External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday said the country faced a “unique challenge from one neighbour”, a thinly veiled reference to Pakistan. He said a stronger neighbourhood would be built once Pakistan became “a normal neighbour” and the matter of cross-border terrorism was addressed.
The minister was addressing a press conference on the 100 days of the Narendra Modi-led administration. Jaishankar said one of the Centre’s important achievements was the strong ties between national security and foreign policy goals.
“With regard to Pakistan, the issue is not Article 370 but Pakistan’s terrorists,” the minister told reporters. “We must make the world realise. I always ask other people show me anywhere else in the world where any country conducts terrorism openly against its neighbour as part of what it considers its foreign policy.”
He claimed Indian voices were now heard a lot more on international summits and climate conferences. United States President Donald Trump’s decision to attend the “Howdy, Modi!” event on Sunday in Houston, Texas, was a matter of great honour, Jaishankar added.
“India-US relations have come a long way, I assure you that relations are in very good health,” said the external affairs minister. “As the relationship grows there will be issues. We have been talking to the US, my expectation is that the sharper edges will be addressed in the not too distant future.”
On Kulbhushan Jadhav
Jaishankar said the Indian government’s aim was to ask for access to former Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav and establish his well-being. “Seeking access to him was one step in eventually providing that remedy which the International Court of Justice has mandated and finally finding a solution which would bring an innocent person back to his country,” the minister said. Jadhav is on death row in Pakistan on espionage charges.
Whether Pakistan “carried out in letter and spirit” what the International Court of Justice had instructed it to do was obvious to everyone, Jaishankar said. Last week, Pakistan said that it had no plans to provide consular access to Jadhav for a second time.
Earlier this month, India’s Deputy High Commissioner in Pakistan Gaurav Ahluwalia had met Jadhav in Islamabad. Following the meeting, the Ministry of External Affairs said he appeared to be under extreme pressure to “parrot a false narrative to bolster Pakistan’s untenable claims”.
‘One day we’ll have jurisdiction over PoK’
The Union minister said the Indian government was not too worried about what people might say about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Jaishankar said India’s stand pertaining to the region had been clear since 1972, when the Simla Agreement had been signed.
“At the end of the day, it is my issue. On my issue, my position has prevailed and will prevail,” Jaishankar said, referring to the Indian government’s stand on Jammu and Kashmir.
“PoK [Pakistan Occupied Kashmir] is a part of India and we expect one day we will have physical jurisdiction over it,” Jaishankar said.
‘No skirmish in Ladakh’
Jaishankar said there was “no skirmish” between Indian and Chinese soldiers near Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh last week. “There was a face-off and it was resolved,” the minister said. “It happened because there are differing perceptions of Line of Actual Control, patrols meet and sometimes that kind of situations happen.”
The minister pointed out there were mechanisms to address such situations and it was set in motion for this specific case.
The standoff allegedly started after an altercation on the morning of September 11. Both sides then called reinforcements and the face-off reportedly lasted till late in the evening. The dispute ended after delegation-level talks between the two countries.
India and China have a 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control between them. The two countries have so far held 21 rounds of talks between special representatives to resolve the boundary dispute.
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