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China has been the biggest challenge for India: EAM Jaishankar

Hyderabad, April 24, 2024
External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar on Tuesday termed China as the biggest challenge for India as he blamed the policies of the first Prime Minister of India, the late Jawaharlal Nehru, for many problems on the foreign policy front.

He said while China had been the biggest challenge, India pretended as if it wasn’t.

“Not just today but for many years, our biggest challenge has been China. We at times pretended as if it wasn’t. We looked away, we rationalised it, we justified it, but the reality is from the very beginning, it has been the biggest challenge,” the Union Minister said while speaking at an event on the theme ‘Foreign Policy the India Way: From Diffidence to Confidence’, here on Tuesday.

He said Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had written to Nehru in 1950 cautioning him against China, stating for the first time that India was facing a two-front threat.

“The reply from Nehru was that you are very suspicious. It is inconceivable that the Chinese would ever cross the Himalayas and attack us. Twelve years later, what he termed as inconceivable actually happened,” said Jaishankar.

The minister also said that Patel was a very practical and grounded person who could anticipate what was coming.

“But the person he was addressing was clouded by a kind of Leftist ideology, which said India and China have a common interest in going up against the West. Therefore, he refused to see what was practical and the basics of diplomacy,” he said.

“In diplomacy, every country has to be careful about its neighbours. When you have two neighbours with whom you have potential or actual problems, you should know that they can get together. You don’t need a PhD in diplomacy to understand this,” he added.

Jaishankar also said that after the Chinese attack in 1962, Nehru wrote to then US President John F. Kennedy seeking assistance.

The Minister said that a few years before the Chinese attack, when the UN Security Council seat was offered to India, Nehru had said that China should first get the seat.

“We are saying India first today, but he (Nehru) said China first in the UN. The era of diffidence was an era in which we did not have clarity about our national interests. We mixed a certain ideological outlook and belief in what should be our contribution to the world,” Jaishankar said.

“We also do many good things for the world but that can’t be at the cost of national security or national interest. For us, ‘India First’ and ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ are two sides of the same coin. We should never allow ‘Bharat First’ to be compromised,” he added.

Jaishankar also told the gathering that Sardar Patel had opposed India approaching the UN on the Kashmir issue, but Nehru disregarded it.

“Today, there is a lot of interest in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoC), but we should not forget how the problem originated. The doors of international pressure opened in 1947 and continued all the way till Article 370 was repealed (in 2019). We have corrected an enormous mistake that we had made in 1947.”

Referring to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Jaishankar said a dramatic decrease in the number of minorities in the neighbourhood led to this situation.

“For the minorities in our neighbourhood, the only logical place to go is India,” he said, claiming that the CAA was brought to correct a mistake made 75 years ago.

He also cited a letter by B.R. Ambedkar in which he criticised the foreign policy saying when India became Independent, it had no enemies but it alienated countries like the US.

“There were decisions, choices and positions made in the early years of Independence that actually created problems for us with the US and it took many years to sort them out,” he claimed.(Agency)

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