Kicking off the annual conclave of over 110 Indian heads of missions posted across the world – the first under the NDA government – Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said it was time for India to play a ‘leading role’, rather than just a ‘balancing role’, globally. He has urged diplomats to ‘shed old mindsets’, lead the fight against climate change, and counter new threats to global peace.
Modi said that the present global environment presents a ‘rare opportunity’, when the world is keen to embrace India, and India is moving forward with confidence. He urged the senior diplomats to use precisely this opportunity to position India as a leader, not just a balancer, and adapt to changing global situations.
The conclave this year is centered on how Indian diplomacy can aid India’s development efforts. It is longer in duration than usual, and will continue till Tuesday. It will also see, in keeping with the PM’s earlier commitment to greater engagement of the states as well as their increasing role they play in foreign policy, with Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel expected to address the conclave. As is the practice, President Pranab Mukherjee and EAM Sushma Swaraj will also address the ambassadors.
Modi was pro-active in articulating the challenge posed by climate change, and said protecting the environment is a part of India’s cultural heritage, and therefore, emphasised India must take the lead in countering this challenge. India must also, he said, work towards changing global attitudes towards this issue. He used Indian culture to suggest there were many instances which indicated ‘prakriti-prem’, love for nature.
Modi lauded diplomats for mobilising the international community into supporting the International Day of Yoga, which has now been adopted by UN. He spoke of the Indian diaspora as a great strength of the nation – the PM has used this constituency in his diplomatic offensive in both US and Australia so far, and plans to do so yet again during a trip to UK soon. Modi had earlier asked missions to examine popular perceptions of how embassies functioned. He has now called for preparing a compendium of ‘best practices’ of missions, and spreading them horizontally.
The MEA has been one of the quickest in government to adapt to digital world. Modi said that missions must remain ahead on digital diplomacy, maintain digital libraries, and maintain regular contact with prominent individuals from countries abroad.
The PM also unveiled a plaque at the ministry of external affairs office in the Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan to commemorate the lives of those who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty while serving abroad.