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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (August 05, 2021)

August 05, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Good evening, and a very warm welcome to this week's Virtual Media interaction. Thank you again for joining us. And I would hand over to Yatin to take us through the questions.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Gautam Lahiri is asking, "When Prime Minister will address virtual session of UNSC? What will be the subject? And is it only maritime security?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, as you are all aware, India is currently holding the Presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of August. As part of our presidency, we are organising signature events as they're called on three focus areas that we've chosen. These are maritime security, peacekeeping operations and counterterrorism. On August 9, this Monday evening, our time, PM will preside over a high level virtual open debate of the UN Security Council on the topic: Enhancing maritime security, a case for international cooperation, under the agenda item, maintenance of international peace and security. This would be the first time that an Indian Prime Minister would be presiding over a meeting of the UN Security Council. On the other two focus areas where the signature events will take place later in the month, we are of course planning physical meetings and we hope that External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar would be able to travel to New York to attend them. We will continue to provide you more details of these events closer to the date.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): The next set of question is on Afghanistan. Jai Prakash from Dainik Jagran is asking,"UNSC would be discussing on Afghanistan issue tomorrow. What would be India’s stand?” Ameya from Sarkaritel is asking, "What is India's response to new evolving security situation in Afghanistan? What is the present assessment of the situation?” Narayanan from German TV ARD is asking, "Has India got any official request from Afghanistan for supply of arms to keep security of country?” Dhairya from Sputnik has a question, "Is India on board with the US when it comes to Priority 2 refugee visa programme, which calls for vulnerable Afghans to be in third countries to apply for a US refugee visa. Certain governments have expressed fears that it could lead to refugee crisis in the region.” Manash from PTI is asking, "How does India see Russia once again not inviting India to Troika plus meeting on Afghanistan? Does Russia keep India informed about the outcome of Troika meetings?” We have similar questions from Pranay from ABP news, and Praveen Gautam from Newspoint.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look those questions actually cover various facets of Afghanistan and our relations. So let me try to break it up a bit. You are all well aware of our close relationship with Afghanistan. Our relationship is broad based. And it covers various aspects, including a strong Development Partnership component. We are also strategic partners. And our relationship is of course guided by the strategic partnership agreement that both countries signed in 2011. India has been supporting the government and people of Afghanistan in realising their aspirations for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future where the interests of all sections of Afghan society, including women and minorities, are protected. We are closely monitoring the evolving security situation in Afghanistan. And we continue to call for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. We also of course support an Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled peace process. As regards the UN Security Council, the issue of Afghanistan will be deliberated there tomorrow, August 6. You would have seen the press statement that was issued by the UN Security Council on August 3, on the escalating violence in Afghanistan, and which actually echoes much of what we have been saying about Afghanistan. During tomorrow's debate, we will share our vision and perspectives on Afghanistan. And we look forward to productive deliberations on this important issue. On the VISA policy of the US on Afghanistan, I really can't comment on it. And as regards Russia, our two countries of course share our special and privileged strategic partnership. We engage with Russia on a regular basis on Afghanistan. I think that covers broadly our perspective on the questions.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shubhjyoti Ghosh from BBC is asking, "Has Bangladesh agreed to India's request to allow clinical trials for Covaxin in that country? If yes, when is the process expected to start?” We have similar question from Gautam Lahiri.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think both these questions refer to a proposal that was made last year. So I would refer you to the manufacturer Bharat Biotech, if they have any further details on this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Gautam Lahiri is asking, "EAM has thanked Bangladesh Foreign Minister for accepting India's proposal to join coalition of disaster resilience infrastructure, who are in the coalition? What will be the job of this coalition? Whether COVID pandemic is also considered as disaster?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you may recall, Prime Minister launched the Coalition for disaster resilient infrastructure, CDRI, as we call it, during his speech at the UN Climate Action summit on 23rd September 2019. The objective is to promote the resilience of new and existing infrastructure systems to climate and disaster risks in support of sustainable development. Since then, CDRI has grown in membership, and now has 25 countries and 7 international organisations as members. I think Bangladesh is the latest entrant. I'm not in a position to comment whether COVID would be treated as a disaster in terms of CDRI’s mandate, I leave that to the CDRI itself.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Gautam Lahiri is asking, "Whether India is planning to reopen international flights to some countries as Bangladesh civil aviation authorities agreed to Indian proposal for resuming Air Services as reported by some media.”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, due to COVID regular international flights remain suspended. I would actually request you to check with the Ministry of Civil Aviation regarding when the suspension could be lifted.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Prashant from Asianet is asking, "Can you give a reaction to Al Jazeera report that India is transforming Mauritius to a military hub?” We have similar question from Aishwarya from AFP.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: The government of Mauritius has made detailed statements on this project, including in its parliament. All these are available in the public domain. I don't have any further comment on that.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Iran's relationship with India has far more potential than ties with China. Any reaction to that?” Suman Sharma is asking, "EAM is attending the Iranian President-elect swearing in ceremony. On the sidelines, which other leaders is he expected to meet?” Aishwarya from AFP is also asking similar question.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I would not like to comment on such media reports as mentioned, let me emphasise that India and Iran enjoy historical and cultural ties. We have been moving ahead with the various new initiatives including on connectivity as you know, such as Chabahar airport. Yeah, EAM, the External Affairs Minister is currently in Tehran to represent India at the swearing in ceremony of President-elect Raisi. We will keep you updated of his engagements there.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Dhairya from Sputnik has a question, "Pakistan claims that India denied five journalists the permission to travel to Pakistan occupied Kashmir, comment on this would be much appreciated.”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I am not sure how to respond. I think Pakistan itself is not aware that they are the ones who shut down the crossover via the Attari Wagah integrated check post. I understand that request was made earlier only this Monday actually regarding crossover by some foreign journalists based in New Delhi, but this could not take place due to that crossing being closed by Pakistan some time ago. I don't know any other element of this.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "What is your reaction to daylight ransacking of Hindu temple in Pakistan?” Pranay from ABP News is asking, "Pakistan mein ek bar phir mandir mein tod-phod ki ghatna saamne aaye hai. Pakistan ke Rahim yar khan ilaake mein Ganesh Mandir mein mob dwara ki gayi tod-phod aur alpasankhyak hindu samuday ke logon ke khilaaf kee gayi hinsa ki ghatna par Bharat sarkar ki kya pratikriya hai? Kya dharmik asahishnuta ke maamle ko aadhikarik taur par bhi Pakistan sarkar ke saath uthaaya gaya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Once again the incident of vandalism in the temple has come to the fore in Pakistan. What is the reaction of the Government of India to the incident of vandalism and violence against minority Hindu community and damage caused to Ganesh temple in Rahim Yar Khan area of Pakistan by mob? Has the issue of religious intolerance been taken up with the Government of Pakistan officially as well?” We have similar question from Shrinjoy from Times Now. Ranjana from UNI is asking, "Pakistan invited a team from independent, permanent Human Rights Commission of OIC to visit Pakistan occupied Kashmir and has commented on human rights situation in Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Any comment to that?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look we've seen reports on this and I have a statement to make on this. We have seen disturbing reports on social media of a violent mob attack on a Ganesh temple in Rahim Yar Khan, in Punjab province of Pakistan. The mob attacked the temple, desecrated the holy idols, and set fire to the premises. In addition to attacking the temple, the mob also attacked surrounding houses belonging to the Hindu community. Incidents of violence, discrimination and persecution against minority communities, including attacks on places of worship have continued unabated in Pakistan. Within the last year itself, various temples and Gurdwaras have been attacked, including the Mata Rani Bhatiyani Mandir in Sindh in January 2020, The Gurudwara Shri Janam Sthan in January 2020, Hindu temple in Karak in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in December 2020. These incidents are occurring at an alarming rate, while the state and security institutions in Pakistan have stood by idly and completely failed in preventing these attacks on the minority communities and their places of worship. The Pakistani Charge d'affaires in the high commission here in Delhi was summoned today afternoon, and a firm protest was lodged, expressing our grave concerns at this apprehensible incident and the continued attacks on the freedom of religion of the minority community and their places of religious worship and calling upon Pakistan to ensure the safety, security and wellbeing of its minority communities. Moving on to the question regarding Jammu and Kashmir our position is well known. Today is actually the second anniversary of our efforts towards building a new Jammu Kashmir. And as I just outlined in our statement, recent incidents in Pakistan have yet again demonstrated how that country blatantly tramples over the rights and the safety and security of its minority communities.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shankar from India vs Disinformation is asking, "Whether BRICS NSA meeting will be held in virtual format in person? What will be measured agent of this meeting?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you know, India holds the current chair of BRICS. The next meeting of the BRICS national security advisors, NSAs will be held later this month on August 24. This will be in a virtual format. The agenda of the meeting is in line with the overall priorities chosen by India for its chair ship of BRICS this year, including counterterrorism cooperation, and international peace and security.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "Any news on extradition of Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I don't have any particular update this week. We continue to monitor all these cases and our resolve to get these people back to India to face justice remains as strong as ever.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Dhairya from Sputnik is asking, "Would there also be a comment to ‘India out’ campaign that has been ongoing in Maldives since last month. The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party has condemned the disparaging remarks against Indian diplomats, how would you react to that?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I recall that the Maldives Foreign Ministry as well as the Maldivian Democratic Party issued statements in this regard last month. Let me emphasise that our relations with Maldives are close, cordial and multi-dimensional. Maldives Foreign Minister was in India in late July prior to assuming his role as the next president of the UN General Assembly, India remains committed to deepening its traditionally friendly relationship with Maldives.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Elizabeth from Live Mint has asked, "ASEAN has announced a Special Envoy for Myanmar, what is India's reaction to that?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you know, Special Envoy was appointed, Announcement was made yesterday. India welcomes the appointment of His Excellency, Erywan Yusof, second Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Darussalam as a special envoy of the ASEAN chair on Myanmar. As Myanmar's close neighbour, India will continue to support the restoration of the democratic process in that country.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "Indian student was found dead in Tianjin Foreign Studies University. Any details on this?” Similar question from Sandhya Sharma from ET.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We are aware of this unfortunate development and our condolences to the family members. Our embassy in Beijing is in touch with the university and with local authorities, and an official from the embassy is currently in Tianjin to provide necessary assistance. Local authorities there are investigating the circumstances of the demise of the student. The Embassy as well as the Ministry of External Affairs are in regular touch with the family of the deceased student here in India. Our efforts are to bring back the mortal remains of the deceased student as quickly as possible to India.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "There was a progress in Ladakh, when is the pullback happening?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: You would have seen a detailed press release that was issued after the talks on August 2. I would like to highlight that this was a joint press release by both sides. And as was mentioned there, in the talks were candid, and constructive. Both sides agreed to resolve the remaining issues in an expeditious manner in accordance with existing agreements and protocols and maintain the momentum of dialogue and negotiations. We will share with you further updates once we have them. Meanwhile, for any details on the military aspect of it, I would request you to contact our Ministry of Defence

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Jai Prakash from Dainik Jagran is asking, "What is the status of trade talks with EU, Britain and USA?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We attach importance to deepening our trade and investment ties with these countries. However, the Ministry of Commerce is actually the nodal ministry for such trade negotiations. And I would refer you to them for updated status.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Archana from Bloomberg is asking, "Could you tell us more about the discussions with Australia's Tony Abbott during his India visit?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Well, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is actually visiting India from second to sixth August right now as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's special envoy to discuss trade and economic cooperation between India and Australia as part of the comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries. He will also visit Gujarat to explore opportunities for expanding bilateral trade and investment. And naturally he will meet with various officials and other interlocutors both here and in Gujarat.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "How does India plans to globally celebrate 75th anniversary of independence?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Well, you're all aware that 75 week long "Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” celebrations was launched by Prime Minister himself on March 12 this year. As part of these celebrations, our embassies abroad have been organising numerous events to showcase this special anniversary of our nation. Our dedicated webpage has actually been prepared by the Ministry of External Affairs, which provides a comprehensive snapshot of all events that are being organised globally. I would actually invite everyone to visit this webpage, which can easily be accessed from the ministry's website and at the landing page just click on Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. And this page will continue to be updated. I do hope you will be able to get a sense of the large number of events that our missions across the world are planning and have already implemented.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): I have no further questions sir.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. That brings us to the end of this special media briefing. Good evening.

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