The Centre on Monday made it clear that India signed the Paris Climate Agreement because of commitment and not for monetary benefits or under pressure. This was clarified at a press conference on the completion of three years of the NDA government by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. She was responding to a question about US President Donald Trump’s charge that India inked the Paris Climate accord to get “billions and billions” of dollars from the developed nations.
“This is completely not true,” the minister said about Trump’s claim while announcing the US exit from the Paris deal last week. Trump alleged that India had made its participation in the accord contingent on receiving foreign aid from the developed countries.
However, Swaraj pointed out that the Indo-US relationship was progressing well as it did under the former US President Barack Obama.
Highlighting achievements of the Modi government’s foreign policy, she said, “India signed the Paris agreement because of Indian culture and ethos and not under duress or out of greed (for monetary benefits). We are committed to the environment and this commitment is 5,000 years old.”
She said that to accuse India of signing the agreement because it was pressurised by some countries or out of greed for foreign aid is completely baseless and unfortunate. “I would like to officially make this clear. I clearly dismiss both accusations.”
To a question about the US leader’s executive order on the rules related to H-1B visa programme, she said that New Delhi was in talks with the US Congress and the Trump administration. “Yes, the concern is there. We are talking to members of the Congress. Efforts are on to make sure the Trump administration’s move doesn’t impact Indians,” she said, adding that no changes have been made in the visa policy “as of now”. She said, “In Modi’s meeting with Trump scheduled later this month, this will be a topic for discussion. There has been no change, but we are alert that nothing affects India.”
“There are amendments that cannot be made through executive orders,” she said, denying that the proposed changes in the policy had affected India’s ties with the US. Terming the Indo-US ties as a relationship “of mutual benefit”, she added that “US is India’s major defence partner. And there has been no intimation from their side that might suggest diluting this special relationship we share.”
To a question related to the current rift amongst the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), India will not be impacted by some Gulf countries cutting off diplomatic ties with Qatar, Swaraj said. She thanked the prime minister for maintaining friendly relations with the Gulf states.“There is no challenge arising out of this for us. This is an internal matter of GCC. Our only concern is about Indians there. We are trying to find out if any Indians are stuck there,” Swaraj said.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen and Egypt accused Qatar of supporting terrorism, opening up the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world.
To a question on the Kashmir issue, Swaraj said that Pakistan could not take Kashmir to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and asserted that the issue must be resolved bilaterally. “India wants to settle all issues with Pakistan through dialogue,” Swaraj said, but also made it clear that talks and terror cannot go together.
In her opening statement, the minister said: “The security of NRIs is our responsibility. In the past three years, 80,000 Indians who were stranded abroad have been brought back to India safely.”
Asserting that the government has been making citizen-centric decisions, Swaraj said, “Under the passport-making procedures, improvement and expansion has been made. The biggest achievement of our government is the simplification of passport rules. When we compare the post-change quarter to the previous quarter, we found a 50% increase in passport applications.”
Swaraj claimed that the government had developed friendly relations with the West Asia, unlike what the western countries predicted. “When Modi went to Saudi Arabia, he was awarded the highest civil order by the country. Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mohammed was our guest of honour on January 26 ceremony. Both the nations are friendly with Pakistan,” Swaraj said.
Citing other examples of India’s relations with the West Asian countries, she said, “Modi is the first prime minister to visit both Palestine and Israel. President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas came to India, and now our prime minister is going there. Both the nations know we will not disappoint them.” Swaraj also said that Abbas wants India to stay friends with Israel and help them work towards a solution.