How EAM Jaishankar got one up on Pak's Bilawal Zardari at Goa
Jaishankar asked foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra to step aside and took on Zardari provocation head-on at the post-SCO FM meeting media briefing.
For those who know Subrahmanyam Jaishankar from his bureaucratic days, the external affairs minister has always been known to bat straight with an uncanny ability to call a spade a spade. The last foreign minister to learn about this candid and blunt trait of EAM Jaishankar was Pakistan’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who tried to play to the galleries back home for his own political ambitions at Goa on May 4-5 and in turn, scuppered any chance of India-Pak détente in the far future.
While the Left-Liberal media in the Indian sub-continent found the EAM unusually aggressive on Pakistan in the post-SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting briefing on May 5, the fact is that it was the below-the-belt tactics of Zardari that provoked Jaishankar to call the bluff of Pakistan. Left to him, he would focus on Pakistan’s elder brother China.
That India was not interested in any bilateral meeting with Pakistan was evident much before the Goa meeting but EAM’s Jaishankar mood got soured after he found out that Zardari had plans to raise all the bilateral issues on Indian soil to score political points for family-run Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) back home. The EAM was briefed in advance that Bilawal had planned three interviews with two Indian media groups and one with BBC, with the interviews embargoed for publishing till he left India on May 5. Jaishankar was also correctly told that Zardari would also address an orchestrated press conference with Pakistan media who had travelled to Goa with entry prohibited for Indian media. Scion of the Bhutto-Zardari political dynasty and whose both mother and maternal grandfather were India baiters, Bilawal raised all the issues dear to the Pakistani narrative in the interviews and the press conference in Goa like Kashmir, Article 370, Human Rights etc. It was these below-the-belt tactics of Zardari which got the goat of normally affable EAM as he has vivid memories of Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf derailing the July 14-16, 2001, Agra summit. Gen Musharraf raised the Kashmir issue and downplayed cross-border terrorism before the liberal media in Delhi, a day before the formal summit with then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Agra summit had failed even before it had started.
Not the one to take things lying down, Jaishankar asked his able foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra, who was supposed to address media post SCO FM Goa summit on May 5, to step aside so that he could demolish Zardari’s lies and the propagated false Pakistani narrative before Indian media.
Zardari, whose mother Benazir wanted to fight a 1000-year war to wrest Kashmir from India and whose grandfather Zulfikar Ali wanted Islamic nuclear bomb at any cost for Pakistan, had also made personal attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS in the past.
It was in this context that Jaishankar made it clear that Pakistan had neither anything to do with G-20 nor with Srinagar in the context of the May 22-24 scheduled G-20 meeting on Tourism in the UT. He said the only issue to discuss with Pakistan was when will Islamabad vacate Occupied Kashmir. The strong riposte by Jaishankar ensured that all the statements given by Zardari to Indian and Pakistani media were overshadowed and made redundant.