The external affairs minister argued that the policy decisions reflect the “problem solving” mindset of the Narendra Modi administration.

New Delhi, January 7:

A day after JNU students and teachers were violently attacked, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar said that his view was reflected in his Sunday tweet “unequivocally” condemning the violence, even as he deflected a question on the demonisation of the university.

The minister was speaking at a function to mark the launch of a book, Pax Sinica: Implications for the Indian Dawn, written by Samir Saran and Akhil Deo.

Defending the current government’s actions on Section 370 in Kashmir and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), Jaishankar argued that these were part of the “problem solving” mindset of the Narendra Modi administration. He claimed that the difference between China and India was that the former’s entire system was geared towards ‘solving’ problems.

After a short conversation between Saran and Jaishankar, the audience was asked to pose questions to the minister.

The second part of a question was framed to highlight that one area where India had an “upper hand” vis-à-vis China was its “democratic principles”.

“How do you then reconcile it with the current government’s narrative where the dissenters, students, anybody who criticises is labelled as anti-nationals. And I have to ask this question because you are a JNU alumnus, do you consider whether JNU has become a hub for ‘tukde tukde’ gang?” asked the journalist. The audience tittered and there was scattered applause.

Specifically answering to this question, Jaishankar replied, “On your JNU issue, what I had to say on JNU, I said yesterday. It was very clear. And I can certainly tell you, when I studied in JNU, we didn’t see any tukde tukde gang”.

On Sunday evening, Jaishankar had tweeted that he had seen pictures and condemned the “violence unequivocally”. “This is completely against the tradition and culture of the university,” he stated. These words were also echoed by another JNU alumni in the cabinet, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Solving ‘legacy’ problems

Earlier in the evening, he said that his main takeaway from studying the Chinese system during his term as Indian ambassador to Beijing was to acknowledge its ability to solve ‘problems’.

“Obviously china’s sociology is different, culture is different, politics is different. One way is to look at it and be in awe of it. There are times when people were in denial of it. Less people are in denial of it. For me the big lesson would be to look at them, study them and ask yourself, what can I learn. What is it they have done which in a way is relevant to us”.

Stating that India was also on the same journey as China “from a civilisational society to a modern state”, he said that the difference between the two neighbours was that “the Chinese look at a problem and start thinking how do we solve it”. “The whole system is a problem-solving system. I call them engineering societies”.

“With a little bit of exaggeration,” Jaishankar noted that in India, the tendency was to “kick the problem down the road”.

“We have accumulated a legacy of problems. These problems have caught up with us. Lot of what we are doing is an accumulation of problems we have not addressed,” he said.

Jaishankar then argued that recent steps, from the CAA to the dilution of Article 370 and even the recent Ayodhya judgment were examples of the government’s decisiveness.

“Last few years have been very active years of debate, argumentation and decision-making. We tend to see them as individual issues, with some reason. But I see them as a trend”.

Citing the CAA, Jaishankar said, “Just look at this year.  Look at the citizenship issue. Citizenship issue started 40-50 years ago. Rajiv Gandhi did an agreement in Assam in 1985”.

Following the passage of the CAA, street protests erupted immediately across Assam and are still continuing. The intensity of these protests even led to the cancellation of the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to India, since the India-Japan summit was to be held in Guwahati.

The protestors are opposed to the Act as they do not want any more any migrants from Bangladesh to settle in Assam, irrespective of their religion. The 2019 Act allows fast-track citizenship for six non-Muslim religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, if they entered India before December 31, 2014. The protestors have pointed out that the CAA violates the Assam Accord, as the latter’s cut-off date was March 24, 1971.

Activists of All Assam Students Union take part in a torch rally against the amended Citizenship Act, in Guwahati, Friday, Jan. 3, 2020.

The protests in the rest of the country against the CAA are largely against the introduction of religious criteria for citizenship.

Jaishankar then gave an example of the dilution of Article 370 – which removed Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomous status – as an example of the “decisiveness” of the government to tackle “legacy” problems.

Then, he also mentioned the Ayodhya issue. “Look at Ayodhya. Show me where in the world, would you find an unresolved problem for 150 years. We let problems go on for 50, 70 years and 150 years”.

In November last year, the Supreme Court gave a final order in the Ayodhya dispute, which handed over the site to Hindu groups.

The foreign minister also used the Goods and Service Tax (GST), introduced in 2016, as another example of the “legacy problems”. “People kept kicking it down the road… I am not pointing fingers at who did it, because different people did it at different times”.

Incidentally, PM Modi, as the chief minister of Gujarat, had objected to the introduction of GST during the UPA regime.

“The big learning out of China is that unless a society has the mindset to decisively address their current issue, you won’t go up in the world,” said Jaishankar.

He also stated that the Chinese had been “preparing” for a long time to become a big power. He noted that films used to be shown in China about the rise and fall of UK and other countries to study their trajectory. “You don’t get to be a big-league power by evolution and accident. It takes leadership, it takes preparation and diligence”.

One of the ingredients was for a country to put out a “coherentness” on issues that “really matter to us”. “Something like territorial integrity is a core interest. Therefore, it has to be made clear that if there is a situation of violation of territorial integrity, then we won’t let it pass by saying that we will trade it for economic benefits.”

‘Will never allow terrorism to be normalised’

Similarly, he added, India would “never, ever allow terrorism to be normalised”.

“The perpetrator of terrorism will try to do it as normalisation as one another thing to do,” he said.

Taking a swipe at the UPA government, he stated, “sometimes we did not have the strategic clarity”.

“We had occasions like Sharm El Sheikh and Havana, when we have allowed victim and perpetrator to come on the same page,” added Jaishankar.

This was a pointed dig at former National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, who had on Monday strongly criticised the NDA government’s policies isolating India.

In September 2006, the India-Pakistan joint statement announced that both sides will put in place an anti-terrorism institutional mechanism. The 2009 bilateral joint statement became a political hot potato in India as it mentioned that Pakistan had brought up “information on threats in Balochistan and other areas”.

Jaishankar disputed a question which said allowing Pakistani investigators access to the Pathankot air base in 2016 for probing a terror attack had a similar consequence. The minister, who had been foreign secretary at that time, claimed that the Pakistani government had accepted that Pakistani nationals had been behind the Pathankot incident. The Pakistanis were only allowed so that they were pressurised to act and did not have an excuse to delay any action, he stated.

Courtesy: The Wire