Union Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj Monday ruled out dialogue with Pakistan saying “terror and talks can never go together”. While asserting that talks on terror were needed, Swaraj said that while comprehensive bilateral dialogue was on hold, talks at other levels, including NSA-level discussions would go on.
Swaraj said India has never said it is not ready for talks with Pakistan. “Seema par jab janaze uth rahe hon toh baatcheet ki awaaz achhi nahi lagti. (When there are people dying on the border, then the idea of talks does not sound good),” she said at a press conference on her ministry’s achievements over the last four years. She also said there has been no inconsistency in India’s stand on its relations with the country’s western neighbour.
Referring to Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018, which aimed to incorporate the region as a fifth province, Swaraj said India had summoned Pakistan’s High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah Sunday and registered its strong protest over the move. India had stated that any action to alter the status of the region, which is under its “forcible and illegal occupation” has no legal basis.
“Pakistan tries to teach us history and geography. It is one country which does not believe in rule of law and I would just say one thing to their answer ‘look who’s talking’,” she said.
Highlighting her ministry’s successes in her tenure, Swaraj said India had reached out to 186 out of 192 UN member nations through minister-level visits and plans to reach the remaining six were being finalised. “No Indian minister had ever been to many of these nations before,” she said and added that India has also become a member of three of the four global export control regimes.
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship schemes, Swaraj said India got technical expertise and investment from countries across the world, which brought in over Rs 14 lakh crore between May 2014 and February 2018.
According to Swaraj, the MEA has increased the number of passport seva kendras from 77 to 227 across the nation and more than 90,000 Indians have been brought back safely by the Indian government, including hundreds in jails, and some facing the death penalty.
Modi, she said, has had informal summit meetings with leaders of China, Russia and Germany, which is a new and unique “dialogue mechanism”. She clarified that status quo at the face-off site at Doklam is “continuing” and there hasn’t been any change in “the situation” since August when both China and India agreed to withdraw their troops after months of a stand-off.
Asked about the sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran, Swaraj said they will not have any impact on India’s relationship with Iran as India only recognises UN-imposed sanctions and not those imposed by another country. She said India does not formulate its foreign policy influenced by, under pressure or in reaction to any other nation. On the issue of the United States considering cancelling visas for spouses of H-1B visa holders, Swaraj said that India was trying through all three sides – the White House, the Congress and the Senate – to prevent it.
Referring to Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh’s recent trip to North Korea, Swaraj said he had been sent after a meeting with the country’s officials at the NAM ministerial meeting in April in Azerbaijan. She denied that India was looking for the role of an intermediary between the United States and North Korea, as it enjoys good ties with both. She also said that she was in regular touch with the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, who has assured her of all help on the six Indians abducted there in May. She said that she was yet to speak to the families of the six Indians, but, maintained that she spoke regularly to Harsh Goenka, the employer of the Indians kidnapped.
Swaraj also hit out against the Congress party, which had claimed that she is only active on Twitter, while the Ministry was being run from the Prime Minister’s Office. She said that she has tried bridge foreign policy with public policy, and that the Opposition would realise the advantage of her use of Twitter “jis din koi inke ghar ka phasega (the day one of their own gets stuck).”