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India Should Engage with Multiplicity of Actors to Strengthen Foreign Policy, says Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar


India needs to engage with a multiplicity of actors in a varied range of arenas and try to straddle what can be contradictory trends in our foreign policy, said Foreign Secretary, Dr S Jaishankar on Monday. He was delivering a key note address at the inaugural session of the IFS-IDSA Seminar on ‘India and the Great Powers: Continuity and Change’, organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in collaboration with the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies (IFS). 

Dr Jaishankar pointed out that the contradictions between India and the other great powers are far less than before, offering the country an opportunity to forge ahead in a much more fluid and multi-polar set up than before. We should work towards an India which is prepared to engage the great powers more robustly, and see in that engagement a possibility of advancing its own prospects, he added. Speaking on the issue of connectivity, the Foreign Secretary said that the lack of connectivity in South Asia is what is holding back India's and South Asia's prospects. We need to figure out how India and South Asia fit into the larger connectivity grid, he observed.

The fluidity and the free play at the great power level have translated into greater uncertainties at the regional level, noted Dr Jaishankar, adding that Asia is a large continent marked by sharp national rivalries and the absence of a security architecture.

Stating that forums like BRICS offer the possibility of finding common ground with countries like Russia and China, Dr. Jaishankar pointed out that the changing nature of India’s engagement with the great powers is reflected in recent engagements with  the British Prime Minister Theresa May’s bilateral visit to India,  the Chinese and Russian presidents’ participation at the BRICS meet in Goa recently, and the Indian Prime Minister’s recent visit to Japan – all reflect a decisive shift in India’s foreign policy.

Apart from great powers, India also needs to focus on the regional flux, observed Dr Jaishankar. The region is moving into a much more dynamic and complex environment, with unprecedented developments in the maritime space and on the land hubs on either side of India, he said. The seminar, attended by foreign policy experts, examines India’s relations with the great powers, particularly the relationships with the United States, China, Russia and Japan."

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