External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday insisted that her government has not said no to comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan but that terror and talks could not go together.
Addressing an annual press conference to highlight four years of the Modi government’s foreign policy achievements, Swaraj reiterated that to hold talks, the atmosphere should be conducive.
“We never said we are not ready for talks, but there is a caveat. Terror and talks cannot go together, be it post elections or even before. No talks so long as there are funeral processions on the border,” said Swaraj.
She however referred to an April meeting called the Neemrana dialogue between India and Pakistan saying such meetings were exceptions. The Track II initiative, an informal dialogue process to bring down hostilities between the two neighbours saw a delegation of former Indian diplomats, military veterans and academics led by former MEA Secretary Vivek Katju travel to Pakistan to discuss ways to improve their frozen ties. Rejecting the opposition Congress’ claims that there was flip-flop on Pakistan, Swaraj claimed that the Modi government had succeeded in isolating Pakistan on the world stage and exposed its duplicity on terrorism.
‘Look Who Is Talking’
Swaraj also hit out at Pakistan for its ‘Gilgit Baltistan Order 2018’, which seeks to integrate the region, territorially claimed by India, with rest of federal Pakistan.
On Sunday, India summoned Pakistani Deputy High Commissioner to lodge a strong protest. In its response Pakistan rejected the Indian protest, called entire Jammu and Kashmir a disputed territory, and said: “Its disputed status is enshrined in the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, which stipulate that the final status of Jammu & Kashmir will be determined through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite administered by the United Nations”.
Swaraj on Monday called Pakistan’s response “laughable”.
“They tried to teach us history. Pakistan always distorts history and does not believe in law. Only thing I felt reading their answer was, Look who is talking?’ said Swaraj.
Status Quo on Doklam
Asked about outcomes of recently held ‘informal summit meetings’ with China and Russia, the Minister cited them as a new mechanism that no government had used before.
“I told Foreign Minister Wang Yi not to tie down leaders with fixed agenda. Focus on increasing cordiality and confidence. These talks set a new template,” she said referring to her talks with her Chinese counterpart in the run up to the Wuhan summit. “Both Prime Minister Modi and President Xi have said that either leader could pick up the phone and talk when issues crop up,” Swaraj added. She also dismissed off reports suggesting fresh Chinese troop build up at the Doklam tri-junction with Bhutan, where Indian Army and PLA mutually disengaged after a 73-day standoff last year. ‘I am repeating again, at the Doklam face-off site there is no change in the situation, status quo is continuing.’