Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday grilled Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar on a range of issues. He wanted to know why after years of hard work to build a relationship of mutual respect with China through set mechanisms, things had collapsed. Was that a failure of Indian foreign policy, he asked.
Mr. Gandhi posed this question while making a lengthy intervention at a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs here.
The Congress leader also wanted to know why traditional friends like Turkey and Iraq were turning against India on the Kashmir issue: he referred to the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this year in May when he had made the provocative suggestion of a “multilateral dialogue” on Kashmir, and offered to mediate between India and Pakistan. Mr. Gandhi also asked what had led China’s efforts to show Bhutan that it could serve that country’s interests better than India, with which it has had a long-standing relationship, sources said.
Mr. Jaishankar, who was slated to brief the committee’s members on India-China ties in the wake of the military standoff in Doklam, sources said, tried to reassure MPs that what Indian TV channels were showing was vastly exaggerated and that Indian diplomats were on the job, taking forward what had been done by successive governments in the past. He stressed that talks were on at the commander level, flag level and Special Representative level to calm the situation. He also explained, sources said, that China was asserting its own position, and that India was operating in a fast-changing world. The Foreign Secretary assured the MPs that everything would be eventually resolved.
Trinamool Congress MP Sugata Bose asked whether there was a China connection in the Darjeeling agitation. To this, CPI(M) MP Mohammad Salim said that since the Chief Ministers of West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir had accused China of fomenting trouble in their respective States, had the central government asked the intelligence agencies to check on what was happening to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
The Foreign Secretary said he could not take it up at his level. Mr. Bose riposted: “Take it to the appropriate level.”