‘It is commendable that India is able to persuade all sides.’
‘It shows that India counts and finally, we are reaching a position where we can find a place in the sun at the global level.’
“India has increased its hard power through the success of Chandrayaan-3, its rising economy, and its growing capacity to deploy naval assets in the South China Sea.
“All these changes indicate that India is becoming a power with greater ability to persuade,” says Ambassador Jitendra Nath Misra, India’s former envoy to Portugal.
The diplomat is currently Professor of Diplomatic Practice at the O P Jindal Global University, Sonipat, and Distinguished Fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies, Dhaka.
“Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar are among the most strategically minded leaders we have had since Independence. It is commendable that they are able to persuade all sides,” he tells Rediff.com‘s Archana Masih.
The concluding segment of a two-part interview:
How do you think China is viewing the proposed economic corridor that will be an alternative to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative?
Moreover, does it have much more significance that this was signed at the summit where the Chinese were in attendance?
Exactly! The agreement on the Corridor was not part of the official agenda of the G-20 Summit, therefore China could not have formally objected during the summit deliberations.
Signalling is important in diplomacy. China was somewhat outmanoeuvred. These countries showed a deft touch and quick reflexes in launching an initiative that counters the BRI.
It is significant for India in the backdrop of the problems with China on the border.
The European countries, meanwhile, also don’t want to hitch their bandwagon entirely with the US. They want to stay out of the US-China contestation wherever possible.
India has increased its hard power through the success of Chandrayaan-3, its rising economy, and its growing capacity to deploy naval assets in the South China Sea.
All these changes indicate that India is becoming a power with greater ability to persuade.
Diplomacy follows power. Diplomacy does not create power. A diplomat is good only when the nation has the power to back that diplomacy.
I congratulate the collective leadership and the government, because they have acted strategically.
Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar are among the most strategically minded leaders we have had since Independence.
It is commendable that they are able to persuade all sides. It’s almost surreal that the Russians, Americans, Europeans, and even Canada defended the formulation on Ukraine, despite the bilateral problems between Canada and India.
It shows that India counts and finally, we are reaching a position where we can find a place in the sun at the global level.
Dr Jaishankar has said that India is shifting from being a ‘balancing power’ to a ‘leading power’ and Chandrayaan-3 is an example.
We are a leading power in being the first country to land near the South Pole of the moon, but we have to carry out many more such endeavours.
Therefore, to conclude, the Chinese would be uncomfortable with the Corridor. It happened in the presence of the Chinese premier in Delhi, though, of course, as I said, it was not part of the G-20 agenda.
Multilateral meetings are important because they create opportunities for agreements at the minilateral and bilateral levels.
Critics feel the Economic Corridor is too ambitious and a pipe dream, do you believe it is?
All action must begin with dreams. If we can’t dream, we can never act.
I agree that there are questions about funding. Also, if China changes its behaviour significantly, the priorities of others might change.
The Corridor will pass through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel, and then go by sea into Europe. America is trying to bring about reconciliation between the Saudis and Israel, perhaps leading to the opening of diplomatic relations between them.
India is more than happy with that, because we have very good relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as with Israel.
We are trying to create an alternative to the BRI and we need the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE because they have the finances, while India has other capabilities.
Moreover, I would not call this a ‘pipe dream’. I would say it is a dream. It is ambitious alright, but all ambition is linked to dreams — and all action begins with a dream.
Do you think India would have extracted some assurances from the member states in dealing with China?
I cannot speculate, but yes, as I’ve already mentioned, India is seeking coalitions to deal with the asymmetry between India and China’s hard power.
India can’t do it alone. This was an opportunity for India to explain its point of view in bilateral meetings and I wouldn’t be surprised if India did so, because we must muster all the support we can to deal with China’s aggressive behaviour.
What have been the gains for India?
India is a skilful practitioner of diplomacy. Therefore, India’s stature in the world has been enhanced and this is not just confined to the G-20.
The Turks tried to play a mediatory role in Ukraine, the African Union sent a delegation to mediate, but India seems to be the country able to bring all sides together, at least for now.
Though it was not an explicit move to mediate in Ukraine, India has positioned itself as a country that can offer something to both sides of the divide. The US might have gone along as China is steering BRICS away from the West; thus, the need to bolster institutions the West leads, like the G20.
The West, Russia, China and others — nobody is fully satisfied with the language of the Declaration on Ukraine, but everybody can live with it.
So therefore, India is playing an important role.
Why did China go along with India on this?
Well, they are facing a pushback. China is trying to position itself as the leader of an alternate world order and would have looked bad if they weren’t seen to be statesman-like.
They had to display that sort of leadership. They can’t put off everybody at the same time. When you’re feeling pressure, and keep saying no, and keep trying to block a consensus, you look even worse.
I think China went along, reluctantly, for that reason.
How has this summit shaped India’s foreign policy?
It is part of a process. As I said, India’s foreign policy has become more strategic. Our leaders are providing excellent guidance to our diplomats and that’s why our diplomats are performing so well.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com