Most countries understand Kashmir is an Indian issue, says S Jaishankar at HT-MintAsia Leadership Summit
Most countries view India’s decision to abrogate Article 370 in Kashmir as an internal issue and accept that countries do make such changes, foreign minister S Jaishankar said on Friday.
“They think it’s an Indian issue. They are aware, in part from the reactions, that Pakistan is saying some pretty strong things about it. The general sentiment is that if there are issues at all, India and Pakistan should sit down and sort it out,” the minister said at the HT-MintAsia Leadership Summit 2019 in Singapore.
Jaishankar emphasised the historical, governance and political issues at the heart of the Kashmir issue. “Article 370 was the only temporary provision of the Indian constitution. The word temporary means something comes to an end,” he said.
He also noted that the situation in Kashmir before August 5, when the Article 360 abrogation came into effect, was far from ideal, with police officers and journalists routinely losing their lives to terror.
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Pointing to the socio-economic effects of what he called a ‘disturbed governance’ issue, he said, “It really constricted businesses. The kind of business energy you see in the rest of India was missing in Kashmir.”
On talking to Pakistan
On talking to Pakistan, he said that India has always maintained that it is happy to talk to Pakistan for issues between the two countries but “it must be done without having the gun of terrorism pointed at our heads.”
He also asked Pakistan to walk the talk. “What we hear from that side is they are willing to talk. Have you heard them say what they have done with the terrorists [in their own country]?” he questioned.
“Imran Khan has himself said he has 40,000 terrorists in his country and these terror camps are all in the big cities of Pakistan,” Jaishankar said.
On differences with the US on trade
“Today, the US has trade problems with everybody. That’s part of the policy approach. So, I am not very disturbed by the fact that we have trade problems,” the foreign minister said.
Jaishankar said that he believes most of the trade issues between the US and India can be resolved and he is confident that the two governments will be able to work their way through it.
On Afghanistan and the withdrawal of US troops from the country
Jaishankar said that India has a long history with Afghanistan. “It’s natural that we would be concerned about the direction of events there and we would like to influence the direction of events there,” he said.
However, the US has been fighting in the Afghanistan for 18 years – “a long time for anyone to wage a war” and it is clear that there is a certain amount of fatigue in the country.
He pointed out that the US itself is still internally debating the move and is negotiating with the Taliban and the Afghan government. What remains important, he added, is that the achievements of these 18 years are not jeopardised.
On the US-China trade war
“I am not sure I’d call it a trade issue alone. I think trade is one part of it,” he said.
The US-China differences stem partly from one being a rising power and the other being an entrenched power and partly from two different value systems at work.
“For the moment, people are looking at uncertainty. They are looking at political uncertainty and they are looking at trade uncertainty. It has begun to impact supply chains to some degree. There are worries whether trade itself would contract. This is the world we live in,” he said.
The career diplomat said he remains optimistic and expects some sort of understanding to be reached between the two countries. “I hope [economist Paul] Krugman [who predicted earlier in the day at the same event that there was likely no resolution in sight] is proved wrong,” Jaishankar said.
On Southeast Asia and China’s overtures in the region
“China would have its interests and approaches [in Southeast Asia], and we have ours. The beauty of this region has been its historical ability to reconcile [those two],” the minister said.
He said Southeast Asia is one of the two reconciliation hubs in Asia, with the Gulf being the other where China and India find their interests in harmony.
“If India is to grow beyond the confines of south Asia and to get global, I think the relationship with Southeast Asia and Singapore are very fundamental to that,” he said.