Sushma Swaraj: A Foreign Minister with an impressive home connect

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on August 08, 2019 Published on August 08, 2019

Sushma Swaraj with Geeta, a hearing and speech impaired Indian woman who had accidentally crossed over to Pakistan, in New Delhi (file photo)   -  PTI

Swaraj’s commitment towards her job went much beyond her Twitter outreach

Sushma Swaraj was indisputably the most accessible Foreign Affairs Minister the country ever had, who took full advantage of social media to reach out to people in distress. But her seriousness and commitment towards her job went much beyond her Twitter outreach.

Swaraj, as head of the External Affairs Ministry, was extremely confident of the important space occupied by India on the global platform and did not take kindly to bullying. Last year, when the US re-imposed trade sanctions against Iran and warned other countries that they should stop their trade with the country, her initial reaction was one to make all Indians proud.

“India follows only UN sanctions, and not unilateral sanctions by any country,” she said at a press conference, and added that the country will continue to trade with its long-time ally Iran. Although there was dilution in India’s firm position on Iran subsequently, it was likely that this was due to instructions from more powerful quarters within the government.

Her sense of fair play was evident from the way she handled the alleged humiliation faced by an inter-faith couple who complained that a passport office official in Lucknow had asked the woman to change her last name and the man to convert to Hinduism. Swaraj transferred the official and ensured that the couple’s documents were cleared. Later, when she was trolled mercilessly on Twitter for her action in support of the couple, she faced the assault with dignity and carried out a poll against such trolling, where more than half the respondents supported her.

‘A tall leader’

Swaraj’s warm demeanour and positive body language was much appreciated by most of the foreign leaders she would meet. Not surprisingly, as news of her passing away became official, condolence messages poured in from all parts of the world with foreign dignitaries describing her as “a good friend”, “a people’s person” and a “tall leader”.

Due to her ill health, Swaraj did not contest the recent Lok Sabha elections and thus could not step in for another stint as the Minister for External Affairs in the new Modi-led government. However, she managed several feathers in her cap as a Minister in the previous regime. Knowing exactly where the shoe pinched the common person, she launched a new scheme under which a person can apply for a passport from anywhere in India irrespective of their place of stay. She also launched a mobile application that would have the facilities for applying, paying and scheduling appointments for acquiring a passport.

Swaraj was the first Indian to address the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit as the guest of honour earlier this year, which was hailed as a major diplomatic victory for India as Pakistan had boycotted the meeting. Swaraj also won praise for successful handling of the crisis in Maldives, India’s stand-off with China over Doklam, and Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case in the International Court of Justice.

While her achievements in the political sphere will become part of the country’s political history, Swaraj will be most remembered by the innumerable people who she helped at their time of deepest despair.

Published on August 08, 2019
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