‘Issue-based alignments’ may be the focus of Jaishankar’s foreign policies

Updated on Jun 02, 2019 08:52 AM IST

Jaishankar, 64, was the surprise addition to Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s cabinet, replacing Sushma Swaraj. As a former envoy to the US and China, he is well equipped to take forward ties with both the powers that are currently engaged in a trade war.

External affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (left) with foreign secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale, in New Delhi.(Reuters File Photo)
External affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (left) with foreign secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale, in New Delhi.(Reuters File Photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent

The new external affairs minister, S Jaishankar, believes India’s foreign policy set-up has to be nimble while responding to a changing world order and forging “issue-based alignments” with like-minded states at a time when multilateralism is facing greater challenges.

The former foreign secretary, who took over as the minister on Friday, is yet to publicly spell out his foreign policy priorities, but his remarks at an event organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) on April 24 provide insights into his views on India’s role in a rapidly changing world.

Jaishankar, 64, was the surprise addition to Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s cabinet, replacing Sushma Swaraj. As a former envoy to the US and China, he is well equipped to take forward ties with both the powers that are currently engaged in a trade war.

Speaking at the launch of the book Indian Foreign Policy: The Modi Era by Harsh V Pant, the head of the strategic studies programme at ORF, Jaishankar listed building strong partnerships with like-minded states on specific subjects or “issue-based alignments”, managing great power relationships and increasing India’s global footprint and using unpredictability to enhance value among the “10 big takeaways” regarding changes in foreign policy in the past few years.

Also read: Proud to follow in Sushma Swaraj’s footsteps, says Jaishankar in 1st tweet

Among the other takeaways were making pragmatic decisions based on risk-benefit calculations, a willingness to use military power, making defence policy an integral part of diplomacy, making business and investments central to diplomacy and playing the diaspora card more extensively and effectively.

India, he said, will have to “nimbly expand the space to pursue its interests and not be caught flatfooted by dogma”. The country will have to position itself by optimising ties with all the major players, and this will include “cultivating America, steadying Russia, managing China, enthusing Japan and attending to Europe”, he said.

There will be more issue-based alignments as the world has “moved into an era of greater plurilaterals and stronger bilateral, with multilateralism perhaps paying the cost”, he added.

Jaishankar appeared to indicate that a breakthrough in the relationship with Pakistan was unlikely in the immediate future, saying “the new normal with regard to Pakistan is in the making”. There was, he said, no global comparison for Pakistan’s obsession with India since the 1980s though things had changed in recent years.

“Pakistan is in a special category, the Pakistanis had gamed us and it’s important not to behave predictably...We are trying to out-think them, which has historically not been the case,” he said.

Also read: US, China ties key tasks for S Jaishankar

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