India has tried to reduce the number of stateless people in the country through the CAA

India has tried to reduce the number of stateless people in the country through the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and that should be appreciated, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said in a session moderated by Pranab Dhal Samanta. Edited excerpts:

The PM told us that from the days of being equidistant from countries, today we want to be friends with everybody…But we see today that a lot of the liberal world is angry with us. Also, we have just seen remarks from Iran. Are we losing friends or just not able to explain the rationale of certain recent decisions?

Maybe we are getting to know who our friends really are. But look, I think there are two different issues here. One, and I think the Prime Minister’s remarks kind of touched on that, is it’s kind of a geopolitical assessment that there was a time when India was very defensive. Our capabilities were less. Our threats were more. The risks were higher. So we adopted a policy of, in a sense, managing the world, but kind of staying away. We cannot do that anymore. We are the fifth-largest economy in the world. We will one day be the thirdlargest economy in the world. I mean the nature of the world has changed. So, as we get more capable, as our confidence level grows, our interest in the world grows and as their interest in us grows. We have to do the management but in a very different way. We have to engage everybody… The second issue, to my mind, is that a changing world, of a changing India. The Prime Minister touched on that also, which is we cannot let governance challenges go unaddressed. It is not the mindset of this government to just let important issues (slide) without decisively addressing them. Now, when you address that, you obviously disturb the status quo. People who have sort of proclaimed themselves to be the judges of political correctness and arbiters of public policies obviously will get ruffled… You will also have people who understand the changes in India, who agree with it. You will have people who may not agree with it. But I would not mix apples and oranges. I think these are two different processes at work. But I will come out ahead at the end of it.

Do you think India has not been able to explain its position on CAA or has it been misunderstood?

No. Look you are from the media.. you write, talk and listen to yourself. There are sections of the world outside the media. I engage governments. I was in Brussels. I had 27 foreign ministers in a room to whom I was talking. So the point we make on CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) is it cannot be anybody’s case that a government or parliament does not have the right to set the terms of naturalisation or citizenship. Every government does that. Every parliament does that. What we have tried to do is, we have a large number of stateless people in this country. We have tried to reduce the number of stateless people through this legislation, that should be appreciated. We have done it in a way in which we do not create a bigger problem for ourselves and everybody, when they look at citizenship, has a context and has a criterion. Show me a country in the world which says everybody in the world is welcome. Nobody does that. I mean look at the Americans, look at the Europeans. I can give you example for every European country what is the criteria of a citizenship that they do and there is some social criteria. The UN Human Rights Council director doesn’t seem to agree with you. Sure, she has been wrong before… and I’ll give you an example. I have seen from the same body, reports about what the situation in Jammu and Kashmir… where you see how carefully they skirt around the crossborder terrorism problem, as though somehow it has nothing to do with the country next door. So please understand also where they are coming from. Look at the record of how they have handled this issue in the past.

Was moving away from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) a business or a strategic decision?

Absolutely. There are Indian businesses which are globally competitive and I give you the two most obvious cases — pharma and the IT business. Look at their penetration of the RCEP economies and look me in the eye and then tell me this is comparative advantage or your market standing—it is not.

Where are we on the US-Taliban deal?

I believe that today we Indians have a very high standing in Afghan society, people genuinely like us. A lot of the work that is done is appreciated… I think we have influence..we have friends… my own sense is that the serious conversations about Afghanistan have only now just begun.

And with Pakistan?

Pakistan is the neighbour. But what has Pakistan done in the last 20 years? Look, eventually all of us have reputations, records, friends, partners, interests… It will not play out in a hurry but it will play out.

Courtesy: Economic Times

Economic Times