Sushma Swaraj speaking to the press. Credit: PTI
Relations between India and the US continue to prosper, no matter the differences over the Paris agreement, says the minister of external affairs
New Delhi: Even as she noted that India-US relations continue to prosper, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj became the first Indian official to directly take on US President Donald Trump for accusing India of making its commitment to Paris climate change agreement dependent on getting ‘billions and billions’ of dollars – terming it as “not a reflection of reality.”
“Let me first clarify that it is not reality at all,” Swaraj said about Trump’s reasoning that advantages for India – and China – was the reason for him withdrawing United States from the Paris Climate change agreement.
“India did not sign the Paris agreement neither under pressure from any country nor due to greed for aid from any country,” she asserted at her annual press conference on Monday.
In his statement from White House’s Rose Garden on June 1, Trump said, “India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries.”
He further claimed that India will be “allowed” to double its coal production by 2020. “Think of it: India can double their coal production. We’re supposed to get rid of ours,” he said.
Trump, of course, failed to mention that the Paris climate agreement is a legally non-binding agreement, where the members declare their own commitments on what they will do to combat climate change.
During his recent Europe trip, the Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi had not directly referred to Trump’s statement, but only asserted that India will remain within the Paris agreement and “go beyond it”.
Despite the hiccup over the climate change pact, Swaraj insisted that relations with US under the Trump administration have improved at the same speed as it had under the previous Obama administration. Noting that PM will meet with Trump this month, Swaraj earlier pointed out that Modi had spoken to Trump thrice over phone, while she had also had a phone conversation with her counterpart, Secretary of state Rex Tillerson. She also said that Defence and finance minister Arun Jaitley had a good visit recently. Similarly, NSA Ajit Doval had a “very good conversation” with US National Security Advisor H R McMaster, while foreign secretary S Jaishankar had met many senior officials in the administration.
“US is India’s major defense partner. During the meeting of NSAs, there was no signal that they want to dilute it,” said Swaraj. She asserted that there India was keeping an eye on the issue of H1B visas, with at least three bills pending in Congress to amend the visa regime.
On Pakistan, Swaraj said that there was no requests from either side for a meeting between Indian Prime Minister and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Astana this week.
She said that the relations with Pakistan rested on three pillars – all issues were on the table, there was no space for any third party between India and Pakistan and and that terror and talks can’t go together. Swaraj noted that circumstances has changed since the Heart of Asia summit in 2015, with Pakistan having vitiating the scenario with Kulbhushan Jadhav and describing slain Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani as martyr.
“We have been saying to international community. Don’t look at Pakistan through the prism of India. But, please see where the links of terrorism are going back,” she said, adding that ‘cross border movement’ was included in joint statements with Germany to Saudi Arabia.