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External Affairs Minister’s remarks and interaction at USISPF Annual Leadership Summit (September 30, 2021)

October 01, 2021

Mr. Dow R.Wilson: Thank you, Just as I said I'm Dow Wilson CEO Varian medical systems we recently combined, we were acquired by Siemens healthineers, it has broadened our portfolio to be an end to end cancer company. Beyond cancer, Siemens healthineers has actively and very swiftly moved to help out the Indian government to assist the COVID-19 recovery effort by providing critical hospital supplies, medicines and food as well. We built seven oxygen plants across the country and donated over 500 concentrators. I am very pleased this morning, to introduce Dr. Jaishankar, the Minister of External Affairs for the Government of India. Many of us have worked with the minister throughout his esteemed career, whether during his time as ambassador to the United States, or as Foreign Secretary. Dr. Jaishankar spent his career in the Indian Foreign Service before leading Tata Sons Global Corporate affairs team. His call to public service was so strong that he returned to government as you know, in 2019, as the Minister of External Affairs. It's certainly been an exciting time to be working in external affairs. As you all know, last week, the QUAD met for a historic meeting in the midst of a global pandemic, to discuss everything from pandemic preparedness, to resilient supply chains, to 5G infrastructure deployment and much, much more. As we've learned this week in our sessions, and as there's been a growing awareness, there are not many relationships that are more vital than the one between the United States and India, in fact, many of our conversations are focused just on exactly that how can we amplify the vitality of our bilateral relationships through trade, investment and mutual support. While COVID-19 is of course top of mind to many, so many of us thinking about tomorrow. How can we support our economies to get through this global pandemic? How can we strengthen the health care system in our respective countries so we can bring quality care to more people? How can we ensure and strengthen the resilience of supply chains to support both of our economies? And perhaps most importantly, what does the future of the US- India relationship look like? Look forward to hearing remarks on this, Dr. Jaishankar, thank you so much for joining us, a pleasure to see you again. And I'll turn the time over to you, we really look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Dr S Jaishankar: Thank you. Good afternoon. It's a pleasure really to join you all today. And I say this as someone who's served on your board, and welcomes the opportunity to see you all, even if it is virtual. I think this is a particularly good time to discuss our relationship for a variety of reasons. The most obvious one, of course, is that we've just come out of a visit to Washington DC, the Prime Minister was there. He had a bilateral visit, in fact, his first visit, meeting in person with President Biden as President and that is important in itself. But more than that, there was also a QUAD in persons Leaders’ Summit, and the first one again, so that too, was a very, very noteworthy. And as you all know, this is a time when the UN General Assembly meets the high level segment. And so you know, traditionally, end Septembers are time for a kind of a global stocktaking. So whether it's bilateral, whether it's a kind of a group approved plurilateral effort or a larger global sort of assessment, as I said, this is a very, very good time to discuss our relationship. Now, if I were to give you a single message coming from all of that, that message would be that in terms of the big picture, the issues of the day, and how do we deal with them? How do we respond to them? I think today there is a very good fit between India and the United States. And to me, it was very telling that the outcome document from the bilateral visit actually is called a partnership India and US, a partnership for global good. And I'm sure many of you would agree that this is not a phrase which we would have used even five years ago. So it tells you really how far the relationship has come. Now, where is the relationship today? I think it has grown over the last 15 years, it continues to progress very steadily. Trade is around $150-billion-dollar level, it, of course, came down last year to 120. But I'm very confident this year, in fact, it would go even higher. Investments, that's a tricky one, you know, you normally don't get good figures and the routing confuses people. But the fact that last year, we got the highest ever FDI at $82 billion and a very large part of it was America, I think it should tell us something. Officially, of course, in the investment, which we record coming out of the US is $62 billion, but my sense is it is very much more than that.

Defence has seen again, continuous progress. In terms of defence trade, we had a recent acquisition of the MH 60R helicopters, the Harpoon missiles. But more than the trade itself, I think the policy exchanges have been very effective. The exercises between our militaries continue, the framework for cooperation has actually steadily kind of gathered more substance and obviously provides more opportunities. And apart from these, if you look at what's really been the defining characteristic of our relationship, which is the people to people ties, the science and technology, innovation, connections that we have, the flow of students, which is so important for us. I think all these, despite the COVID have actually progressed.

Now, interestingly, in fact the COVID itself has helped to reinforce our bonds. When we had the second wave this summer, which was exceptionally severe. Even the US was one of the countries which really stepped out for us. I think, Doe Wilson spoke about, what they had done. But it would only be right, on this occasion for me to use this forum to express my appreciation for what the US generally, US business, US ISPF, have actually done on that occasion. Now, while I've spoken about the relationship, I think it's also important that at the American end, there is a good appreciation of the changes which have taken place in India at this very time, because that would enable us really to look at future possibilities in a more constructive way. One change, of course, emanates from the COVID, all of us have been through this trial, how we have each come out is a individual story. But the fact is that after going through situation where we had more than 400,000 cases, caseloads on a daily basis. Today, our numbers are very much smaller, a large part of the challenge is behind us, which doesn't mean of course, that we let our guard down, and probably the most effective response we have is in terms of vaccination. We are today, vaccinating more than 10 million people on a daily basis. There has been a one day, of course, when we reach 25 million. So the fact that the COVID response, not just between us, but also how, and I'll come to that perhaps when we get into a discussion on the QUAD, what do we do to help the world as I say, a partnership for global good.

The other noteworthy point has been that, in our responses, we have actually been fiscally very sensible, a lot of our response has been the right degree of support at the right time, at the right place on the right issues in the right manner. So, while responding to the growth challenges and the recovery challenges of COVID, actually, we have done it in a manner in which with a great deal of responsibility with a much more, I would say medium term strategy of recovery. And that is, of course, beginning to yield dividends now. Even while the COVID was going on, you actually had a country which has not sat or a government which has not sat on its hands. Again, interesting to see big reforms have taken place at the start .The production linked incentive reform which has really given a boost to manufacturing. The Labour court reform, the agricultural reforms which have given small farmers a fairer deal, and is really encouraging greater agrobusinesses. The education reform, I think some of these, even the national asset monetization programme, I think these are very noteworthy features of what has happened in India and I think American business should really study that carefully. And as a result of which we have today, I think, a fairly robust recovery underway, there is a great deal of confidence that we would meet our 9.5% growth target. Trade exports have been actually very, very strong, as well, that too is a good sign and speaks for our greater competitiveness.

Now, as we look, sit down with our American partners, and look at the world, I think there are three big regional issues which are important in that discussion. One, of course, is in South Asia itself, where historically we have not always worked together, I think that's beginning to change and that's a good for both of us. The second is the Indo-Pacific, the arena, and the challenges of that arena, I think, are quite unique, they are still unfolding. In many ways this is where the commitment to global good will be tested. And this is among the many solutions for that, of course, will be QUAD platform on which we have both agreed to work together. And the developments, which have happened in Afghanistan, what they mean for our security, your security, regional and global security. And finally, because as I said, I'm here for the UNGA and this is a time for global stocktaking. I would conclude by underlining that at the United Nations, at the multilateral arena in general, there is much greater cooperation, and a meeting of minds on many issues than we've had before. I'm not suggesting that we agree on everything. I think we come from different places with different histories, but certainly, that too has evolved very, very positively. So overall, I would present to all of you a very positive picture of a relationship. We are at an important juncture; I think that discussions in Washington have opened up many more new possibilities. They have indicated a direction, not just for our relationship, but also for how we work with our friends and partners. So perhaps, these might serve as adequate opening remarks for Ambassador Wisnor to quiz me further. Thank you very much.

Mr. Malachy Nugent: Thank you, Mr. Minister. Ladies and gentlemen, let me now invite USISPF Board Member Ambassador Frank Wisnor to join us to moderate the conversation with Dr. Jaishankar.

Amb.Frank G Wisner: Minister again, welcome. I'm delighted you're able to take the time to be with us and to do as you just done set a broad stage view of the US India relationship. But I'm gonna ask you, if you could take even a step back from that. We are watching the world go through quite fundamental changes, transformations that are affecting literally every nation, the last several months, as you noted, have been really tumultuous. Afghanistan, the collapse of the government there, the events and tensions in the South China Sea, the QUAD, the AUKUS agreement and controversies with Europe, the American front, many other events, UNGA, you've noted. So as India sits back and looks at the stage you are at in the world today, what's your assessment in terms of India's interests? How does India see this period of transformation? And where strategically, do you want to set your sights?

Dr S Jaishankar: Well, first of all, Frank, good to see you, and I hope you're keeping well. So let me respond to this. I think we don't have the luxury of sitting back as you said, and looking at it, I think we need to wade in more and more. This is a very, very tumultuous, very dynamic global situation. So it's important to shape it, to participate in it, to ensure that this goes the right way for us, and for the rest of the world. Now many of the challenges that you laid out, are really our major preoccupations. I think, when we look at what happened in Afghanistan, and the region, I think this is going to have very, very significant consequences for all of us, and we are so close to the region. So there are a set of concerns and issues that flow from that. When we look on the other, to East of India, and you'll see the Indo Pacific and the importance there of really ensuring that life goes on, on the basis of broad principles and concepts which the international community is comfortable with, you know, which is concepts of rule of law of freedom of overflight and navigation, peaceful resolution of disputes or respecting territorial integrity. I mean, all these do matter out there. I look at my own region. And when I look at my region, I think it's important for me that my prosperity and growth become a sort of a larger lifting tide for the region, and that the choices which are made in the region, not just by us, but by our neighbours as well. Our choices which are supportive of a much more multipolar, much more democratic, much more rebalanced global situation. So believe me, there's plenty to do and we are at it.

Amb.Frank G Wisner: Minister, and, clearly, as you indicated in your remarks, at the core of your international perspective, lies the American relationship. So let me turn to that moment and get you to talk a bit more. You've mentioned frequently over the years, India's commitment to multipolarity. Give me a perspective, for your audience today as to how a relationship with the United States and a commitment to multipolarity work out in Indian foreign policy’s vision.

Dr S Jaishankar: Well, I think Frank if we look back at the history with both of us have been through in our professional lives, I mean, we started with the Cold War and a degree of I would say polarisation, but with countries like us very much in the middle trying to expand our space and our choices. Then, in the 90s, we moved to a world which was much more dominated by the United States. Now today, what we are seeing is actually a rebalancing. I mean, if you look, for example, at the top 20 economies, that list is quite different from what it was 50 years ago. Now, if the economic list is different, at some point of time, the political strategic list would also be different and that's what's happening. And here, of course, the rise of China has been the single biggest change. But you know, the growth of India is also part of that transformation. Now, when we speak of a multipolar world, I mean, we do think today that the big issues of the day, cannot be decided by one or I emphasise two powers, I think it needs a larger group think, group decide, needs a bind by the rest of the world. So we need I mean, in a sense, I would say, a more management board, which is much more fairly representative of the shareholders in our planet. And that's what we advocate and I think that's beginning to happen.

Amb.Frank G Wisner: And that, of course, does not detract from the US India relationship. It simply is a part of it.

Dr S Jaishankar: On the contrary, I would argue I mean, let us say among the major shareholders, they need to get along with each other. And we are two who are very comfortable with each other and are getting more and more comfortable. And very frankly, I would also add that I see a big change at the American end, a much greater willingness on the part of the United States to work with other partners, not necessarily on terms that the US has unilaterally set. I think the US is also getting beyond that era of alliances and treaty based relationships. It's a far more flexible, I would say diverse differentiated world out there and I think American policymakers are beginning to adjust to that and some of that you'll see in arrangements like QUAD.

Amb.Frank G Wisner: That’s a very encouraging statement about the United States and I think at core you're right. But one of the great changes in our relationship, in my decades of experience with India has been the emergence of the QUAD as a framework for bringing Indian action, Australian, Japanese, American action together, I wonder if you could pause and describe for all of us, what does the QUAD mean for India? What is its purpose? What do you want it to accomplish?

Dr S Jaishankar: You know, I would actually go beyond just speaking for India, because I think we've just come out of QUAD so I think I can speak with a fair degree of assurance on what the other three partners also feel. Look, we are four countries, actually located at four different corners, if you would of the Indo Pacific, who have a lot of shared interest, who have a very common, I would say, values and beliefs, who, as a consequence of all of this have a high degree of comfort on working together on the immediate and more than immediate concerns of the whole region. Now, typically, you know, people tend to look at issues like, you know, a maritime security, exercises, maybe connectivity, HADR, I mean, these were some of the early issues on it. But I would argue that, especially this year, as all four countries have invested more energy and creativity into QUAD, we are actually seeing a whole lot of new issues, which come up. If you look at this leaders’ meeting, one big takeaway was the QUAD vaccine initiative, where the US is actually giving the technology and to some degree, the resources. India is actually the production centre of the vaccine, Japan is funding a lot of the purchasing of the vaccine, and Australia's helping out with the distribution of the vaccine. So you’re going to be, we committed that this initiative will deliver at least a billion vaccines into the Indo Pacific. Or let me give you another agreement, which we worked out which was on the principles of technology, design, development, governance and use, because today, you know, the usage of technologies are very, very important subject in the international discourse. But there are, we are discussing critical emerging technologies, we are discussing health security, we actually announced a QUAD fellowship programme. We’ve had resilient supply chains, is another issue. So, semiconductor supply chains was an issue as well. So, it's I think, broadened out with more, I think, the more these four countries with their levels of comfort, sit down, talk, look at the world respond to the challenges. I think the beauty of QUAD is precisely because it is not rigid, it's not formal, it's very comfortable and easy going. I mean, the agenda is made up responding to the requirements of the times. So, I actually see it very frankly, as a very new model of cooperation among likeminded countries.

Amb. Frank G Wisner: It's interesting as you go through the focus of the QUAD, you've actually not mentioned China. And while I think you're absolutely right to have given the QUAD a broad definition. Give me some insight into India's perspective on how we are two countries are managing the complex issue of the rise of Chinese power. You've had a distinctive approach to that. We have adopted ways of looking and dealing with China. Are we on the same track?

Dr S Jaishankar: I want to make one thing clear, Frank. The QUAD is for things, it's not against somebody. And actually, if you look at the QUAD statement, the QUAD statement actually says that, it says, we are for rule of law, we are for freedom of overflight, we are for peaceful resolution of disputes, we are for democratic values, we are for territorial integrity of states. So I think it's very important not to be sort of railroaded into some kind of negative discourse, which actually is not from our script, it is somebody else's script. And I don't think we should fall for that. I think we need to be positive, all of us have a fundamental right to cooperate with partners, I think it's important that others should not have a veto on our choices. It's part of a democratic world order.
But on your question of how do we deal with the rise of China? I would say, in many ways, those are bilateral choices that all of us have to make, we each have a very substantial relationship with China. And, in many ways, China being today is such a big player and so salient in the international economy, I think it's natural that these relationships are quite unique. So what are my problems, or my opportunities would not be the same as that for the United States, or Australia, or Japan, or Indonesia or France. It would be different for each countries. But the fact is, again, I would put to you that, the rise of I mean, obviously, the rise of China has had a very fundamental impact on the international order. So as participants in the international order, we need to assess that and respond to that, in the light of our own interest. So I think it's sort of essential to look normalise this conversation. You know, this should not end up as though it's some kind of ganging up and a negatively driven event, I don't think that's the fair description of what is a completely natural evolution of the international order to my mind.

Amb. Frank G Wisner: Minister, I hear you, and that's a very welcome message and signal. Let me bring you a little bit closer to home for a moment and that's the crisis that's still ongoing in Afghanistan. This, the events of August are really dramatic. As India looks at what's happened in Afghanistan, how do you assess the threat level that your nation now faces? And how are you responding to that?

Dr S Jaishankar: Well, I think, to some degree, Frank, we would all be justified in having levels of concern and to some degree, I think the jury's still out. When I say levels of concern, you know, there were commitments which were made by the Taliban, at Doha, I mean, the US knows that best I mean, we were not taken into confidence on various aspects of that. So whatever, whether deals which was struck in Doha, I mean, one has a broad sense. But beyond that, you know, are we going to see an inclusive government? Are we going to see respect for the rights of women, children, minorities? Most important are we going to see an Afghanistan whose soil is not used for terrorism against other states and the rest of the world, I think, these are our concerns. These concerns were actually captured by a UN Security Council resolution in August called 2593. And I think how those concerns are addressed today is still an open question, which is why I said the jury is still out. So if you ask me, are you concerned? Obviously we are. If you ask me is this the time to draw sharp conclusions, I would sort of take my time and study this with a certain degree of deliberation, because as I said, a lot of this, whatever understandings, there have been, many of these are not known to the entire international community.

Amb. Frank G Wisner:
Minister, Is the United States and India look at Afghanistan, are we on similar pages with regard to questions like recognition, assistance, threat of terror? Are our lines of communications open? Do we see things in a similar manner?

Dr S Jaishankar: I think we are on similar pages, at a principle level on many of these issues, certainly say terrorism, the usage of Afghan soil for terrorism is something which both of us feel very strongly and it was something which was discussed when Prime Minister Modi met President Biden, it was in the outcome document. Again, look, there would be issues on which we would agree more, there would be issues on which we would agree less. Our experiences in some respects are different than yours. You know, we have been victims of cross border terrorism ourselves from that region. And let us say that has shaped in many ways, our view of some of the neighbours of Afghanistan. So now, how much, the US shares that view, and where is it that the US sort of makes its tactical compromises I think that is for the Americans to figure out.

Amb. Frank G Wisner: Minister, that, of course, includes the signals we jointly send to Pakistan. How do you see those signals evolving?

Dr S Jaishankar:
Well, I mean, we obviously watch a lot of your own domestic debates on this matter and I noticed that you've been having a rather animated debate on this subject, in the last few days. But as I said, there are aspects that we share, and there are aspects where maybe our positions are not exactly the same.

Amb. Frank G Wisner: Minister, we only have a moment left and I want to get your view on one of the most consequential issues the entire world faces and that's climate change. Glasgow is just on the edge. Do you want to give us a picture of how India is approaching its commitments at Glasgow and the policies you intend to pursue?

Dr S Jaishankar: Well, look, I think as we go into Glasgow and Frank, I speak here as a veteran of Paris, the world doesn't have that much good news. The limited amount of good news includes the fact that India is the only G20 country which has kept its Paris commitments. And there's been enormous progress in terms of growth of renewable energy, in terms of energy efficiency, in terms of intensity of energy of emissions, in terms of forestation, biodiversity, of water usage. So I think we have a record which is a very very credible record, which we are taking into Glasgow and obviously, we have our own vision and ideas of what to do. But I wish I could say that for the rest of the world because I want you to reflect on this for a moment. We are supposed to go into Glasgow with a rescue, the planet package, okay. Compare the rescue the planet package of 100 billion, for which we are still struggling to raise resources with rescue America package. Think of what 100 billion means okay. 100 billion dollars is less than the money which NFL is making from media rights and yet we are struggling to raise 100 billion dollars and we claim that it's an existential issue. So I think the world needs to get serious about it, you know, we need to strive for net zero, but global net zero means that the developing countries must still have the room to grow and that the developed countries need to do their own net zero and net minus. So we need kind of a, I would say, a more sincere, more honest, and, frankly, a much more serious effort at addressing this challenge.

Amb. Frank G Wisner: Minister, you've given us a real treat today, a view of India's vision of the world and what's going on of our relationship, the direction of the QUAD, relations with China, how to deal with Afghanistan, and finally a ringing statement on climate change. If we had more time I would want to pursue economics, but I'm afraid the clock is run out and I need to turn the floor back over to our host. But again, thank you, sir, for your candour and your willingness to be with us.

Dr S Jaishankar: Thank you. Pleasure as always.

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