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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (September 22, 2022)

September 22, 2022

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good afternoon to all of you. Thank you for joining us for this week's media briefing. I will begin with an announcement and then we can take a few questions. Basically, the announcement of the Prime Minister’s visit to Japan. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will visit Japan on 27 September 2022 to attend the State Funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Prime Minister will separately meet the Prime Minister of Japan His Excellency Mr. Fumio Kishida during the visit. That's the short announcement I had for the evening. Okay, queries, questions.

Meghna: Sir Meghna from DD News. Sir there have been reports of Indians stuck in Myanmar who have fallen prey to criminal groups. What's the status, how many people have been rescued, and any update on the situation?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look on this topic, it's a little complicated, you mentioned about Myanmar. Let me just give you a sense of what we know. We are aware that some fraudulent IT companies actually, they appear to be engaged in digital scamming and forged crypto activities, and they seem to be operating through agents in Dubai, Bangkok and India, are recruiting Indian workers on the pretext of employment opportunities in Thailand usually as what we're hearing is in the IT sector there. The workers are lured by social media advertisements of highly lucrative data entry jobs in, as I mentioned, in Thailand. Unfortunately, these workers are then taken illegally across the border, into the Myawaddy area of Myanmar. And that area as you know is difficult to access due to the local security situation. Nevertheless, thanks to the efforts of our missions in Yangon in Myanmar and in Thailand, we have been able to facilitate the rescue of some of these victims from captivity or forced labour and we are trying to help others. We would like to urge Indian nationals to exercise restraint, extreme caution I would say, before taking up such job offers. It may also be mentioned here that the visa on arrival scheme in Thailand, which allows you to get entry into Thailand does not permit employment. So if somebody's offering you such an opportunity that is illegal. Our Embassies in Thailand and Myanmar have issued advisories in this regard. Please follow them. We have also taken up this matter both with the governments of Thailand, as well as Myanmar. As to your specific query of how many, look, this is difficult to say. 32 people have certainly been rescued or helped out of where they were. Remember, this is in a remote part of the country, where there is difficult to access. I don't have exact number, I would say maybe 80, 90 odd people; maybe total maybe 32, maybe another 50 odd people our Embassy are in contact with, but maybe a little more or less because some of it is hearsay from third hand sources. That's the number we have broadly, but I don't want to comment on the exact numbers because that's still an evolving thing, but at least 32 have come out of that. That's broadly what I had to say.

Rezaul: This is Rezaul from Hindustan Times. This is regarding the PM’s visit. Is there any likelihood of a bilateral meeting with the Sri Lankan President who's also going to be in Tokyo around that time?

Yeshi: This is Yeshi Seli from the New Indian Express. There have been instances of attacks on Indians in Leicester and then in Birmingham. What is being done? EAM has already made a statement.

Sidhant: Sir Sidhant from WION. There have been of course, reports of so called Khalistan referendum, taking place in countries like Canada. Any reaction to that, what the Indian government or the Consulate or mission have been doing on that.

Pranay: Sir two things, one I may add to the question regarding the incidents in Birmingham and Leicester. To kya is baarein mein bharat sarkar ne apni koi chinta jatai hai British sarkar ke saath, jis tarike se Birmingham ke andar mandir ka gherav kiya gaya tha aur abhi security ko lekar koi concern hai Dusra sawal Sir, Ukraine situation ko lekar hai. Russia ne jis tarah se partial mobilization ka order kiya hai aur referendum kiya ja raha hai us ilake ke andar, India ka view kya hai is cheez ko lekar kyokin Prime Minister ki meeting hui thi rashtrapati Putin ke saath Samarkand mein. (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir two things, one I may add to the question regarding the incidents in Birmingham and Leicester. So, has the Government of India expressed any concern about this with the British government, the manner in which the temple in Birmingham was gheraoed and is there any concern about security right now? Sir, the second question is about Ukraine situation, as Russia has ordered partial mobilization and is conducting referendum inside that area, what is the view of India regarding this, because the Prime Minister had a meeting with President Putin in Samarkand.

Srinjoy: Sir Times Now. We have seen the incident in Leicester and then the whole thing appears to be spreading. Birmingham has been next. What is the understanding of the Indian government on this, who is responsible for this and how helpful has the British security authorities the apparatus been on with this? And how are you interacting with the British government through the foreign office, through the home office, can you tell us a little please?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Let me try to answer some of these questions. Rezaul, on the issue of bilateral - still too early, I've just announced the visit. We don't even know who all finally are going to be there. I understand that the Japanese government has today indicated some list of leaders who will be there, but I don't even know there'll be enough time because there'll be a very short visit. If there is, as and when we will come back to you on that.

Sidhant your query was on the issue of the Khalistan referendum. Look this so called Khalistan referendum, basically we would term it is the farcical exercise. The farcical exercise was held by the extremists and radical elements supporting the so-called Khalistan referendum in Canada and elsewhere I think. The matter has been taken up with the Canadian authorities through diplomatic channels. The government of Canada has reiterated that they respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India, and that they will not recognize the so-called referendum, which is taking place in Canada. However, we find it deeply objectionable that politically motivated exercises by extremist elements are allowed to take place in a friendly country. You're all aware of the history of violence in this regard. And the government of India will continue to press the government of Canada on this matter.

Jee main usaka roopantaran ki koshish karta hoon, Canada mein jaise tathakathit Khalistan referendum ya janamat sangrah jis tarah se keh lein, ka samarthan karane vaale ye charampanthi aur kattarpanthi tathvon dwara ek nakali abhyas ayojit kiya gaya tha, abhi chal raha tha sun rahe hai. Is mamle ko rajanayik chainalon ke saath Canadian authorities ke sath uthaya gaya hai. Canada sarkar ne dohraya hai ki wo bharat ki samprabhuta aur kshetriy akhandata ka samman karte hai aur woh tathakathit referendum ko manyata nahi denge jo Canada mein ho rahi hai. Par hamen bahut aapatti janak lagta hai ki ek mitr desh mein charampanthi tattva dwara aise politically motivated abhyason ko hone diya ja raha hai. Iss sambandh mein jo hinsa ka itihas hai aapko malum hi hai, aap wakif hai usase. Bharat sarkar is mamle mein Canada se vartalap karti rahegi aur unako press karenge ki iss mein action lein. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Yes, I will try to translate it. A farcical exercise was held by extremist and radical elements supporting the so-called Khalistan referendum in Canada. The matter has been taken up with the Canadian authorities through diplomatic channels. The Government of Canada has reiterated that they respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India and that they will not recognise the so-called referendum, which is taking place in Canada. However, we find it deeply objectionable that politically motivated exercises by extremist elements are allowed to take place in a friendly country. You are all aware of the history of violence in this regard. Government of India will continue to press the Government of Canada on this matter.

On Ukraine, yes, of course as you know, this issue, I think has been in the media earlier and also discussed. Let me say that India has repeatedly emphasized on the immediate cessation of hostilities and the need to resolve the ongoing conflict through dialogue and diplomacy. This was reiterated by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi during his recent meeting with President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Samarkand. India's position has also been clear and consistent insofar as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries is concerned. That's all I have to say on that.

Pranay I think aapne bhi iska jikra kiya tha hindi mein. Bharat ne bar-bar yuddh ke tatkal samapti, batchit or diplomacy ke madhyam se, chal rahe sangharsh ko hal karne ki aavashyakta par jor diya hai. Pradhanmantri Modi ji ne haal hi mein Samarkand mein President Putin ko SCO ke shikhar sammelan ke sidelines mein hui meeting ke dauran inake sath jo baithak hui thi yahi baat dohraya tha. Donon desho ki samprabhuta aur kshetriy akhandata ke sambandh mein bharat ki sthiti spasht aur consistent rahi hai (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Pranay I think you also mentioned this in Hindi. India has repeatedly emphasized on immediate cessation of hostilities and the need to resolve the ongoing conflict through dialogue and diplomacy. This was reiterated by Prime Minister Modi during his meeting with President Putin recently on the sidelines of SCO Summit in Tashkent. India’s position has also been clear and consistent in so far as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries is concerned.

On the issue of the developments or activities in Leicester as well as in Birmingham, look at this one I think we've already made a couple of comments. So let me just recap that. You would've seen the statement issued by our High Commission in London, condemning the violence. Our High Commission continues to be in touch with the UK side and as Srinjoy was asking, we are in touch with the diplomatic as well as the security authorities to prevent further attack and take action against the perpetrators that has been our repeated request to prevent these attacks and take action. You'd have also seen that, during his meeting yesterday in New York, External Affairs Minister raised this issue with his counterpart from the UK. I think I'll leave it at that.

Jaisa aap jante hai London mein hamare uchchayog dwara is hinsa ki ninda ke baaren mein jo statement tha woh toh aapne dekha hi hoga. Ye bayaan de rakha tha hamne, hamara uchchayog ne ki UK authorities ke saath contact mein hai, ki hamlon ko kiss tarah se roka jaye aur rokane ke liye aur un aparadhiyon ke khilaf karwai karne ke liye Britain sarkar ke sampark mein hai, unko request kar rahe hai. Aur videshamantri kal apne UK counterpart se bhi mile the, unhonne usmen bhi request ki thi, unhonne ek tweet bhi dala hai aapne dekha hoga. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) You would have seen the statement issued by our High Commission in London condemning the violence. Our High Commission continues to be in touch with the UK side to prevent further attacks and take action against the perpetrators. The External Affairs Minister had made the same request to his UK counterpart, during their meeting yesterday. He had also posted a tweet, you must have seen it.

Sudhi Ranjan: Sir Sudhi Ranjan from Bloomberg. Any details that you could share about the External Affairs Ministers’ meeting in the BRICS, and also the Quad Ministers’ Summit that's likely to happen in New York and also any idea about his bilateral meetings with his US counterpart next week. Anything that you could share?

Shashank: Sir Shashank Mattoo with the Mint. Sir on FTAs, Is the India-UK FTA still on track for its Diwali delivery date. And just following up that question on FTAs, will an India-US FTA, will be on the agenda for the bilateral meetings next week.

Takashi: My name is Takashi from Asahi Shimbun, Japanese daily newspaper. Regarding the Prime Minister’s visit of Japan, I'd like to ask the main reason why the Prime Minister Modi decided to visit the State Funeral for Mr. Abe. Is it mainly because of the personal relationship with Mr. Abe or any other reason?

Ileana: Good Afternoon, Ileana, TASS News agency. I just wanted to have some details on the position of New Delhi on the referendums in Donbass, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. As we all know, already official position of India on the Ukraine crisis, diplomacy and dialogue we heard it a lot of times. Then my second question is any information on the bilateral meeting between Jaishankar and Lavrov on the sidelines of UN General Assembly. And if you don't mind, I have also one question. I think you may have seen in media reports that the United States is in deep talks with India over its reliance on Russian arms and energy. The reference goes to US State department official. It was published on Tuesday this article. My question is do you feel any pressure from Washington on these issues on India's cooperation with Russia in energy sector and defence sector.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: You referred to defence. Your query was on defence, right?

Ileana: Yes, defence and energy sector on the supplies of Russian arms to India. Thank you.

Abhishek: Sir Abhishek from News18. Sir is there any BRICS Foreign Ministers’ Meeting planned along the UNGA in New York? And will there be a bilateral between Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Let me take the UNGA one. Look, the UNGA as we speak, External Affairs Minister is in New York and he's actually been very forthcoming every day. You would have seen the video of daily recap, what he's doing, he's putting out the tweets, he’s putting out the press releases of various activities. He has a very packed agenda with I think, 50 plus meetings. So I would not like to get into specific ones. I know I have been asked on BRICS, Quad I think Sudhi, until they happen I'm not saying anything on them yet. Yes, as you would've realized they are on the agenda somewhere, but let it happen. So we will try to brief you on that. So yes similar answer to you. Yes, there is talk of BRICS. I think it has just been issued. I think we managed to issue it, I think just now a tweet giving the sense. Let's see if have anything further to share. So on the BRICS, I think it's already done, the Quad not yet. And bilaterals as they happen, we will tell you. You never know, we announce something and it doesn't take place, it's perhaps avoided. So we'll come back to you as they take place. I think the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on the BRICS level has not taken place, but the meeting happened at the Sherpa level yesterday. So when it happens, we will let you know.

On the FTAs, I think, Mr. Mattoo you came up with the FTA question. I think the FTA question is to be honest, to be placed more with the Commerce Ministry, but let me just recall that both sides have reiterated particularly with the change of government in the UK side that the Diwali deadline is something that they're still working towards, and hopefully it gets there. We'll see how it goes, but if you have wanted any more details on the technical side, I would refer you to the Commerce Ministry.

On the India-US, I don't know if the FTA part is so much on the agenda. Of course, we have been working closely to see how we can deepen different pillars of our strategic partnership. But I don't know whether External Affairs Minister is the right person and say, this kind of a meeting will be the one to discuss FTA specifically. There are other issues, but yes, certainly strengthening bilateral trade and economic linkages will be on the agenda.

If I could take your question on the referendum part, didn't I say it, but I'm happy to repeat what my position has been on both parts of what we said, as I said, we have repeatedly emphasized cessation of hostilities. And you talked about dialogue and diplomacy, let me reiterate that, PM said that himself. You heard him. Let me also add, India's position has also been clear and consistent insofar as respect and sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries is concerned. So I think our position on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of these countries is also very clear. I don't need to reiterate that. Bilateral meetings with Lavrov Foreign Minister of Russia on the UNGA - as it happens, we will let you know if it happens. I wouldn't like to comment in advance on meetings that may or may not take place. On the last question, I wasn't sure you referred to some comment. There are talks between India and Russia. Yeah, India and US have very wide ranging discussions on a regular basis. I'm sure issues of defence cooperation or on energy and energy trade, energy security come up. I wouldn't have much else to say vis a vis that. Pressure - I certainly think I'm not the right person to comment. I think you heard our Foreign Secretary as well as our External Affairs Minister saying, no issue of pressure at any point. I don't think India is a country you pressure and hope to get results. So either way, and I think India's position stems from our own beliefs and our interests of what we need to do.

Coming to Takashi your question, look, I think, I don't want to guess why Prime Minister was going, but I would tend to agree with you on both counts. I think, this is a State Funeral and of course, as you know, this is of a very friendly country, an important partner and I think it's nice that Prime Minister has found time to be able to go despite his busy schedule to be present at the State Funeral. And of course, as you know, there is a personal connect with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. So I think all that would've played a role, but this is me speculating, I haven't asked Prime Minister why he's going. So you would let me be on that.

Shalinder: Shalinder News 18 se, Prime Minister Modi ki meeting Turkey ke President se hui thi bilateral lekin usske theek kuch dino ke baad Turkish President ne UNGA mein ek baar phir Kashmir ka mudda uthaaya hai, uss par hamara kya reaction hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Shalinder from News 18, Prime Minister Modi had a bilateral meeting with the President of Turkey, but after few days of that, the Turkish President has once again raised the issue of Kashmir in the UNGA, what is our reaction on that?

Srinjoy: Sir at the intersessional meeting between India and the US the 2+2. This was the mini 2+2, took place on the 7th and 8th, it was decided that the next 2+2 would be in India in the spring, either in February or March. Could you sort of tell us a little more about this?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Let me take your question first. Look, when it happens, we'll let you know, intersessionals are exactly that. We will try to host the next one. March is a long time. I am not confirming any of the stuff you said. That was your preface to your question. I will accept it as taken, but we will let you know when we are ready to announce anything.

Shalinder aapne puchha, turki ke rashtrapati se mulakat hui thi Samarkand mein, usake baare mein hamane ek press release bhi jari kar rakhi hai and humne usmein kya-kya baaten hui thi kuchh uske bare main ullekh kiya tha. Aur Jammu-Kashmir ke baare mein, woh alag mudda hai UN mein hui thi, hamara ismen vaktavya hamesha hamara position bahut clear raha hai or aap chahe to main dohra dunga ki ye hamara andruni mamla hai aur is vishay par hamara jo position hai, har jagah hum kah chuke hai ki isko bilaterally Shimla agreement ke tahat aur us sandarbh se terrorism jab khatam ho us bare mein, is context mein hum dekhte hai to, ismein UNGA mein reference ka koi mayna nahi rakhta hai kisi bhi aur desh ke taraf se par usase jyada abhi mere pass immediately koi aur response nahi hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) Shalinder, you asked - there was a meeting with the President of Turkey in Samarkand, we have also issued a press release in which we have highlighted what was discussed in the meeting. Regarding the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and the UN, it is a separate issue on which our statement and position has always been very clear and if you want, I will repeat that. This is our internal matter and we have expressed our position on this subject everywhere. We have said that it is a bilateral issue and it needs to be resolved as per Shimla Agreement and there should be a conducive atmosphere free of terrorism. We look at this issue in this context. So, there is no point of making reference in UNGA by any other country. More than this I have nothing to say right now.

Sidhant: Sir, in English on Turkey.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: On Turkey, as you know, Prime Minister had a productive meeting with the President of Turkey, recently last week in Samarkand, and we had issued a press release on that highlighting the areas of discussion and how we could work together. On the separate issue of, of course, UNGA and Jammu Kashmir, I think our position is pretty well known, but since you wanted us to reiterate that, I can say, this issue of course needs to be resolved, as per the Shimla Agreement and bilaterally and we've always held that. And also discussions in a conducive atmosphere free of terrorism. I think all of us know that, and I don't think reference to Jammu & Kashmir in the UNGA is useful or helpful. Thank you. Thank you for joining us.

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