New Delhi : As part of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ – celebrating India’s 75 years of glorious Independence, DD News concluded a Conclave series of seven episodes, bringing together eminent dignitaries, policymakers and domain experts. The Conclave has discussed a range of topics from Yuva Shakti to Social Empowerment to Ease of Living, touching upon facets of New India.
The final Conclave in this series discussed ‘India First’ Foreign Policy – the making of a Vishwaguru with an exclusive one-to-one interaction with Union Minister for External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar. The session was moderated by Dr. Harsh Vardhan Pant, Distinguished Fellow, ORF who was later joined by a panel of experts including Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, Former Chief of Integrated Defence Staff, Dr. Arvind Gupta, Former Deputy NSA and Prof. Swaran Singh from School of International Studies, JNU. A keen studio audience comprising of teachers and students of International Relations interacted with the dignitaries during the session.
The Union External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar said that there has been a transformation of 3Cs in India’s Foreign Policy – Capabilities, Credibility and Context. India’s rise in capabilities has been demonstrated amply during the response to COVID-19. India’s rising economy, now third largest in PPP terms, its influence in shaping the global agenda and its role as a ‘First Responder’ to global humanitarian crises have all transformed how the world views India’s capabilities.
He clarified that Atmanirbhar Bharat is not protectionism, rather it is a call for building India’s capabilities and strengths so that it can work with and contribute to the world. This aligns with the vision of Hon’ble Prime Minister to ‘Make in India, but Make for the World’. A prime example of this is vaccines where India is producing not just its indigenous vaccine, but also those as part of international collaboration, for domestic and international markets. Only with such long-term thinking can India develop and leverage its deep strengths, he said.
Regarding the ‘Pivot to Indo-Pacific’, the External Affairs Minister said that the old distinction between Indian and Pacific Ocean has vanished, as our interests extend far beyond the Indian Ocean, a footprint that has a civilisational legacy. Some of our key partners in trade, connectivity and security are all in the region and we also share a convergence of interests with countries like US, Japan, Australia on the Indo-Pacific, he said. India is also focusing on rebuilding its historical connect with the extended neighbourhood – whether ASEAN in the east, Persian Gulf and Africa in the West.
Union Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar said that the basis for ties between India and China was peace and tranquillity. While maintaining peace, India and China can look forward to resolve border negotiations, and cooperate on shared interests across the world. As old civilisations both on the way to global prominence today, it is important that there is mutual respect, recognising each other’s space and differing interests. We need a multi-polar Asia, he said.
He affirmed that the policy of ‘Neighbourhood First’ has delivered for India. It has transformed the ethos of India’s relationship with Bangladesh, resolving maritime and land boundary issues, rebuilding connectivity and energy links as well. The same is true for Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Maldives where there has been increased flow of trade and investment, people, energy and connectivity, he said
The panel of experts agreed that India’s image has changed wherein today India is being counted as one of the major world powers and is at a juncture where it can confidently look ahead.
Vice-Admiral Shekhar Sinha said that thanks to decisive actions and high aspirations, India’s confidence is very high and its stature as a powerful country with respect to military capabilities is rising. It has become a net security provider in the Indian Ocean region and a major maritime power. It is also investing in high-technology military equipment and boosting its border preparedness.
Dr. Arvind Gupta said that there has been a massive interest in foreign policy unlike before, and a paradigm shift to public diplomacy. The impact of foreign policy on domestic policy is also clearer – whether in terms of trade, national security or terrorism. Regarding Afghanistan, he said that India’s investments have been for the long-term and both Afghans and the world recognise this.
Prof. Swaran Singh said that the world is shifting focus from continents to oceans and India is preparing for this by scaling up its maritime power. This has been ably demonstrated in search and rescue operations, evacuations, anti-piracy operations by Indian Navy. Amidst the changing global dynamic, India has successfully maintained its strategic autonomy and left its unique imprint in shaping the agenda.