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External Affairs Minister at the Qatar Economic Forum (June 22, 2021)

June 22, 2021

Jeanette Rodrigues: I have with me Dr. S. Jaishankar, India's Minister for External Affairs, to discuss a powerful new grouping in the world today, India, Australia, Japan and the US, also known as the Quad. Minister, thank you so much for joining us. Let's go straight to our first question. It has been a year now since China and India clashed in the Galwan Valley, and multiple rounds of military and diplomatic talks have yet to resolve the issue. What role does the Quad played in informing India's response? And what level of support can it provide?

Dr. S. Jaishankar, EAM: Well, first of all, Jeanette, let me say that it is a great pleasure to be with you today. I think when it comes to Quad and the India-China border issue, we're talking apples and oranges, I'm not quite sure I'd really see a tight connection, because I'll tell you why, the quad is four countries who have come together on a common agenda. And the agenda includes maritime security, it includes connectivity. In the last year, it's included vaccines, even education. So they have their own agenda, the sort of, I would say, a set of convergences, a worldview, they meet, and they talk about a whole lot of text. Now, the India-China border issue, it has pre-existed upon, in many ways, it's a challenge, a problem, which is quite independent of the Quad. And there are two big issues there right now. One of course is that the close up deployments still continue, especially in Ladakh. The issue there is whether China will live up to the written commitments which are made about both countries not deploying a large armed force at the border. And the larger issue really, whether we can build this relationship on the basis of mutual sensitivity, mutual respect and mutual interest. So I do see why you're interested in both the issues, but I would urge you to look at them, somewhat independent of each other.

Jeanette Rodrigues: Minister, pulling back a little bit from the Quad specifically more to the G7 grouping. Recently, the G7 agreed on three pronged approach to Beijing, which is basically cooperate in issues such as climate change, compete on trade and supply chains and disagree on human rights. What are your thoughts on the effectiveness of this approach on the larger global stage?

Dr. S. Jaishankar, EAM: Look again, we were there at the G7 summit as one of the four countries who were invited as a guest. Obviously, there are issues with which we are in agreement with G7, some more, some less. There will be issues where we would have a different viewpoint. Now, today, generally in international relations, considering that the world is much more fractured, it's much more multipolar, it's much more rebalanced, you will have this mix of where you compete, where you cooperate, how much do you cooperate. And when you look at the specific issues you mentioned, for example, climate change, obviously there is a G7 and China conversation if we would, but we are actually in a very different position, because we are at a much earlier stage of our development. So, leave alone a net zero. Here, we are not even there in terms of identifying a year of peaking. So our positions are much closer to many of the other G77 countries, the developing world countries. When it comes to an issue, like supply chains, I think there obviously we share with G7 the importance of having more resilient and reliable supply chains. But we also feel that we can contribute to it by expanding our own manufacturing capabilities. And in fact, one of the big initiative for the Modi government is something called the PLI scheme, which is designed to attract more manufacturing, into India. On issues, on open societies on democratic freedoms, there I think there is a much stronger convergence with the G7 which is why we actually had a statement to which we subscribe. So it's uneven. But you know, that's the nature of the world today. You work with different countries on different issues, and it's a far more issue based relationship that we are seeing in world politics.

Jeanette Rodrigues: Minister coming back to the issue of building infrastructure, how does India plan to participate in the G7’s Build Back Better world initiative, this, of course, hopes to narrow the $40 trillion infrastructure investment deficit needed by developing nations by 2035. Could you share something about how India plans to participate in this venture?

Dr. S. Jaishankar, EAM: Well, the B3W initiative is a G7 initiative. We've had our own development partnerships for many years before that, in fact, we are today in terms of the development projects that we do in the world, we are doing projects in as many as 62 countries. And we have actually signed up to, I think, something close to about 630 projects, and about more than half of them 340 have actually been done. So there is a history in India where projects and development partnerships are concerned. And, in fact, I can give you an example, I was in Kenya last week. And people there, the government there, the President there was talking about a textile plant called Rivatex, which we had just revived and as I look around the world, say, Afghanistan, we built probably the only dam which has been built there in the last 40 years, in a place called Salma, we built the Afghan parliament. In Sri Lanka, we did a lot of refugee housing for refugees. In Mauritius, we've actually built the Metro, Metro Express; it's a very successful project. In Ethiopia, we have built sugar plants. In Mozambique and Tanzania, we've done a lot of work on water. So we've had a history of connectivity, infrastructure projects. But what we share with the G7 is that today, it's important to have broad principles that such projects should be viable, they should be transparent, they shouldnt contribute to debt, they should be environmentally friendly. Most of all, they must be a priority of the community, where they are located. So it's an area where we do feel, there's a lot of convergence with the G7. We look forward to working with them. But as I said, we have a substantial portfolio of projects, which we have already done in the last years and which I expect to see us continue to do more in the coming years.

Jeanette Rodrigues: Minister, you'd also mentioned that part of the mandate of the Quad is vaccines. Coming back to the situation at hand, of course, the pandemic. Could you throw some light on your recent visit to Washington? I'm specifically asking about where does the discussion stand on procurement of vaccines for India and also the raw materials to prepare these vaccines in India, has the US made any concrete promises?

Dr. S. Jaishankar, EAM: Well, Jeanette, the big issue today for vaccines is, the world doesn't have enough vaccines. Now, the patents, is one part of it, but the production is the other part of it. And you know, in India, we are producing the AstraZeneca vaccine. Under license, we are producing our own vaccine called Covaxin. There are six other vaccines which are expected to come on stream in the coming months starting with Sputnik. The challenge in vaccine production is that if you are looking at the kind of scale, which the world needs, which is not just vaccinate now, but plan to do it regularly, look at booster shots when they come, you're not going to get that kind of scale without India scaling up. So the particular point of discussion for me was how do you keep the supply chain going so that we actually can ramp up production to the kind of level that the world needs. Now, why was it important for me to do that in Washington because a lot of the supply chain originates in the US. A lot of it comes from Europe as well. So I think if the US and Europe need to step forward if India has to ramp up its own production. Now you've seen our own outlook there, when we started production, just as we rolled it out at home, we were living up to our obligations with the COVAX, we were supplying to some of our neighbours, because we genuinely believe that, as they say, no one is safe till everyone is safe. Now, when the second wave hit us, obviously, we looked to purpose the deployment of vaccines primarily at home, but I'm quite confident as the production picks up, again, we see ourselves playing a global role. And it's important that we have to do that we get the supply chain.

Jeanette Rodrigues: Minister thank you very much.

Dr. S. Jaishankar, EAM: Thank you. Pleasure.

Jeanette Rodrigues: Thank you very much. I'm cognizant that you know, we're already over time a bit. Thank you very much for this conversation Mr. Jaishankar.

Dr. S. Jaishankar, EAM: Thank you. Take care.

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