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Transcript of Virtual Weekly Media Briefing by the Official Spokesperson (July 29, 2021)

July 29, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Good evening and Namaskar. Welcome to this edition of the weekly briefing. We have a number of questions. Let me start by passing the floor to Yatin.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Kadambini from NDTV is asking, "How does India look at formal meeting between China Foreign Minister and Taliban representatives?” Praveen Gautam from Newspoint is asking, "Taliban ke ek pratinidhi mandal ne Cheeni videsh mantri Wang Yi ke saath vaarta ki hai. Ise Bharat kis roop mein dekhta hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) A delegation of the Taliban has held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. How does India see it?” Srinjoy from Times Now is asking, "Is any military assistance to Afghan Government likely? Pakistan has referred to Taliban fighters as civilians, are the Taliban safe havens still there in FATA and Balochistan?” Shankar from India versus Disinformation is asking, "What plans have India with regards to Afghanistan where Taliban led violence has increased instability?” Sidhant from WION is asking, "How much India is concerned about refugee crisis from Afghanistan?” We have similar question from Suhasini from The Hindu, Pushkar from New Indian Express, Munish Gupta from PIO TV, Ranjeet Kumar from Rakshak news.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. Look, I think all these questions relate to aspects of Taliban China meeting as well as Afghanistan developments. We have seen media reports in this regard. As you know, we are closely monitoring developments in Afghanistan. You would have heard EAM speak at length on our perspective about the situation in Afghanistan during his press conference with Secretary Blinken yesterday. I would like to reiterate that India and the world wishes to see an independent, sovereign, democratic, and stable Afghanistan which is at peace with itself and its neighbours. Unilateral imposition of will by any party will not be democratic, cannot lead to stability and cannot provide legitimacy. Gains over the last two decades should be preserved. I think that would address our larger perspective to all the issues that were raised in this questions. Yatin.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Pushkar from New Indian Express is asking, "UK has announced donation of 10 million vaccines to Commonwealth and Asian countries. Any information regarding if and any doses would be given to India? Yesterday, Secretary Blinken announced $25 million for vaccine boost in India. Was this a part of QUAD vaccination initiative or is it a standalone grant that US is giving to India?” Huma from The Financial Express is asking, "Any updates on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?” Munish Gupta from PIO TV is asking, "Did India and US discuss joint strategy now or in the future on COVID vaccines for Africa and developing countries?” Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times is asking, "Covaxin ko WHO se maanyta milne aur travel ke liye ise sveekaar karne ke maamle mein videsh mantraalay ke paas kya koi update hai? Brazil mein Covaxin ko lekar vivaad hua, kya videsh mantraalay ne iss baare mein wahan ki sarkar se sampark kiya hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Does the Ministry of External Affairs have any updates regarding Covaxin getting WHO accreditation and acceptance of it for travel? There was a dispute about Covaxin in Brazil, has the Ministry of External Affairs taken up this issue with the government there?” We have similar question from Suhasini from The Hindu.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Actually, that covers a lot of elements related to vaccines. But let me try to break that up. We have just seen the announcement by the government of the United Kingdom about donation of 10 million vaccines to the Commonwealth and Asian countries. That announcement does not cover India, as far as I am aware. But we are ascertaining more details. We will certainly share any update as soon as we have it. As regards announcement yesterday by Secretary Blinken of US dollar 25 million grant I think the USAID has issued a press release which outlines more details of this and I would refer you to that. Let me add that India and the US are engaged as part of the QUAD vaccine initiate to supply vaccines to countries in the Indo Pacific region from early 2022, that's next year. India stands united with the United States and several partners in working towards containing the COVID pandemic and for quick global economic recovery. There was also query regarding import of vaccines from the United States. As I said before our health regulators are engaged with foreign vaccine manufacturers in this regard, please contact our concerned health regulators for the latest position of these negotiations. And finally, as far as covaxin recognition is concerned, I have mentioned earlier also, Bharat Biotech submitted its request along with all necessary documentation earlier in July to the World Health Organisation. I would refer you to the company for further updates, including actually on the issue of supply of Covaxin to Brazil, which is also mentioned in the question. Yatin.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Abhishek from Republic is asking, "During his Delhi visit, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with some civil society activists and apparently discussed issues beyond the pale of bilateral relationship. Like China objected to Blinken meeting Tibetan Representative, does India also see it as uncalled for meddling?” Nayanima from The Print is asking, "How will MEA react to the fact that US sent out indirect messages to China by meeting Tibetan leaders here in New Delhi?” We have similar questions from Shailendra from News18, Sidhant from WION, and Sandeep from Tribune.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, you'd have seen the detailed comments by External Affairs Minister yesterday during the delegation level talks as well as the joint media interaction with secretary Blinken, particularly regarding the fact or his reference to conversations on contemporary issues from the framework of national experiences, historical perspectives, and unique context. I don't think I have anything further to add to that.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shankar from IVD is asking, "During US Secretary of State's visit QUAD was one of the agenda of talks with EAM. Can you please share with us as to what was discussed with regard to the next QUAD summit and its measures in the Indo Pacific region”? Jai Prakash from Dainik Jagran is asking, "Can you give the details of economic issue raised between Secretary Blinken and EAM, was the issue of the proposed e-commerce rules also raised by Secretary Blinken? When we are going to start talks on trade deal?” Dhairya from Sputnik is asking, "During the meeting with Secretary Blinken, did the Indian side call for maintaining sustained pressure on Pakistan for supporting terrorist outfits in the region. Did the US agree with Indian viewpoint?” He is also asking about delivery of Russian S 400 missile system with India. What was the response of the EAM? Huma with The Financial Express is asking, "During the talks with Secretary Blinken, did the sanctions on Iran feature? What about the sanctions on Venezuela?” We have similar questions from Munish Gupta from PIO TV. Manish from Business World.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, these seem to be a whole set of questions relating to the conversations that took place during the visit of Secretary Blinken. Some of them actually also relate to other ministries. I would not really like to get into the specifics of the conversations that took place yesterday. You've already heard at length, both the ministers and also their response or responses to the questions that were posed to them in the media interaction. Let me highlight that trade and investment ties, economic engagement, including the digital domain, combating COVID, cooperating on vaccination or vaccines, deepening QUAD, the Indo-Pacific countering terrorism, defence and security issues, as well as regional and global developments were certainly among the issues that were discussed during their talks. And I'll leave it at that. Regarding future meetings, I don't have any update to share for the moment. Yatin.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "How does India sees development on elections in Pakistan occupied Kashmir”. Shailendra from News18 is asking,” Hal hi mein Pakistan adhikrit Kashmir mein duniya ki aankhon mein dhool jhonkne ke liye chunaav karae gaye. Iss prakriya par Bharat ka kya reaction hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Recently, elections were held in Pakistan occupied Kashmir to deceive the world. What is India's reaction on this process?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, let me make very clear that the so-called elections in Indian Territory, under the illegal occupation of Pakistan are nothing but an attempt by Pakistan to camouflage its illegal occupation and the material changes undertaken by it in these territories. India has lodged a strong protest with the Pakistani authorities on this cosmetic exercise, which has been protested and rejected by the local people. Such an exercise can neither hide the illegal occupation by Pakistan nor the grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom to the people in these occupied territories. Pakistan has no locus standi on these Indian territories. We call upon Pakistan to vacate all Indian areas under its illegal occupation.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sidhant from WION is asking, "A joint Press release after meeting of China and Pakistan's Foreign Ministers mentioned Jammu and Kashmir. How would you like to respond to that?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: As in the past, India categorically rejects any reference to Jammu and Kashmir in such joint statement, the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the union territory of Ladakh have been and will remain integral and inalienable parts of India. The joint Press release, has also made a reference to the so-called China Pakistan Economic Corridor. We have consistently conveyed to China and Pakistan that the so called CPEC is in India's territory, that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan, and that we resolutely oppose any attempts by other countries to change the status quo in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan, as also to Pakistan, bringing up any material change in Indian territories under its illegal occupation. We call upon parties concerned to seize such actions.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep from Tribune is asking, "Is there any forthcoming meeting of Uzbekistan, Iran, India, on the joint utilisation of the Chabahar port? Could you give an account of the progress made in utilisation of the port since December 2020?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: You would have seen EAM’s remarks at the recently held meeting on connectivity in Tashkent where he highlighted that India had taken practical steps since 2016 to operationalize the Chabahar port, and that its efficacy is now clearly proven. India has proposed to include the port in the framework of the International north south transport corridor, the INSTC, and has welcomed the formation of the India, Uzbekistan, Iran, Afghanistan quadrilateral working group on the joint use of Chabahar port. This meeting is likely to take place in the second half or the latter half of this year. I don't have the immediate figure for 2020, but I can mention that since December 2018, Chabahar port has handled 134 vessels 14,258 TE use of containers, and more than 2.08 million tonnes of bulk and general cargo.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Sandeep from Tribune is asking, "1000s of students wanting to resume their studies in China, US, EU and UK are complaining on social media about difficulties or discrimination at several levels. This is also the case for workers to many Gulf nations. What are the efforts and breakthroughs by MEA in this regard?” Narendra Nath from Navbharat Times is asking, "Bharat mein case kam hone ke bawjood America aur doosre deshon ne apni hawai sewa abhee shuroo nahin karne ka phaisla liya hai. Iss se hajaaron log prabhavit ho rahe hain. Videsh mantraalay kya in deshon ke saath sampark mein hain? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Despite the decrease in cases in India, America and other countries have decided not to resume their air services yet. Thousands of people are being affected by this. Is the Ministry of External Affairs in touch with these countries?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look, we attach great importance to these issues of simplifying travel, easing travel restrictions. The issue of normalising travel of Indian citizens abroad now has been taken up and it's being taken up with the concerned authorities in other countries given that there has been a significant improvement in the COVID situation in India. We have seen some countries taking positive steps in this regard. We will continue to press for further measures from all the other countries.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Manish from Business World is asking, "Is the EU India FTA talks stuck as there is no indication of the progress made. Could you please elaborate on the progress and at what level the negotiations are taking place?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Actually the India EU FTA talks or the discussions are progressing as per our expectations. There have been informal discussions and exchanges between officials. India is waiting formal nomination of the European Union's chief negotiator and formal negotiations are expected to resume after the summer break in Europe. Meanwhile, India is going ahead with its own preparations for these discussions.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Huma from The Financial Express is asking, "Has the dates for the India Africa summit been decided?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: This is an important issue. But I am afraid I don't have any updates regarding the dates for the moment.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Meghna from Doordarshan is asking, "India will chair UNSC from August. What will be the key areas of focus?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We are gearing up for this important phase in our membership of the United Nations Security Council, which as you know, covers 2021 and 22. For the moment, for our presidency in August, we are looking at areas like maritime security, peacekeeping and counter terrorism as important focus areas. We will try to share more details once the work plan for the month of August is finalised, which should happen in early August. We'll get back to you at that point.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Shailesh Kumar from National Defence is asking, "While there are reports that China has been reinforcing military infrastructure at LAC, is there any progress for talks on disengagement of Chinese troops from Indian territories? Do we see Chinese willingness in resolving this standoff at LAC in eastern sector?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I know there has been a lot of interest in this issue and we have been reiterating our position regarding the sequence of events that we would like to see particularly regarding disengagement, de-escalation and moving on to which would help pave the way for normalisation. I don't have any particular update right now. We will share with you information regarding the next round of commander level talks which as you know, both leaders agreed, both ministers agreed, when they last met, that’s EAM and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, to hold it an early date. And once we have more details on this we will certainly share with you.

Shri Yatin Patel, OSD (PR): Elizabeth from Live Mint is asking, "Last week Foreign Secretary visited United Kingdom. Can you share details of this visit please?”

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We had announced the visit of Foreign Secretary, and I think during the last media interaction. Let me recall that the Foreign Secretary visited the United Kingdom on 23rd and 24th July to conduct a review of the comprehensive strategic partnership that was launched by the two Prime Ministers at the virtual India UK summit on May 4th this year. Foreign Secretary held detailed meetings with his counterparts and also met a cross section of opinion builders, including think tanks and parliamentarians. In the discussions, the implementation of the India UK Roadmap 2030 was discussed and assessed several issues of bilateral interest, including implementation of the migration and mobility partnership, Global Innovation partnership, climate action, return of economic offenders, defence and security ties, regional issues including Afghanistan, UN Security Council and Commonwealth matters were discussed. The need for early removal of restrictions imposed on travel from India and the mutual recognition of COVID vaccination certificates was also raised by us.

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 weekly media briefing. Thank you very much for joining us. Good evening.

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