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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (January 14, 2021)

January 15, 2021

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Namaskar and good evening. Welcome to this weekly briefing. Before I move on to your questions, let me give you a short update on the Vande Bharat Mission. As I mentioned last time, phase 9 of this Mission is presently operational since the 1st of January and till date an estimated 1,12,000 people have been repatriated under this phase, from 24 countries through 591 international flights and this brings the total number of people who have been repatriated through this Mission to 47 lakhs as of 13th January 2021. So now I'll move on to your questions. Yatin, could you please take over?

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sir, the first question is from Aditya Raj Kaul. He has asked - "there has been a rise in targeted assassinations against journalists in Afghanistan amidst increasing violence in country. What is MEAs reaction to that?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Aditya, we've seen reports in the past few weeks of attacks on journalists and civil society activists in Afghanistan. The targeted killing of journalists and civil society members aimed at suppressing the freedom of expression and informed discussion on critical issues related to peace and governance is of deep concern. These attacks are contrary to the spirit of the peace process and should immediately stop. The people of Afghanistan long for a peaceful future and immediate and comprehensive ceasefire will lay the ground for a meaningful peace process to establish a peaceful, prosperous and progressive Afghanistan. India stands with the people of Afghanistan in their journey towards peace.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of questions is on vaccine cooperation. Parikshit from CNBC has asked - "Brazil's Health Ministry is sending a flight to airlift doses of AstraZeneca vaccine tomorrow. Would Brazil be the first country that India would be exporting vaccines to?" Suman Sharma has asked - "Besides Brazil, which other countries have requested or shown interest in obtaining vaccine from India and how many doses?" Ashok Sharma from Associated Press has a question - "What is India's policy for the export of vaccines to other countries? How will the Indian Government ensure equitable Coronavirus vaccine distribution to the world, while not compromising on its own needs?" Aminul Islam from BSS has a question - "India is going to launch a massive Covid-19 vaccination drive on 16th January that has also created much enthusiasm among the neighbours, including Bangladesh. In this context will you please give me the specific time when Bangladesh can get vaccine from India to fight Coronavirus? Bangladesh however expects initial shipment of vaccine from Serum Institute of India by January 25. So is it possible to get the vaccine by this time?" Pankaj Pandey from Hindustan has asked - "Iss tarah ki khabrein hain ki 2 million Covid vaccines ki apoorti kal Brazil ko ki jayegi. Koi vishesh vimaan Brazil se vaccine ke liye aayega. Is maamle mein kya update hai aur bhi kin kin desho ko Bharat ki aur se vaccine ki jald apoorti sunishchit ki jayegi?"(Questioned in Hindi; approximate translation) "There are reports that 2 million Covid vacines will be supplied to Brazil tomorrow. A special aircraft will come for vaccine from Brazil. What is the update in this matter and which other countries will receive early supply of vaccine from India.” Similar questions from Elizabeth from mint, Siddhant from WION, Uma Shankar from NDTV, Jai Prakash from DainikJagran, Sandhya Sharma from ET, Archana from Bloomberg.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I had responded to this last week. So far as the requests from countries for vaccines from India, you would recall that Prime Minister has already stated that India's vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used for the benefit of all humanity in fighting this crisis. And as you would know the vaccination process is just starting in India, it is too early to give a specific response on the supplies to other countries as we are still assessing production schedules and availability and we will take decisions in this regard in due course. This may take some time.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Next set of question is on Nepal Foreign Ministers visit. Sidhant from WION has asked - "what is the key agenda during Indo-Nepal talks?" Nivedita from Financial Express has a question - "what is the economic agenda of Nepal Foreign Minister’s India visit?" Manish Jha from Business World is asking - "Nepal Foreign Minister is visiting India today amid the political crisis in Nepal. Will discussion evolve around border issue, will India also intend to offer Nepal vaccine for COVID-19?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: On the visit of Foreign Minister of Nepal, you know that he arrived in Delhi a short while ago. He's here to co-chair the Sixth Session of the India-Nepal Joint Commission Meeting and this meeting will be hosted by EAM tomorrow. The Joint Commission as you would know is an important mechanism. It provides for an opportunity for reviewing at high level the entire gamut of our bilateral partnership and to provide political guidance to further enhance the special and unique ties that exist between our two countries. We look forward to constructive discussions on the numerous sectors that encompass our bilateral agenda. On Manish Jha's question, what I would say is our position on the boundary issue is well known and let me say that the JCM and boundary talks are two separate mechanisms.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Siddhant from WION is asking - "how has been India-China talks going? Any update on military talks?" Anish from AsiaNet is asking - "what is the update on India-China border standoff?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: As I had mentioned last week, India and China continue to maintain close communication through diplomatic and military channels with the objective of ensuring complete disengagement in all friction points along the LAC in the western sector and for full restoration of peace and tranquility. As you are aware, the latest round of WMCC was held on 18th of December 2020. The two sides have agreed to hold a next round of senior Commanders meeting and are in constant communication through diplomatic and military channels in this regard.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Siddhant from WION has another question - "there are stranded Indian sailors on MV Anastasia, any plans to get them back?" Shailendra from News18 is asking - "MV Jag Anand par fase bhartiya nagrik kab tak bharat pahuchenge aur MV Anastasia par fase bhartiyo ke liye kya kadam uthaye ja rahe hain?" (Questioned in Hindi; approximate translation)By what time Indian citizens stranded on MV Jag Anand will reach India and what steps are being taken for Indians stranded on MV Anastasia.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I had provided an update on this last week. You would know that Ministry and our Mission in China have been continuously pursuing the issue of crew change of Indian crew members onboard the two ships MV Jag Anand and MV Anastasia. As regards MV Anastasia, we are closely coordinating with the Chinese authorities, who are finalizing the process or the standard operating procedures to affect crew change at anchorage. As soon as this is received from the Chinese authorities, the company is expected to initiate the process of crew change. On MV Jag Anand, the owner which is the Great Eastern Shipping Company has informed us that they have decided to undertake the crew change in Chiba, Japan, where the ship will disembark 23 crew members and take on 23 replacement crew members. The disembarking crew will be flown back to their hometowns in India from Tokyo. So this is the update that I have.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Gautam Lahiri has a question - "as a special gesture, Bangladesh Defence Forces has been invited to participate on Republic Day parade in the 50th year of liberation struggle. Is there any other engagement with them? What is the plan of Government to celebrate 50th year of liberation struggle of Bangladesh?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Gautamji, as you know, India and Bangladesh are commemorating 50 years of diplomatic ties this year and the tri-services contingent from Bangladesh is visiting India at the invitation of the Government to participate in the Republic Day parade. Now, this is a testimony to our ties which are forged in shared sacrifice. Now this year 2021 will also be historic in our bilateral relations as we are also commemorating the 50th anniversary of our Liberation War and you would recall that at the Virtual Summit between the two Prime Ministers, which was held last month, it was agreed that we would jointly organize several activities to commemorate both the events, both in India and in Bangladesh, as well as in third countries. A number of events and activities are being planned and what I can tell you is that these events and activities will celebrate the legacy of our shared history and I will be sharing details in due course.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION has asked - "UK parliamentarians have discussed Kashmir and minorities, any reaction to that?" Similar question has also been asked by Aditya Raj Kaul.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
Our High Commission in London has issued a detailed statement on this and I'll invite you to look at it.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shailendra from News18 has asked - "America ke unclassified papers jisme Cheen ka muqabla karne ke liye majboot Bharat ki baat ki gai hai, is report par Bharat ki koi tippani?" (Questioned in Hindi; approximate translation)”Any comment by India on this report of the US Unclassified Paper in which India has been strengthened to counter China”? Elizabeth from Live Mint has asked - "the declassified Indo-Pacific strategy document of USA has a particular focus on India. It says that the objective was to accelerate India's rise by building stronger defence ties and also by offering diplomatic, military and intelligence support to help address continental challenges such as the border dispute with China. Do we have any reaction to that?" Similar question was also asked by Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Well a question on the US Government report should be asked to the US Government Spokesperson. However, I will state that India and US share a comprehensive strategic global partnership and given our substantial bilateral agenda, our growing economic engagement and a convergence on strategic and security interests, both countries have a common interest in promoting security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. Our ability to work together has a positive impact in effectively addressing regional and global challenges.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shailendra from News18 has asked - "NSA Ajit Doval ke Afghan daure par apka kya byaan hai? Taliban ko le kar Bharat ne kya paksh rakha?" (Questioned in Hindi; approximate translation) "What is your statement on NSA Ajit Doval's visit to Afghanistan? What is India’s stand on Taliban?” Ranjeet Kumar from Rakshak News has asked - "NSA Ajit Doval visited Kabul. What is India's latest assessment of the developing situation in Afghanistan? How India views the role Pakistan is playing in the ongoing negotiations with Taliban?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: On NSAs visit, you know he was on a two-day visit to Afghanistan. He called on President Ghani and met Foreign Minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar, National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib, Chairman for the High Council for National Reconciliation Dr Abdullah Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai. Discussions focused on our bilateral relations and on the Afghan peace process. On Ranjeetji's question, what I will say is as regards the peace process I had spelt out our position last week. We have invested heavily in peace and development in Afghanistan and we support all efforts to bring peace and stability there. The peace process must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled. And as I said a little while ago. India is an important stakeholder, and we look towards a peaceful, prosperous, sovereign, democratic and united Afghanistan.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Jomy Thomas from Malayala Manorama is asking - "in the Enrica Lexie matter, has Italy proposed any monetary compensation for the families of the victims and had it been accepted? If yes, can we have the details of the proposal received by MEA from Italy?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
Jomy, the matter is presently sub-judice with the Hon’ble Supreme Court, therefore I will not be able to share details on this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION has asked - "any update on who will be Republic Day guest?" Shailendra from News18 has asked - "kya 26 January ke din koi rashtra adhiyaksh mukhye atithi hoga?"(Questioned in Hindi; approximate translation) "Will any Head of State will be chief guest on 26th January? Aditya Raj Kaul has asked - "has India decided to not have a foreign state chief guest for the Republic Day function this year due to the pandemic?"

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Due to the global COVID-19 situation, it has been decided that this year, there will not be a Foreign Head of State or Head of Government as the chief guest for our Republic Day event.

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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