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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing By The Official Spokesperson (December 24, 2020)

December 25, 2020

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Friends! Namaskar and good evening. Welcome to this virtual weekly briefing. I'll start with two announcements. First an update on the Vande Bharat Mission. You would know that phase 8+ of this mission is currently operational since the 1st of December and under this phase 1005 international flights have been operated from 27 countries facilitating an estimated 1.8 lakh people. In terms of numbers as on 22nd December more than 40 lakh people have been facilitated under this Vande Bharat Mission and you would also know that due to emerging Covid-19 situation and the ongoing travel restrictions there have been temporary suspension of Vande Bharat flights from the UK. Ministry is closely monitoring the situation. I would also like to announce that MEA will commence the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture on foreign policy tomorrow on his 96th birthday. This lecture will be delivered by Ms. Nisha Biswal, President of the US-India Business Council and the event will be presided over by Hon’ble Minister of External Affairs. Foreign Secretary will also be present at this event, which will be organized in the memory of former Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister. The lecture will be live streamed on Ministry’s social media platforms at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning, i.e. 25th of December. I would like to invite all of you to join. So moving on. Let's move to your questions. Yatin could you please take over?

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): So first set of question is on sailors. Siddhant from WION has asked. Ships with Indians on board remain stranded near China's Jingtang Port for many months now. Looks like Chinese authorities are not keen on allowing them to deboard, even on humanitarian grounds. What is your reaction? Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha is asking "Cheen ke bandargah ke bahar pichle kuch mahine se phanse bhartiye jahaj evam chalak dal ke sadasyon ko lekar jari gatirodh ki kya sthiti hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) "What is the situation of the deadlock over the Indian ship and crew members stranded outside China's port for the last few months?”

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I had spoken about this last week too and you would know I'd mentioned that the cargo vessel MV Jag Anand is on anchorage near Jingtang Port since the 13th of June and it has 23 Indian Nationals as crew on board. Another vessel MV Anastasia, which has 16 Indian Nationals is on Anchorage near the Caofeidian port in China since the 20th of September and both these vessels are waiting for discharge of cargo. This unprecedented situation has caused a considerable amount of stress among the crew. Our Embassy in Beijing has been in constant touch with provincial and central government authorities in China. They are requesting that the ships be allowed to discharge their cargos as well as the crew members be allowed to be changed. The Chinese authorities have conveyed that on account of various Covid-19 related restrictions imposed by local authorities crew change is not permitted from these ports. We also understand that some other ships which arrived after the Indian ship arrived have actually managed to discharge cargo and leave. The reasons for this is not clear. We have also taken note of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement yesterday about provision of necessary facilitation and assistance and our Mission in Beijing continues to remain in touch with the Chinese authorities to seek their facilitation and assistance, which can lead to an early resolution of the issue and help ameliorate the situation of the crew.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandhya Sharma from ET has asked "Has India cancelled all 70 diplomatic events planned with China to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries?".

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sandhya, I had responded to this earlier, I think last week. Look, this is the 70th year of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and China. However, the activities that had been agreed upon have not yet been launched.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shrinjoy from Times Now has asked "Is the Covid crisis in Britain likely to affect the British Prime Minister's visit?" Nainima from The Print has asked "Does the Republic Day invite to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson still remain considering that the recent finding of Covid-19 mutant strain there? Devirupa from The Wire has asked "Is British Prime Minister's trip to India in January still on schedule despite the restrictions being put in place due to the identification of new variant of Covid-19 in UK. Similar questions from Kamaljeet from AajTak, Maha from CNN News 18, Siddhant from WION, Sandeep from Tribune and Sandhya from ET.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: In response, I will say that you are aware we had invited the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as Chief Guest of the Republic Day Parade in 2021. And when UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was here, he had publicly confirmed his acceptance. So we look forward to welcoming the Prime Minister here.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Narendra Nath from Navbharat times has asked” Baluch leader Karima Baloch ki maut ke baad Pakistan media ne iske liye ulte bharat par dosh thopne ki koshish ki hai. Haal mein yeh doosra aisa mamla hai. Aisi sandigdh maut par bharat ki kya pratikriya hai? Kya Canada se bharat kuch agrah karega?”(Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) "After the death of Baloch leader Karima Baloch, Pakistan media on the contrary has tried to impose blame on India. This is the second such case in the recent past. What is India's reaction to such a suspicious death? Will India request Canada?” Nainima from The print has asked what is MEA's reaction to prominent Baloch activist Karima Baloch's death in Canada.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We have also seen the reports about the death of Ms. Karima Baloch a noted Baloch activist. Our condolences to the family. It is not for us to comment on this matter, but I understand her family has sought an investigation.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Maha from CNN News 18 is asking what is India's response to the political situation in Nepal after the dissolution of Parliament that has been called a constitutional coup by Prime Minister Oli. Kalol from the Hindu is asking "President of Nepal has dissolved the parliament following recommendation of Prime Minister Oli. This goes against the constitution of Nepal and the validity of the decision is being looked into by Nepal Supreme Court. Will you kindly state the Indian position on the issue? Similar questions were from Siddhant from WION, Devirupa from The Wire and Nainima from The Print.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We have noted the recent political developments in Nepal. These are internal matters for Nepal to decide as per its democratic processes. As a neighbor and well-wisher India will continue to support Nepal and its people in moving forward on the path of peace, prosperity and development.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): On LAC issue Shrinjoy from Times Now has asked "When are the commander level talks in East Ladakh? Are both sides in touch?". Deepak Ranjhan from PTI Bhasha has a question "Ladakh gatirodh ke mudde par chin ke saath batchit ki taza sthiti kya hai? Kya gatirodh samapt karne ke liye aage batchit ko lekar koi tithi tye hui hai?(Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) "What is the current status of talks with China on the Ladakh deadlock issue? Has any date been fixed for further talks to end the deadlock?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Shrinjoy and Deepak you would have seen my response earlier on this and as was conveyed, India and China continue to maintain communication through diplomatic and military channels. These discussions have helped both sides to enhance understanding of each other's positions. As you are aware a meeting of the WMCC on India-China border affairs took place on the 18th of December and the two sides have agreed that the next which is the 9th round of Senior Commanders meeting should be held at an early date so that both sides can work towards an early and complete disengagement of troops along the LAC in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements & protocols and fully restore peace and tranquility.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Gautam Lahiri has a question "As per decision of two Prime Ministers "Whether India Bangladesh Joint River Commission is meeting on January 4th.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Gautam Ji, you will remember that at the recently held Virtual Summit the two leaders recalled the positive contribution of the Joint Rivers Commission and looked forward to the next round of this JRC at the Secretariat level. So both sides are in discussion presently to convene this meeting and dates are yet to be decided.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep from Tribune has asked "Considering that there have been several in person high-level meetings with foreign dignitaries. Was the Modi-Putin Summit postponed because preparatory meetings could not be held?" Ranjeet Kumar from Rakshak News has asked "Are the dates for 2020 India-Russia Annual Summit being discussed and likely to be held in coming January?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: You would have seen my response yesterday on this. See the India-Russia Annual Summit did not take place in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and this was a mutually agreed decision between the two governments. So any speculation to the contrary should be avoided and to respond to Ranjit ji, whenever the dates are finalized, we will let you know.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep from tribune has asked. Can you tell us when the next round of India-Iran-Uzbekistan trilateral on Chabahar Port be held? Are there plans to include Afghanistan too?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sandeep, you would have seen the press release that we issued after the last round. This was actually the first Trilateral Working Group meeting between the three countries on the Chabahar Port which was held virtually on the 14th of December. This meeting was held at the deputy ministerial level. Now as for the next meeting what I can tell you is that India will be hosting this meeting. Dates are yet to be finalized and Afghanistan as a major stakeholder will be invited for this meeting.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha has a question "Pakistan ka shirsh netritv pichle kuch samay mein Bharat par false flag operation karne ki sambhavna ka aarop laga raha hei. Pakistan ke is dusprachar par mantralay ki kya pratikriya hai?(Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) Pakistan's top leadership has been alleging the possibility of a false flag operation in the recent past. What is the Ministry's response to this propaganda of Pakistan?

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Deepak ji aise managadhant aur haasyaaspad bayaan dena Pakistan ke shirsh netritv ki dinacharya ban gaya hai. Aur aise bhaarat virodhee bayaan par humne apanee sthiti spasht ki hui hai. In bayaanon ka koi aadhaar nahin hai. Isliye najarandaaj kiya jaye. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) It has become pakistan’s daily routine to make such false and ridiculous statements. We have clarified our position on such anti-India statements. These statements have no basis. Therefore, they must be ignored.

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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