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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (April 8, 2021)

April 09, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Namaskar. Good evening to another weekly edition of our media briefing. Thank you for joining us. We have a large number of questions. So I'll, at the outset go over to George, if you could read out the questions in groups.

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS):
Yes, Sir. The first group of questions is on John Kerry's visit to India. Maha from CNN News18 asks, "has US Special Presidential Envoy on climate John Kerry nudged India for any concrete commitment on zero emissions by 2050. What has been India's response?” Suhasini from the Hindu asks, "during Mr. Kerry's visit, did he raise the need for India to announce a net zero emission target deadline? If so, what was our response?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Well, as you know, US Special Presidential Envoy for climate Mr. John Kerry arrived in New Delhi earlier this week on Monday. He called on Prime Minister, he met External Affairs Minister, he met the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate change and other Ministers. Special Envoy Kerry’s visit is in the run up to the Leaders’ Summit on Climate which will be held virtually, and which will be convened by the United States on 22nd and 23rd of April. At the invitation of President Biden, Prime Minister Modi will participate in this summit along with other world leaders. Meetings with special envoy Kerry were very productive. Both sides discussed the global challenge of climate change in the context of several multilateral events later this year, leading up to COP 26 summit in Glasgow. Special Envoy Kerry appreciated PM’s vision and global leadership in climate action, especially our ambitious target of 450 gigawatts of renewable energy by the year 2030. They discussed the need for supportive climate action by all countries in line with their respective national circumstances. Given our complementary strengths, Prime Minister and Special Envoy Kerry agreed to collaborate on a 2030 agenda with focus on clean and green energy through enhancing availability of climate finance, building resilient infrastructure, energy storage, and green hydrogen. The Indian side briefed him about our wide ranging efforts to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement and our efforts to reduce emissions and India's lead in multilateral initiatives, such as the International Solar Alliance and the coalition of disaster resilient infrastructure.

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS): The second group of questions is on the visit of the Russian Foreign Minister to India. Sridhar from Asian Age asks, "Russia openly back the radical Taliban's role in Afghanistan. Does India view this as more evidence of Russia's pro Pak tilt? Because historically, Russia has always stood for secular forces in the region.” Sandeep Dikshit from the Tribune asks, "Will the MEA react to reports that the visit by Sergey Lavrov did not have the mandatory call on the PM.” Narendra Nath Mishra from Navbharat Times, asks, "Roos ke Videsh Mantri ke Bharat daure ko kis tarah dekhte hein? Yahan se weh Pakistan bhi gaye. Bharat usse kis tarah dekhta hai?” (Questioned in Hindi; App.translation) "How does India view the Russian Foreign Minister’s visit to India? From here he visited Pakistan too. How does India view this? Dipak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha asks, "Roos ke Videsh Mantri Sergey Lavrov ki Bharat yatra ke kya nihitarth rahe ? Roos ke Rashtrapati ki yatra ka koi karyakram tai hua? Saath hi 9 saal ke baad koi Rusi Videsh Mantri ki Pakistan yatra aur raksha sahyog badhane par sehmati par Videsh Mantralay ki kya pratikriya hai?” (Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) "What is the outcome of the Russia’s Foreign Minister’s Sergey Lavrov’s visit to India? Has the schedule for Russian President’s visit been finalized? What is MEA’s reaction on the Russian FM’s visit to Pakistan after 9 years and the agreement on extending the defence cooperation?” Similar questions were asked from Madhurendra from News Nation, Brahm Prakash from Zee, and Pranay from ABP.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. As we are all aware, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov visited India this Tuesday. The visit of the Russian Foreign Minister was a good opportunity to renew and review our special and privileged partnership. A broad range of issues were discussed. You do get a good sense of the same from the joint media interaction of the two Foreign Ministers after their meeting earlier this week. As regards the supply of defence equipment by Russia to Pakistan, you are aware of India's well known position on this and I need not repeat it. Moving on to Afghanistan, India's position on the situation in Afghanistan was most recently articulated by External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar at the recent ‘Heart of Asia conference’ in Dushanbe, as well as during the joint media interaction with Foreign Minister Lavrov earlier this week. I do not have anything further to add for the moment. As for the Russian Foreign Minister’s visit to Pakistan, I think a similar question was asked last week, and I had indicated that it was not for us to respond to that. India's close, time tested and strategic relations with Russia stand on their own merit and are not influenced by relations with other countries.

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS): The next group of questions is on Pakistan. Sridhar from Asian Age asks, "media reports from Islamabad claimed that backchannel Indo-Pak talks started more than a year ago, and that PM Modi may visit Pakistan for a SAARC summit later this year. Can India confirm if this is accurate?” Suhasini from the Hindu asks "two Pakistani news sites have reported today that the India Pakistan back channel has been in place since 2018 and continues to discuss confidence building measures, adding to a number of previous reports on this. Could the MEA comment on whether India and Pakistan are engaged in talks at any level?” Similar question from Dipak Ranjan from PTI.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Well, actually, if you talk about the channel of communication on this issue, let me just recall that our respective High Commissions exist and are functioning. So that's a very effective channel of communication. Of course, regarding speculations about the SAARC Summit, I have nothing to share with you for the moment. Moving on to the query regarding import of sugar and cotton by Pakistan, I think I have already addressed this last week and I would not like to say anything more for the moment.

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS):
The next group of questions is on the proposed visits of foreign dignitaries to India. Sandeep from Tribune asks, "does the schedule by French and Australian Foreign Ministers change after Raisina Dialogue was moved to a fully digital format?” Suhasini from the Hindu asks, "since the Raisina Dialogue has been moved to a virtual format, could you please confirm the status of visits by Denmark Prime Minister, Rwanda President, Australian Foreign Minister, French Defence Minister, etc. Are any visits to India now scheduled this month? Would be grateful, if you could confirm details about visits by UK Prime Minister and Japanese Prime Minister as well.” Archana from Bloomberg asks, "could you share details of the India- France- Australian trilateral. What will be the main areas of discussion with France during bilateral meetings with their Foreign Ministers next week?” Similar questions from Maha from CNN News18, Sidhant from WION, Abhishek Dhulia from NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Actually, there are multiple issues here. As you are aware, the organisers of the Raisina Dialogue have decided to host a fully digital version this year, instead of the hybrid one they were planning earlier. Some dignitaries were planning to come in person to attend this event. We expect some of them to still come, while others may join digitally. Details of this are still being worked out. As regards other visits that had been alluded to I would be in a position to share information as and when these visits are announced.

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS): The next group of questions is on the Vaccine Maitri initiative, Maha from CNN News18 asks, "Astra Zeneca has sent a notice to Serum Institute for not fulfilling its international commitments under GAVI and COVAX, has this problem arisen due to vaccines being prioritised for India, due to the COVID crisis or because of difficulty in procuring raw materials from the US for vaccine production, which is taken up by Ambassador Taranjit Sandhu. What has been America's response?” Madhurender from News Nation asks, "Bharat vaccine export par ban lagaye, is gharelu rajniti ka kya prabhav vaccine exports par hai?” (Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) "India to put ban on vaccine export, what is the effect of the domestic politics on the vaccine export?” Gautam Lahari asks, "there are reports some of our neighbour countries including Bangladesh is running out of vaccine stocks. When is government planning to supply vaccines to those countries?” Similar questions from Brahm Prakash from Zee, Kalol from the Hindu, Pranay from ABP, Agni Roy from Anandabazar Patrika.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, I think I had responded quite at length on the issue of our supplies of vaccines abroad, when we spoke at the last media briefing. We've always said that supply of ‘made in India’ vaccines abroad would continue taking into account our domestic requirements. Let me reiterate that there is no ban on export of vaccines. In fact, the website of our ministry is being updated regularly to reflect that the supply of vaccines that are happening on a periodic basis. Regarding the issue specific to Serum Institute, I think I would refer you to the company itself, they would be best placed to answer any such question and as regards the issue of procurement of raw materials from the US, you would recall that Foreign Secretary have informed during his briefing on March 12th that the issue had been taken up with the United States of America.

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS): The next group of questions is on vaccine supplies to Paraguay. Sidhant from WION asks, "Did India supply vaccines to Paraguay after Taiwan requested? Taiwan FM said so, any confirmation on this?” Devi Rupa from The Wire asks, "Reuters had quoted Taiwan Foreign Minister as saying that India had helped out its request to supply vaccine to Paraguay. Can you confirm if India had received this request from Taiwan, and whether India’s supply of Covaxin to Paraguay was a result of this request”? Archana from Bloomberg asks, "we are following up on Paraguay saying India helped it with vaccines in time after China linked its promise vaccine supplies to cutting relations with Taiwan. Could you please confirm if this is true? And is this part of the Quad initiative?” Similar questions from Dipak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think we are all aware that India is opening an Embassy in Paraguay. During a telephonic conversation between External Affairs Minister and the Foreign Minister of Paraguay, a request for vaccines was raised by the Paraguayan side and EAM responded positively to this request. Subsequently a shipment of ‘Made in India’ vaccines was sent to Paraguay. I would like to confirm that no third party was involved in this.

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS): The next group of questions is on the situation in Myanmar, Sandeep Dikshit from the Tribune asks, "civilian toll in Myanmar has crossed 500 and refugees are fleeing to most neighbouring countries except perhaps China. Is India attempting regional dialogue with the Generals and will it shelter refugees?” Sidhant from WION asks, "Will India back any sanctions against Myanmar?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think last week I had outlined in detail our position, and how we see the situation in Myanmar. Let me reiterate today our condemnation of the violence and our support for restoration of democracy in Myanmar. I do not have anything further to add for the moment.

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS): The next group of questions is on China. Madhurendra from News Nation asks, "Ladakh ki seema par disengagement ka ek charan poora hone ke baad samuchi prakriya aanya hisson mein rooki hui hai. Saath hi na de-escalation ki sthiti dikhai de rahi hai aur na hi indication ki commander level ki aagli baithak se kya ummid rakkhi jaye.” (Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) "After the completion of first stage of disengagement on the Ladakh border the process is halted in all other areas. Also neither the conditions of de-escalation are visible nor is there any indication as to what we can hope from the next commander’s level meeting.” Dipak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha asks, "Poorvi ladakh main Cheen ke saath gatirodh ki taaza sthiti kya hai?” (Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) "What is the latest situation of deadlock with China in eastern Ladakh?” Srinjoy from Times Now asks, "is there a commander conference in Ladakh tomorrow? Will it be Chushul or Moldo? What are the primary issues to be discussed?” Similar question from Pranay from ABP News.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As I outlined last week, we would like to see disengagement in the remaining areas, which will lead to de-escalation in Eastern Ladakh and that would hopefully lead to restoration of peace and tranquillity and provide conditions for progress of our overall bilateral relationship. During the meeting on March 12th, on the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination WMCC, both sides had agreed to convene the 11th round of Senior Commanders’ Meeting. When I have something more to share on this, I will certainly do so.

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS): On Canada Madhurendra from News Nation asks, "Canada based New Democratic Party ne aapne convention mein Kashmir aur Krishi kanoon jaise mudde uchaal rahi hai, Bharat ki kya pratikriya hai?” (Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) "Canada based ‘New Democratic Party’ is highlighting the Kashmir and agriculture laws related issues in its convention, what is India’s reaction?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Dekhiye aapne jis vishesh ghatna ka ullekh kiya hai, usske bare mein to mein kuch nahin baata paunga. Paar yaad dilana chahta hun ki aise muddon par hamne pehle bhi keh rakha hai ki ye aantrik mamla hai hamara aur ismein mein is Vishay par aur extra kuch bhi kehna nahin chahunga. (Answered in Hindi; App.Translation)” See, I will not be able to say anything about the particular incident you have mentioned, but I want to remind that on such issues we have already said that this is an internal matter for us and I would not like to say anything more on this subject.”

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS): Narendra Nath Mishra from Navbharat Times on New Zealand asks, "Desh mein badhate Covid ke kaaran New Zealand ne Bharat se entry par ban laga diya hai. Kya kisi aur desh ne chinta jataee hai? ”(Questioned in Hindi; App. Translation) "New Zealand has banned entry from India due to rising Covid cases in the country. Has any other country raised a concern?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Hamein gyaat hua hai New Zealand sarkar se ki unhone 11 April se 28 April tak yeh ban lagaya hai. Vo kah rahe hain ki ye temporary ban hai aur yeh sirf Bhartiya naagarikon ke liye nahin hai balki NewZealand ke naagarikon par bhi laagoo hai. Ham yahee aasha karte hain ki 28 taareekh ke baad ye ban ko hataaya jaega taaki hamaare beech mein phir se normal movement ki sthiti kee taraf ham koshish kar payen. (Answered in Hindi; App.Translation) We have come to know that the New Zealand Government has imposed ban from 11 April to 28 April. They are saying that this is a temporary ban and it is not only for Indian citizens but it is also applicable to the citizens of New Zealand. We hope that after 28th, the ban will be lifted so that the situation of normal movement is restored between us.

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS): Sandeep from the Tribune asks, "could you please give us an update on the container project in Sri Lanka.”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think we've said this before. This is now an issue between the Government of Sri Lanka and the private investors. I really don't have any update to share on this specific issue.

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS): Sidhant from WION asks, "During the meeting with the Eritrean Foreign Minister today, was situation in Tigray discussed.”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As you're aware, this is a live issue currently at the United Nations Security Council. During his talks with the External Affairs Minister today, the Eritrean Foreign Minister shared his government's perspectives on developments in the Horn of Africa region. He spoke about Tigray in that context.

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS): Shankar from IVD asks, "How far are we closer to resolve a riddle over the Assumption islands? Any progress on this issue?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sorry, I don't have any comment to make on that at this moment.

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS): Sidhant from WION asks, will India be present at Turkey-Afghan talks. Dipak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha asks, "Afganistan pe jaari samagra varta ki kya sthiti hai? (Questioned in Hindi; App. Translation) "What is the status of the ongoing composite dialogue on Afghanistan?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Look, on this issue a lot more needs to be worked out in regards to the Turkey talks. I think it's premature to comment on it about the scope and participation. Are there any further questions?

Shri George Thomas, Under Secretary (XPS): No, sir.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much. Thank you for joining today evening. Good evening.

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