Indian foreign minister Jaishankar defends controversial citizenship law
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Monday defended his country’s controversial new citizenship law and crackdown in Kashmir.
FM Jaishankar came to Brussels to promote what he hopes will be closer strategic ties to the European Union.
Delhi’s top diplomat was the guest of honour as EU foreign ministers met in Brussels with an eye to renewing relations and boosting trade with the south Asian giant.
EU president Ursula von der Leyen’s new Commission wants to give Brussels a more “geopolitical role” and as part of that hopes to host a March summit with powerful Indian leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“India and the European Union share a lot of things,” said Europe´s high representative for foreign policy Josep Borrell, citing climate change, the digital revolution and rise of China as shared challenges.
Jaishankar, standing by Borrell, noted that the new government in India and the new commission in Brussels are “both quite fresh” and that they hoped to take relations to a “new level”.
He said he hoped the lunch talks would confirm the “strategic partnership.”
Taken together, the EU member states are Delhi’s biggest trade partner, with India’s imports and exports to and from the bloc each representing about 45 billion euros a year ($49 billion).
But — while Europe has inked trade deals with big Asian players Japan, Vietnam and Singapore.
“You don’t necessarily need trade deals to do trade,” Jaishankar told.
He stressed that India’s economy is driven by domestic demand.
“Trade deals are useful, I mean I’m not at all denying that, but I think they are not necessarily as compelling as sometimes all of us tend to tend to think.”
European business wants to win more access to markets in a country with 1.4 billion people.
Jaishankar was clear that Delhi would like closer cooperation with Europe on security and strategic policy.
But some in Europe are worried about what they see as India’s populist shift under Modi’s right-wing government.
Lawmakers in the European Parliament have drafted a resolution condemning India’s Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 as “discriminatory in nature and dangerously divisive.”
But the non-binding resolution has yet to be passed and Jaishankar insisted the law had been misunderstood.
The CAA laws eases citizenship rules for religious minorities such as Hindus and Christians from Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Jaishankar compared the CAA rules to immigration and refugee resettlement policies across Europe.
He pointed out that many EU countries also use national or cultural criteria.
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