People by and large have lauded the manner the Narendra Modi government in last five years has handled its foreign policy, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said on Thursday here and maintained that global re-balancing process has put India on rise along with China.
“Across the world, you have had broadly a growth of nationalism and reasons are very complex, that nationalism has been validated electorally in many places. At one level each is different, but somewhere there is a message out there. Next is actually longer term change is sort of global re-balancing, sharpest manifestation of that is the rise of China, to some extent rise of India as well,” Dr Jaishankar said here at a conference organised under the theme ‘Changing World, Changing India’.
Interacting at the event organised among others by business chamber CII, he said a large majority of people in India have recognised that the country’s stature in the world had risen in the last five years under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi.
In his first interactions since he joined the Modi government and assigned the stewardship of Ministry of External Affairs, a former foreign secretary Dr Jaishankar said improving connectivity in South Asia was given emphasis during last five years under Mr. Modi and this will be “top priority” under the new dispensation too.
“This is a subject (connectivity in South Asia) which got enough attention in last five years and I am very confident this will be among our top priority in next five years,” he said.
Dr Jaishankar maintained that connectivity in the region remained neglected in South Asia for long and there were reasons for that.
He said by and large, all South Asian countries understand the importance of connectivity and things are not like the way it was 20 years ago.
In this context, he said it is true the primary responsibility is with India and it is because “we are the largest economy”.
“If we want to propel economic growth, then there is greater responsibility for Indian foreign policy to focus on external aspect of it,” the minister said adding – “We can build a closer region through regional connectivity projects”.
He also said it is true that globalisation has come under stress, “many of the assumptions of the globalisation, global supply chains, mobility of talent, market access, all those are no longer assumptions”.
“….if we want to propel economic change, I think there is a greater responsibility for Indian foreign policy to focus on external aspects of it, to create partnerships & mechanisms which help Indian businesses do their business outside the country,” he said.
He laid down emphasis on “tighter integration” between different ministries and also went onto remark Prime Minister Modi has himself underlined the need for different departments and ministries to work together in the first cabinet meeting held on May 31, a day after swearing in of the new ministry.
“I have been a minister for less than a week and I have already spent more time with the Finance and Commerce ministers than I may have even spent in my own ministry,” he said.
Dr Jaishankar admitted there are certain problems with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries and said, “I think we all know what it is even if you were to put terrorism issue aside, there are connectivity & trade issues.”
He also said the NDA government sees lot of potential in Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries.
“If you look at why BIMSTEC leaders were invited for PM’s swearing-in, because we see energy, mindset and possibility in BIMSTEC,” he said.
The Minister said there is need to incentivise the cooperation in neighbourhood, especially in South Asian context.