NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said it is hard to decide who to speak to about peace in Islamabad. “The first thing is that with whom in Pakistan will you decide the ‘lakshman rekha’ (redlines) – with the elected government or with other actors?” Modi said in his first interview to a private Indian media since becoming prime minister in 2014.
“That is why India will have to be on alert all the time. India will have to be alert every moment. There can never be any laxity in this,” he told Times Now editor in chief Arnab Goswami on Monday.
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Defining new parameters for resuming talks, Modi said that was the spirit in which he had extended an invitation to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to visit New Delhi for his inauguration in 2014 and it was the same spirit in which he paid a surprise visit to Lahore in December 2015.
Talking about peace negotiations and engagement, the Indian leader said his country always wanted friendly ties with its neighbours and that there was no debate on that. “We want to live in harmony and peace.”
He went on to say that those entrusted with negotiating must go about their business and those tasked with defending the borders must fulfil the responsibility entrusted to them.
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“If we had become an obstacle, then we would have had to explain to the world that we are not that obstacle. Now we don’t have to explain to the world. The world knows our intentions,” he said explaining that the world was also accepting India’s argument on terrorism.
“Today, the world has to accept what India has been saying about terrorism. India’s dialogue on terrorism, the losses India has suffered due to terrorism, the losses suffered by humanity, the world is now acknowledging that,” he said asserting that this was the process India aimed to take forward.
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Talking about the failed NSG bid, Modi blamed the hype before the meeting that made the setback seem larger. “My trip to the United States, my speech in their Congress and the respect shown towards India created a lot of hype. Had it not been hyped so much, there would not have been so much criticism on the NSG issue.”
Modi went on to say that New Delhi has begun a coordinated effort for the NSG membership including engaging with China on the subject. “The first thing is that we have an ongoing dialogue with China and it should continue to happen,” he said noting that it was not necessary to have similar views to have a conversation.
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“I can say that China has been cooperating with India to search for solutions. On some issues, it’s a question of principles for them. On some issues, it’s a question of principles for us. On some issues they differ with us and there are issues on which we differ with them. There are some basic differences. But the most important thing is that we can speak to China eye-to-eye and put forth India’s interests in the most unambiguous manner.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2016.