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‘It is better to engage with the world as who we are rather than how we are perceived’: Foreign minister S Jaishankar at Raisina Dialogue

"This idea that others define us, that we need to get approvals of other quarters, I think that's an era we need to put behind", minister S Jaishankar said

India’s Minister for External Affairs, Dr S Jaishankar has emphasised that India needs to engage with the world with its own identity, rather than pondering over how it is perceived in the geopolitical arena. Jaishankar was speaking at the annual Raisina Dialogue, a summit hosted by the Observer Research Foundation and the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi.

That panel discussed a wide range of topics concerning India’s actions that will shape the 21st-century world. From responding to climate change and humanitarian crises, from global peace and security to technology and digital frontiers, India is set to play a strategic role in shaping the geopolitical puzzle.

“In terms of how we are perceived, it is better to engage the world on the basis of who we are, rather than try and please the world as a limitation of what they are,” Minister Jaishankar said when asked about India’s role in the current geopolitical scenario. He further added, “This idea that others define us, that we need to get approvals of other quarters, I think that’s an era we need to put behind”.

Jaishankar asserted that when it comes to the Ukrainian crisis, India has not taken any side, but its own side. “The idea to get approval for our own decisions, we should get back to that era,” Jaishankar said.

“When we are looking at India at 75, it is not about looking back at what we have done or not done in the past seventy-five years, but it is about what needs to be done in the next 25.” Jaishankar responded to Moderator and ORF President Samir Saran’s question on how India sees itself while celebrating 75 years of its Independence. “What we needed to do after our independence was a focus on our social indicators, realising the need to promote manufacturing, and exercising hard security when it comes to foreign policy. What needs to be done in future is a focus on Capability while being fixated on outcomes, being practical, and leveraging the geopolitical environment,” said Jaishankar while assessing India’s goals for the future.

When the panel was quizzing over growing bipolarity when it comes to America and China in the post-globalization world, Jaishankar, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat wittingly commented, “A fellow Foreign Minister the other day told to me that ‘Gujarat is ahead of globalization’. He highlighted that we should not be at the world with a sense of entitlement, but we should earn our (rightful) place. “In the 25 years to come, we need the right kind of globalization which is not weaponised,” he added.

When Jaishankar was asked about India’s plans to have a permanent seat in the United Nations, he said, “On the security council, we have our plan. The problem is we need to have other people to have a plan which is similar to our plan,”

Speaking on India’s contributions to Democracy, he said, “There has been more democracy in South Asia than there was 75 years ago. Now, we would like to see more prosperity in South Asia in the next 25 years. In a sense, if India has been a promoter of democracy in the region, we would now like to be part of a larger lifting tide so that the rest of South Asia grows with us.”

How the World sees India

Jeff M. Smith, Research Fellow covering South Asia at The Heritage Foundation, USA, said that India has become an important geopolitical actor and has risen the geopolitical ladder quite swiftly since its Independence. “India is not a destabilizing geopolitical actor. It’s not bullying its neighbours, while it is settling its historical issues peacefully,” Smith highlighted. He added that India is defending the rules-based order while promoting regional and global stability in the current scenario.

Jeff Smith added that the US understands India way before today. “We need to understand that Western criticism is not unusual. There is a difference between government policy and media press. Even India’s rivals want to do business with India,” he commented.

Stephen Harper, Former Prime Minister of Canada said that India’s government is creating the nation’s own identity. “India is defining itself and it’s definition is changing according to its economic transformation, global trade, support in medical issues and its nature of being a free and democratic society,” he added. “As China rises as a disruptive power, India pushes itself to play a greater role,” Harper added.

On the issue of biased and targeted reporting against India by the Western press, Harper added that the Western centre-left media uses India’s issues as a proxy for domestic commentary since it has emerged as an important player. “What happens in the US left media is similar to what happens in Britain and Canada. The commentary on India is a tap on conservatives in their own countries. These are philosophical disagreements the people have with their own country. India is just an instrument to judge a domestic rival,” he added.

“India’s definition in the world is increasingly being shaped by the nature of India itself,” the former Prime Minister of Canada, Harper added while being a Conservative politician himself.

João Gomes Cravinho, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Portugal said that India’s availability to shape the world, and its consciousness about the need to do so has risen drastically in the last decade. “It is thinking about international governance and hence its proximity with the European Union has increased,” he added.

Velina Tchakarova, who heads a think-tank in Austria added that Europe’s perception of India has changed ‘gradually positive’ over the years. “There is an understanding that we need to do more with India on bilateral and multilateral terms. Amidst the new bipolar tussle between America and China, there can be a third way for Europe and India to play a role. Both can build their own centre of trading power,” Tchakarova added while emphasizing the need to sign the bilateral FTA between India and Europe as early as possible.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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