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


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