“No Chinese foray can match the conquest that songs from Raj Kapoor’s films, Shah Rukh Khan’s dialogues and even the samosa have made”

The government has to carefully weigh Pakistan’s offer to resume talks and take a suitable decision in the light of events of the recent past, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said on Monday.

Asked about India’s response to the new Pakistan government’s purported recent offer for talks, Mr. Khurshid said no opening had been refused in the past. However, the latest one would have to be taken up carefully after addressing people’s hurt over soldiers being beheaded by Pakistan’s Army earlier this year.

Simultaneously, the government would also have to consider that the events happened before the present Pakistan government came in.

The Minister was interacting with about 200 bureaucrats, academicians, scholars, prominent citizens and ex-service personnel here as part of his Ministry’s Public Policy outreach.

“Engaged aloofness” earned goodwill

Mr. Khurshid said India’s soft diplomacy and deliberate “engaged aloofness” had earned it enormous stature, goodwill and good relations globally that far outweighs China’s economic muscle although some views dispute it.

“Everyone wants us on their side”, be it for trade, geopolitics or climate change; over 100 countries would support the quest for a permanent UN Security Council seat, Mr. Khurshid said. He regretted that citizens had largely lost sight of the policy and urged them to be critical and also appreciate the foreign policies that were adopted in extreme challenges but in national interest.

In the give-and-take in its neighbourhood, the country must also learn to sometimes give more than it gets, he said.

The interaction spanned the government’s posture on the Arctic Treaty, conflicts with Pakistan and China, refusing asylum to U.S. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and smoothening visas for Africans to foreign policy education and diplomacy through medical tourism.

Comparison with China

Referring to constant comparisons with China, Mr. Khurshid said India had achieved in Africa and South East Asia or Central Asia what Chinese investments and large monetary presence may not have. No Chinese foray can match the conquest that songs from Raj Kapoor’s films, Shah Rukh Khan’s dialogues and even the samosa have made. Countries were at ease with Indian teams.

“Today we have a stature because of which we can speak with the U.S. and Iran and neither feels worried about it.” So also with old ally Russia.

Solutions to many problems are complicated and challenging: in rebuilding Afghanistan, “we don’t have an exit mentality. India cannot look or walk away but remain” in an Afghan-led role there; Sri Lanka where India wants a level field for all Sri Lankans, or in Bangladesh.

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