The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which states that it is the “collective voice of the Muslim world”, criticised India this month for the alleged communalisation of the novel coronavirus pandemic. However, speaking to News18.com on a range of issues, Rajya Sabha member Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, who’s also president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and national vice-president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said that social media posts are too irrelevant to shape or spoil India’s relationship with other nations, including the 57 represented by the OIC, as these are age- old bonds. Regarding the country’s new investment policy, which is expected to keep China in check, Sahasrabuddhe said that India is not against globalisation and wants FDI but on her own terms.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Q. Where do you see China in the post-corona world, especially when we have greater unification of countries against it, including the changing of India’s economic policy towards China? Are we seeing the beginning of a new era in the India-China relationship?
It is too early to comment on this. One need not elaborately comment about the way the global community has started perceiving China. Everybody knows that. But, as I said, China too is watching these reactions and has not apparently reacted very aggressively. So let’s see. As far as India’s investment policy is concerned, I think every sovereign nation is free to work through its own policies, rules and regulations drawn in its own interest. The message is very clear, and this move need not be overstretched to be misinterpreted. While we are not against globalisation and we also want FDI, everything will have to be on our own terms to the extent possible, and in our national interest. How can any country compromise with its own interests? Let’s not be presupposing certain things as far as the India-China relationship is concerned. It’s just one single important policy decision. Neither should anyone be undermining its importance nor should it be seen as something unprecedented. Let’s have a balanced approach and I believe, the government of India always takes a holistic view and its responses are also very measured and carefully calibrated.
Q. Many believe that India will benefit from an anti-China movement in the developed world. All G7 countries have used harsh language against China. Is it fair to assume that India is an obvious and favoured alternative to China?
Well, it’s a competitive world. Any democratic country always provides you more elbow room to do business without any fear of injustice. Why only G7. There are many other countries as well who will see India as better investment destination. I am confident it will happen. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath ji has already instructed his officials to explore the possibility of attracting companies deserting China.
Q. How do you compare the Narendra Modi government’s policies towards China with Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s?
In most issues, the fundamentals of India’s foreign policy have been on the lines of ‘continuity with change’. I think PM Modi has been trying to build upon what was achieved during PM Vajpayee’s rule. Comparisons are neither relevant nor necessary. Our keen desire to have good neighbourly relations with all neighbouring countries, our non-compromising approach towards our national interests and our resilient as well as a balanced approach have been there in the past as well as in the present.
Q. Ever since the Covid-19 crisis broke out, PM Modi has been speaking to world leaders on a regular basis. How do you think it has boosted the PM’s global image and will India benefit from it? Also, how do you assess the way the Indian government has handled the Covid-19 crisis at home? There are questions over lack of testing and few PPE kits for medical staff.
Many are astonished by all that India has been able to do, both domestically as well as globally. PM Modi has emerged as one of the most trusted national leaders as compared to many others as several surveys have pointed out. In a way, this is remarkable from the point of view of India’s soft power. We have earned huge goodwill as several initiatives of the government have been a testimony to our fundamental approach, that of ‘vasudhaiva kutumbakam’, or the world is one family. As far as shortage is concerned, we must consider the fact that after almost one century, for the first time, we as a nation are facing a challenge as serious as this. I think India has shown remarkable alacrity, decisiveness and courage in facing this situation.
Q. The Prime Minister assigned many tasks to the public in the lockdown, like clapping and beating thaali to thank corona warriors and lighting diyas as a mark of solid arity. Some observers saw a touch of soft Hindutva in these tasks.
Well, these so called observers are jaundiced. They always and needlessly read between the lines —and the unfortunate part being — without reading the actual lines. The tasks given by the PM were aimed at giving a sense of participation, cohesion and collectivism to all citizens and that purpose is served, no doubt.
Q. In India, Covid-19 was given a communal colour after the Nizamuddin Markaz incident. How do you see this particular incident? Also, the OIC took note of the apparent communalisation of the coronavirus crisis in India and criticised it. Do you think this will hurt India’s image in Islamic countries?
Well, I think one need not harp upon those (Tablighi Jamaat) unfortunate incidents now. It’s a thing of the past. And, we are a democratic country where one can’t control social media as well. Besides, our relations with most countries in the world, including those that are members of the OIC, are age-old. They are on a firm footing of mutuality of trust and cooperation. More importantly, our relations are too strong to be spoilt by some social media posts.
Q. There is no scientific proof that immunity-boosting traditional medicines can protect against the coronavirus. But, in one of seven pledges the PM wants every Indian to follow the AYUSH ministry’s guidelines on strengthening immunity via ayurveda and other traditional medicines. This has been observed as pushing an ideological agenda in the fight against the coronavirus. What do you have to say on that?
Why should every message by the PM be looked at with a crass political approach? And remember, AYUSH people also undertake huge amounts of research. Let’s come out of the thinking that what Lancet or any such global journal endorses alone is research based. The world pays attention to what our traditional sciences tell, much later. We knew about the medicinal value of turmeric for times immemorial, but when it came to registering patents, those ridiculing ayurveda rushed earlier.
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