Ahmedabad: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Sunday said talking about the Indian Ocean and not the Pacific Ocean when discussing India’s maritime interest shows a limitation of thinking, and India should go beyond this historical line of thinking.
“Indo-Pacific is a new strategic concept going on in the world,” he said.
The idea that India should not interfere with the issues of other countries is a kind of “dogma” which should change, Jaishankar said at a function to unveil the Gujarati translation of his book, “The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World.”
Being the fifth largest economy, India should display confidence, “which is lacking because of our habits that keep us tied up”, he said.
He also said that “engage America, manage China, cultivate Europe, reassure Russia, bring in Japan..is the ‘Sabka Saath and Sabka Vishwas’ in India’s foreign policy”.
“So far, we think about the Indian Ocean whenever we think about oceans. This is the limitation of our thinking that we talk about the Indian Ocean whenever we talk about maritime interest,” Jaishankar said.
“But more than 50 per cent of our trade goes towards the East, towards the Pacific Ocean. The line between the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean is only on the map, exists on an atlas, but there is no such thing in reality…We should go beyond the historical lines in our thinking, because our interest has increased. Indo-Pacific is a new strategic concept going on in the world,” he said.
Talking about a chapter in his book, the minister said the fact that we should not interfere in the problems of others in the world is a kind of “dogma.”
“It is possible that we did not have the capacity and it was not in our interest in the 1950s and 1960s, but some days back we became the fifth largest economy. The thinking of someone on the 20th number and 5th number cannot be the same. We should change according to our capacity. The confidence that we should display is not there, and it is not so because our habits keep us tied up,” he said.
He also quoted a line from his book which says “Engage America, manage China, cultivate Europe, reassure Russia, bring in Japan,”, and said that “this is ‘Sabka Saath and Sabka Vishwas’ in Indian foreign policy.”
“We have reached that level where we should maintain relations with everyone as much as we can to take forward our own interest because India’s progress in a way becomes a criterion for us. We have reached that level where we should keep our own interest with everyone to move forward,” he said.
Jaishankar also focused on the importance of getting a feedback from the public when determining a policy.
“Sometimes we should also think in which direction the public is going. It should not happen that a policy is going in one direction, and the public in another direction. The connection between the public and government — how to take the feedback. Feedback is important for good governance,” he said.
“For policy also there is a need to take feedback, and this is possible when we can connect with the masses,” he said.
Talking about China, Jaishankar said it is India’s “super neighbour” and there is a lesson to learn from its progress and its impact on India and its interests.
“China is our neighbour, and in a way our super neighbour. It is the biggest neighbour, when you look at its power, its economy, where it has reached, its development. We also have to see if there is a lesson for us in its progress, and its impact on us, on our interest, its influence on our other neighbours,” he said.
“China’s economy is more than four times our own. I believe that our thinking should be competitive rather than negative,” he said.
There is also a need to think more about Japan, he said.
Jaishankar said in the last 75 years, India has been hurt by partition, delay in carrying out economic reforms, and a gap between the two nuclear tests.
“These three factors are in a way for us something whose impact is seen now. How do we go ahead keeping them in mind is a big part of our strategy,” he said.
He also dwelled on the lessons that the epic Mahabharat has on diplomacy.
“There is no better story with so many examples, dilemmas…there is no better story than this in the world… If we do not talk about ourselves, then how will the world talk about us. The current situation of the world and the then landscape of Mahabharat, the situation of India, somewhere I saw a similarity,” he said. (PTI)