The government on Thursday slammed the Opposition for alleging that the foreign policy was faulty and vehemently rejected the charge that India was standing isolated at the world stage.
A combative External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asserted in the Rajya Sabha that the country’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi was so strong that India was setting the world agenda.
Replying to a discussion on ‘India’s foreign policy and engagement with strategic partners’, she answered point-by-point the questions raised and concerns voiced by the Opposition parties, mainly targeting the Congress.
She said the “concerns” voiced by the Congress regarding Chinese involvement in construction of Gwadar port in Pakistan and Hambantota in Sri Lanka were “born” during the previous UPA rule and the present government was settling these.
She also rejected the Opposition contention that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not taking her into consideration with regard to the foreign policy.
“You say that India stands alone. This is far from the truth... All countries are with India... What I am saying is with evidence,” she told the opposition.
Listen to full speech by Sushma Swaraj in Rajya Sabha here:
Swaraj said it was due to the success of the new foreign policy that both the US and Russia are with India and so are Israel and Palestine as also Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Germany, France, European Union, United Kingdom are also friends and so is the UAE, she added.
“India’s foreign policy is so good now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is setting the global agenda on the world stage,” she said and cited the example of how he played a crucial role at the Paris Climate Summit and at G-20 or other world fora.
“The opinion formed by the Opposition in the House that all our neighbours have turned against us is far away from the truth,” Swaraj asserted.
“It is not a fact that all our neighbouring countries are against us. Whenever there is a crisis in any neighbouring country, they look up to India and we are the first to respond to them,” she said.
Swaraj hit out at the opposition saying that the concerns raised now over Chinese transgressions, Gwadar and Hambantota are all born during the time when Congress was in power.
In a series of posers to the Congress, she said, “Hambantota’s first phase was started in 2008. Whose governnent was there at that time? The first phase got completed in 2011. Whose government was then? Gwadar happened during whose government?
“Today, you are expressing concern. Why did you not express concerns in 2011 or 2013? You are the ones who gave birth to all these concerns. These concerns were born during your time. We only secured Hambantota. We addressed concern that arose during your time,” she said.
Asserting that India under the Modi government has been helpful and reaching out to its neighbours, she gave examples.
When water crisis hit Maldives, India sent a plane carrying water within 90 minutes after she got the first call at 7 in the morning, Swaraj said.
She said when there was an earthquake in Nepal, India was the first responder, besides helping in Sri Lanka floods.
She said India committed one billion US dollars for the DONER conference, even though they were looking at China.
Blasting the Congress for saying that India’s relations with its neighbours had deteriorated, she said that for 17 years, no Indian PM had visited Nepal which included the UPA tenure.
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Tauntingly, she said, “When no Indian Prime Minister goes to Nepal, then the relations are good? But when Indian Prime Minister goes twice, then relations are bad?”
On the blockade with Nepal about two years back, she said such a situation had been seen even during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure.
She if Bangladesh and Bhutan had best ties with anyone, it was India.
The External Affairs Minister lauded former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru for his foreign policy initiatives, but said “while Nehru built and enhanced his personal image, Prime Minister Modi is enhancing the entire country’s image through his initiatives.”
Rejecting the opposition charge that PMO is running the Foreign policy and she was not made to accompany the prime minister, she asked former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as to how many times he had taken on foreign tours along with him his foreign ministers S M Krishna or Salman Khurshid.
Swaraj said the Prime Minister always conuslt her on all foreign policy issues and charged that it was PMO driven in the previous government.
Earlier, Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP) said India should not stop dialogue and it should continue to make efforts to maintain good relations with neighbours.
He also said that the government should not do politics over foreign policy and the focus should be to ensure safety of the people in the country.
On India-China relations, Mishra said the government should inform the neighbouring country that if border tension heightens, then it could take steps on bilateral economic policies that may impact its business.
He also sought higher budget allocation to army and better facilities to soldiers.
Vandana Chavan (NCP) said the relations with neighbouring nations has reached “very low”. The strengthening of Pakistan-China relations has become a “concern”.
“These are trying times for us. ...message should not go that markets are open, so are our borders to China,” she said, adding that the government should overlook Chinese parts getting into the defence making.
Expressing concern about deteriorating relations with many of the neighbouring states, Kanimozhi (DMK) sought to know about status of rahabilitation of Sri Lankan Tamils and renegotiating fishing rights at Katchatheevu island, administered by Sri Lanka.
Rajiv Shukla (Cong) said to improve relations with Pakistan, India should work both with democratically elected head of that country as well as with army. “You need to understand their system and work accordingly.”
Shukla also warned the government not to be crazy about media and use it to score points as this will not benefit always.
“Instead of maximum publicity and minimum thought, go for maximum thought and minimum publicity,” he said.
Sapan Das Gupta (Nom) and Vijaysai Reddy (YSRCP) also participated in the debate.