The External Affairs Minister of India, Dr. S. Jaishankar was on a three-day visit to Finland. This is his first visit to the Nordic country after assuming office; although high-level visits have been a common feature of the traditionally vibrant relations since the 1950’s. More than focussing on the bilateral relations, which are already warm and cordial, the visit assumes significance from the fact that Finland is the current chair of the European Union and that India seeks to garner international support to condemn terrorism which has seen an increasing presence in its neighbourhood.
Dr. Jaishankar held detailed discussions on cross-border terrorism with the top Finnish leadership. The discussions were held amid Pakistan’s endeavour to manufacture fabricated stories on Kashmir after India revoked Article 370 related to Jammu and Kashmir. He also held talks with Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne and his counterpart Pekka Haavisto in Helsinki on a broad spectrum of bilateral relations. The bilateral relationship was also reviewed with special focus on green technologies. They also exchanged views on regional issues.
In his speech at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) on ‘India and the World’, Dr. Jaishankar highlighted the achievements of the current government, stating that India’s foreign policy today has strong developmental focus and this aspect together with identifying, exploring and capturing opportunities could be closely explored by Finland for growth of the relationship. As the world moves towards a more knowledge-based economy, he noted that strengthening complementary capabilities would go a long way in securing mutual interests.
He emphasised that India’s recent decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was ‘driven by the needs of governance and development’ and had a ‘national security connotation’. While talking about national security problems, he mentioned that cross-border terrorism is one challenge which has cost more than 40,000 Indian lives in the last three decades.
On global terrorism, he said that India has long been suffering from terrorist attacks and so has other parts of the world. The need for a strong international voice condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is therefore extremely vital. In his speech, he also noted that India is concerned about future of Afghanistan, as also with Pakistan’s choices and ensuring stability in the Gulf region. Towards addressing these concerns, the External Affairs Minister cited that India had been contributing fairly to safeguard peaceful interests in the region. On India’s relations with the major powers, Dr. Jaishankar said that India’s approach is to maintain good relations with all the major powers. India, today stands for a multi-polar nature of the world and for ‘diversified conversations’. He stressed on India’s responsibilities and sensitivity towards its commitments abroad. As a key player in regional and international politics, India supports inclusiveness and diversity and has a people-centric development approach.
Dr. Jaishankar held productive talks with Finnish First Deputy Speaker Tuula Haatainen and the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament. He also met Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. The Minister also unveiled a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, a gift by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) to Finland to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
While maintaining that the Kashmir issue is an internal one, India has been able to garner international support on the issue. However, it has also been in talks with its counterparts from around the world like US, UK and Russia, fetching favourable responses from them. An analysis of the speech of Dr. Jaishankar at the FIIA shows him clarifying the Indian government’s stand on Kashmir and the need to collectively condemn Pakistan for harbouring terrorism. Given the fact that the EU has been closely monitoring the Kashmir situation, the visit comes close on the lines of being one which seeks to give a boost to exploring potential bilateral strengths as well as to reassure the EU as well as the current chair of the EU, Finland on India’s national security connotations.
Script: Dr.Sanghamitra Sarma , Strategic Analyst on European Affairs