External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid “hit the ground running” hours after the swearing-in at Rashtrapati Bhavan with a briefing by Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and his senior colleagues in the Foreign Office.
In a brief interaction with the media soon after the oath-taking ceremony, Mr. Khurshid reiterated the need to improve ties with China and Pakistan but underlined the difference in approaches towards both countries.
“We are clearer about where we stand with China. We have had differences historically. I believe that the passage of time and emergence of a new economic order in the world have brought China and India far closer together.”
“ … The convergence between India and Pakistan today is on issues that for long we insisted. Many of those issues have now emerged in Pakistan itself and have become a concern for the Pakistani establishment. So if there was ever a convergent point on tackling these issues between India and Pakistan, it is there today.”
Asked about his appointment amid the controversy over accusations of financial misdemeanours by a trust run by him and his wife, he said, “It is for others to judge,” and that one could not “surrender” before those who were just making allegations.
“The Prime Minister and the Congress president have placed a very very important responsibility on my shoulders. It will be my endeavour to ensure that I live up to their very very high standards,” he said.
Confessing that the international scenario had radically changed since the time he was last in South Block in the 1990s with the world now focussing on economic and security issues, he said the country was today battling “some very difficult questions” on the foreign policy front such as the stress on the economy, contested claims on issues such as climate change, restructuring of institutions (the United Nations, the IMF etc), international security and terrorism. “We have managed to tackle all of them with great distinction and that is the tradition that I would like to carry forward,” he said shortly after previous incumbent S.M. Krishna bade farewell to the Ministry’s officials and wished him success.
Except for China and Pakistan, Mr. Khurshid stayed away from commenting on other topical issues on the foreign policy front by pointing out that the session with the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues was the beginning of several rounds of briefing.
“It is a learning curve which will have to be steep because we have really hit the ground running. We have important visitors this week. I will need to get up scratch on everything that I need to know before I get into dialogue and conversations with them,” he said.
On ties with Pakistan, he said: “We want to be able to look at being able to work more closely together, understand each other’s problems and to the extent that we can solve each other’s problems mutually and by convergence of opinion on both our countries. I think it is something that we should work towards,’’ he said.