Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, at a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on External Affairs held on Saturday, said a “laundry list of diplomacy” would not work and that India needed strategy.
This was the first meeting of the committee since the Galwan valley incident and realignment of Chinese troops at the LAC (Line of Actual Control)in Ladakh. Sources said that last year, after the Ladakh incidents, many members reached out to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to hold a meeting of the committee but did not get any response.
The agenda of the meeting was “India Global Strategy” and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla made a presentation on the occasion.
Mr. Gandhi, it is learnt, said the presentation at best was a “laundry list” of the things that the government was doing in diplomacy but not a “global strategy”.
Pointing out the recent measure by the Chinese to remap the ancient silk route, explicitly “beheading” India out of it, he said the Chinese strategy was to move from the maritime to the terrestrial, to change the old silk road into a land route linking China to Europe and to bypass the old centrality of India, making it irrelevant. China, he said, could fail but if it succeeded, then India would become irrelevant. He demanded to know the Indian government’s strategy to counter these moves by China.
In response, Mr. Jaishankar said he didn’t believe that China would become dominant enough. He asserted that it was unlikely that the world would return to a bi-polar situation with two powers holding the ends of the spectrum. Sources stated that he said global politics was heading towards a multi-polar world.
There were many questions asked on Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) and if India can utilise its position to neutralise China.
Mr. Jaishankar said the “Quad is not a silver bullet”. It was wrong to call it the Asian NATO. It was more of a platform of economic cooperation and less of a military one.
Questions were also asked about what position would India take in the event of a U.S.-China conflict. Mr. Gandhi went on to ask will India once again be a victim of another cold war. Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma asked if India would get trampled upon between the two giants.
Mr. Jaishankar, the sources said, stated that business as usual could not continue and that India would need to shore up its defences against China. He hinted that if the situation reached a point where India was forced to pick sides, it would not be shy to do so.
Ties with Gulf nations
Among other questions, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, asked whether the domestic “Islamophobia” was affecting India’s relationship with the Islamic countries of the Gulf. But the MEA officials denied any friction between India and Gulf countries.
In a tweet after the meeting, Mr. Tharoor said, “Record three and a half hour meeting of the Parliamentary ConsultativeCommittee on ExternalAffairs began at 11.30 &just concluded. A wide-ranging, stimulating and candid discussion between EAM @DrSJaishankar & the dozen MPs who attended. We need more such interactions w/GOI!”
Speaking in the context of Nepal and Bangladesh, Mr. Sharma said that domestic policies should not spill over the national boundaries
AAP MP Bhagwant Mann raised issues relating to difficulties faced by constituents in either travelling to their homes after Vande Bharat flights or returning to the foreign countries where they were working.