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Interview of External Affairs Minister of India Dr. S. Jaishankar with NRC Handelsblad during his visit to the Netherlands from November 9-11, 2019

Posted on: November 18, 2019 | Back | Print

Interview of External Affairs Minister with NRC Handelsblad during his visit to the Netherlands

"I prefer detention and not violence"
Subrahmanyam Jaishankar Muslims in India do not have to fear that they do not have equal rights. "We have to do something decisive in Kashmir."

Hanneke Chin-A-Fo                                                                                     November 15, 2019      
                 
India is a country of increasingly impressive figures: in seven years it is estimated to have the largest population in the world and may have occupied Japan as a third economy. Reason for the Netherlands to invest heavily in relations: the trade mission that recently traveled to New Delhi for a state visit by the king concluded 650 million euros in contracts. Prime Minister Modi wants to modernize the country as quickly as possible: eliminate poverty, a digital revolution, an ambitious space program.

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Jaishankar (1955) trained as a political scientist and became Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2015. He was previously ambassador to China and the US.
But two ancient issues have dominated the news about India in recent months: Kashmir and Ayodhya. This summer Modi decided to withdraw the autonomous status of the disputed Kashmir region, where Muslims mainly live. And on Saturday the Supreme Court ruled that in Ayodhya, about which Hindus and Muslims have been in conflict for decades, a temple should be built, not a mosque. Both announcements were accompanied by very strict security measures. In Kashmir, for example, 4,000 people were preventively detained .

The issues contribute to the sentiment among the Muslim minority (200 million) that Hindus nowadays prevail in the secular, pluralistic state of India. But none of that is true, says Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, visiting The Hague this week. "Sometimes I want people to value our institutions a little more," he says in an interview at the Hilton.

What can the government do to reassure Muslims after the Ayodhya ruling that they have equal rights?

"Have you read the thousand pages of the ruling? An extremely delicate judgment, in which this concern is also discussed. It says that all communities must be assured that they have a place. So that care is not necessary. And see: it is now a few days later and if you look at the responses, I think most people think this is fair. ”

The government has pre-emptively secured many people and imposed prohibitions on gatherings.

"I think that is one of the fundamental responsibilities for a government. I prefer preventive detentions and no violence than being complacent with accidents as a result. Sometimes measures must be taken for public order. That is not only justified, but sometimes really necessary.
"I am pleased that an important issue has been fairly resolved. We have great faith in the power of our institutions. See how many election results in the world become a source of conflict. In India we have held exceptionally fair elections for seventy years. "
What is the situation in Kashmir now?

"I hear that normal life is gradually taking its course again. Shops are open, people are back on the street. Much stricter measures were needed here than in Ayodhya, due to terrorism coming from across the border [from Pakistan]. We have stopped telephone and internet traffic because we did not want people with bad intentions to communicate. The telephone lines are now open again. The internet has not yet fully recovered, because militants used social media for radicalization and mass mobilization during earlier very violent periods. "

According to media reports, people are afraid of leaving their house. Even now that the measures have been relaxed, they do not dare to believe that they are safe.

"I think they are also afraid of intimidation by the militants, who put up posters on which they threaten people so that they don't go to school and leave their stores closed."

Do you not think that the anger about the restrictions will last for a long time, even after they have been withdrawn?

"Imagine if we had not done this. In 2016 we allowed people - what they called - to hold political meetings. A peak in violence followed. Such meetings are often misused by terrorists and separatists. In the battle in Kashmir, 40,000 lives have been lost in 30 years. The situation is unique in that it is fueled by the conscious terrorist policy of the neighboring country [Pakistan]. "

But don't you think that dissatisfaction with the end of autonomy will come out one way or another?

"The constitutional article in which that autonomy was included was temporary, it had to change once. In addition, the government was convinced that the article was not good for the people in Kashmir that it stood in the way of development. It is now up to us to ensure that the promised development actually comes true. If I lived in Kashmir and watched my life improves in one or two years, I would only draw one conclusion. "

Prosperity and autonomy are two different things.

"Do you really think people will want to kill 40,000 in the next 30 years?" We are entering the modern age of digitization, talent development, globalization. Should we then preserve this medieval situation? We don't want another thirty years from the past. We have to do something decisive. "

Recently, 27 predominantly right-wing and 'far-right' MEPs visited Kashmir, while the Indian opposition and most journalists are denied access. How does that selection take place?

"The parliamentarians wanted to see with their own eyes how things were going. I met them, they came without a preconceived opinion. We did what we do with every group of unbiased people, at every moment, namely giving our opinion and having them see for themselves. ”

So a group of left-wing MEPs would also have access?

"A lot would depend on the purpose of the visit. If a group of people wanted to visit Kashmir without prejudice, we wouldn't say no. We are a very pluralistic country, both socially and politically. "

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