Pakistan is now ‘Minus One’ for India: S Jaishankar at World Economic Forum

FE Online
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Diplomacy is for those who are best at wordplay, and India has one such diplomat at the helm right now shaping New Delhi’s global narrative – External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. Speaking at World Economic Forum-India, Jaishankar on Friday referred to Pakistan as ‘Minus One’ while discussing the economic alliances between India and its neighbouring countries in South Asia. Highlighting various initiatives with the neighbouring countries, the minister said that New Delhi was doing a lot of things in the region such as building border roads, setting up power transmission, port connectivity, creating waterways, and building railways.

"This is the case with Bangladesh. We are making very good headway in Nepal – road projects, rail projects. We started power supply to Myanmar, it’s in the early stages. We have done a lot of railway alliances in Sri Lanka. Bhutan has been our historically best partner in terms of development. The entire neighbourhood Minus One has been actually a fairly good story for regional cooperation." Jaishankar was apparently referring to roadblocks that Pakistan has been creating in SAARC.

When asked whether this ‘Minus One’ was discussed in any of his meetings on Kashmir in the US, Jaishankar said ‘yes’ but not in any of the ‘business or policy’ meetings. "I spoke extensively on Kashmir when I was in the US. In many cases, when I made points to the people, giving them the background, the history, what happened and why we did what we did - a lot of it was new to them. Hardly anybody had the realisation that it (Article 370) was a temporary article of the Constitution or the fact that the misalignment due to the fact that our national laws did not apply in Jammu and Kashmir - these were fresh things to them. I think it was useful to talk about in a fairly open manner and give people what was our perspective. I saw people observing that. Hopefully, they agreed with it."

Jaishankar is, however, hopeful that some day Pakistan will come along. "Because – you put Kashmir aside for a moment, with everybody else, trade is on the increase, contacts are in the increase, business is on the increase, connectivity is on the increase. Surely at some stage that would have an impact. Because you would see everyone else prospering with that cooperation and contacts – I am always hopeful, I’m not unrealistic and I know that we have big challenges that they (Pakistan) have the mindset issues that they have to overcome," Jaishankar said.