External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday hit out at Rahul Gandhi for his comments relating to China during his recent visit to the UK, saying he is troubled to see the Congress leader “drooling over” China while being dismissive about India.
Mr Jaishankar’s comments in an interactive session at the India Today conclave came days after Gandhi targeted the external affairs minister and the government on their approach to dealing with challenges from China.
Referring to comments made at the conclave by US-based author Michael Pillsbury, the minister said “When Panda huggers tried to be China hawks, it does not fly.” In his remarks, Pillsbury referred to some “Panda huggers” in the US.
“I also, like many others, followed some of what Rahul Gandhi said when he was in the UK. Obviously a lot of it is politics. I am putting that aside. There is a discount when it comes to politics,” he said replying to a question.
“I am troubled as a citizen of India when I see somebody drooling over China and being dismissive about India. And I would give you examples. He puts his description suo motu of China in that Cambridge talk,” Mr Jaishankar said.
“You know what’s the word that comes to his mind when he talks of China, ‘harmony’. His one-word description of China is harmony; his one word description of India is discord,” Jaishankar added.
The external affairs minister, replying to a question, also cited Gandhi’s comments relating to China’s manufacturing capabilities.
“He talks admiringly of how China is the greatest manufacturer, nobody can… And yes China has done a tremendous job and nobody. But when it comes to manufacturing in India, he runs it down in every possible way,” Mr Jaishankar said.
“He says ‘Make in India’ won’t work. I mean when you made Covaxin, the Congress party was saying Covaxin does not work. You can have objective assessments of the progress of other countries. There is nothing wrong with that. But in this current situation, to talk of a competitive relationship…,” the minister said.
Mr Jaishankar also accused Mr Gandhi of undermining India’s national morale.
“You are telling me I am scared, I am asking you why is somebody undermining national morale like this. It is not just the economy, let’s even look at security. He talks about connectivity, he speaks admiringly in the same talk about the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said.
“He compares Belt and Road with Yellow river in China gushing forth… . Guys the Belt and Road goes through PoK (Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir). It violates our national integrity and sovereignty. He does not have a word to say about that,” Jaishankar added.
Gandhi’s recent comments at the Cambridge University that Indian democracy is under attack and several politicians, including himself, are under surveillance, invited sharp reactions from the BJP which accused him of maligning the country’s image on foreign soil after facing successive electoral setbacks.
“Everybody knows and it’s in the news a lot that Indian democracy is under pressure and under attack…The institutional framework which is required for a democracy: Parliament, a free press, the judiciary and just the idea of mobilisation, these are all getting constrained. We are facing an attack on the basic structure of Indian democracy,” Mr Gandhi had said.
While speaking on the “two divergent perspectives” of the US and China since World War II, the Congress leader said that in addition to shedding manufacturing jobs, the US had become less open after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Meanwhile China, he said, “idolises harmony” through organisation around the Chinese Communist Party.
During his interaction with the Indian community organised by the Indian Overseas Congress (IOC) UK chapter, Mr Gandhi took a swipe at Mr Jaishankar for his remarks on China during an interview.
“If you notice the statement of the Foreign Minister, he said China is much more powerful than us. To think China is more powerful than us, how can I pick a fight with them? At the heart of the ideology is cowardice,” Gandhi had said.
At an India Insights event organised by the Indian Journalists’ Association (IJA), Gandhi expressed regret that democratic parts of the world, including the US and Europe, have failed to notice that a “large chunk of democracy has come undone”.