Singapore, September 6, 2019: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday said that India is open to talk about the issue of terrorism with Pakistan provided that it is done in a “civilised” manner “without having the gun pointed at my head”.
Jaishankar, who is in Singapore on a visit from September 6-10, made the comments while speaking at the Mint Asia Leadership Summit here attended by around 400 delegates.
His comments came amidst heightened tensions between India and Pakistan after New Delhi revoked the special status to Jammu and Kashmir on August 5.
He said that if there are issues that need to be talked about, it is between India and Pakistan.
“But it must be done without having the gun pointed at my head,” he said, referring to the cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
Highlighting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khans’ acknowledgement of the presence of 40 different militant groups in the country, Jaishankar said, “we are open to talking about it provided that you talk like two civilised neighbours”.
“But you don’t say I talk to you, but I reserve the right to come at night and blow you cities,” he added.
Talking about the trade issues with the US, Jaishankar said that he was not disturbed by the problems.
Though trade is an important part of the bilateral relationship between India and the US, a row over market access and tariffs has escalated in recent months, leading to fears of a protracted dispute.
US President Donald Trump in June ended the preferential trade status granted to India, asserting that New Delhi has failed to assure America of “equitable and reasonable” access to its markets.
“Reality is that if you trade with a country, you are going to have trade issues. Questions is how to manage these issues. I really think most of them (issues) are resolvable,” he said.
“Frankly I am quite confident that we will be able work our way through these,” he said.
Talking about India’s growth globally, Jaishankar said that if India has to grow beyond South Asia, the relationship with Southeast Asia, member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations and Singapore is going to be fundamental to that.
“As we get bigger and our interest widens, the importance of this region rises,” he said.
“If India is to grow beyond the confines of South Asia, to get global, the relationship with Southeast Asia, ASEAN and Singapore are going to be fundamental to that,” said Jaishankar.
Elaborating on the Indo-Pacific, he said it would be the natural progression of India’s interest, influence and engagement in the region.
“You cannot be among the top five economies of the world and say my world is really between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Naturally, as you progress, the world will expand beyond,” he said.
Stressing that India’s progress is not only in one direction, he said that the country’s interests in Africa have seen remarkable achievements.
“We are opening 18 new embassies in Africa. There are African countries where India is the largest investor,” Jaishankar said, underlining India’s progress globally.
“We do see in many ways Africa a region where we need to pay much more attention and all our new embassies we are opening are in the continent,” he said.
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who also attended the event, said that India, Singapore and Thailand will jointly patrol the Andaman seas to strengthen maritime security. He, however, did not elaborate.
He said that the trilateral navy exercises will be held later this month.
Keat also called for more air connectivity between India and Singapore.
He also underlined India’s importance in the global order, assuring that Singapore would be very keen to partner India in this together with its fellow member countries in the ASEAN.
He also noted the presence of over 8,000 Indian companies in Singapore, the largest contingent from a single country.
“I am glad they find Singapore a good place for operation in Southeast Asia and the world,” he said.
During his visit, Jaishankar will co-chair the 6th Meeting of Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) with his counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan.
The two sides will review the whole range of bilateral issues and provide the direction for further deepening the strategic partnership between the two countries.
He will also call on Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other senior ministers during his visit.
The External Affairs Minister will also participate in the Business and Innovation event being organised by the High Commission of India, Singapore on September 9-10. PTI