New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar Monday sought to defend some of the Modi government’s controversial decisions such as the revocation of Article 370 and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), saying that a lot of the steps taken were aimed at solving “a legacy of problems” accumulated over decades.
“Today, we have accumulated a legacy of problems, and if you see today what is happening in this country, these problems have caught up with us… A lot of what we are doing are accumulation of problems which we have not addressed,” he said, speaking in Delhi at the launch of a book — Pax Sinica: Implications for the Indian Dawn — authored by Samir Saran and Akhil Deo of the think-tank Observer Research Foundation.
“Just look at the citizenship issue, the citizenship issue started 40-50 years ago, Rajiv Gandhi did an agreement in Assam in 1980s, fine. You look at 370, it was a temporary Article… went on for 70 years. Look at Ayodhya, show me where in the world you will have an unresolved problem for 150 years,” he added.
He cited China as an example for India, saying it had become a superpower by resolving problems facing them.
“We are in that journey (like China) from a civilisational society to a modern state… The difference between us is that they look at a problem and start thinking how to solve the problems,” Jaishankar added. “That is a systematic mindset. Those who solve it quickly are being rewarded.”
India, on the contrary, let problems pester for decades, he said.
The Goods and Services Tax (GST), introduced in 2017 as a comprehensive tax regimen that subsumed several indirect taxes, was a step in the same direction, Jaishankar added.
“It was blindingly obvious that we need a single tax system and yet people kept kicking it down the road,” he said.
Replying to a question at the event, Jaishankar also defended India’s decision to allow a Pakistani team, including ISI officers, to join the investigation into the 2016 terrorist attack at Pathankot Air Force Station.
“When Pathankot happened, even the Pakistanis accepted who was the perpetrator. Nawaz Sharif (then Pakistan PM) didn’t deny,” Jaishankar said. The Modi government, he added, knew “who’s the victim and who’s the perpetrator”.
An alumnus of JNU, Jaishankar also referred to Sunday’s night’s violence at the premier university’s campus. “When I studied in JNU we did not see any tukde-tukde gang there,” he said.
“Tukde-tukde gang” is a popular moniker Right-wingers use for Left-aligned JNU students. It’s rooted in allegations that a 2016 protest on the campus against Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s execution involved slogans seeking India’s disintegration.
On India-China relationship
Jaishankar also espoused leader-to-leader engagement between India and China, since Beijing now has an “important leader” at the helm.
“It is important for us to understand the thinking of China and because today you have a strong leader in China, it is important there is a leader-to-leader understanding of each other’s thinking,” he said. “That doesn’t mean every time they meet problems will get solved.”
He said the reason why Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi held two informal summits in Wuhan (2018) and Mamallapuram (2019) was to have an open discussion without any “scripted bureaucratic preparation”.
This report has been updated with additional information