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Sushma Swaraj’s Thailand visit signals major cultural push for India

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New Delhi: Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during a programme organised on the culmination of Indio-Nepal Car Rally at India Gate in New Delhi, on March 8, 2015. (Photo: Sunil Majumdar/IANS)

Bangkok: The signing of a revised treaty to avoid double taxation may have hogged the limelight during the recent visit of the Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to Thailand, but the two-day June-end trip also signaled a significant push to Indian cultural promotion and soft power in Southeast Asia.

Barely a week after the organisation of International Yoga Day, the Indian government moved ahead with a concerted effort to promote ayurveda and Sanskrit in Thailand. Also on the agenda was the exchange of Instruments of Ratification of Extradition Treaty, which had followed an earlier visit of India’s naval fleet to Thailand, indicating a deepening of security ties between the two countries.

While India has historically sought to capitalise on being the fountainhead of Buddhism in this highly devout Buddhist country, this visit expanded it to a broader realm. In May 2013, then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh had gifted a sapling of the original Bodhi Tree from Bodh Gaya to the king of Thailand. The following year, Thailand’s Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn visited Bodh Gaya and Nalanda, both places of eminence in the Buddhist pantheon. Both reflected the shared sentiments of Thailand and India on ties based on Buddhism.

However, a significant part of the visit by Sushma Swaraj this time was dedicated to cultural affairs. Besides signing a memorandum of understanding on Nalanda University, another agreement was signed to establish a chair on ayurveda at Rangsit University in Thailand.

Sushma Swaraj also graced the 16th World Sanskrit Conference, and an official Doordarshan team was in place to cover this event. Speaking in Sanskrit, Sushma Swaraj described Sanskrit as “sacred” which sanctifies all that come into its contact.

The minister also visited a key centre of activities relating to India — the Centre for Bharat Studies at Mahidol University in Bangkok. The centre is known for its academic work on ayurveda, Gandhian satyagraha as well as the Indian diaspora in Southeast Asia.

The minister also met representatives of the Indian community, with separate meetings being held with the “Overseas Friends of BJP” and members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of Thailand.

Just a few days ago, three swamijis from the Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, New Delhi, had met the Indian ambassador in Thailand, and at the World Sanskrit Conference, they presented the ‘Swaminarayan Bhashyam’ which are complete commentaries of Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras.

Out of the five agreements signed between Thailand and India during Sushma Swaraj’s visit, two were on culture, one on extradition and commerce, and one focussed on the Thailand-India Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation.

While this was the seventh in a series of joint commissions, it was preceded by a senior official meeting co-chaired by Anil Wadhwa, secretary (east) in the Ministry of External Affairs of India and Vitavas Srivihok, deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand.

While the media focus was on the address of the minister to business leaders, Sushma Swaraj said India’s ruling NDA government was focussing on the 3Cs – commerce, culture and connectivity. This trip was not just about commerce, but significantly also about culture.

(IANS)

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India-Pakistan Ties: India Grants Medical Visa to another Pakistani National

The action was termed "highly regrettable" by Islamabad, which said that asking for such a letter violated diplomatic norms and such a requirement had not been prescribed for any other country.

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Sushma swaraj addressing a press conference. Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 10, 2017 : India on Friday issued a medical visa to another Pakistani national following a promise made by the Ministry of External Affairs on Independence Day.

“Amna – We have approved medical visa for your father Mr Shamim Ahmed,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted in response to a request from one Amna Shamim through the Twitter handle of Karachi’s Muhammad Talha.

Shamim also posted a reference letter dated October 9 from a doctor in Sri Ganga Ram Hospital who stated that the patient was being considered for a liver transplant.

On Independence Day, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had announced that India would provide medical visas to all bonafide Pakistani patients.

As ties between the two countries soured over various issues, the ministry had announced in May that only a letter of recommendation by then Pakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz would enable a Pakistani national to get a medical visa for India.

The action was termed “highly regrettable” by Islamabad, which said that asking for such a letter violated diplomatic norms and such a requirement had not been prescribed for any other country.

However, a patient from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, seeking treatment in New Delhi for liver tumour, was given a visa on July 18.

Sushma Swaraj then said that he needed no recommendation from the Pakistani government for a medical visa because the territory “is an integral part of India”.

Since August 15, however, Pakistani nationals seeking medical treatment have not been denied visas. (IANS)

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Myanmar Must Take Back Displaced Rohingya Refugees : India

Sushma Swaraj did not use the word Rohingya to refer to the thousands who have taken shelter in Bangladesh and instead referred to them as displaced persons from Rakhine state

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A group of Rohingya refugees walk on the muddy road after traveling over the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. VOA

Dhaka, October 22, 2017 : India on Sunday said Rohingya refugees who have poured into Bangladesh must be taken back by Myanmar from where they have been displaced.

“Normalcy will only be restored with the return of the displaced persons to Rakhine state,” Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at a media meet also attended by her Bangladeshi counterpart Abula Hassan Mahmood Ali.

This followed the fourth India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Committee meeting.

ALSO READ US will Provide $32 Million to Rohingyas As Humanitarian Aid Package

Sushma Swaraj did not use the word Rohingya to refer to the thousands who have taken shelter in Bangladesh and instead referred to them as displaced persons from Rakhine state, bdnews24.com reported.

She said India was “deeply concerned at the spate of violence in Rakhine state of Myanmar”.

According to latest figures from the UN office in Bangladesh, over 600,000 refugees have entered the country since August 25 after the Myanmar Army cracked down on the Rohingyas after a series of attacks on security personnel in Rakhine.

Bangladesh Minister Ali said India was urged to contribute towards exerting sustained pressure on Myanmar to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, including return of Rohingyas to their homeland. (IANS)

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India condemns support systems for terrorists in South Asia, expresses concern over North Korea’s nuclear program

Sushma Swaraj’s statement assumes significance as it comes after the unprecedented BRICS Summit joint statement earlier this month in which Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa unequivocally named Pakistan and the terror groups based there

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Sushma Swaraj talks about support systems of terrorists in South Asia
External affairs minister of India, Sushma Swaraj. Wikimedia
  • India on Thursday condemned support systems for terrorists in South Asia while expressing concern over South Asia’s nuclear program
  • Sushma Swaraj’s statement is significant since it comes after the BRICS Summit where many countries unequivocally named Pakistan and the terrorist groups based there
  • Sushma Swaraj also sought cooperation for early conclusion of negotiations and adoption of the India-initiated Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism

New York, Sep 22, 2017:  In an obvious reference to Pakistan, India on Thursday condemned support systems for terrorists in South Asia while expressing concern over North Korea’s nuclear and weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

“The horror of terrorism continues to haunt global peace and security. Terror groups draw sustenance from support systems in South Asia,” Sushma Swaraj said while speaking at the BRICS Ministerial Meeting on the margins of the UN General Assembly Session here.

“They continue to find support and shelter in countries which use terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

“We must condemn efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, sustain and sponsor terrorism against other countries,” she added.

Sushma Swaraj’s statement assumes significance as it comes after the unprecedented BRICS Summit joint statement earlier this month in which Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa unequivocally named Pakistan and the terror groups based there.

“There is need for collective efforts to disrupt terrorist networks, their financing and movement,” she said, calling for terrorist funding, their weapons supply, training and political support to “be systematically cut off”.

Sushma Swaraj also sought cooperation for early conclusion of negotiations and adoption of the India-initiated Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism (CCIT) in the UN Security Council.

On North Korea’s recent offensive military posturing, she said: “The action and rhetoric of North Korea has been a source of growing global concern.”

Also read: Baloch Activist Bugti hails Sushma Swaraj for her speech against Pakistan Atrocities at UN General Assembly

She also touched on climate change and referred to Indian Prime Minister Narendra’s Modi’s suggestion of an alliance between the India-initiated International Solar Alliance and the New Development Bank, a multilateral development bank established by the BRICS nations.

“I hope we can work together to give this ambitious agenda practical shape in coming months,” she said.

The International Solar Alliance, launched at the UN Conference of Parties (CoP) climate summit in Paris on November 30, 2015, by Prime Minister Modi and then French President Francois Hollande, is conceived as a coalition of solar resource-rich countries to address their special energy needs and provide a platform to collaborate on dealing with the identified gaps through a common, agreed approach.

It is open to all 121 prospective member countries falling between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. (IANS)