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'Proactive PM', Teesta deal, talks with Pakistan, Modi's Israel tour: 4 things Sushma Swaraj told us

India on Sunday reaffirmed adherence to three conditions including having an atmosphere "free of terror and violence" as a precursor to any engagement with Pakistan and demanded action against terrorists including Mumbai attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.

india Updated: Jun 01, 2015 02:44 IST
Pakistan,India,Sushma Swaraj

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday a 'proactive' prime minister was not a challenge but a support to his ministers.

Speaking at a press conference to highlight the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's achievements in the last one year on the foreign policy front, Swaraj also talked at length about the challenges in initiating talks with Pakistan as well as what to expect from PM Modi's upcoming Dhaka tour.

Here are the highlights from Swaraj's press conference:

On 'pro-active' PM

Asserting that a "proactive" PM was not a "challenge", Swaraj said Modi has not imposed any "restrictions" on her.

"Proactive Prime Minister is a support and never a challenge," Swaraj said, adding that she keeps a "low profile" because she believes that it "goes with her role".

"There is never a competition between the team members for number one, two or three. Team plays together. Competitions happen between opponents and not among team members. All my colleagues are working as number one and doing their best."

Highlighting the work done by her government in its first year in power, she said emphasis has been on three areas -- visits, dialogue and outcome.

On PM's Bangladesh visit

Swaraj said the long-pending Teesta water-sharing pact with Bangladesh will not be signed during PM Modi's visit to that country beginning June 6.

Swaraj said views of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is accompanying Modi to Bangladesh, will be taken into consideration before making a final decision on the pact.

"We have not reached a position for signing of the Teesta pact. Any understanding between governments of India and Bangladesh will not be enough as no decision is possible without consulting the state (West Bengal) government," Swaraj said.

The Teesta deal was set to be inked during the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh in September 2011 but was postponed at the last minute due to objections by Banerjee, who had also dropped out of the prime ministerial delegation.

Asked whether there was any possibility of Banerjee dropping out at the last minute this time too, Swaraj said, "This time there is no such possibility. Mamata Banerjee is definitely going there."

Teesta water is crucial for Bangladesh, especially in the leanest period from December to March when the water flow often temporarily comes down to less than 1,000 cusecs from 5,000 cusecs.

On Pakistan

Swaraj reaffirmed adherence to three conditions including having an atmosphere "free of terror and violence" as a precursor to any engagement with Pakistan and demanded action against terrorists including Mumbai attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.

Asserting that there was no "flip-flop" or "confusion" in the government, which has a "very clear Pakistan policy", Swaraj said the two countries had decided on three principles for talks when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had come here last year. These principles were also part of the Shimla and Lahore declarations.

"First, we are ready to resolve each issue through peaceful dialogue. Second, the talks will be between the two countries --us and Pakistan. Neither a third country will mediate nor there will be a third party. Third, an atmosphere of harmony should be created by keeping away terror and violence."

The minister said no engagement was scheduled, when asked if any meeting was proposed between India and Pakistan in the near future.

"Now if Lakhvi is out and he is released....and if Pakistan thinks that there is an atmosphere of harmony, will India accept it," she added.

On Pakistan trying to use China to put a "technical hold" on India's request to list Syed Salahuddin in the UN Security Council sanctions committee on al Qaeda and associated entities, Swaraj said, "We had told China that we are not the only victim of terror. China is also a victim and the source is same. So, while voting in 1267 in these type of issues, do not take a narrow view.

"Keep global terrorism in mind and follow a policy so that we can work together and take decisions unitedly. This was conveyed to Chinese leadership by the Indian leadership."

The sanctions committee on al Qaeda and others has been constituted under UN's resolution 1267.

Amid speculations, Swaraj said no decision has yet been taken on any India-Pakistan cricket series.

Her remarks came against the backdrop of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan's recent visit to India to push for resumption of India-Pakistan cricket ties.

Khan, in a joint press statement with BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya in Kolkata, had proposed a series comprising three Tests, five ODIs and two T20s in UAE in December this year. The BCCI has, however, not given any categorical statement yet on the proposed series and the venue.

"No decision has been taken. Where has this information come that this (India-Pakistan cricket series) has been decided and that I was not consulted," Swaraj said.

India have not played a full bilateral Test series with Pakistan after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks which led to suspension of cricketing ties between the two countries. The two nations played a short series of three ODIs and two T20 matches in India in December 2012 but otherwise they have met only in ICC-organised events or the Asia Cup.

On PM's Israel visit

Modi will be travelling to Israel, the first by an Indian Prime Minister to the Jewish country with which bilateral defence cooperation is on an upswing, Swaraj said.

Swaraj said she will also be travelling to Israel this year, besides Palestine and Jordan.

"As far as my visit is concerned, it will take place this year. I will visit, Israel, Palestine and Jordan. As far as Prime Minister's visit is concerned, he will travel to Israel. No dates have been finalised. It will take place as per mutually convenient dates," she said.

Describing Israel as a friendly country, Swaraj said India had never "let down" the Palestinian cause and it will continue to support it.

Read:India seeks UN intervention in 26/11 mastermind Lakhvi release row

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First Published: May 31, 2015 20:34 IST