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In this Idea Exchange moderated by Senior Assistant Editor D K Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur speaks about the proposed Blue Star memorial, the drug menace in Punjab and Indo-Pak relations
D K Singh: What do you think of UK's decision to engage with Narendra Modi?
Preneet Kaur: I think the decision is a business decision and it is the prerogative of every country and its embassies to interact with people. These days, diplomacy has become economy-centric and one looks for the best places to increase their economic activity. We have ambassadors coming to Punjab and to other states. Gujarat has a good port and it has a lot of business activity. A lot of out foreign trade is through diamonds, diamond cutting, textiles—Gujarat is a hub for those.
D K Singh: Is this the beginning of the end of Modi's international isolation?
Preneet Kaur: I don't think he was ever isolated from the UK. He has travelled to UK privately and as CM, if I recall correctly. The denial of visa is from the US.
N P Singh: How do you react to the Ministry of Commerce wanting to set up a foreign service of its own and post commercial officers in embassies who will not report to the ambassador but directly to the ministry?
Preneet Kaur: I'm afraid I have not heard about this but anybody who is posted in an embassy has to deal through the embassy. If there is already a foreign ministry and a foreign service, then I don't think there can be a parallel one. In some places, we have commercial attaches or defence attaches but that doesn't mean that the defence ministry has put up a parallel ministry.
Maneesh Chhibber: There have been ups and downs in our relationship with Pakistan. What is the latest now? Is the Prime Minister going there any time soon?