The Foreign Minister, currently in New York, was participating in BBC Hindi Radio's special programme, Aap Ki Baat BBC Ke Saath on: Indian Foreign Policy and the Indo-Pal relations.
Nagendar Sharma : What is your reaction to the remarks made by Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf in an interview given to a Canadian newspaper Toronto Star that India is playing a dangerous game in Pakistan, Kashmir and Afghanistan ?
Yashwant Sinha : India’s reaction is that this is absolutely rubbish, because India is not playing a dangerous game anywhere, if anybody is doing such a thing, it is Pakistan. By levelling such an allegation on India, Pakistan is only trying to prove the saying -pot calling the kettle black .
Nagendar Sharma : Gen Musharraf has also said in the same interview that the Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Kandhar are being used to foment trouble in Pakistan, and there is no other use of these consulates ?
Yashwant Sinha : I would only like to say that these consulates have been there since a long time. They were closed down during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. After this regime came to an end, these consulates were reopened. We are doing a lot for the government and people of Afghanistan, and in these efforts, the two consulates play a major role.
We have not done anything to which the government of Afghanistan has any objection. What is important for us is that these consulates are in Afghanistan, and not in Pakistan. The Afghan government has not complained to us about anything.
I believe that no third country has any right to interfere and try to destabilise the bilateral relations between India and Afghanistan.
Nagendar Sharma : Mr Sinha, it has been five months now, since the Indian Prime Minister had extended the hand of friendship to Pakistan. After that it seems that there is little or almost no progress in normalising relations between the two nations?
Yashwant Sinha : I do not agree with this. I have been telling all not to get impatient when it comes to relations between India and Pakistan. There are complex issues and serious problems involved and it will take time to solve them, therefore saying that it has been four, five, six months is not right - we cannot count it in terms of days and months.
We will have to see how much progress has been made. That is why I am telling you that there has been definite progress, and in future, more progress is expected
BBC listener from Samastipur (Bihar) : When a country like America claims that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan, why is India trusting Gen Musharraf, who was responsible for Kargil. India says it would talk only if cross border militancy ends, if that ends, what is left to talk over with Pakistan ? Is there any pressure to talkto Pakistan ? India says Kashmir is a bilateral issue, but When Mr Bush talks to Mr Vajpayee it would be on Kashmir so how is it bilateral ?
Yashwant Sinha : I would say talking to anyone on any issue is not a sign of any pressure. Talking on any issue is not internationalizing that particular issue .
With regard to Pakistan we would have to make efforts very patiently in normalising relations. And we will continue to make such efforts, as we want that the two neighbours must live together in peace, therefore India would continue to make Pakistan understand that both should live in peace.
Nagendar Sharma : You are saying India would continue to make efforts. The dates of SAARC summit have been finalized, and recently you had said that there is not sufficient time left between now and the SAARC summit, where India and Pakistan could have a dialogue. So has there been real progress at all, when even the Secy. level talks have not been started ?
Yashwant Sinha : When you talk of Indian foreign policy, it is not fair to restrict it to Pakistan. Often I have noted that when people talk of the foreign policy they only talk about Pakistan. I think that you should get out of this quagmire.
I do not believe that the progress in normalising relations has been slow - bus service has been started from both the sides, high commissioners have been appointed, people-to-people contact has increased considerably, and on many other issues too there has been progress.
Representatives from both the sides have even held one round of discussions for the restoration of air link. There was no success, but we hope that soon there would be another round of discussion.
So to say that there has been no progress, is not right. One would have to understand the complexities of the issues involved, and those who do understand are not pessimistic about the whole issue.
BBC listener from Dubai : India has given the status of Most favoured Nation (MFN) to Pakistan, but the latter has not given this status to India so far. Is our foreign policy in the right direction ?
Yashwant Sinha : Yes, our policy is absolutely right, as we have consistently behaved like a responsible nation. Remember that India is a big and responsible nation and therefore, if any country and especially Pakistan behaves irresponsibly, it is not necessary that our reply should also be irresponsible.
Therefore India has not withdrawn the MFN status of Pakistan, even when it is true that Pakistan has not given the same status to India.
Nagendar Sharma : India is a big country and a regional power in South Asia, how far has India been able to provide leadership to the third world, especially to the smaller countries in South Asia ?
Yashwant Sinha : I would like to make it clear that by reiterating that India is a leader and has a big role to play, you do not give the right message to other countries. No country today wants to work under the leadership of any other country, all are to be treated equally.
So far as India is concerned, we try to put forward the issues and demands concerning the developing world in a forceful manner. India’s role at the CANCUN WTO ministerial conference is in front of the world now. We try to move in harmony with the rest of the developing world.
Nagendar Sharma : This is beginning of an important week of international diplomacy, when Indian leaders would be meeting with the leaders of the rest of the world during the UN General Assembly. What are India’s expectations from this week ?
Yashwant Sinha : Our expectations are as what you have said yourself that we would meet many world leaders, and when you meet so many leaders, you get a chance to communicate what you want to say and hear their viewpoints as well on many issues.
Therefore during the course of the UN General Assembly India would fulfill its role at the international level as is expected.
Transcript courtesy, BBC Hindi Radio
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