External Affairs

Dialogue with China Key to Finding ‘Meeting Point’, Says Modi on Failed NSG Bid

The prime minister claimed that criticism surrounding the failure at Seoul was a result of heightened hype due to a successful US visit.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Credit: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: Refusing to take the path of direct confrontation with China over membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while there were a “whole lot of problems” pending with Beijing, continuous dialogue was the key to find “common meeting points”.

In the MEA’s press statement after the plenary meeting of NSG ended on June 24, India had clearly indicated that “one country” had blocked New Delhi by raising procedural objections at every step.

When Times Now’s Arnab Goswami asked if he could change China’s “mindset” on India’s membership application, Modi said that foreign policy is “not about changing mindsets”.

“Foreign policy is about finding the common meeting points. Where do our interests converge and how much? We have to sit and talk with every country. It’s our ongoing effort,” he said.

When the interviewer pointed out that China had been blocking India’s moves on NSG and listing of Masood Azhar despite Modi’s frequent engagement with Chinese leadership, PM noted first that “we have an ongoing dialogue with China and it should continue to happen”.

“In foreign policy it’s not necessary to have similar views to have a conversation. Even when the views are contradictory, talks are the only way forward and problems should be resolved through dialogue,” he said.

He further said that there India didn’t “have one problem with China, we have a lot of problems pending with China”.

“Slowly and steadily, an effort is on to address these issues through talks and make them less cumbersome. I can say that China has been cooperating with India to search for solutions. On some issues, it’s a question of principles for them. On some issues, it’s a question of principles for us. On some issues they differ with us and there are issues on which we differ with them. There are some basic differences”.

“The most important thing” is that India speaks “to China eye-to-eye and put forth India’s interests in the most unambiguous manner”.

“We are a government that takes care of India’s interests. We don’t compromise on this. Three days ago I met the Chinese President. I told him clearly about India’s interests. They are a different country, we are a different country,” Modi asserted.

The PM did not specifically give a time frame for India joining NSG, unlike Sushma Swaraj’s optimistic take of one year, but said that it was “an ongoing effort”.

“Look the first thing is that India has been continuously making these efforts, no matter which government was in office. Be it the membership of the UN Security Council or the SCO membership or MTCR membership or NSG membership. Every government has made an effort. It’s not that only this government is trying, it’s in continuity. But it’s during our tenure that we achieved SCO membership, we also got the MTCR membership. I have full faith that now we have begun a coordinated effort for the NSG membership too. The process has begun on a positive note. Everything has rules and will work accordingly and move forward,” Modi said in answer to a question whether he was disappointed with outcome of NSG’s plenary meeting in Seoul.

Too much hype

He claimed that the criticism in media about failure at Seoul was a result of heightened hype due to a successful US visit.

“Had it (US visit and speech before Congress) not been hyped so much, there would not have been so much criticism on the NSG issue. Government is being criticised not for any mishandling of the NSG issue but because we were so successful over there (in the USA),” said Modi.

When asked whether India was mindful of moving closer to US, but being short of an ally, Modi said that the world was “interconnected and interdependent”. “You will have to connect with everybody at the same time. Even if there are two opposing countries, they will have to be friends. Now the times have changed,” he said.

Goswami pointed out that US was still giving assistance to Pakistan, which raised questions on whether India should be wary of Washington.

“I would especially like to appeal to my country’s media that we should stop looking at everything in India from the prism of Pakistan. India is an independent country. It is a country of 125 crore people. Whenever it approaches any country, it will only be concerned about its own interests. It has been our biggest shortcoming and mistake that we have been tagging ourselves with another country and trying to do things. We are an independent country, we have our own policies and future. We have to think about the future of our 125 crore people. There should be no compromise on our interests. We have relations with America in the context of these fundamental points,” replied Modi.

With relations to overtures to Pakistan like his Lahore surprise trip and frequent engagement with PM Nawaz Sharif, Modi said that it helped to give a message to the rest of the world that India was the “not that obstacle” in improving ties.

“…there is an outcome due to my continuous efforts like my visit to Lahore and my invitation to the Pakistani Prime Minister to come to India. Now I don’t have to explain to the world about India’s position. The world is unanimously appreciating India’s position. And the world is seeing that Pakistan is finding it difficult to respond. If we had become an obstacle, then we would have had to explain to the world that we are not that obstacle. Now we don’t have to explain to the world. The world knows our intentions,” he said, adding that the international community understood and agreed with India’s position on terror.

He separated the diplomatic engagement with the security response at the border or terror attacks.

“…those who have to work from the table, will work from the table and those who have to work at the border, will work at border with full strength. Each one will fulfil the responsibility entrusted to them. And our jawans are fulfilling their responsibilities. It’s true that pressure on terrorists has increased, their schemes are proving unsuccessful. The intent with which they move forward are foiled and they have to face major challenges. It is because of this disappointment that such incidents are taking place and our jawans are risking their lives and protecting the country. We are very proud of our Jawans,” he added.

He referred to his invitation to SAARC leaders to attend his swearing-in ceremony as a reflection of India’s aim of peace, but “supreme objective” is still national interest.

“We keep making effort toward that objective and sometimes our efforts are successful. As far as meetings and talks are concerned, we signalled right from the day I took oath and sent invitations for the oath taking ceremony, that we seek friendly relations but without compromising on our interests. And that is why I have said that my country’s soldiers have full freedom to answer back in whatever manner they have to and they will keep doing that,” he said.

Pakistan conundrum 

Modi noted that that with Pakistan, there is a dilemma on who should be the main interlocutors.

“The first thing is that with Pakistan, to whom do we talk to decide about the ‘Lakshman Rekha’. Will it be with the elected government or with other actors? That is why India will have to be on alert all the time. India will have to be alert every moment. There can never be any laxity in this,” he said.

Modi argued that there was need to have more foreign visits and meet other world leaders, as he was an unknown entity for his counterparts.

“If someone would want to know Modi through the eyes of the media, then he would be disillusioned on which Modi is the real Modi. If this happens, the country will be at a loss. Modi’s personality shouldn’t be a hindrance for the world to have faith in India. But for that unless I meet all those leaders and engage them them one to one, unless I speak to them frankly, they wouldn’t know about India’s head of state, so it was very important for me as I am not from a political family. I never had the opportunity to meet the world leaders earlier,” he said.

The main “impact” with his way of functioning in foreign relations was that there was coordination among ministries, claimed Modi. “…we work as a team. Foreign ministry, Prime Minister’s office, commerce ministry, finance ministry, defence minister, everyone works as a team, not as separate pieces. The impact that is now visible, is not just because of Modi, it is because of the team. All teams work in a particular direction. That is why the impact is seen, earlier these teams were splintered. We have seen instances where the party would give a statement, the prime minister would say something else, party leaders would say something else. This disunity has had a negative impact”.

Modi noted this message of a pro-active foreign policy was reinforced during the meeting with Indian heads of missions recently.

“If we try to understand this change, then we would realise that in the world, a few days back, I was sitting with the officers of our foreign services, so as we got talking, in a very poetic way I told them that there was a time when we used to sit by the sea and count the waves, but the time has now changed, we are done counting waves, now it’s time for us to steer ourselves, ride the waves and decide on our direction, destination and speed,” he asserted.