New Delhi, India, 4 October 2019 – India’s Minister of External Affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, has 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 exigencies, from bilateral trade to concerns over rising nationalism.
In conversation with Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum, at the Delhi event, Jaishankar 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”.
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 really 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,” he added.
Touching on concerns over global political trends such as rising nationalism, India’s foreign affairs minister said that phenomenon in part had been driven by economic nationalism, and in India, it was not at odds with the country’s desire to be a global player.
“What you have seen definitely over the last five years is a willingness to go out and engage countries, visit new countries, a new energy in [India's] foreign affairs,” he said.
Speaking at the Forum event that has bought more than 800 business and political leaders from around the region and beyond, for frank discussions on economic growth, geopolitics and environmental sustainability, the minister was also asked to articulate a vision of India’s place in a complex and rapidly transforming world.
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, 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.”
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