External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar delivers the 4th Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture. (PTI)
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar delivers the 4th Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture. (PTI)

India standing at the 'cusp' of change: S Jaishankar

  • Jaishankar said that India opened up its economy in the early 1990s that served the country well but entering into free trade agreements thereafter had resulted in New Delhi accumulating trade deficits
  • Jaishankar noted that India was at present standing at the 'cusp' of change with 'more confidence'

NEW DELHI : Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar on Thursday warned that embracing globalisation without a cost benefit analysis was dangerous and this was the thinking that spurred New Delhi to take the decision to walk away without joining a 16 nation mega trade deal including South East Asia and China earlier this month.

Delivering the fourth Ramnath Goenka Lecture in New Delhi on the theme of “Beyond the Delhi Dogma: Indian foreign policy in a changing world" organised by the Indian Express media group, Jaishankar also noted that in the case of Pakistan, India in the past allowed the narrative to focus on dialogue in a situation where the real problem was to emphasise the need to stop cross border terrorism.

The minister also added that “uninformed comments abroad" on matters internal to India was not internationalising the Kashmir dispute with the real difference between India and Pakistan putting a lid on any effort to hyphenate the two countries.

Speaking to an audience that included diplomats and academia besides journalists, Jaishankar said that India opened up its economy in the early 1990s that served the country well but entering into free trade agreements thereafter had resulted in New Delhi accumulating trade deficits. “More importantly, their (trade deficits) negative impact on industry at home is impossible to deny," he said adding “China poses a special problem even without an FTA (free trade agreement)." The reference was to India totalling up a massive trade deficit with China over the years with the number now standing at over $ 50 billion.

Giving the government’s reasoning on why India stepped back from joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at the last minute in Bangkok last week, Jaishankar said that that was the result of “clear eyed calculation" of the gains and costs of entering a new arrangement. “We negotiated till the very end as indeed we should but then knowing what was on offer, we took a call and that call was that no agreement at this time was better than a bad agreement," the minister said. Not joining RCEP does not mean India was abandoning its Look East Policy or stepping back from its Indo-Pacific role.

On Pakistan, Jaishankar said India had in the past made the mistake of focussing attention on the need for dialogue with Pakistan when there was need to stress on stopping cross border terrorism. “As we move decisively to combat separatism in Jammu and Kashmir, there is some talk today of its internationalisation and the hyphenation of our ties with Pakistan. This is thinking from the past reflecting neither the strength of India, the mood of the nation nor the determination of the government," the minister said. The reference seemed pointed in the direction of criticism from some quarters in India on allowing a group of European parliamentarians to visit Kashmir where India has imposed some restrictions following the removal of a temporary provision in its constitution that had given special status to Kashmir. One of the criticisms was that by allowing the visit of the parliamentarians India had opened the doors for internationalising the Kashmir dispute.

Jaishankar also dismissed what he termed were “uninformed comments" made on the internal affairs of India – ie the rescinding of article 370 that gave special status to Kashmir. India has insisted that the move was an internal matter and brushed aside all comments against the move.

In his speech, Jaishankar noted that India was at present standing at the “cusp" of change with “more confidence."

“A nation that has the aspiration to become a leading power someday cannot continue with unsettled borders, an un integrated region and under exploited opportunities. Above all, it cannot be dogmatic in approaching a visibly changing world order," he added.

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