Yokohama: Frosty Indo-Pak relations after the beheading of Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops were on full display here when finance minister Arun Jaitley was on dais with his Pakistani counterpart, often sharing cold vibes and aggressively countering Islamabad backing of China’s Belt and Road initiative.
This was the first instance of leaders of the two nations sharing dais in the midst of what is being dubbed as the worst crisis brewing in South Asia since the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008. Jaitley and Pakistan’s finance minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar were among the four speakers on a debate business a news channel organised on Asia’s Economic Outlook: Talking Trade on sides of Asian Development Bank’s 50th annual meet.
The Indian minister sat in a position that his head was turned away from the Pakistani leader all through the one-hour debate and left immediately after a customary photo-op with panel members. There were no warm hand shakes.
Jaitley smiled just once — On a question on US taxi aggregator Uber facing hard times, he smiled and said, “I think they are having a great time in India.”
While no question was put to the two ministers either on the recent tensions or the trade between the two nations, Jaitley did not reply when journalists tried to speak to him. When Dar backed One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative to connect China with the rest of Eurasia, Jaitley said India has “serious reservations” on the proposal because of sovereignty issues.
“I think connectivity in principle is a good idea but the particular proposal which has just been suggested by you, I think there are several other collateral issues and this is not really the forum for me to go into all this,” he said.
Stating that the idea is always there for the future as the expansion of connectivity takes place between countries, he said he has “no hesitation in saying that we have serious reservations about it (OBOR) because of sovereignty issues. I don’t want to get into it at this stage but there are issues”. Dar, on the other hand, stated that Pakistan “strongly” supports the initiative.