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India has done more for SL than IMF: Jaishankar

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India has done more for Sri Lanka than the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Union Minister for External Affairs Dr S Jaishankar, has told the Indian Express.

The IE story, filed from Ahmedabad, said: The Modi government, he [Jaishankar] underlined, is working on developing an “extended neighbourhood” that involves islands in the Indian Ocean, Gulf countries and nations in South-East Asia.

“What we are also trying to do today is for a bigger, influential and ambitious India. We are trying to expand what should be our neighbourhood. We look at what this extended neighbourhood should be. It could be islands in the Indian Ocean, nations in South-East Asia and Central Asia, or Gulf countries. The relationship with the UAE and Saudi Arabia has undergone an enormous transformation. From what was a traditionally much more constricted view of our neighbourhood, we have undertaken something much more ambitious,” said Jaishankar during a talk on “Modi’s India: A Rising Power” at the Anant National University in the city.

Pointing out how the world has become more uncertain, volatile and turbulent, Jaishankar underlined it was time to use the “complex global landscape”

for the betterment and growth of India. The pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia conflict has helped to build “resilient and reliable supply chains”, “domestic capacities” and “trusted relationships,” he highlighted.

A Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, Jaishankar also spoke about the “linkages” and “perception” India has developed in the last nine years under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“If you are the biggest in your neighbourhood, then it is in our interest that our other neighbours have a share in our prosperity, happiness and are linked to us. That will happen if we are generous and have a non-reciprocal way of engagement. Many of our neighbours like Bangladesh or Nepal and Bhutan are today linked with us through roads, railways, and waterways. We have electricity grid connections; there are fuel supplies. In many ways, they benefit from the scale and economy of India,” Jaishankar said while addressing an audience largely composed of students and faculty members from the private university.

“The linkages and perception today of India in the neighbourhood has changed. Nothing illustrated that more dramatically than what happened to Sri Lanka. Last year, when they went through a very deep economic crisis, we stepped forward in a way we ourselves have never done before. What we have done for Sri Lanka is bigger than what the IMF has done for Sri Lanka. If any of you have visited Sri Lanka recently, then you will note the popular perception that has accrued from this action,” he added.

Speaking about India’s relationship with China, the Union minister said, “The challenge from China is complicated. But in the last three years, it has been particularly visible in the border areas. There are clearly responses that are required and those responses have been undertaken by the government and a lot of it is to ensure that no attempt is made to unilaterally change the status quo in the border areas. We will ensure peace and tranquillity. It is the basis of our relationship. If peace is disturbed, it cannot be that the relationship remains unaffected.”

Both India and China, he said, will have to find some “kind of equilibrium” where there is mutual respect, sensitivity and recognition.

“Today, if we see that respect, sensitivity and recognition, we can have a better relationship with China. But if we do not, then we have to stand up for our rights. We need to be firm in asserting our positions. That is unfortunately the current situation,” he added.

“Modi’s India is different from its predecessors. It is different in its outlook,” he said while speaking about the decisive mandate and vision the Prime Minister has secured. “Modi’s India is a return to a political dispensation that has a majority in Parliament,” Jaishankar emphasised, pointing out that such a majority did not exist from 1989 to 2014.

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