Need to put behind idea that India needs approval of other countries: Jaishankar
New Delhi: India should engage the world on the basis of its confidence in its identity rather than trying to please the global community as their "pale imitation", External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday amid increasing Western pressure on the country to oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In reflection of India's foreign policy approach, the external affairs minister said at the Raisina Dialogue that the country needs to put behind the idea that it needs the approval of other countries.
"We have to be confident about who we are. I think it is better to engage the world on the basis of who we are rather than try and please the world as a pale imitation of what they are. This idea that others define us, somehow we need to get the approval of other quarters, I think that is an era we need to put behind us," he said.
Speaking at a session on India's 75-year-long journey after Independence and the way ahead, Jaishankar said,"we should not be looking at the world with a sense of entitlement. We need to earn our place in the world and which to a certain extent, therefore, comes to the issue of how the world benefits from the growth of India. We need to demonstrate that."
Asked about what should be the priority for the country in the 25 years, Jaishankar said capability development in all possible areas should be the central focus.
Referring to the Ukraine crisis, the external affairs minister said the best way to deal with it would be to focus on "stopping the fighting and getting the talking" and added that India's position on the conflict is best placed to advance such an approach.
Jaishankar on Tuesday countered criticism of India's position on Russia's actions in Ukraine, saying the Western powers have been oblivious to the pressing challenges in Asia including last year's developments in Afghanistan.
"We spent a lot of time yesterday on Ukraine and I have tried to explain what our views are but also explained that in our minds the best way forward is to focus on stopping the fighting, getting the talking and finding ways of moving forward. We think our choices, our positions are best placed to advance that," he said.
India has not yet publicly condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine and has been calling for the resolution of the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy.
In his address, Jaishankar also highlighted how the country played a key role in promoting democracy in South Asia.
"If I were to pick a single thing that we have done, the difference we have made to the world in the last 75 years, it is the fact that we have a democracy," he said.
Talking about the areas where India came up short, the external affairs minister listed a lack of adequate attention to human resources and manufacturing and mentioned that probably not much attention was given to hard security as part of foreign policy.
He hoped that India will be "deeply more international" in terms of its commitments, responsibilities and roles in the next 25 years.
"There was a time in this part of the world that we were pretty much the only democracy. If democracy is global today, we see it is global today, I think, in some measure, that credit is due to India," Jaishankar said.
He noted that it is also fair to look back on where the country came up short.
"One, clearly we did not pay the kind of attention to our social indicators, our human resources as we should have. Two, we did not concentrate on manufacturing and technology strengths as we should have. And three, in terms of foreign policy, probably, in the mix of various elements, we did not give as much importance, as much weight to hard security as we should have," he said.
At the same time, he said that it is not a "polemical criticism" of the past.
Other countries who were in similar situations did exactly this and this is one of the reasons why some of them today are ahead, he noted.
"It is something we are trying to do now. These are the areas we are trying to correct at this point in time. It's not that it cannot be done. It is being done even as we speak," he added.
Talking about India's successful democratic journey, Jaishankar said the choices made by India have had a larger influence globally and they contributed to the spreading of democracy in South Asia.
"We would like to see more prosperity in South Asia. If India has been in a sense an example of democracy or promoter of democracy in South Asia, we would now like to be part of a larger lifting tide so that the rest of South Asia grows along with us," Jaishankar said.
The external affairs minister said that India has to develop its stakes in its future.
"There is a lot of talk about reliable and resilient supply chains and people speak about transparency and trusted technologies. If India could do more and show the rest of the world that the world benefits by India being bigger," Jaishankar said.
"So we need to develop stakes in our future... I think some of that is happening for strategic reasons obviously, but we need to make more of it happen especially for economic reasons," he added.
Asked about the shortage of wheat in the wake of the war in Ukraine, and how India would like to contribute to address the issue, he said,"we have significant wheat production. We would obviously go into the global markets and try to compensate for the shortfalls as much as we can. It (Egypt) is one of the countries with whom we are talking." PTI MPB