NEW DELHI – In an obvious reference to Pakistan, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday said India’s entire neighbourhood “minus one” has been a “fairly good story” for regional cooperation.
The abrogation of Article 370 provisions did come up for discussion in his meetings during the recent US visit, Jaishankar added at a session of the India Economic Summit here.
“That is natural for many people when there is a change of status…,” he said during a conversation with World Economic Forum president Borge Brende.
Jaishankar said he “spoke fairly extensively” in the US on the Kashmir issue — on the background, history, “why we did, what we did” — and asserted that a lot of it was new to the people he discussed the matter with.
“Hardly anybody had the realisation that this (Article 370) was a temporary article in the Constitution or the mis-alignment due to the fact that a lot of the national laws did not apply in Jammu and Kashmir state. These were all new things to them,” Jaishankar said.
Discussing India’s push for strengthening of ties with its neighbours, the minister said, “I would say the entire neighbourhood, minus one, has actually been a fairly good story of regional cooperation.”
Asked if the impasse with ‘minus one’ would continue, he said he hopes that someday even the ‘minus one’ comes around to 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,” the External Affairs minister 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,” Jaishankar said.
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.
Jaishankar said there is no doubt that the world has become more nationalistic, and a lot of that nationalism is economic nationalism and cultural nationalism.
In India’s case, nationalism is not a negative sentiment directed at the world, he said.
“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 the possibility of a trade agreement between India and the US, he said it is not that easy as it is a “fairly complicated matter”. So if it is taking time it is fine, the minister added.
Talking about South Asia cooperation, Jaishankar said, “The Indian subcontinent is among the least regionalised economies. PM 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 neighbouring countries at his swearing in ceremony in 2014. (PTI)