External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar Thursday said it was important to “hold feet to the fire” while dealing with Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
“Who doesn’t want good neighbours,” he said, “The more we run away from the reality that this neighbour has built an industry of terror to pressurise you. There is no point in living in denial. if you live in denial he will only increase it. He thinks that things got normalised. Holding the feet to the fire is very important. Without that you are not going to see change.
Jaishankar made the remarks during a conversation with The Indian Express contributing editor C Raja Mohan at the 4th Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture.
Speaking on the government’s move to abrogate Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said it was a “matter of ideological debate and liberal fundamentalism at work.”
“My reputation is not decided by a newspaper in New York,” Jaishankar said over criticism of the government’s move by foreign press.
In his lecture on the topic “Beyond the Delhi Dogma: Indian Foreign Policy in a Changing World”, Jaishankar said the 1972 Shimla agreement resulted in a revanchist Islamabad and further problems in Jammu-Kashmir. “That it has taken us so long to link talks with Pakistan to cessation of terrorism speaks for itself,” he said.
He also said “uninformed comments abroad on our internal affairs is hardly internationalization”.
“As we move decisively to combat separatism in Jammu & Kashmir, there is some talk of its internationalization and hyphenation of our ties with Pakistan. This is thinking from the past, reflecting neither the strength of India, the mood of the nation or the determination of the Government,” he said.
Talking about India decision to not sign the RCEP, Jaishankar said “no agreement at this time was better than a bad agreement”.
“What we saw in Bangkok was a clear-eyed calculation of the gains and costs of entering a new arrangement. We negotiated till the very end, as indeed we should. Then, knowing what was on offer, we took a call. And it was that no agreement at this time was better than a bad agreement. It is also important to recognize what the RCEP decision is not. It is not about stepping back from the Act East policy, which in any case is deeply rooted in distant and contemporary history. Our cooperation spans so many domains that this one decision does not really undermine the basics. Even in trade, India already has FTAs with 12 out of the 15 RCEP partners. Nor is there really a connection with our Indo-Pacific approach, as that goes well beyond the RCEP membership. There can be a legitimate debate on the merits of joining RCEP or any other FTA for that matter. Just don’t confuse it for grand strategy,” he said.
On trade issues with the Trump administration in the US, Jaishankar said: “We wouldn’t be alone to run into challenges vis-a-vis the US, adding that “in our case, it is vastly overstated”.
“Normal trading countries will have trade frictions,” he said, adding that “in this country, there is a desire to see a problem and then exaggerate it beyond belief”.
The Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture was instituted in 2016 by The Express Group to mark 25 years of the passing of its founder. The first three RNG Memorial Lectures were delivered by Raghuram Rajan, then RBI Governor; Pranab Mukherjee, then President of India; and Justice Ranjan Gogoi, currently the Chief Justice of India, respectively.