Entire neighbourhood ‘minus one’ has been a good story: Jaishankar

India’s entire neighbourhood “minus one” has been a “fairly good story” of regional cooperation, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said on Friday, in an obvious reference to Pakistan.

The dilution of Article 370 did come up for discussion at his meetings during his U.S. visit, he said at a session of the India Economic Summit here. “That is natural for many people when there is a change of status...,” he said in a conversation with World Economic Forum president Borge Brende.

Mr. Jaishankar said he “spoke fairly extensively” in the U.S. on the Kashmir issue — on the background, history, “why we did, what we did” — and said a lot of it was new to those who had met. “Hardly anybody had the realisation that this [Article 370] was a temporary one in the Constitution or the misalignment due to the fact that a lot of the national laws did not apply to Jammu and Kashmir. These were all new things to them.”

Discussing India’s push for strengthening of ties with its neighbours, Mr. Jaishankar said, “I would say the entire neighbourhood, minus one, has actually been a fairly good story of regional cooperation.”

Asked whether the impasse in the relations with the “minus one” would continue, he said he hoped that one day, even the “minus one” would recognise the importance of regional cooperation. “You put Kashmir aside for a moment... Today, with everybody else, trade, business, connectivity and contacts are increasing. Surely, at some stage, that would have an impact because you would see everybody else prospering with that cooperation,” he said. “I always remain hopeful. I’m not unrealistic, I know we have big challenges. They [Pakistan] have a mindset issue that they have to overcome.”

Mr. Jaishankar said there was no doubt the world had become more nationalistic, and a lot of that nationalism was economic nationalism and cultural nationalism. In India’s case, nationalism was not a negative sentiment directed at the world. “India is an exception as we are more nationalistic; but at the same time, we don’t see a tension between being nationalistic and being international in the sense of engaging more with the world... So nationalism is not a negative sentiment,” he said.

Asked about a trade agreement between India and the U.S., he said it was not so easy to achieve because it was a “fairly complicated matter”. “So if it is taking time, it is fine.”

Talking about South Asia cooperation, Mr. Jaishankar said, “The Indian subcontinent is among the least regionalised economies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi feels we need to do something about this, and the Indian economy is a lifting tide for this. You saw that politically when he invited [the heads of] neighbouring countries to his swearing-in ceremony in 2014.”

The two-day India Economic Summit, which ended on Friday, was organised by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 12:54:31 AM |

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