Sushma Swaraj spells out govt’s official stand on China, Pakistan; admits Doka La standoff ‘a matter of concern’.A belligerent Sushma Swaraj took the floor in Rajya Sabha on Thursday, saying the Narendra Modi government in three years has done more for India on the foreign policy front than the previous UPA government could in 10 years.
Sushma Swaraj admits Doka La standoff ‘a matter of concern’.
She said Prime Minister Modi and her external affairs ministry have tried to be friends with every country in the world, especially so in the immediate neighbourhood. Calling India the “very definition” of a good friend, she said, “We have tried to maintain friendly relations with everybody. When Maldives was facing drought, India sent an entire ship full of drinking water. When Bangladesh or Sri Lanka faced their problems, we again helped them out. Narendra Modi was the first prime minister in 17 years to visit Nepal on an official visit. No other country has done for its neighbours as much as India has.”
The friendship even extended to Pakistan, Swaraj said, though ties between the two neighbours have often been strained. “When Modi was being sworn in, Nawaz Sharif was in attendance. We were hoping the two countries could reverse the acrimony and be amicable to each other. When Modi was on his way back from Afghanistan, he even made an unscheduled stop in Lahore just to attend Sharif’s birthday. Relations between the two countries had improved to such an extent that we weren’t even thinking of protocol,” the external affairs minister said.
Talking about the point when things started going wrong, she denied it was the Pathankot attack. “Things were fine even after Pathankot. Pakistan assured us they would cooperate with the investigation and we took their word for it. Things actually worsened after Burhan Wani was assassinated in July. Sharif stood in Islamabad and condemned the action we took. That was when things went awry,” she said.
India is the only country, Swaraj said, which has good relations with countries on every side of every geopolitical divide. “We are friends with both Russia and the US. We are friends with Britain and EU though they are undergoing their Brexit separation; we are friends with Saudi Arabia and Yemen though Riyadh is attacking the latter. We are even friends with both Israel and Palestine,” she said, talking about how many people claimed New Delhi’s growing closeness with Israel is coming at the cost of the Palestinian cause. “Even when Mahmoud Abbas met me, he personally told me that Palestinians think India is a friend of theirs and will help ease relations with Israel,” the external affairs said.
However, she warned, India’s friendliness shouldn’t be mistaken for weakness. “Just because we want to have friendly relations with our neighbours, they shouldn’t cross the line. India always wanted smooth relations on relations with China. But the alignment of boundaries involving India, China and Bhutan has to always be finalised in consultation with all three countries,” she said, regarding the standoff India and China have been having at the tri-junction border at Doka La involving Bhutan as well.
“China’s actions in the tri-junction is therefore a matter of concern since we haven’t had any dialogue in this regard,” Swaraj told Parliament.
She also attacked the Congress party and its vice-president Rahul Gandhi for visiting the Chinese ambassador. “I am saddened that the leader of Congress, in an attempt to know about the India-China standoff, didn’t ask the government of India, but chose to meet the Chinese ambassador,” Swaraj said.