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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (December 17, 2020)

December 18, 2020

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Friends, welcome back. Resuming with the weekly briefing. I'll start with a short update on the Vande Bharat Mission. As I had announced earlier phase eight plus of this mission is presently underway since the 1st of December and this phase is progressing well. As on date, we have an estimated 1.3 lakh people who have been brought back under this phase and this includes those who have traveled under bilateral air bubble arrangements that we now have with 23 countries. In terms of overall numbers under the Vande Bharat Mission we have repatriated over 38.4 lakh people so far that is from May 2020 onwards, since this mission started.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: So now we will move on to your questions. Yatin, please take over.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Dehriya from Sputnik has a question.How is the MEA helping the stranded sailors in Chinese Waters. There have been several reports claiming that many merchant ships with Indian crew have been stuck at Chinese ports due to the ongoing Australia- China trade spat. On the same topic Pronoy from ABP News has asked "Cheen taat ke karib bite kai mahino se bhartiye navik dal wale do jahaz phanse hein. Australiyayi koyle ko lekar pahunche in vyaparik jahazon mein bhartiye pot Jag Anand bhi hai. Australia aur Chin ke bich jari koyla trade war ka shikar ban samandar mein nazarabandi ki halat mein rehne ko majbur 40 bhartiyon ki surakshit wapsi ke liye Bharat Sarkar kya kar rahi hai? Kya Beijing mein Bhartiye dutawas ne iss mamle ko Chin sarkar se uthaya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate translation) "For the past several months, two ships with Indian sailors have been stranded near the coast of China. Among these merchant ships carrying Australian coal is the Indian ship Jag Anand. What is the Government of India doing to secure the return of 40 Indians who are forced to remain under house arrest under the threat of ongoing coal trade war between Australia and China? Has the Indian Embassy in Beijing has taken up the matter with the Chinese government?” .

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: As per the information that we have, the bulk cargo vessel MV Jag Anand and is on anchorage near Jingtang port in Hebei province of China since the June 13, 2020 this year with 23 Indian Nationals as crew on board. Another vessel MV Anastasia, which has 16 Indian Nationals is on anchorage near Caofeidian port in China since the 20th of September. They are waiting for discharge of cargo. Our Embassy is in touch with Chinese authorities in this matter. The Chinese authorities have conveyed to us that due to Covid-19 restrictions placed by local authorities, the crew change is not permitted from these ports and the owners of these shipping companies as well as the receivers of the cargo have been informed of the reasons for delay. As of now the government continues to be in regular touch with the Chinese authorities to seek a resolution on these issues at the earliest and also to ensure that the humanitarian needs of the crew are taken care of. I'll also respond in Hindi. Pranay asked me this in hindi. Sankshep main Pranaymein ye kehna chahunga ki hamare cheen sthit dootawas ne iss mudde ko lekar chini adhikariyon se sampark mei hein aur iss sambandh mein chini adhikariyon ne hame bataya hai ki sthaniye adhikariyon dwara Covid-19 sambandhit lagaye gaye pratibandhon ke karan in bandargahon se chalak dal ke pratyavartan ki anumati nahin di ja saki aur shipping company ke malik tatha cargo ke receiver ko in deri ke karno se avgat kara liya gaya hai. Philhal Bharat Sarkar in muddon ke samadhan ke liye aur jo crew hai, unki manviye jaroorton ki dhyan rakha jai. Isko lekar chini adhikariyon se sampark mein hein. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) "In short, I would like to say that our Embassy in China is in touch with the Chinese authorities on this issue and in this regard the Chinese authorities have told us that due to the restrictions imposed by local authorities related to Covid-19, the crew from these ports cannot be repatriated and the owner of the shipping company and the receiver of the cargo have been informed of the reasons for these delays. At present, the Indian government is in touch with the Chinese authorities to address these issues and take care of the humanitarian needs of the crew.”

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Siddhant from WION has asked "Khalistani elements desecrated Mahatma Gandhi statue, White House has reacted on this development. Has the issue of growing nuisance of Khalistanis raised by India with US and any action New Delhi has requested?." .

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Siddhant you would have seen the press release issued by our Mission in Washington DC immediately after the incident and we have strongly condemned this act of vandalism against the universally respected icon of peace and justice by miscreants masquerading as protesters. Our mission has strongly taken this up with concerned US authorities and we have sought an early investigation as well as action as per applicable law. This matter has also been taken up with the US Embassy in Delhi and a similar message has been conveyed to them.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Siddhant has another question "Israel and Bhutan have established formal ties. This came after Germany- Bhutan ties recently. Any reaction to that?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We have noted that Bhutan and Israel, established formal diplomatic relations through their respective embassies in New Delhi on the 12th of December. We enjoy very close bilateral relations with both countries.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Subhjeet from Indian Express has asked "This is with reference to a leak of data by a whistleblower comprising Prime Choice membership of Chinese Communist party in Shanghai. It reveals that at least one CCP member was recruited by the Indian Consulate in Shanghai through Shanghai's foreign agency service department. So, please provide details and clarification on this." Similar question from Shrinjoy from Times Now asking that my question relates to CPC worker employed in the Indian consulate in Shanghai. Did the Indian government know the employee was a CPC member at the time of hiring? How long was he employed? Has there been any breach of classified information? .

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: We have noted the media reports in this regard and we are not in a position to independently verify the data. See, in certain countries the hiring of local staff requires the approval of local authorities. However, all our missions and posts ensure due security precautions in this regard. .

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shrinjoy from Times Now, has another question. "Is WMCC meeting one between commanders likely soon?" .

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Shrinjoy, you would have seen what I said last time, the two sides continue to maintain communication through diplomatic and military channels. These discussions have helped both sides to enhance understanding of each other's positions. It is our expectation that further discussions will help both sides to achieve an agreement on mutually acceptable solution for ensuring complete disengagement in all friction areas along the LAC in the western sector and full restoration of peace and tranquility at the earliest.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Nainima from the Print has asked.What is the status of Nepal foreign minister’s visit? Has it been postponed? .

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Nainima, I responded to this earlier. The status remains unchanged. As of now the details of the dates of the visit are being worked out.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sanjay from Arab News has asked. "Can you comment on the new story in different newspapers that the Indian government is planning to give voting rights to all NRIs except those living in the Gulf countries? If the story is true then why NRIs in Gulf countries are not being considered for voting rights?" .

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sanjay, I believe that at this point of time no decision has been taken in this regard. 

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Drish Hashmi from Morocco news agency has asked, "How do you see the reactivation of the mechanism of bilateral relations between Morocco and Israel?" .

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: You would know that India has consistently supported peace, stability and development in the region. And in that context we welcome the normalization of ties between Morocco and Israel. We have very good diplomatic relations with both countries. 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. 

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): SarojGanpat from Dinamani has a question. "There are reports that earlier this week 36 fishermen and five boats were seized by Sri Lankan Navy. Can you confirm this? And what is government doing about this? .

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Saroj, we have seen these reports about the apprehension of 36 Indian fishermen and five of their fishing vessels on the 14th and 15th of December 2020 by the Sri Lankan Navy. Similar information has also been received through the government of Tamil Nadu. You know that government attaches high priority to this issue. We are in close touch with the government of Sri Lanka through our Mission in Colombo as well as our Consulate in Jaffna. We are trying to verify this information to seek early Consular access and to facilitate release of our fishermen and their boats. The fishermen issue and the matter of fishing boats have been on the agenda of bilateral discussions between the two sides. You would know that the two governments realize that this is essentially a humanitarian matter and at the highest level there is this realization. There exists a common understanding to handle the matter in a humanitarian manner. We have well-established bilateral mechanisms between the two countries for discussion on this issue and these bilateral mechanisms could not be convened earlier due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Now, it has been mutually agreed to hold the bilateral joint working group on fisheries through the virtual format on the 30th of December. This JWG will be led by the Secretary, Fisheries from our side. It is expected to address all the issues relating to the subject of fisheries including the release of fishermen and their boats, the modalities of communication between the two authorities, the cooperation in dealing with issues related to livelihood on both sides as well as all other matters, which are mutually agreed. 

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Are there any further questions? .

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

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

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