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Sunday, Oct 20, 2019

No talks with a gun to our heads: Jaishankar to Pakistan

At the same forum, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat cautioned the world against a retreat from globalisation, saying a global division of labour had been the driving force for world economic growth since the end of the second World War.

india Updated: Sep 07, 2019 05:52 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Singapore
Heng said India’s youthful population could provide a significant advantage by propelling the digital economy but called for more investment in education.
Heng said India’s youthful population could provide a significant advantage by propelling the digital economy but called for more investment in education.(HT image)
         

External affairs minister S Jaishankar on Friday reaffirmed India’s willingness to talk to Pakistan, provided it is without “having the gun of terrorism pointed at our heads”, and said most countries had accepted that India’s decision to divest Jammu and Kashmir of its special status was an internal issue.

Speaking at the HT-MintAsia Leadership Summit in Singapore, Jaishankar downplayed India’s trade disputes with the United States (US), noting that Washington has “trade problems with everybody”. He added that though commerce was only one part of the Sino-American trade war, it was impacting the foreign policies of all nations, big and small.

At the same forum, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat cautioned the world against a retreat from globalisation, saying a global division of labour had been the driving force for world economic growth since the end of the second World War. Heng, who is also Singapore’s finance minister, said India had an important role to play in maintaining a stable global order.

“In my view, there has been a consistent position that if there are issues we need to talk about, we are open to talking about it, provided that you talk like two civilised neighbours,” Jaishankar said at the summit. “That you don’t say that I will talk to you but I reserve the right to...blow up your cities.”

Heng said India’s youthful population could provide a significant advantage by propelling the digital economy but called for more investment in education. “When Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi was here, he had said Singapore was the largest investor into India. Trade has grown significantly in the last 20 years. These numbers do not just represent our partnership, but also the strong growth potential between both countries... there is a lot we can do together on the economic front,” he said.

The Indian foreign minister’s comments on Pakistan came against the backdrop of India’s decision last month to effectively revoke Article 370 of the Constitution, which conferred special status on Jammu and Kashmir, and Article 35A, which made government jobs and property ownership the preserve of people deemed to be its permanent residents

dents. India also decided to split the state into two Union Territories — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh — with effect from October 31.

New Delhi has repeatedly snubbed talks with Pakistan unless and until Islamabad stops terrorist groups from using its soil to launch cross-border attacks in India. This week, India designated four individuals based in Pakistan — Jaish-Mohammed’s Maulana Masood Azhar, Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Hafiz Saeed; operational head of the 2008 Mumbai attacks Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim — as terrorists.

In his session at the summit, Jaishankar asked Pakistan to walk the talk on terrorism. “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.

“[Pakistan Prime Minister] 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. Khan has repeatedly attacked India in the past month over its decision to revoke J&K’s special status and attempted to internationalise the issue — to no avail.

Speaking on global commerce, Jaishankar said the Sino-US trade war went beyond commerce and that differences stemmed partly from one (China) being a rising power and the other (US) 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 minister said he remained 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 no resolution in sight] is proved wrong,” Jaishankar said.

Singapore’s Heng said countries need to restructure their economies at the national level and companies rethink what is required to be more competitive. Individuals need to learn new skills and parents to consider ways to educate the children better to cope with the changes.

Cautioning against protectionism, Heng said that there was still a very strong case for a multilateral trading system to tackle global challenges. He urged companies to come together to “maintain support for free trade”.

“Countries that have embraced free trade and specialisation, those who have opened up their economies have been able to do a lot better than others, with China being a very good example of this — they’ve just celebrated 40 years of reforms. That one stroke of genius lifted hundreds of millions of people from property,” he said.

First Published: Sep 07, 2019 00:05 IST

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