By Arul Louis
United Nations: India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met with Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan and five Foreign Ministers in interactions that mostly focused on bilateral issues, according to a ministry spokesperson.
Raveesh Kumar described the meeting with Hasina on Monday as a courtesy call with no substantive discussions.
During the meeting with Tobgay, they discussed development projects that India was sponsoring in the Himalayan kingdom.
In reply to a question, Kumar said that the recent Doklam crisis in which Indian and Chinese troops faced off in Bhutan’s territory did not figure in the talks or matters relating to defence.
Sushma Swaraj began the day with a trilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono, where she raised the issue of countries with “linkages” to North Korea’s nuclear programme, a clear reference to Pakistan which had been involved in a nuclear-for-missile technology swap, but she did not name it.
Asked if it was a reference to Pakistan, Kumar noted that no names were mentioned and said her statement was emphatic and clear that “proliferation linkages must be explored and those involved be held accountable” and it was for reporters to interpret it.
During what Kumar described as “very hectic and active day,” Sushma Swaraj attended US President Donald Trump’s summit on reforming the UN.
Trump backed plans by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to reform the global organisation, but confined his comments to mostly the secretariat and bureaucracy, peacekeeping and the budget.
While India has consistently maintained that the UN needed to be reformed, it wanted a comprehensive reform that also dealt with bodies like the Security Council, Kumar said.
The meetings with Foreign Ministers Khemaies Jhinaoui of Tunisia, Anders Samuelsen of Denmark, Edgars Rinkevics of Latvia, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the UAE and Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa of Bahrain all had an economic dimension.
Sushma Swaraj and Jhinaoui discussed their bilateral meeting scheduled for October and cooperation in pharmaceutical and information technology (IT) fields, Kumar said. There was a huge potential for India to export vaccines because of their comparative low costs, he added.
Participation in World Food India, an international event on partnerships in India’s food economy, to be held in November was discussed in the meeting with Samuelsen, he said.
Denmark is hosting the World Food Summit this year and it also figured in their talks.
They also talked about the Make in India initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opportunities for investments in India, he said.
Rinkevics and Sushma Swaraj discussed the forthcoming visit of Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis to India, Kumar said. They also spoke about cooperation in health and IT fields.
The UAE is a strategic partner of India as well as a significant trading partner with annual bilateral trade worth $62.8 billion.
Sushma Swaraj and the Foreign Minister discussed investments by the UAE in India, especially in civil aviation and in the energy sector, he said.
The UAE investments in India were below the potential and there was scope for increasing them substantially, he said.
With the Bahrain Foreign Minister, regional issues were discussed in addition to bilateral issues, according to Kumar.