India’s confidence in overcoming the hesitations of history has opened up new space and the country has demonstrated a growing capacity to contribute to the global discourse in the last few years, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on March 2.
Addressing a conference, Jaishankar said the “Indian persona” is much more in evidence in a variety of ways at the global stage, citing how India’s single-minded campaign against terrorism brought the issue into sharp focus globally and how the country “shaped” the connectivity debate.
“At the political level, our confidence in overcoming the hesitations of history has opened up new space. Strategic clarity has helped to take advantage of that more effectively. Overall, the Indian persona is much more in evidence in a variety of ways,” he said.
Jaishankar, however, did not elaborate on his “hesitations of history” remark.
In the last several months, Jaishankar criticised past handling of Pakistan and even said the 1972 Simla agreement resulted in a “revanchist” Pakistan and continuing problems in Jammu and Kashmir.
He had also termed the 1962 war with China “dark moments” and criticised lack of response to 26/11 terror attack.
In his address, he talked about India’s initiatives like the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, adding the country’s footprint has visibly grown in Africa.
“Indeed, this combination of significant engagement and deeper collaboration that extends from the Caribbean to the Pacific Islands prepares us for a global mindset in the coming years. The world may be on the threshold of a new decade; but India is poised to enter the next phase of its own evolution,” he added.
Talking about changing dynamics of geo-politics, he said a mix of ideologies, identities and history with business, politics and strategy can create a very “potent cocktail” and the need of the hour is to have sober conversations.
He said that after a generation of extolling the virtues of globalisation, the world is facing polarised debates on so many issues.
“Not only has the landscape become more difficult but the very articulation of interests has come under challenge. Competition is not just among states but often within them, reflecting the tension between the older order and the emerging one,” he said.
“When ideologies, identities and history mix with business, politics and strategy, it can create a very potent cocktail. But the need of the hour remains more sober conversations,” Jaishankar said.
On challenges in the economic front, the external affairs minister said non-trade domains like connectivity projects, technology choices, data protection and security have strategic connotations.
“In fact, for that very reason we have started a Technology Division in MEA,” he said, observing that economic rebalancing has now started to translate into its political manifestation.
Jaishankar said a rebalancing of the world is taking place accompanied by growing nationalism across vast geographies.
“There is no question that the overall mood is more competitive; some would say more selfish. The very nature of politics has changed in different societies and the disapproval of those who lost out does not make it less legitimate,” he said.
The diplomat-turned-politician said also the global order is somehow in the state of a flux as it struggles to absorb a nationalistic America, a rising China, a divided Europe, a re-emerging Russia, a normalising Japan, an insecure ASEAN, and an even more disturbed Middle-East.
“Other continents and regions are not without their own challenges, including ours. Economic rebalancing has now started to translate into its political manifestation. And that means a fundamental overhaul of the global architecture,” Jaishankar said.
For a nation like India that till now has had to manoeuvre against binary or unilateral dominance of other powers, this calls for a much more complex and nuanced strategy, he said.
“At the same time, our own capabilities and stakes in the world outside have grown significantly. Others have started treating us as a player – and sometimes as a competitor – in a manner for which there is little recent precedent,” he said.
Jaishankar said the alliance cultures have also eroded visibly due to the changed demeanour of the United States, adding global consideration and decision-making is much less coagulated than before.