New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar — responding to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi — Friday said New Delhi and Beijing now deal on “more equal terms politically”.
Gandhi Friday released a video on Twitter, questioning the Modi government’s foreign policy and economy, among other issues.
Responding to the video, Jaishankar, in a long twitter thread, wrote: “Rahul Gandhi has questions on Foreign Policy. Here are some answers: Our major partnerships are stronger and international standing higher. Witness regular summits and informal meetings with US, Russia, Europe and Japan. India engages China on more equal terms politically. Ask the analysts.”
.@RahulGandhi hs questions on Foreign Policy. Here are some answers:
Ask the analysts. https://t.co/GPf17JWSac
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) July 17, 2020
He further said New Delhi speaks “its mind more openly now” on controversial issues such as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Belt Road Initiative (BRI). CPEC is a part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s flagship BRI project.
Jaishankar also wrote that under the Modi government, India has addressed the border infrastructure “imbalance legacy” and also gave a comparison of the budget allocated for such activities in 2014-20 and 2008-14, stating that it has gone up by 280 per cent, road building by 32 per cent, bridges by 99 per cent and tunnels by six times.
“Ask our jawans,” he added.
Jaishankar, however, didn’t respond to a question of Gandhi’s as to “why the Chinese have chosen to violate the Line of Actual Control with India at this point of time”.
It was under the UPA government that Jaishankar was posted as India’s envoy to China from 2009 to 2013, and then to the US from 2013 to 2015. In 2015, under Modi dispensation, Jaishankar was made the Foreign Secretary.
Jaishankar’s rebuttal on neighbourhood questions
Gandhi, in his video, said the relationship between India and the major powers such as the US, Russia and Europe has become “transactional” and “disturbed”, which earlier used to help India “manoeuvre around the world”.
Since 2014, the PM's constant blunders and indiscretions have fundamentally weakened India and left us vulnerable.
Empty words don't suffice in the world of geopolitics. pic.twitter.com/XM6PXcRuFh
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 17, 2020
On the issue of neighbourhood, Gandhi said the Modi government has “disrupted” the neighbourhood.
“Since 2014, the PM’s constant blunders and indiscretions have fundamentally weakened India and left us vulnerable. Empty words don’t suffice in the world of geopolitics… We’ve disrupted our foreign partners, we’ve disrupted our neighbourhood,” he said.
On India’s neighbouring countries, including the recent move by Nepal to include some of the disputed territories with India under their own borders, Gandhi said: “Today, Nepal is angry with us. They are furious with what has happened. Sri Lankans have given a port to the Chinese. Maldives is disturbed. Bhutan is disturbed.”
To this, Jaishankar said under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Nepal got Prime Ministerial visits after 17 years.
“Nepal after 17 years is getting Prime Ministerial visits. And a swathe of developmental projects: power, fuel, housing, hospital, roads, etc. Ask their citizens,” Jaishankar said in response to Gandhi’s allegations that ordinary Nepali citizens are “furious” with New Delhi.
On the controversial issue of Sri Lanka handing over the Hambantota Port to the Chinese, Jaishankar said the “agreement between Sri Lanka and China was concluded in 2008. Ask those who dealt with it”.
Sri Lanka had taken massive loans from China, which it could not repay and, thus, Beijing took control over the port under a 99-year lease for debt relief in 2017.
Gandhi also said the Modi government has lost a friend in Bhutan.
But Jaishankar said: “Bhutan finds a stronger security and development partner. And unlike 2013, they don’t worry about their cooking gas. Ask their households.”
“A settled land boundary (2015) with Bangladesh; opens path to more development and transit. And terrorists no longer find safe haven there,” he said, adding, “Afghanistan sees completed projects (Salma Dam, Parliament), expanded training and serious connectivity.”
“Difficult ties with Maldives, after India watched President Nasheed being toppled in 2012, now stand transformed. Ask our businesses,” the minister wrote.
‘Ask yourself’ on Pakistan, Jaishankar tells Gandhi
On the issue of Pakistan, Jaishankar took a direct jibe at Gandhi, saying that “ask yourself” as he induced Gandhi to note the differences between Balakot and Uri on one hand, and Sharm-el-Sheikh, Havana and 26/11 on the other.
In 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did a handshake with then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in the Cuban capital, Havana, while admitting that Islamabad is also a victim of terror.
In 2009, the UPA government came under scathing criticism from the BJP for having mentioned Balochistan in a India-Pakistan joint statement in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt.