Now we know our real friends, says S Jaishankar
The reaction of other countries and global bodies to matters such as the new citizenship law and the changes in Kashmir had helped India find out who its “friends really are”, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Saturday.
Defending the government’s actions, he said it is decisively addressing important issues that should have been tackled earlier. As such moves disturb the status quo, people who had “proclaimed themselves judges of political correctness (and) arbiters of public policy get ruffled”, he said.
Jaishankar, who was speaking at the ET Global Business Summit, was asked if the recent criticism of matters such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and sectarian violence in New Delhi meant India was losing its friends or hadn’t been able to explain the rationale behind its decisions. He replied: “Maybe we’re getting to know who our friends really are.”
In the past, when India was “very defensive, our capabilities were less (and) the risks were higher”, the country adopted a policy of “managing the world but staying away”, he said. In a changing world, India couldn’t let “governance challenges go unaddressed”, though the debates on the changes are legitimate in a democratic society and are happening in India and outside, he added. “We have a big geo-political constituency in the world, people who understand the changes of India and agree with it, and those who may not agree with it,” he said. “The point we make on CAA is it cannot be anybody’s case that a government or Parliament doesn’t have the right to set the terms of naturalisation or citizenship,” he said, adding India has tried to reduce the large number of stateless people in the country through this legislation.
“Everybody when they look at citizenship has a context and has a criterion. Show me a country in the world which says everybody in the world is welcome. Nobody does that,” he noted. He said UN human rights reports on Kashmir had carefully skirted around “the cross-border terrorism problem as though it has nothing to do with the country next door”.
Talking about the controversial US-Taliban deal and concerns that India has been virtually shut out of the Afghan peace process, Jaishankar said: “I think we have influence, I think we have a record, I think we have friends in Afghanistan and around Afghanistan and my own sense is that the serious conversations about Afghanistan have only now just begun.”
He said Pakistan is Afghanistan’s proximate neighbour but “you have to ask yourself what has Pakistan done in the last 20 years, what has been their contribution, what is their mindset? I think most people know that.”
In his address, Jaishankar focused on India’s foreign policy outreach for economic development round the world and the opportunities created for Indian businesses. India has offered 300 lines of credit for 539 projects in 64 nations, with the bulk of them being provided to Africa, and in the past few years, projects are being completed at the rate of over two large ones a month.
He also spoke about trade negotiations, saying: “As a nation that is still to integrate itself into global supply chains, develop its infrastructure and scale up its capabilities, these are not easy times. The debate between opportunities and risks is consequently both active and open.” Trade outcomes must be justified by “trade calculations, not by political correctness”, he added.