Speaking about the consequences of global shifts, including the United States and the assertiveness of China, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar stated that Non-alignment is an old concept today, but India will never be a part of an alliance system. He added that they were opening spaces for middle powers like India, Japan, the European Union and others.
“The consequence of repositioning of the United States, that the big umbrella is now smaller than it used to be, has allowed many other countries to play more autonomous roles. It doesn’t affect us as much because we were never part of an alliance system and we will never be. But countries who depended more on the U.S. are finding they have to take a call themselves on many issues,” he noted.
India must now take more “risks”, as the world expected it to take a more proactive stance on the “big issues” of the day, including connectivity, maritime security, terrorism, climate change and terrorism, he stated.
While he didn’t comment on the ongoing tensions over the Line of Actual control (LAC), the Minister said that India had moved slowly in comparison to China on the economic front, and that China’s economy was now five times that of India’s despite them being the same size in 1988.
‘We could have done better’
“In comparison with China and with South East Asia, we could have done better. We didn’t intensively industrialise and push manufacturing, we opened up much later, a full decade and a half after China, and then didn’t commit to full reforms the way China did,” Mr. Jaishankar said, speaking with Singapore-based academic C. Rajamohan and businessman Sunil Munjal.
However, he defended India’s decision to stay out of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), as he pointed out that India had not benefited from them in the past, and trade deficits had increased.
Issues with neighbours
When asked about India’s issues with neighbouring countries, where it is seen as a dominating force, he said that it was natural for smaller countries to feel insecure about their “independence and identity”.
“If you are a big country with smaller neighbours around you there is a natural dynamic. We need to create structural linkages that help our neighbours take care of their political cycles,” he said.
In a veiled reference to Nepal, he added that “sharp positioning” by the leadership may be “magnified by the media”.