Swaraj's sound stance
On Monday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said during the annual press conference of her Ministry that India is not softening its stance against Pakistan even though the two countries have allowed track-II diplomacy and some official engagements to take place. She also criticised Pakistan for its reply on India's protest against the Pakistan government's order on Gilgit-Baltistan. India, on Sunday, had summoned the Pakistan deputy high commissioner Syed Haider Shah to protest against Islamabad's order on holding more powers in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. India sees this as an attempt by Pakistan to annex this strategically important region, which shares its border with China. The proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that connects mainland China with Gwadar Port in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan passes through this region. The Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018, promulgated last week, entrusts the Prime Minister of Pakistan with indisputable authorities in matters over the Gilgit-Baltistan Order. The order also cancels the power of the Gilgit Baltistan Council and transfers it to the Gilgit Baltistan Assembly, which will have powers to make legislation regarding the mineral, hydropower, and tourism sectors. The latest move by the Pakistan government is being seen as an attempt to make Gilgit-Baltistan a separate province. In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said that India had conveyed to Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir, including the Gilgit-Baltistan area, is an integral part of India by virtue of its accession in 1947. Replying to a question on whether India is ready to hold talks with Pakistan, Swaraj said that India is always ready to talk to Pakistan but there is a caveat that Pakistan must stop supporting terrorists. Talks and terror cannot go hand-in-hand. At a time when the Indian Army is being attacked on the border, India cannot talk with Pakistan, she said. She said that talks can happen even before the elections in Pakistan on July 25, but the condition remains that Pakistan will have to denounce terrorism and stop supporting terrorists. She also said that talks are going on with the US over the H1B and H4 visa policy and the Indian government is making all-out efforts to ensure that the new US policies do not affect Indian workers. On the question of MEA helping out Indians all over the world, she said that her ministry has rescued 90,000 Indians from hostile places all over the world. Indian foreign minister Swaraj is known for offering prompt help to Indians across the globe. She is usually available on Twitter readily and responds promptly to any distress call from an Indian anywhere in the world. Just a day ago, she directed the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu to help a group of 15 mountaineers who were stranded in the Everest region for the last two days due to inclement weather. One of the group members had left a message on Swaraj's Twitter account seeking help from the Indian government. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been holding mega diaspora meets during his trips abroad, Swaraj's prompt help to Indians living out of the country complements Modi's outreach programme among the Non-Residents Indians. Though most of the decisions in the realm of Indian foreign policy is taken by Prime Minister Modi himself, Swaraj has been instrumental in improving relations with neighbours like Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal through concerted dialogue and bilateral visits. She has also played a key role in preparing the ground for the Indian Prime Minster's recent informal summits with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Modi's frequent foreign visits and engagements with top world leaders coupled with Swaraj's enlightened backroom support has ensured that Indian viewpoints are better calibrated and presented at the international level. During his foreign visits, Modi has been trying to expose the challenges from Pakistan and China besides keeping his focus on improving trade relations. The Indian foreign policy has been successful in exposing Pakistan as a hub for terror activities and the country stands isolated, with the US consistently pressurising Pakistan to mend its ways and end its support for terrorist organisations presently flourishing in the country. In the case of China, India recognises its recent advancements and has allowed trade relations to flourish between the two countries but it firmly opposed the Chinese military's efforts to build a road near the international border in Doklam. The idea was clear that India will not be bullied by an aggressive China. India's relations with other world powers like the US, Germany, France and the UK have also witnessed new dynamism and a vibrant exchange of ideas. The credit for all this, in part, goes to Indian foreign minister Swaraj, who together with the Indian Prime Minister, makes for a formidable combination to drive the Indian foreign policy.