Sushma Swaraj's veiled attack on Pakistan, China amid tense stand-offs


Sushma Swaraj's veiled attack on Pakistan, China amid tense stand-offs

NEW DELHI: In a thinly-veiled reference to Pakistan, Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said India's geopolitical overtures had resulted in better relations with all neighbouring countries, with one glaring exception.

"Our 'Neighbourhood First' policy has yielded results with all countries in the region, barring one," Swaraj said at the India-US Forum on Monday.

To be sure, Swaraj may also be pointing to China, with which India has been engaged in a tense stand-off at Doklam, as well as the more recent transgression by the People's Liberation Army in Uttarakhand's Barahoti. But the frequent ceasefire violations by Pakistan and its unwillingness to cooperate in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case make it a more likely candidate for the foreign minister's verbal salvo.

In another oblique attack, Swaraj panned Pakistan for its policy of sponsoring terror outfits and their attempts to infiltrate the LoC into India. She said India's efforts to combat terrorism had gained global recognition and it will continue working together with the US to neutralise this menace.

"High priority being attached by both sides to countering terrorism. Both our countries have been direct victims of this scourge. In India, we have been facing cross-border terrorism for many years. This is now recognized as a larger regional - even global - challenge," she said.

In this regard, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's talks with US President Donald Trump in Washington last month had sent a "clear and unambiguous" message to the international community to resolve to contain terrorism.

The foreign minister underlined the need for respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity while carrying out connectivity projects, seen as a reference to China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India has been critical of the BRI due to its sovereignty concerns as the $50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

She also stressed that strong Indo-US partnership is key to stability in the region.

"One of the main challenges confronting the world today is the evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific. Strong India-US partnership is critical for peace, stability and prosperity in this region," Swaraj said.

She added that the increasing strategic convergence between India and the US was also reflected in bilateral defence ties as two-way military exchanges have grown in range and complexity.

"The focus now is on co-production and co-development. The recognition by the US of India as its Major Defence Partner is an important development; and we hope that it will enable higher levels of technology partnerships," she said.

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