Foreign Secretary’s Concluding Remarks at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture 2021

Posted on: December 24, 2021 | Back | Print

Namaskar to everyone

1. I should begin by thanking Dr Michael Fullilove, Executive Director of the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, for delivering the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture 2021, and for taking us on an intellectually enriching journey across the landscape of contemporary international politics.

2. Foreign Offices are often bastions of orthodoxy. As External Affairs Minister and as Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee brought here a boldness and sense of policy innovation. In all this, he was ever alive to the big picture, or, as Dr Fullilove put it, to "the long game”. The theme of today’s lecture – "Australia, India and the Indo-Pacific” – is in keeping with this spirit. We live in times of many known unknowns and unknown unknowns. What we do know, however – and here I refer to a phrase Dr Fullilove just used – is that "wealth and power are shifting eastwards – towards India and Australia” and the Indo-Pacific region.

3. While the determinants of power and of foreign policy remain constant, the strategies and approaches to optimise them are changing rapidly. Multilateralism is under stress. New and nimble institutional arrangements – the Quad among them – are attempting to fill gaps. Supply chains are being re-ordered. Trade arrangements are factoring in not merely costs between economies but more so trust between polities.

4. The notion of national security has broadened beyond recognition. Strategic autonomy today is not just a political or military construct; it applies equally to dependencies in technology, supply chains, and critical commodities, including pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. These trendlines have sharpened during the Covid-19 pandemic.

5. As the waters of the Indo-Pacific seek a new equilibrium, India and Australia are drawn by a natural affinity in political systems, economic endeavours and, above all, values. As two major democracies of this region, our partnership is of enormous significance in the building of a rules-based global order, with a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific as its fulcrum.

6. The rapid momentum that the India-Australia relationship has demonstrated in recent years is testimony to this. At the Ministry of External Affairs, our friends down under get top-of-the-mind treatment. That is why the decision to invite Dr. Fullilove to speak at the 2nd Vajpayee Memorial Lecture was swift, simple and spontaneous. Once again, I thank him for accepting and for delivering today’s lecture.

7. I wish to convey grateful thanks to the Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar for presiding over the event and delivering the opening remarks. The idea of this lecture was his. He has nudged the Ministry towards stronger engagement with think tanks and leading foreign policy scholars. And we have benefited enormously from such linkages.

8. I thank our High Commissioner in Canberra, my colleague Shri Manpreet Vohra, and his team for being here today. The logistics for the lecture were coordinated between India and Australia by the Policy Planning and Research Division of the MEA, and I must appreciate Joint Secretary Shri Anupam Ray and OSD Shri Sumit Seth. A very special word of thanks to the Additional Secretary & Policy Advisor of the Ministry Shri Ashok Malik for taking on much of the responsibility in most ably organising this event.

9. Above all, I thank all of you for logging in. As we close, just in time for Christmas eve celebrations here in India, I wish everyone Merry Christmas, and convey good wishes from the MEA for a safe and happy 2022.

Namaskar and stay well.

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