India values independence and some people are giving the QUAD the image of NATO to discourage India from doing what is in the country's interest, says Dr S Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs. "It is natural for those with common interests to be partners," he said at the online National Leadership Conclave (NLC) organized by All India Management Association (AIMA).
Mr Harsh Pati Singhania, President, AIMA and Vice Chairman & Managing Director, JK Paper Ltd, initiated the discussion pointing out that a new world order was taking shape during the covid crisis and India had a big role to play in it. "It has already been set in motion as Atmanirbhar Bharat is positioning India as an alternative manufacturing hub," he said.
Mr Sunil Kant Munjal, Co-Chairman of the conclave & Chairman, Hero Enterprise, conducted the conversation with the minister. Mr Sanjiv Goenka, conclave co-chairman and Chairman, RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group introduced the minister.
The foreign minister said that there was a lot of business to be done by India with each of the QUAD countries, and there would be others too, including the UK, France and the EU. "By and large, the world trusts us, and it is time for us to step up," he said, adding that India is a good platform for global production.
Commenting on the possibility of a conflict between the major powers, Dr Jaishankar said that while there will always be wars in parts of the world, the era of wars between big powers was behind us. "Mind games are being played by talking about the Thucydides trap. These are ways of discouraging us from exploring options," the foreign minister said. He argued that there are enormous interdependencies between the major countries because of globalization and if any country acts against another, there will be cascading impact on it.
Regarding the change in India's relationship with China, Dr Jaishankar explained that the relationship between the two countries was built on the assumption that neither will use force or intimidation. "That changed last year. You cannot carry on the rest of the relationship," he said. He argued that for the India-China relationship to progress, there must be a return to peace and tranquillity on the border.
On the issue of vaccine diplomacy and the criticism of vaccine exports by India, the foreign minister pointed out that the vaccine was a co-creation and India had contractual obligations. "Today, I am pushing other countries to keep raw materials flowing for making vaccine in India. Then, how can I not give vaccine?" he asked. However, he added, the situation at home was serious and the government was prioritizing domestic availability of the vaccine.
Dr Jaishankar said that the pandemic was a wake-up call for India to change its development and business models. "Why there is not enough oxygen production in India?" he asked. He said that Indian industry treats global supply chain as an entitlement. He argued that globalization had benefitted a few but had affected MSMEs and employment in the country. He said that Atmanirbhar Bharat was about employment-centric growth. He pointed out that the uneven outcomes of globalization had resulted in the Trump phenomenon in the US, and India's challenge was a variation of what had happened in the US and some other countries. "Atmanirbhar Bharat gives me more capacity and it gives me more possibilities," he said.
On the US exit from Afghanistan, the foreign minister said that India will have a role to play in that country, as it was only a doorstep away. He pointed out that after 9/11, India had helped with development projects in Afghanistan while other countries did other things. India has built great goodwill among Afghanistan people, he said. India has no favourites among the political players in Afghanistan, he stressed.
The 2-day National Leadership Conclave is focusing on the leadership challenges and solutions in the post-covid world.