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NEW DELHI : To speed up international travel in the covid-19 pandemic affected world and restore livelihoods, India has worked out arrangements with over 100 countries to mutually recognise vaccine certifications, external affairs minister S Jaishankar has said.

Addressing the 5th Indian Ocean Conference in Abu Dhabi late Saturday, Jaishankar pointed out that covid-19 and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan had complicated the geopolitical flux caused by “a greater caution in the US power projection and an effort to correct its over-extension" and the rise of China.

“What we have seen instead are specific countries stepping forward in different ways to mitigate the crisis, some individually, others in partnership," he said. He was referring to an emerging scenario that was, he said, giving a “greater role for middle powers as well as a stronger practice of regionalism."

“India has done its fair share," the minister said, referring to India sending medicines, vaccines and oxygen supplies to countries in its near and extended neighbourhood during the recent waves of the pandemic.

“As we move from a ‘just in time’ globalization to a ‘just in case’ one, the Indian Ocean will witness shorter and multiple supply chains and a broader definition of what constitutes national security. These could well shape the nature of the recovery process. We also need to expeditiously normalise travel through certification recognition so that livelihoods are restored as soon as possible. India has worked out solutions with about 100 nations in that regard," the minister said.

The opening up of international travel has been keenly watched by India given that its large expatriate population has been sending home billions of dollars in remittances each year.

On the US withdrawal from parts of the world, Jaishankar said that “overall, the United States is moving towards greater realism both about itself and the world." The US willingness to work with partners, for instance the Quad, rather than on its own is seen as an example of this.

“It is adjusting to multipolarity and rebalancing and re-examining the balance between its domestic revival and commitments abroad," the minister said adding that this opened up newer possibilities of cooperation with the US “beyond orthodox constructs."

“Given how strong its (American) influence is on the Indian Ocean, this cannot but have implications," Jaishankar said.

A second major trend that was evident and impacting the Indian Ocean region was the rise of China, the minister said.

“The consequences of China’s growing capabilities are particularly profound because of the extrapolation of its domestic seamlessness to the world outside," he said adding that with connectivity, technology or trade, “there is now an ongoing debate on the changed nature of power and influence."

Alongside this, there was also “a sharpening of tensions on territorial issues across the breadth of Asia. Agreements and understandings of yesteryears now seem to have some question marks," he said— an oblique reference to Chinese territorial tensions with its neighbours including India.

“Cumulatively, all these factors underline the importance of establishing a multipolar Asia as a foundation of a multipolar world," Jaishankar said.

Both the US reducing its international footprint and China’s rise were “still open-ended" with the “gaps" created by one not readily filled by the other, the minister said.

This was giving space to “middle powers" to play a greater role whether in the Indo-Pacific, Afghanistan or the Gulf, he said adding that the world was witnessing “more players, greater localization and arrangements of pragmatism."

“In fact, we are now entering a world of greater plurilateralism, one that recognizes the shortcomings of multilateralism, the limits of bilateralism and the untenability of unilateralism from whichever quarter," Jaishankar said. An example was the recent dialogue between the US, India, Israel and the UAE that resulted in the four expressing the willingness to work together in areas such as connectivity.

“Put succinctly, Indian Ocean nations are called upon today to take greater responsibilities, fashion better relationships and display more initiative," he added.

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