Indian External Affair Minister Jaishankar says protests in front of Indian missions abroad aren’t being held by “nice people” who want a debate over an issue …. reports Asian Lite Newsdesk
In a hard-hitting statement, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said the protests against India abroad in times of the pandemic has to be seen politically.
Indian missions in London and Canada were rocked by protests organised by anti-India organisations in solidarity with farmers who are on agitation against the new farm laws.
Jaishanker was responding to queries at India Today Conclave 2021 on whether his ministry was harsh to criticise the comments of climate activist Greta Thunberg and pop star Rihanna.
“There were posts in social media asking people to demonstrate in front of Indian embassies across the world. I am responsible for my embassies,” the minister said. “What do you think it was like being inside the Indian High Commission in London when mobs were converging in large numbers to protest? See what happened in Canada.”
“There are supposedly Covid protocols in place limiting the number of people congregating. But for some reason, these protocols don’t apply in front of Indian High Commissions. Why is that so? Let us not pretend that comments and protests are just innocent exercise of nice people who are having a debate. These have practical consequences on the ground. If I feel that my people, embassies or High Commissions are threatened, I will react. What kind of minister will I be if I didn’t?” the minister said.
Jaishankar also slammed two international organisations — US NGO ‘Freedom House’ and Sweden’s V-DEM — which criticised India over freedom and democracy, calling it hypocrisy.
Citing the supply of Covid vaccines to more than 70 countries by India’s “nationalist” government, he asked about the contribution of “internationalist countries” in this regard.
On India-China ties, he indicated that if China extends a hand, then India will do as well — but if it points a gun, then India’s response would be similar.
Referring to the reports, he said, “We are supposed to be the nationalist. So let’s talk nationalism. Okay, we are the nationalist guys, we have given vaccines to 70 countries in the world. So tell me, the internationalist countries, how many vaccines have they given, which one of these countries has said, while I’m doing my people, I will also do people outside who need as much as my people. So suddenly, where are these people when it comes to that. We are supposed to be, you know, shrinking civil rights because of, you know, apparently, our mindset.”
On China, the foreign minister gave a more sobering assessment. Making it clear that it could not be business as usual between the two countries until there was total disengagement and peace on the border, he said, “We went through a very difficult period and I think we are still not past it.” Disengagement, he said, happened in the “most close-up friction area”, but there were some areas that needed resolving. “The fact is that if the integrity and sovereignty of a country are threatened, as a government official you do what it takes to face up to the challenge,” he added.
Jaishankar said the border stand-off with China had some tense moments but “we had belief in the military, we trusted them professionally to do what was required.”
On LoC ceasefire
Reacting to questions on the recent announcement by the Director General of Military Operations’ (DGMO) of India and Pakistan in the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) Jaishankar said, “It is certainly a positive step.” However, he added that in the case of ties with Pakistan, “Not every positive direction unfolds without its complications.”
The External Affair Minister said, “Pakistan is out neighbour. Everybody wants to get along well with their neighbour, provided they are normal. If the neighbour says that there will be no terrorist crossing over, why would one not welcome this?”
Clarifying that there was no linkage to the ceasefire with the tension with China in Eastern Ladakh, Jaishankar said, “Why wouldn’t we accept a ceasefire with Pakistan even if there wasn’t a standoff with China? I don’t see any correlation between the two at all. Our relationship with Pakistan has logic of its own.”
‘Lanka a crucial partner’
Clearing the air over Sri Lankan decision reneging on the 2019 agreement on the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port, Jaishankar said, “It was Lanka’s call not to take a loan but seek investors from India and Japan and also shift the project to East Container Terminal. I may have an opinion on that, but ultimately it’s their call. I don’t see any strategic implications in that.”
The External Affairs Minister added that on the trade and business front India and Lanka shared a “decent” relationship.