Keynote Address by External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar at the inaugural ASPI-ORF Raisina@Sydney

Posted on: February 18, 2023 | Back | Print

A very good afternoon to all of you, Justin, Samir, Minister, colleagues and friends.

It's really a pleasure to be with you this afternoon. And I think as Justin pointed out, this is an occasion for the Raisina dialogue to step beyond the shores of India. And in the room today, I mean, there could be a few others, but I think Samir and I could claim to be present at the inception of Raisina dialogue. It's a little bit like watching your kid go out of the country and you have an interest, you have a sense of pride. And really, thank you very much for partnering us in this enterprise. And I hope in the coming years that this would become the premier India-Australian forum, where we can discuss issues of common interest.

Now, you spoke about it as a curtain raiser. And so, in a sense, I would like to share with all of you some of the issues which would happen at the beginning of next month in Delhi. Let me first say that, at this time, it's important, we all appreciate that the larger outlook, as we see the world, is one of great uncertainty, a lot of unpredictability, new players, new behaviour. And by the way, I'm talking about the Delhi Test between India and Australia. Now, this applies to some degree to actually to the world scenario as well. And if we put together really the cumulative impact of three years of COVID, the damage that it has done to the global socio-economic fabric, the year of the Ukraine conflict, the knock on effects, the fuel, food, fertilizer, trade disruptions, the shortages it has created, the uncertainties it has enhanced, and then take some of the perennial challenges which pre-existed, climate. Now, climate was a growing concern. I think in the last few years, what we thought the future portended has actually happened to us. So we are witnessing climate events on a increasingly larger, more catastrophic scale. And in fact, today in any global risk assessment, I would say, building in a climate calculation is very much a part of that.

And there are the other concerns - concerns about terrorism, concerns about maritime security. There are also growing concerns about financial sustainability. I think there are more than 70 countries who have or are engaging the IMF, in terms of stabilizing their national finances. And unlike in the near past, many of these are not low income countries, some of them are middle income countries. So, I think even an optimistic view of the world would be reasonably pessimistic at this point of time.

My second point flowing from that, if there is today really an urgent collective task, it is how to de-risk the global economy. And part of that is, you know, exactly the events that I have referred to - over-dependence on manufacturing, over-dependence on energy, over-dependence on services. So how do we create more reliable and resilient supply chains? In a more digital world how do we how do we ensure at least a minimal trust and transparency? because the fact is that we cannot be agnostic about data in the manner in which we were mistakenly agnostic about products, you know. Where my data resides? Who processes it? What do they do with it? How do they extrapolate it? matters deeply to me. So for us to pretend that all nations are the same. And it's none of our business, what happens inside, I think that era is now behind us, and we must not just accept it, we must actually be aware of it, and make plans to deal with this.

And in fact, Minister Bowen and I were just discussing. This applies as well to green technologies. We should not end up in a world where our desire to be greener leads us to be more dependent on a few and therefore more insecure. So how do we decentralize, how do we collaborate, how do we diversify, in a sense how do we democratize the world. Democratize it technologically, democratize it economically, I think this is, I would say the second point, which I would flag for your attention.

Now, if I were to pick three words to put before you, the state of our contemporary world, those three words for me would be number one, globalization. Because globalization has worked, it's had its problems, it's had its downsides. But it's had actually an enormous impact, both the pluses and minuses on global society. Globalization actually has helped to create a rebalancing. You spoke Justin about our G20 Presidency. G20 itself is proof of that rebalancing, that, till 2008, the global leadership such as it was, was seen as G7. And the fact was that the events of 2008, 2009 demonstrated that G7 was too narrow. So I use G20, but I would not stop at G20. I use that as a metaphor to underline the point that if you look today, at the production and consumption centers of the world, they are vastly different, certainly from what they were in 1945. But I would say almost every decade, it's very useful to actually see a decadal chart of who's up and who's down and how the balances are shifting then.

And flowing from that rebalancing, that rebalancing today is and I use the word present continuous here, is actually creating an emerging multipolarity. That the United States, to my mind, has been the premier power in the foreseeable future, I still see it as the premier power. And clearly the rise of China, the share of China in global economy, in global technology, in global influence, these are undeniable factors. But the fact is that, let's take this decade, you clearly are going to see many more powers, who will have more influence on global debates and global outcomes than they did before. And to my mind, certainly, some of them would be sufficiently separated from the rest of the herd to be seen as a pole, and therefore you will have multipolarity.

Since Brexit, there's obviously been very intense global debate about globalization. And President Trump's election sort of intensified that debate if I can put it that way. But to my mind, you know, it's not an issue of, is globalization, good or bad? You can't turn it back. It's there for real. It's hardwired into our existence. The issue is really what's the right model of globalization? That, is it a model which is fairer, which is fairer within societies, fairer between societies. Is it a model where the benefits exceed the vulnerabilities because that is today also a very important downside of globalization. So I think that's, to my mind, actually a key global debate. So, one is de-risking the global economy.

But the second really is the model, the preferred direction of globalization that a lot of countries want to see. Now, in a changing world, obviously, there will be new conversations. And among the conversations we are seeing are those of the importance of values, of beliefs, of ideologies, not just in a very (inaudible) way of interests. And there is a whole debate which flows out of that. One debate, of course, is that of democratic countries, pluralistic societies, and those who are not. But there's another debate, and it's a debate within the democratic world, which is really, whose democracy, whose values, whose definition, whose norms, because here too the transformation of the world, the rebalancing, a lot of it derives from an era of, I would say, a G7 dominance, a very Euro-Atlantic view of what is democracy.

Now, if I can put it somewhat immodestly, the fact that democracy is perceived as a global aspiration, is actually because India chose to be a democracy at the time of its independence. And because the first country which was decolonizing, and it happened to be the largest country, which was decolonizing, chose a difficult democratic path. And then, despite decades of adversity and limited resources stuck to that path, and stuck to that path, when actually other democracies questioned the viability of that path. That today is very much, I think, at the center of a debate and a conversation that we must have on democracy, that there are practices and beliefs and cultures, which are relevant to how democracy is actually executed, and improved.

My next point, of course, is the welfare of the world. And here again, the fact that the capacities of some countries are not what they used to be, is a very relevant factor. I particularly refer here to the United States. For me, the big change in the last decade is not that the US capacities are relatively less than what they used to be. It is that the US is actually getting into a mind-set, where it's aware of that limitation, and is open to working with likeminded partners to address it. And likeminded partners, include countries who are not treaty allies. Now, in Australia, it's not a change, you will readily realize, because you are a treaty ally. For you working with the United States is not anything new. It's part of your history for the last eighty years. For us, it is. And certainly, I would emphasize that there have been big changes in our foreign policy. But I would equally stress that there has been a big change in American thinking that this is not the same United States with which we dealt with in the 60s or 80s, or even, frankly, in 2005, that there is an evolution out there. And that evolution today, you can see on a whole range of issues. And as a result, we actually today have new strategic concepts, new tiered geopolitical theatres, if you would, new mechanisms.

And obviously, the most notable of these, in terms of on a conceptual level is the Indo-Pacific, at a mechanism level is the Quad. And the Quad to me, is a very, very, you know, it's an enterprise laden with a lot of significance, because if you look at it, there's that Indo-Pacific space. Four countries not geographically contiguous at all, with an enormous amount of sea space and some land space between them, but who have, in different ways, overcome their own past outlook, to forge something common in response to a perceived global and regional need. And it's an endeavour with which I happen, perhaps to be associated more closely than most others. I'm still probably the only witness in office of the first effort in 2007. And I've seen it at various levels from, you know, doing it as a Permanent Secretary to a Foreign Minister, and now we're seeing it as a summit level, and Australia will be hosting the summit soon. So it is, to my mind, a development of great consequence. And I would say that, not just us, I look at the foreign policy of our other Quad partners as well. I think today it has a salience, which very few would have predicted, perhaps even two or three years ago.

So finally, let me end with a few thoughts on our G20 Presidency. It's obviously an extraordinary opportunity. It's a great honour. It's a time when you have a certain convening power and an agenda-shaping opportunity. But it's also, as I said, initially, a particularly difficult juncture of world politics. You know, the way the G20 works, it works as a troika. So the incoming and the outgoing are associated with the current chair. So we had some visibility, perhaps a little more than visibility, some role as well, a supportive role when our predecessor chair Indonesia, was holding that responsibility. So, we know that last year was a real struggle, that the Ukraine conflict had very strongly polarized the G20. All of us worked very hard to find some kind of common ground on that issue. I believe that we did succeed finally at the Bali Summit. And I really think an enormous amount of credit is due to Indonesian patience and creativity in that regard.

But today, the rest of the world expects the G20 to address its concerns, because the rest of the world actually, and the rest of the world is another about 180 countries, that they have real problems, pressing problems, deep concerns, and they think it is for the G20, as the top 20 economies of the world, to show the direction to come up with answers to at the very least be cognizant and if not sympathetic of their concerns. So, our hope is that we are able to steer the G20 in the direction in which it should go to undertake the responsibilities, the remit with which the G20 was originally tasked, which was economic growth and global development. And we are doing this not just as a, shall I say, feeling the vibes from the rest of the world. We actually did it as a practical empirical exercise. In the month of January, we actually consulted 123 countries. And consulted means at the level of Prime Minister himself and Cabinet Ministers. We have a good sense today by asking the world, literally asking the world saying here we are with this responsibility. What is it which is uppermost in your mind? What is it which is your most pressing concern? And what can we do about it?

So, today, I just conclude by saying that I had the pleasure of meeting the Prime Minister this morning, of spending time with my counterpart Penny Wong this afternoon. I think from what I can see the Australian view is very much aligned with the thinking which I have put forward. For me, this relationship is exceptionally important. And I can only underline that by the frequency of my visits, that it is exceptionally important. It would, for us make a big difference in the G20, in the Quad bilaterally, and I think regionally as well, you know, I'm coming here after spending three days in Fiji. So, do bear in mind that the India that I represent today is also an India whose influence and interests and footprint is growing in the world. We feel we can be of utility and support in regions which may not be that proximate to us. So that too, has been part of my conversations in Australia. So once again, I would thank both ASPI and ORF for providing me the opportunity to share some thoughts about our relationship, about my visit, but most important to show you the first trailer about what's going to happen in Raisina Dialogue. Thank you very much.

February 18, 2023