Vimarsh talk by the Foreign Secretary Shri Harsh Shringla | Welcome Address by Dr Arvind Gupta

Dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to today’s Vimarsh talk by Sh. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, India’s Foreign Secretary. He will speak on “Global rebalancing and India’s foreign policy.”

I would like to welcome and thank the Foreign Secretary for finding time for this much awaited interaction.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla assumed charge as the 33rd Foreign Secretary of India on 29 January 2020.

He has been India’s Ambassador to the United States, Thailand and India’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh. During his diplomatic career he served in France, Vietnam, Israel and South Africa and the Permanent Mission of India to the UN at New York.

In the Ministry of External Affairs, Sh. Shringla served as Joint Secretary responsible for Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the Maldives. He also headed the United Nations (Political) and SAARC Divisions in the Ministry.

He graduated from St. Stephen's College, Delhi University. He has been conferred D. Litt. (Honoris Causa) by ICFAI University, Sikkim.

Harsh Vardhan Shringla has pursued courses and published papers on subjects such as conflict prevention, economic diplomacy, the Indian diaspora and ties between India and Bangladesh, and India and the US.

Dear Friends,

Since the end of the Cold War, the world has been passing through a lot of turbulence. It has been clear for quite some time that the international system established after the Second World War is under stress and not able to cope up with the new situations.

A global rebalancing of power is taking place. The world is heading towards complex multipolarity in which minor changes can cause major disturbances in the balance of power.

The rise of China has caused major disruption. A militarily and economically powerful China is no longer content to follow the rules set by other countries. The hope that it would be accommodated in the prevailing world order is fading.

China has its own ideas about the New World order. Just a few days ago, even as Russia and China extended their friendship treaty, President Xi spoke about a “new type of international relations”, indicating his discomfort with the Western led order. The Chinese have convinced themselves that the West is declining and the East is rising. It is China’s turn to assert itself.

China’s rise is already causing a pushback. It is by no means certain that China’s rise is going to be sustainable. By China’s own timeframe, it will be thirty years before it can become a so-called moderately prosperous and moderately developed society. But thirty years is a long time in international politics. A lot many unexpected things can happen in this period. One cannot be sure of the sustainability of China’s rise.

Neither Trump nor Biden would countenance a challenge to US supremacy. The US is redefining its views of China. President Biden has conceptualised the world as the one divided between democracies and authoritarian countries. In such a conceptualisation, cooperation, competition and confrontation are all possible. Russia and China are being described as authoritarian states with whom only limited business on global issues like arms control and climate change is possible.

Climate change, pandemics, trade and technology competition, the deepening of grey zone conflicts, rising inequalities, race for resources, air, land and maritime pollution, migrations, terrorism, food, energy and water security, public health, demographic transitions are some of the pressing issues of our times which require global cooperation for resolution. They also add several layers of complexity to the routine and run-of-the-mill international relations.

One important question is whether in the post-pandemic would great power rivalry deepen? Are we seeing the return of cold war version 2.0?

India

Crafting and implementing a foreign policy that will help us not only to survive the turbulence but also to thrive is not an easy task. In the ongoing global rebalancing, India’s foreign policy is becoming innovative, agile and sophisticated. We also need to have sufficient diplomatic capacity and bandwidth to deal with today’s complex problems.

Dealing with major powers without compromising on our independence will remain a challenging task.

India is positioning itself as a force for global good. This opens up several opportunities and pathways to follow a foreign policy that ensures national interest and also endears us to other countries.

India has shown that even during the pandemic, while taking care of our own needs, there is ample scope for purposeful, multilateral engagement with other countries, including the major powers. Health cooperation has become a key feature of our foreign policy.

New security challenges are arising. We will have to make sure that we deal with them effectively. The nature of conflict and that of warfare is changing under the impact of new technologies. It is in this context that India is pursuing security cooperation with key countries. Would India be open to building security partnerships and alliances to defend our security interests?

To give us an account of how India is faring in a rapidly changing world, what are India’s aspirations and goals, how India is preparing to take advantage of the new opportunities and remain relevant in the world characterised by acute competition, rivalries and conflict, we have with us none other than the Foreign Secretary Shri Harsh Shringla himself. I request him to kindly take the floor. We will take a few questions after he finishes with this presentation. The interaction today will be conducted as Chatham House rules.

Shri Shringla.

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