India a Global Player in Economic Nationalism under Modi-02: Jaishankar
| Didhiti Ghosh, Bureau Chief, IOP, Kolkata - 10 Oct 2019

By Didhiti Ghosh, Bureau Chief (Kolkata), IOP

Kolkata/New Delhi, Oct 10, 2019: India’s Minister of External Affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, described India’s economy as a “lifting tide” for the region, in a candid conversation where he also shared his views on a range of sensitive geopolitical demands, from bilateral trade to concerns over rising nationalism.

The former top diplomat underlined the fact that there was no contradiction in being nationalistic and engaging with the world at the same time. He stressed that India was an outlier in that sense and that its economic ambitions do not sit at odds with its nationalism.

“India is an exception as we are more nationalistic, but at the same time we don’t see a tension between being nationalistic and being international, in the sense of engaging more with the world, so nationalism is not a negative sentiment,” S Jaishankar said while speaking at the World Economic Forum in New Delhi recently.

Explaining the point further, he said in many negotiations India not only stands for its own interest but of the developing world when it comes to trade and climate change. The Minister went on to add that it was “economic nationalism”.

In conversation with Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum, Jaishankar also said he was cautiously optimistic about a possible trade deal between India and the US, noting that “a lot of work” has gone into ongoing negotiations.

The comment comes a day after US and Indian commerce secretaries addressed speculation of a deal, where Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce of the United States, acknowledged there “no reason a trade deal could not soon be reached”.

Responding to another question on the Belt and Road Initiative, Jaishankar said, "We are us and not just some other country. My own sense is as India becomes bigger, we will find that concepts developed for other countries won't necessarily apply to us. It's not very likely we'll copy models."

"BRI rethink, the answer is no," the Minister had said during a briefing on the 100-day achievements of the External Affairs Ministry under the second term of the Narendra Modi-led government.

India has time and again highlighted its concerns over the project, which has been labeled as a debt-trap by several leaders across the world.

Further, discussing how South Asia could continue to be the fastest-growing region in the world, the Minister touted India’s willingness to work more deeply with the region to facilitate future growth, and noted that as the largest economy and country in the region “a lot of that responsibility is on us”.

“The Indian subcontinent is really among the least regionalized economies that you see," he said, adding: “The Prime Minister feels very strongly that we have to do something about this and we have to convince our neighbours that the Indian economy is a lifting tide for all of them.” That view he said applied to “the entire neighbourhood, minus one”. “I would hope that the minus one someday comes around,” the Jaishankar added.

On the issue of Kashmir, the Minister said he spoke about it extensively when he was in the US and explained to the people there how Article 370, which provided for Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, was only a temporary provision. He also stressed how the provisions of the article, now scrapped, were misaligned with the larger scheme of things envisaged for the country.

Questioned about whether India would intervene as an official mediator in geo-political disputes around the globe the Minister said India was pursuing a type of diplomacy that was “softer, more collaborative, and more co-owned”.

“The Indian way would be very much that if you have relationships to talk about it and have conversations, but not declare yourself a mediator ... and create that profile ... I don’t think that’s really been our style,” he said.

“I would like to see Indian foreign policy have a bigger influence,” he added. “But it will require a lot of thinking through, a lot of imagination and a lot of energy, and I would like to at least prepare a launching pad for it.”

Photo courtesy: Business Today, Fortune India, Economic Times / Twitter handle of Dr. S Jaishankar

[DIDHITI GHOSH is India Columnist at La Agencia Mundial de Prensa, USA, Bureau Chief (Kolkata) of Indian Observer Post & Conference Interpreter (Spanish-English-Bengali). E-mail: | LinkedIn: ].




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