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EAM Dr. S Jaishankar, in conversation with Kevin Rudd, President of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York City (September 24, 2019)

September 25, 2019

Kevin Rudd: Welcome to our place, good to have you Minister. I've called you many things over the years but Minister, this is my first public occasion to address you as such.It's a bit like me you began as a career diplomat but you're much more successful than I was at that but then I went over to the dark side and went into politics and now you've done the same.What's it like?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:Different. I guess it's something you would know and I'm still learning, in a sense on the job, but you know, in our case being a minister is also being a member of parliament, attending Parliament.That has its own discipline, its own culture.In a way you're obviously a much more public person in every sense of the term.And I guess in an interesting way professionally you know,even if you are, I was sort of the senior most civil servant in the foreign ministry before, but there was always that comfort of having the minister above you.So when you actually are now the minister your own horizons widen, your sense of you know the buck stopping with you also grows.So it's a different feeling.

Kevin Rudd:It's a qualitatively different world.How you're getting on with the party whipsin the Indian upper house the whips govern your life or death in Parliament.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:Well you know we have a relatively narrow working majority I won't say working majority because we actually don't have a majority in the upper house.So it's important that you are there for all the important and critical legislation and you have to balance that with your diplomatic responsibilities and sometimes, frankly you have to pass up some, you know you have to prioritize.

I, for example, could not make it for the BRICS Foreign Ministers meeting because we had some very important bills coming up at that time, but I'm a conscientious member, I'm always there for the work.

Kevin Rudd: Have you missed any votes yet?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:No.

Kevin Rudd: Ten out of ten for the minister.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:
Well except for the ones when I was out but you know.

Kevin Rudd:That'sgood.Well whips govern your life, does your BJP Whip have a sense of humor?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:Let's put it this way we haven't tested all that yet.

Kevin Rudd: These things lie ahead of you Minister that's all I can say but it must be operationally an interesting challenge if you're the foreign minister in particular and you've got a rolling series of international challenges. India is an important country so you got people rolling in the door to Delhi all the time and then you're in the upper house with this you know wafer-thin parliamentary situation. So I would encourage your whip to adopt a generous human approach to the demands of the Minister. I'm sure you'll be urging him to do the same.Here in New York it's a General Assembly week, what's the core message this week, the Indian government that you and Prime Minister Modi are seeking to deliver to the international community?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:Well you know the I think the big issue before the world and before the United Nations right now is how we're all going to deliver or not on the sustainable development goals. And this I mean in a sense I say this, I mean this is an analytical observation, I think whether the world would be successful in achieving SDG targets would be dependent on whether India would be successful because our numbers are so big.

And if you see what's happened in the last five years,actually a lot of the changes in India are led by national campaigns, very often directly, personally pushed by the Prime Minister. Campaigns about closing the gender gap in education, campaigns about digital connectivity,about cleanliness, about sanitation, about urbanization, about education, about skills.

So you had actually a range of these initiatives. Now these are not just slogans you know, if you look at the raw numbers for example, you know there was a push to get people, I mean really poor people to open bank accounts okay.They opened up 300 million bank accounts, but more important in those five years actually,sixty billion dollars went into those 300 million bank accounts. They pushed from microfinance. Micro finance particularly with a sort of bias towards women, seventy five percent of the users were women.They got two hundred sixty million micro finance accounts opened up.

If you look at rural housing in last five years,about close to 18 million rural homes. Gas connections, because you know in Indian women very heavily used fire wood and fire wood is a killer, literally it's a killer. It's like smoking multiple packs of cigarettes a day. They've got close to a hundred i.e. ninety-six million new users of cooking gas who were enabled by the fact that he could appeal to people like me to give up cooking gas connections which we were getting at subsidized rates. So these are all you know what's what shifting in India.

The story on girl’s education and which interestingly is linked to building of toilets because girls didn't go to school because often there were no toilets in school. So if you got about a hundred million toilets built, you also had an impact on many millions of girls going to school and that and the moment you do something like school going, you're actually raising awareness, you are delaying marriage you know marriage ages in a way, you are improving health, you're also making people aware of the fact that they need to space out their kids.That has consequences, demographic consequences, it has health consequences.So all of that is happening and I think we, in a sense, when I look at governance at home, I sit in cabinet meetings where typically foreign policy is a very small element of it, the bulk of what I hear there is actually an SDG at work. And I think some of that those messages will actually come through out here.

Kevin Rudd: Yeah.I'm my since I'm chairman of Sanitation water for all, so we're responsible globally as the civil society organization for Sustainable Development Goal number six.So the proof point of what you just said is, will succeed in SDG six if you succeed in India.It's pretty simple and having been to India many times and most20recently when you are doing a major public promotion for Swachh Bharat which is Prime Minister Modi's program for Clean India including the principal question of ending open defecation and dealing with the widespread availability and use of toilets. I mean the numbers are impressive even, and I'm aware of the domestic debate about whether the number sare all real or not but let’s just say that you take a ten or twenty percent discount.It's still a big achievement.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:
Yeah, look let me tell you what proves that the numbers were real.The fact that the numbers are real because finally they gave you real numbers in the voting booth.You know if you ask the question, why did the government led by Mr. Modi not just get reelected,got reelected by about I think eight almost eight to ten percent votes more than they had.

Those numbers led to these numbers, so there's a direct connection between what we delivered on the ground in the last five years and what was the voter behavior because if you ask people so why did you, because you know the speculation.There were people who said with great confidence that the numbers would drop and the last time I was here in Asia Society we were having those conversations, not in public, but we were.

But I think the reason why the numbers went up and in any democratic exercise, if in one term your numbers go up, your voter base increases by ten percent, it's are markable achievement.And I think there as ons for that were twofold. The primary reason was that on the ground people saw change and typically at least in India where voters can be very impatient you are elected with a lot of hope, then five years down the road there is impatience on the part of the voter. But I think five years down the road clearly they believed that Mr.Modi was still the best harbinger of change and probably now implementer of change and the other of course was the national security side. I think they just thought he had a safer pair of hands.

Kevin Rudd: So your overall argument about the outcome of the May elections was that five years ago he actually triggered a significant, let's call it,set of social revolutions against the list that you've just referred to before which are also consistent with global development goals and that actually has expanded the constituency for the BJP.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:Yes, I think it's also that five years ago people looked at his record in Gujarat and hoped that this would, the developmental progress would kind of achieve national scale. I think that was the 2014 voting behavior.I think the 2019 voting behavior was,okay we have seen him for five years,we've seen what his government looks like,we've seen how serious he is about delivering on all of this and we actually believe this so and therefore let's give him another term and see by where he can take us.

Kevin Rudd:You mentioned the sustainable development goals. One of them deals with climate and of course you've got the UN Climate Summit this week as we prepare for five years into the Paris treaty.What's India's formal policy, what are your Paris commitments, are you meeting them and will you be expanding on those commitments between now and 2030?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:The first point I'd make is that there's a big attitudinal shift on climate change and in India and till a few years ago people looked at climate change as something, was growing awareness but it will also looked at as an international negotiation.This was all about because Kyoto kind of captured the whole climate change issue and you know the story of Kyoto, you know the promises made and the promises not kept.

So the difference between Kyoto and Paris was that and there was a transition through Copenhagen in between but at Paris I think the difference was that we took the view that look if it is really existential then you can't say on the one hand it's existential but it's subject to kind of nitty-gritty of bargaining. And I think we decided that we would actually take the lead on addressing the climate change challenge. I saw actually how much the Prime Minister was involved in actually structuring the compromises which led to Paris, we were used to be traveling and on the phone taking calls all the time.

I think a lot of our views and positions influenced the G77 definitely but what we did actually outside the Paris conference was to my mind the more important outcome for us and for the world which was, we took, decided we take the lead on advocating and implementing the spread of solar energy and we unveiled what was actually the most ambitious solar program to date.we started something called the international solar Alliance which has spectacularly taken off. today we have a very ambitious, the target was 175 gigawatts, we are on our way to meeting that. We've also much of our development assistance in Africa, in Caribbean, in Pacific Islands is geared around providing solar projects. And in fact you know on my way here I saw a very interesting analysis by the climate action tracker which you are familiar with and what the analysis said was that there were two countries who actually exceeded that nationally determined contributions. One is Morocco, I forget who was the other one. There were five countries who have delivered on it with meeting the two-degree benchmark and the five countries are Bhutan, which is not a surprise, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Philippines and India.

So actually when it comes to delivering on Paris commitments frankly it appears from what I read, I haven't discussed it with my own colleagues who deal with climate change,but from what I can gather actually it seems we are doing better than much of Europe at a lot of other countries.

Kevin Rudd:Well it's a bit like everything else. Your success on climate and frankly China's success on climate, very much will determine the future of the world.So Prime Minister Modi's leadership domestically as well as globally on this will be crucial in the period ahead.You here in the United States,I watched Howdy Modi and thought it was kind of fun there's sort of a quite remind of dongs yelping wearing a Stetson back in the late 70s but what struck me interesting in terms of the evolving Modi Trump relationship. Personally I could think of no two more dissimilar personalities than Narendra Modi and Donald Trump.These are like chalk and cheese,these are just completely different people,but my friend it seems to be working.So what's the actual substance of this relationship, what are its principal opportunities and tensions right now, can you navigate it through to obviously the end of next year, and if there's a Trump reelect, beyond that?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:When it where the Houston event was concerned, I mean I regard it in many ways really as a tribute to the Indian American community. That you had you know their ability today to organize themselves, to motivate themselves to do an event of the scale. I mean they had 50,000 people in the stadium and I don't know how many people outside the stadium and this is not the first time, I mean he started in Madison Square Garden five years ago.Then we did something a little bigger at San Jose the next year,so this is third time and they've grown in scale.

Now the fact that they can do this speaks in many ways, of some of the strengths of our relationship with the United States and those are structural strengths. I mean it shows today that the US is still in many ways a land of equal opportunity for certainly that's how many Indian Americans would feel.

And that they have really,and it was a very bipartisan event. I mean while President Trump obviously got a lot of the attention but he was preceded on the stage by the Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. So again that speaks of the political you know bandwidth of the Indian American community.So we do see the community today as one of the key pillars of the relationship and one of the many factors which have created anew paradigm between India and the United States which has evolved over the last 20 years.

There are other factors as well, business factors, geopolitical factors but in regard to the president and the Prime Minister well look I saw them the first time when they met in Washington in 2017 and you know sometimes even if people are not the same they hit it off but it was very it's very visible today you know when they meet that they bond well and when you ask saying okay where is this going, I think one difference for us in India, one Indians themselves are very adjustable people by nature it's part of our DNA. Secondly, Prime Minister Modi is a very outgoing person so if it's you and me and we are very different he kind of shifts gears and responds to you in a way in which it works with you and with me in a way in which it works with me, so you've had two very different presidents Obama and Trump back-to-back.

But he has had a very warm, cordial,personal but it's also you know there's a larger issue here which is, remember we are not, we don't have the history with the United States and with American leaders which many other countries do. So because we don't have that history when there is change we don't have those anxieties.A large part of what you see in East Asia what you see in Europe are actually leaders fretting because today's reality is a departure from the norm. With India there was no norm, we were still a relationship very much in progress, so for us there's one more adjustment to be made.

Kevin Rudd: So the trade dispute which has been long-standing now between the Trump administration and your government, can you get an agreement and are you now singing from the same songs heet on the chord and China?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:On the trade arguments, not disputes because I think there is a lot of backing and for thing on those issues. Look the US today has taken a certain approach towards its trade relations with the entire world, so what's happening in the case of India is not unusual. In fact I would say compared to some of the more public arguments they had with other countries and some of those are disputes,ours is, to my mind much more manageable in many ways but they're not I mean trade issues by nature are not also easy to resolve that's why trade negotiators make a living.

So my expectation is and in fact my trade ministerial colleague is also in town today that look we'll work our way through it I mean we will agree on some things, we probably may not agree one very thing there’d be issues we don't.There's no finite deadline on which all of these things work. These are ongoing conversations because trade is ongoing and new things,you know, a few years ago for example data issues we're not even there on the radar.Today we may have differing perspectives on a matter like that or some years ago steel was really not a subject of dispute or even an argument.So trade will keep changing but here's the good news. I am encouraged when more attention goes to that zone because it actually means there's more activity happening there.The larger the trade the more the arguments.

Kevin Rudd: Is there a common Indian and American strategic view of China, is there a common view of the quad, you're going to bring the Australians in from the cold on Malabar, what are you gonna do?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:
My sense is big countries, perhaps more than big countries, maybe all countries today won't have common score sheets. I think everybody would have their own lyrics and their own Tunes but there would be notes that they would strike together and occasionally it would be cacophonic and sometimes seem like an orchestra.

I think we are we are moving to a world of convergences but a lot of it would be situational, a lot of it would be issue-based,a lot of it would be regional. I mean we may agree in In do Pacific but we may not agree in the Gulf. So I do think we are looking at much more complicated, differentiated relationships today rather than clean-cut, you're with me or not, you're ally, you are not. We are ally, we have a common unified position. I don't think we are anymore into the unified positions world, I think we've just moved away from that.So there would be where the chord is concerned right now till now the chords have been largely at the official level.We are exploring how to raise it beyond that.

Now the quads largely be discussing maritime security,connectivity, terrorism.These are issues on which these four countries India,Japan, Australia US happened to, they are democratic countries with very strong similarity of approaches on these issues.That's not to say we agree I mean let's say an issue like climate change, our position with each one of the quad countries, we would have I won't say disagreements but clearly very different positions. So it would very much dependent on the issue and the partner concerned.

Kevin Rudd:That brings us to the elephant in the room,China, country next door to you, you've spent a bit of time there.Let me start by opening it up on what the government of India has done most recently on Kashmir. This is a significant decision from Delhi.Perhaps you could explain toour gathering here what is the Indian government seeking to achieve, how do you think both Pakistan and China are responding and where to from here?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:The one sentence answer to that is read today's financial times, it has an op-ed by me and don't look at the picture.So that's my one sentence answer but I'll give you the longer answer.So let’s sort of walk back a bit on Kashmir. Look the first point which people should appreciate is that the provision in the Constitution which gave Kashmir the different status was a temporary provision.Now here is the funny thing,you rarely read that in the international press and when I say it's a temporary provision, don't take my word for it. Google the Constitution of India it's written out there, the word temporary is out there on the heading of this segment as well as the article in question.

Now I think we all, I know you're Australian, but we agree on what the word temporary means.It means something comes to an end.After 70 years it came to an end and 70 years is a decent definition of the word temporary.

Let me come to why it changed.Now what happened was at the time when Kashmir joined India, as did about 560 other princely states, Kashmir was unique.One it was a border state.Two, it was under attack as it was negotiating its accession, from Pakistan.So the sense in the Constituent Assembly was that we need to you know cut them some slack,in which by the way the Kashmiri representatives joined it. So the sense was that okay, these guys are coming under different circumstances so let's give them different terms for alignment, give them more time and space to do that.

Now over a period of time what happened was the accession, the integration of the state of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India proceeded much more gradually then did all the other princely states.And it came through a series of presidential orders which were provided for by this temporary provision.So in the last 70 years, about fifty four of these presidential orders.

Now around late 80s as the first Afghan war came to an end we saw a spiking of terrorism in cross-border terrorism. People coming from across the line of control, now they created in timidatory effect on the polity and so the entire alignment process actually slowed down. So if you actually track those presidential proclamations you get much more in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s than you do thereafter.

Now what did it mean on the ground, what it meant on the ground was that because you had a provision which said they'd be essentially local ownership of property,there were no investments from outside. A lot of the change, the economic changes you see in the rest of India, the businesses they pass Kashmir.

So what was meant to actually help Kashmir which ended up in a way as you know the bridge became a barrier. Now it had political consequences and eventually national security consequences because when you didn't have enough activity and therefore not enough jobs and then people blame Delhi for not having enough jobs. We were spending ten times, from Delhi's perspective, ten times on an average Kashmiri which we're spending on an average Indian citizen. But yet the feeling was well you know we haven't seen what's due to us.So the lack of development,lack of opportunity actually created a sense of alienation.Alienation -separatism, separatism used for terrorism.

And the story of Kashmir because people, somehow this suggestion that things have become worse and something changed for the worse on August 5th when this legislation was passed.Look at the 30 years before that.There were about more than 40,000 people have died in Kashmir. And it isn't just those numbers I mean if you look, you had on the streets of Sri Nagar, senior police officials lynched in broad daylight, eminent journalists killed. You had military personnel going home on leave pulled out of the homes and tortured and killed. I mean that in a sense gave you know a feel for the state of affairs before.

Now there were also interesting socio-economic consequences because our national laws did not automatically applied to the state of Jammu & Kashmir, pretty much the progressive legislation which has been enacted in India with the last 20 years has passed that state, so it's still a state where women's property rights are less than men's, a state where say domestic violence laws don't apply, juvenile protection laws don't apply,right to work, right to education, right to information doesn't apply. The affirmative action programs that you had in the rest of India don't apply.So you actually have socially by passed that state, you've economically disadvantaged that state, you've created a national security problem for yourself, you’ve created an integration challenge.

So when we came back to power I think there was a long hard look at what are our options.And the options were either we do more of the same knowing it doesn't work or we do something different.So I think the choice was okay we will do something different.Now when we did that something different and something different by the way has no implications for the external boundaries of India. I mean we are sort of reformatting this within our existing boundaries.

It obviously drew a reaction from Pakistan, it drew a reaction from China.There are two very different reactions. I think for Pakistan it was a country which has really created an entire industry of terrorism to deal with the Kashmir issue. I mean in my view it's actually bigger than Kashmir, I think they've created it for India butlet that pass for the moment, who now see that investment of 70 years undercut if this policy succeeds.So there's is I think today a reaction of anger, of frustration in many ways because we built an entire industry over a long period of time.

Kevin Rudd: What do you think they will do? I've said a lot what will I do?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:Yeah, but let me let me close out the China bit. I think the Chinese I think misread what was happening there which was, they reacted to the fact that the state today constitutes two union territories.Now I don't know why they believe that it impacted on them. I went a few days after the legislation to China and explained to them that you know as far as they were concerned nothing had changed.India's boundaries had not changed, the line of actual control had not changed.So that was the conversation we had with them but obviously you know the Pakistani challenges are of a very different order.

In respect of what will they do, your question, look they have to accept and this is not a Kashmir issue, it's a bigger issue than that.They have to accept that the model which they have built for themselves no longer works that you cannot, in this day and age, conduct policy using terrorism as a legitimate instrument of state craft. I think that's at the heart of issue.So we have no problem talking to Pakistan but we have a problem talking to terrorists on and they have to be one and not be the other.

Kevin Rudd: Moving to the broader relationship with China,I Watch with keen interest Prime Minister Modi's discussions with Xi Jinping, I think from memory in Wuhan in that two or three day meeting from memory a couple of years ago and what sort of framework did that lay out for the future of the India China relationship and what do you now see as its prospects? India still, for example, is not party to One Belt One Road, you have geopolitical reservations against aspects of it, but on the broader economic front, the broader national security front and of course the long-standing question of the border,what's your approach to the future of that relationship?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:You know the Wuhan meeting, to my mind, was a very good thing.It was very good because the two countries today have very strong leaders with both with strategic visions and with a sense of the world and a sense of their country's destiny in the world.And to my mind the real benefit of Wuhan was the fact that the two of them,President Xi and Prime Minister Modi could actually spend time, I mean for the two of them,if you would look at the pictures the two of them and the interpreters.So now you know a lot of the way by which business is done in China it's very choreographed. So you know we meet on these long tables and you know we give our principals their talking points and they give theirs and they kind of exchange those in a way.

Now these were real conversations, they were real free wheeling conversations with no agreed agenda. I think to my mind that's an extremely important, very significant development because look what we do know,I mean we can debate the pace and the complexity of the process, but it's a given today that China will be among the key global powers of our era and India in its own way will be too - perhaps at a different pace in a different timeline. So if these two powers in the next 20-30 years are going to have such an important role then we need to start preparing for that and we need to start preparing for that by encouraging an equilibrium between these two powers because their relationship with the world is shifting but the relationship with each other will also be very dynamic because neither of the mis really static, static at home and static in relationship to the rest of the world.And then to do that you need to have those open conversations.Conversations about the world,conversations about your country conversations, about politics so don't hold back. I think that's what we saw at Wuhan.Our hope is that we will see a repeat of that in the not-too-distant future and personally I as someone who's grappled with this challenge on the field, I'm very pleased that we have reached this stage.

And now having said that, look these are not negotiating sessions so when some of the observations you made that you know you have a boundary problem and we have our viewpoint on Belt and Road.Yes of course we do but we have a time and place to talk that and to negotiate that, there's not a negotiation between the two leaders.This is really the two of them sort of discussing, exchanging, looking at the world in the big picture sense of the term.

Kevin Rudd:If you think of China's future and you mentioned before China's trajectory in terms of becoming a global great power,the economic trajectory has been therefor some time and India has its own trajectory. If you look at some of the current challenges facing China's own political economy model as it seeks to sustain growth and it's very difficult relationship between party and market,between state-owned enterprises and private firms and you see the ebb and flow of this policy debate within China itself flowing through to slower growth rates for the Chinese economy in the last few years.Does Delhi see this as a potential opportunity for itself to accelerate its own domestic market economic reforms, by which I mean now you've got a whole lot of capital in this country from this country United States which is dis investing from China because of not just the uncertainties of the trade war between the two, not an argument or a dispute but a war and an uncertainty about whether this leads in a broader direction of economic decoupling.So I'm not into the binary business as a matter of policy preference but I wondered whether our friends in Delhi had seen some shift in global perceptions of the as it were eternal riches of the China market relative to what India could now provide.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:Well look I would make a set of points and you can connect the dots.Number one,what is happening in China is not,economically, it's not unexpected I mean everybody knew that the economy would mature and as it does growth rates would not be what they were earlier, so that's my first point.

Secondly, where India is concerned you know we are in it suddenly on the economic side for ourselves.If I would make myself a more attractive destination for foreign investment and even for domestic investment not because it's a foreign policy issue, because its economic common-sense.So today if I,let's say, if I cut my corporate tax which is what we did last week, with the intention of spurring investments. That's an Indian decision for India, you don't take that saying what you know it's not part of a larger foreign policy strategic design.

We have opened today to Chinese investment in many sectors,in fact in the last five years we've seen an increase in Chinese foreign investment, FDI. We are obviously very open to it from the United States.If for whatever reason US supply chains are shifting, relocating and may not be only from China, they could be from other countries as well, we'd be happy to host them that's very much our, so there is a there is a merit in doing it for its own sake not necessarily as part of a calculation on China.

Kevin Rudd: I've got a few questions from the audience so I will select these in a degree of difficulty because I know you can happily accommodate to whichever of these.What does Pakistan need to do is a precondition for Kashmir talks?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:Look, I think we're getting this wrong.First of all Pakistan has to do something for its own good and if it does that it would enable a normal neighborly relationship with India.The issue between India and Pakistan, I mean,it's not like we agree on everything else and we have wonderful relationship and there's a Kashmir issue. You know we had an attack on Mumbai City the last time I checked Mumbai city was not part of Kashmir. So Pakistani terrorists can attack states and regions which are far removed from Kashmir.We got to recognize there's a bigger problem out there.So what's the problem,the problem is really a mindset. I mean,look, what we have today.Every time there's a change of government in Pakistan,somebody says, first of all it's new and have nothing to do with the earlier guys, it's all their fault. Second position, by the way it's nothing to do with us as a country,it's all the Americans you know the Americans taught us the bad habits by doing the Afghan jihad.We were good people till you came along.By the way I know you're not an American, so the point is there is a fundamental issue there which they need to understand and we need to encourage them to do, and that is to move away from terrorism. And it's not, at one level you know it's a huge issue, at one level it's very obvious issue. I mean these are not activities which are subterranean, these are activities in broad daylight. So they know where the camps are, I mean anybody knows where the camps are, just google them you'll find them.

Kevin Rudd:Which leads to another question from the audience which is,now what's the first question we at the Asia Society should ask Imran Khan when he comes here to speak on Friday?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:You don't need the answer to that.

Kevin Rudd:I just thought I'd try.And here is the interesting one some one in the audience has a genuine sense of humor. Donald Trump has offered to mediate and help on Kashmir will you be taking up his offer? I'll move on to any other questions from the audience.The one point I was going to raise, there was a question here I'll take this one from this gentleman.

Question: My name is Farouk Siddiqui and I am from Kashmir.The foreign minister spoke about the Instrument of Accession that the Maharaja then acceded to India, it was but on the basis of three conditions.One was the foreign policy the other was the defense and the third was the communication.That time there was no Constitution of India so the Constitution of India came into being in 1950, right.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:26 November, 1949.That is when it was finalized.

Question Contd.:So Article370 and article 35A which is two separate things,370 article was provided in the Constitution of India to honor the Instrument of Accession which Indian government took to the United Nations as a proof that India has that Kashmir has acceded to India on the basis of those Instrument of Accession.My question is that how is it possible that India can remove this particular condition of 370 and 35A because it reflects the instrument, the question is that once article 370 is removed that means India's relationship with Kashmir is over and what is there is 800 thousand army

Kevin Rudd:I think we've got the question sir and I think I'm going to take the microphone from you, okay. I'm actually chairing the meeting not you.Thank you.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:So let me give a short clear answer to the questions there. I think there are two misconceptions.Number one, a misconception that the Instrument of Accession which was signed by the ruler of the state of Jammu and Kashmir was different from those of the others.In fact you can, again this is public information,I have it on my phone.If you look at the Instrument of Accession and remember the British bureaucracy at that time was very strong and had impacted all of us.Everybody, all the princely states got exactly the same document to sign.This document was typed up, it had a blank for the name of the ruler, a blank for the name of the state,a blank for the date and a blank because Lord Mountbatten Obama wanted to sign his full name in a fountain pen by himself.Otherwise every one of these instruments of Accession were exactly the same,all of them began by saying that we are now acceding and handing over powers related to foreign affairs, defense and communications to the Union of India.

Now the Constitution making process which happened thereafter from 1947 till 1949 involved them, all the princely states,now aligning with the Constitution in the making.Now as I explained in the case of Jammu and Kashmir the sentiment in the Constituent Assembly with Kashmiri participation was that they needed more time to do that alignment which is whyyou had, as I said, a provision with the word temporary written on it, on the title of it and on the text of the article.

Now the gentleman raised the issue that you know 370, when it was a temporary article, that's your relationship with the state of Kashmir.Actually it's not.There is an article in the Constitution, Article 1, which actually lists out all the constituent parts of India, so the relationship is not based on article. It cannot be based on a temporary article,it obviously has to be based on a permanent article.So I think there are two factual inaccuracies or misunderstandings of the Constitution of India.Take my word for it, I've read it many times, I'm student of political science as well. So I would respectfully urge you to go back and look at the Constitution of India.

Kevin Rudd:Let me just take you beyond Kashmir to Afghanistan.What do you see as being the optimal landing place for the negotiations between the Taliban and the Americans but more broadly for the long-term stabilization of the country and where does Indian policy fit?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:Look, I think this is today one of the big vexing questions in our part of the world and I must tell you on this tripit is an issue which I would be talking to a number of people.Yesterday I met ambassador Khalilzad, I also had a meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister Javed Sharif and I'm going from here on to Washington so I expect to discuss it with secretary Pompeo as well and with many others who are here. I met many of the Central Asians yesterday Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and every body really has a common set of concerns, anxieties,interests on this issue.

You know at one level we understand the compulsions on the United States. 18 years is a long time to be fighting a war and actually, frankly I take my hats off to the United States that it had the durability and the persistence and the commitment and the fortitude to do that for so long.So it's apparent that this is going to change, okay, the question which we need to answer is how much changes in what way, what are the consequences of those changes.

Now that's some of that is what has been negotiated between the American negotiators and the Taliban and you know whatever is happening in the Afghan government, the elected Afghan government in Kabul.You know different countries have also been involved in some of them in this process.Our point of view is this, recognizing the compulsions of this change.We do think that many of the achievements of the last years it and for which you know so many countries have fought, shed blood, spent money, those achievements should not be lost in the process.So whatever the outcomes, whatever the likely direction in which Afghanistan is going, it must be such that these are not jeopardized by what could be agreed upon.

We ourselves, you know we had a very strong history of development assistance there.In terms of delivery of projects we've been really among the better deliverers, whether you look at bringing electricity to Kabul city or building a dam in Herat province, doing health clinics, radio station, schools building a road through western Afghanistan, we've done a lot of that but obviously now we'll have to see with the larger direction which is going but our preference, obviously, our interests are that the gains of the last 18 years should not be jeopardized.

Kevin Rudd:The country which promised to Maria's place particular attention on and one which you have obvious connections with an interest in I presume Japanese is one of your seven languages, is of course Tokyo,and Abe San and Marie's San have a, what appears to the rest of us, to be a strong working relationship if you were to try it for this audience to explain where do you see the strategic significance your relationship with Japan heading over the next five years, give us some sense of the texture of that.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:Well, first of allI must tell you that reports of my linguistic skills are vastly exaggerated as much as rumors of my tact and diplomatic abilities.So having got that disclaimer out of the way.

Kevin Rudd: Do you speak Australian as well as English?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:I'm working on that I'm taking lessons.I watch cricket to understand Australian.

Kevin Rudd:
It was good winning the Ashes but I won’t dwell on that, they deserved it.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:Did you notice I'm not contradicting.

Kevin Rudd:
That's right,we have our own shared colonial past in a strange way.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:But you know but coming to Japan, look I do think it's really a very, at the moment, under analyzed or shall I say a relationship that hasn't got the prominence that it should.Maybe it's all for the good because it's still a stage where this relationship is growing and we see, the world is changing, Asia is changing and probably these changes would be better if we saw in many ways of Greater Japanese participation in international affairs because if your declared objective is a multipolar world, to my mind it's prerequisite is a multipolar Asia.And if you're talking of a multipolar Asia, obviously one of the natural poles, one of them is Japan.

Now how much the Japanese do and what they do and how they do, these are for them to decide but we have seen much greater interest on their part in participating and security-related conversations, political conversations.We work with them in the quad,we actually have a trilateral with Japan and America which completely coincidentally is called JAI, we work with them on the reform of the UN Security Council.We have a G4, will be meeting this week at the foreign ministers level but the Japanese also have been much more active in investing in India,in collaborating with us on connectivity initiatives, in looking at a range of global issues.

I was in Japan 20 years ago okay, they were much more reticent about their own potential and I think those changes are good. It's not for me to say whether they're good for Japan, I think they are but you know that's for them to decide but there's simply good for India.

Kevin Rudd: Let me sort of trying to begin to draw this conversation to a close because I know you've got to go off and see the Donald and that'll be a fun meeting.But India and the future of global trade, rightly or wrongly India has been criticized in the past for being excessively protectionist, for not being a, shall we say full and open participant in global trade negotiations,the particular role which India played in the destiny of the Doha round, but let's not revisit history. Looking to the future and the opening of markets within the wider Indo-Pacific region,give me a sense of where RCEP goes,give me a sense of where broader Indian policy on trade goes and let me challenge you on the question of Indian accession to APEC and where you would like to see your country go on that one?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:
Look my understanding of the RCEP negotiations, the ministers met earlier this month in Bangkok, I think it's very advanced.The key point that we make is that,I mean one which I make as a foreign minister is that RCEP is a trade agreement and its merits and demerits must be weighed on the scale of trade.

It has political strategic implications and connotations but they cannot be the principal criteria of evaluating a trade agreement, a trade agreement must stand on its own feet,there must be good trade offers out there to justify that agreement.Now what are the big concerns,I mean the big concern of course is we have free trade agreements with many of the current RCEP participant countries. So the new ones are the important ones because we don't have agreements with them at all.One is China, one is Australia,one is New Zealand.

They each have their own particular complications and wrinkles, so we have a big trade deficit with China which everybody knows, which is a source of concern for Indian business. So how well are these challenges addressed, how well our challenges of, and there are creative solutions. I don't think this is beyond the realm of imagination, I think trade negotiators can find fixes in terms of coverage and time and there are answers there.

There are another set of issues my understanding again is these relate to services which is really they've got to be good services offers on the table because it's something which is important for India. So I think the call would be, look if those gaps are closed in the near future then the chances are high that we would have an RCEP.

Now in terms of what you said about the APEC, you know India has been steadily pulled eastwards okay.It began in 1992 with what was called the Look East but the Look East we really looked at Southeast Asia in many ways, as a sort of a model, as a lesson and as a justification for changes which we were trying to do and inspiration for those changes.Now in the 25 years that have passed Look East became Act East because the connectivities got built up, the conversations expanded, the relationships expanded. So today we have security relations with all these countries which we didn't have before but the ASEAN thing. We have many more flights, we have a lot of investment, a lot of Indian companies operating up there.Now the next stage was to go beyond to Indo Pacific, and Indo Pacific because beyond the ASEAN we actually found that today our principal trade partners areactually China, Japan, Korea and - now to a large extent Australia.

So we actually,if you looked, for us the center of gravity in terms of our economic interests and consequently of a strategic interest, has steadily shifted eastwards. So and given the other developments which have happened, there positioning of America and the rise of China, a lot of the artificial silos between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean have also become irrelevant.So you have the Indo Pacific so for me if you actually do the RCEP agreement and that becomes your economic trade framework,and you have the In do Pacific as your strategic approach in a way then obviously that brings you that much closer towards APEC. I mean APEC has its own process challenges but to me the case for APEC would grow with this.

Kevin Rudd:Yeah I mean my argument about APEC is simply not just that it was an Australian idea of years ago but it's actually worked for all the Member States in its own crazy way, not least because all of these disconnected economies in various stages of economic opening at the official class level were forced to work with each other for the first time so suddenly they found colleagues and friends in the relevant ministries with civil aviation or domestic energy or God knows whatever from whether it's Laos, the Philippines, South Korea and wherever and they're all in this thing together,it was quite interesting and in fact it was largely domestically driven which is why I've always seen it has been a great thing for India in itself but also for the wider region to have India as a party to this,I think, useful pan regional institution when we still don't have a pan regional security body, which I think is still a missing element in our architecture. We've been privileged today to have the Foreign Minister of India with us to spend some time. I'd like to it to express your appreciation in the conventional fashion.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:
Thank you.

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