Sushma talk echoes her master’s voice

New Delhi,Iftikhar Gilani(dna): From a vocal Leader of Opposition (LoP) to a minister maintaining a low profile under a hyper-active Prime Minister, transformation in Sushma Swaraj has been noteworthy. During her media interaction on Sunday, the first since she took over the high-status Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) a year ago, this swashbuckling political heavyweight and a former critic of Narendra Modi, Swaraj’s makeover looked complete.

She attempted to be as dutiful as possible, choosing to address and reply questions only in Hindi, the favourite language of PM Narendra Modi, to the dismay of drove of foreign media, who had to be content with translation devices. At the end of news conference, when asked about her transformation, Swaraj though in a lighter vein, let out secret of her survival in the Modi cabinet, saying, “staying away from media and doing one’s own work” is behind her success and compatibility.

In reply to eight different questions on Pakistan, the External Affairs Minister not only set three benchmarks for the resumption of engagements, but also an operating procedure for Islamabad to interact with Kashmiri separatists. “We will try and solve every issue through talks, (but) talks will be only between the two nations without any third country intervention or any third party (read separatists) and the talks will be held only in an environment free of terror,” she said. “As said earlier, our dialogue with Pakistan will only materialise in a peaceful milieu. This zone will be created only when Pakistan takes action against the (terror) perpetrators like Lakhvi and others,” she added.

On aborting talks with Islamabad on the issue of Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit’s meeting with Hurriyat leaders, she said in the past Kashmiri separatist leaders sought appointment with visiting dignitaries. “But this time, it was Pakistan envoy who had invited them ahead of meeting of foreign secretaries, which gave a message that they were being made part of dialogue process,” Swaraj asserted, implying that India has no reservations on meetings between separatist leaders and Pakistani leaders in any other format.

Regarding China, Swaraj said India has clarified its stand on oil search in south China sea. The issue of China issuing stapled visas to residents of Arunachal Pradesh is also to be resolved. “Both India and China are committed in resolving the contentious issues through talks,” she said.

On the Indians stranded in Iraq, which recently evoked a conflicting version from a survivor, the minister reiterated India’s stand that those stranded are alive. “It’s true that one person who fled Iraq says all the captives are dead. But I have eight sources that confirm those Indians are alive,” Sushma said.

She also said Modi will be visiting Israel this year and before that she will undertake a tour of Israel, Jordan and Palestine. Swaraj said contacts have been made with 101 countries in the past one year and FDI (foreign direct investment) inflows worth $28.81 billion have been materialised in last 12 months, which is 38% more than previous year.

Rejecting impression that Modi was keeping her at a bay, her ministry officials – who are all praise on her working style and functioning – say she is always in loop and is informed of key ideas and initiatives. But they agree, the minister unlike her predecessors is not a publicity hound. She deliberately keeps low profile and shuns requests for interview from both national and foreign media, they said describing it unusual for a minister in charge of External Affairs. They also recall that baring few occasions, when Pranab Mukherjee was at the helm in South Block, last word in foreign policy has always been dictated by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

“If PM Modi interacts directly with S Jaishankar, the man he brought in as Foreign Secretary, so were his predecessors. Earlier, foreign secretaries Shivshankar Menon, Shyam Saran, JN Dixit, Muchkund Dubey, Salman Haider, MK Rasgotra and RD Sathe were also seen as PM’s men in the South Block,” the officials said.

Source: DNA