New Delhi, Oct 28: Hours after being sworn in, Salman Khurshid Sunday took charge as India’s external affairs minister, and underlined that he will do his best to fulfil the vision of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in improving India’s relations with its neighbours and other countries.
The 59-year-old Khurshid has a packed schedule ahead and took charge literally in the thick of things with a slew of important meetings lined up for him in days ahead.
He is expected to call on visiting former Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda Zia Monday and inaugurate the conference of the 19-nation Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) later in the week.
He will also be holding a series of bilateral meetings with foreign ministers of 10 countries, including Iran, on the sidelines of the IOR-ARC meet.
“The prime minister and the Congress president have placed a very important responsibility on my shoulders. It will be my endeavour to ensure that I live up to their very, very high standards,” Khurshid told reporters here after taking charge in his South Block office.
“The world has changed a lot since I was last in MEA. Dramatic changes have taken place and foreign affairs has shifted greatly towards economic and security issues,” Khurshid replied to queries about his key priorities as foreign minister.
“Cross-border terrorism has changed in truly intricate ways and world has become a village. Our international profile has changed, engagement with world has changed many dimensions,” he said.
Khurshid is no stranger to international affairs. He served as minister of state for external affairs between 1993-1996 in the P.V. Narasimha Rao government.
“I would simply say this that it is indeed both an honour and a great responsibility to become part of one of India’s greatest traditions in modern times, and that is the Indian foreign policy,” he said.
“The Indian foreign policy, which is being admirably supported and implemented by generations of outstanding Foreign Service officers and experts and my predecessors, made contributions which are invaluable to India’s profile in the world and India’s engagement in the world for the betterment of its people, betterment of the entire country,” he added.
Alluding to new challenges thrown up by a fast-changing world, Khurshid said: “Some very difficult questions are thrown at us from time to time and we have to be prepared in very very difficult atmosphere in the world because of stress on the economy, because of the very contested claims on issues like climate change and issues like restructuring of institutions.”
He also spoke about issues like international security and terrorism, and “all the issues that have continued to plague the world”.
“We have, I think, managed to tackle all of them with great distinction providing leadership to the world, and that is the tradition that I would like to carry forward.”
Referring to his views on relations with China, he said the new economic growth has brought India and China much close.
Asked about India’s ties with Pakistan, he said India has been raising issues of concerns with Pakistan but it was too early for him to give any ideas on potentials or pitfalls.
As Khurshid took charge, he was briefed by Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai on key meetings in the weeks ahead.
“We have flagged the items on which formal briefings will begin tomorrow. It is a learning curve which will have to be steep because we have really hit the ground running.”
“We have important visitors this week. I will need to get up scratch on everything that I need to know before I get into dialogue and conversations with them,” he said.