External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:
Thank you very much and it's a pleasure to be back at the Atlantic Council. Let me begin by recognizing two people who are not here but with whom my engagement goes back
to when I was ambassador and even earlier, Fred Kemp and Jon Huntsman. And I'm delighted to, I know many of you, but I'm particularly delighted to see Ambassador Dobriansky because the two of us worked on the kind of issues that I'm going to talk about when
we were both in the administration.
So when I thought I should come and avail of your invitation I felt I should really address what is the core mission of this institution, which was initially, to my understanding, a body which was set up to promote transatlantic understanding and then has grown
beyond that to actually take on the responsibility of engaging the world beyond the transatlantic world. So my remarks today are really focused on those sets of issues which in a sense, you could say, how does India relate to the West, how does the West relate
to India and where do we go on from here.
Now, you know, many of you would have heard in another country the term, a century of humiliation. India actually had two centuries of humiliation by the West because the West, kind of in its predatory form came into India in the mid 18th century and continued
for almost 190 years after that. And it was interesting, I think a year ago, there was actually a very serious economic study which tried to estimate how much the British took out of India in value terms and a very calculated math ended up putting a number
of $45 trillion at today's value. So that should give you a sense of really what happened in those two hundred years.
So while we will speak of all the things we share today, the reality also is that the history of India and the West is also a history of really a famine, of slavery, of opium trade, so that is a very dark side to all of this. Now this is the hundred and fiftieth
anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. October 2nd is actually the birth anniversary and I think it's worthwhile to pause and reflect on how a leader like him actually changed India's attitude towards the West, that in 1947 when India got independence it need not
have had the kind of relationship with the West which it did thereafter. We can debate the merits of it but I think it's extraordinary in a way that a country which struggled so long for its independence, kind of, reached informal understanding or a compact
in a sense with the West. And I would sort of regard that as really the ability to set history aside and allow politics and economics and social connections to take over.
So what you don't see in India and have not seen for the last 70 years, even at the most difficult times with the West, has been a kind of mobilization around an anti-western nationalism. That it has been actually, in many ways I would say, a cordial relationship.
If it was not cordial, it was certainly not frictional and part of that was also the way we set up our own institutions and created our own society. At the end of the day the fact that we are a liberal democracy, the fact that there is a governance model based
on the rule of law, the fact that there is social pluralism, and that we are a market economy, I think these were all really very powerful factors which actually enabled us to put that history behind us.
And here I would make one point before shifting to my next argument, which is that India's choices in 1947 and thereafter actually took what were Western values and Western practices and made them near-universal. So today if you have, in the developed world
or the South whatever you call it, if you have today a belief that democracy is an ethically superior model of governance, in part it is due to the fact that the first big post-colonial polity actually chose that and then sustained it despite extraordinary
odds over the last 70 years. So let's look at the last 70 years and these last 70 years have really been a very complex history. At one level I would say the West has actually been very-very supportive of India's growth- India's rise if you would. You can
see that in politics, you can see that in security, in trade, in investment, in services, in education particularly in the 50s,60s, 70s and development assistance of various kinds. You can see that where the Indian diaspora, particularly the more modern voluntary
diaspora, is located and I would say that 40s to perhaps the late 90s, let's say the 20th century in that sense was a period where actually what I described as a cordial, non-frictional relationship was largely in play and I think it's had a very invaluable
role really in building the India that we have today.
But having said that, it is what I would call a Goldilocks era of our relationship which is the West didn't want India to get too weak, it didn't want India to get too strong. So it stirred the Indian porridge or tried to stir the Indian porridge just right
and sometimes got it, say there were margins of error on either side. So you actually have a very interesting sort of situation where when India in 1962 after the conflict where we were defeated, actually the West comes to the assistance of India. But in less
than a decade in 1971 when it seems to the West that India is seeking a primacy in the subcontinent, the West opposes India. So there's a sort of a bandwidth in which the relationship operates. Now this bandwidth is not just episodic. I mean if you look at
where is it that we got our relationship right and where we did not, pretty much across the development spectrum the West was very supportive, but when it came to industrialization, particularly in Heavy Industries or when it came to defence and security,
the West was very conservative.
So you had, sort of, both geopolitical or political moments as well as sectors where there was a very interesting management of relations. And today if you go to the archives and you know a lot of what were the internal thinking or multiple administrations’,
they are for people to access, I think it's more starkly actually laid out by President Eisenhower, but you can see strains of it before him. After him through multiple administrations this idea that how do you keep India in play, a weak India is bad for American,
Western interests, an excessively strong India is also a problem of a kind. By the way, those days mostly they worried about a weak India. So this in a sense was the sort of scenario through the 20th century.
Now somewhere along the way that began to change and I'll talk about it, but even though it's changed I do believe some of these structural issues, where there are divergences between India and the West, do continue. It's visible in trade, it's visible in IPR
issues, it can be visible sometimes in issues of non-proliferation, freedom, civil rights, you know. Which cause do you support, which cause do you not. Sometimes we look at situations where we say, why is the West broadly and the US looking away from what
is a visible violation of rights. There'd be times when in some form the same question would be asked of us. The bottom line for me really is, for all that we have in common we also need to recognize that we are coming from a different place and we do have
different histories. So a lot of the challenge today for us is to reconcile that.
So having stated that, what is our current conundrum? From the Indian side I think there's a clear sense that the power of the West remains very strong. That if you look at the world the institutions, the regimes, the rules, the practices, the narratives of
the world are still largely shaped by the West. The West underwrites international systems in many ways, it really governs the global Commons also in many ways, but having said that what has been visible particularly in the last years and in the case of China
perhaps even before that, there is a rebalancing underway. The rebalancing was accelerated by the 2008 global financial crisis and what was initially seen as an economic rebalancing was actually until it became a much larger, I would say strategic, cultural
rebalancing. And if there is a single way by which you could capture it is the fact that the G20 today has really replaced the G7 as the primary body for global deliberations.
Now while I say that the West still retains great dominance over the international system, it's also a fact that we see a much more divided West and part of the reason is - the United States has been and is the glue that holds the West together and I use West
in the largest, most expansive sense of the term. I mean I would call Japan in that sense as part of the West, or perhaps Korea also. I use not really a geographical or ethnic definition but I capture the alliance constructs or the OECD part of it as well.
And so today as the world is getting more multipolar, the West is also getting more multipolar and that's a very interesting dynamic when you look at the West.
Now I see two propositions, one that the West needs India. It needs India because India is an additional engine of growth, that the market access is important, that India's human resources will become more relevant to the world, that we will move to a multipolar
world- have in a sense moved to it- and therefore it's important to manage the multipolarity by having good relations with multiple worlds. The fact that in many areas there would be burden sharing of some kind, you can already see that. For example in HADR
operations in our part of the world and then on global issues it's important to work with a country like India and I think nothing illustrates that more than climate change and what happened at Paris.
But having said that I would make the converse argument which is India needs the West and India needs the West for a variety of reasons. But I would give you the simplest historical argument for it which is that every major growth story in the last 150 years
has actually, paradoxically, happened with the support of the West. So whether it is the rise of Japan, whether, even the rise of Soviet Union, the rise of Korea, of the ASEAN, of China, all these would not have been possible had they not been done in tandem
with the Western interests and Western thinking of that period.
The direction of the global economy would also make a stronger argument for this body because as we move into a world of a more knowledge economy, one of greater technology interdependence, clearly an important factor would be the flow of talent in the world
and there I would suggest that actually India has a somewhat unique position vis-à-vis the economies of the West. So the question which flows from all of this is that is it possible, is it likely that there is actually a new compact between India and the West?
Because if this rebalancing has to be reflected in a different equilibrium, in different equations, in new methods of working with each other, is there actually a sense of how to work that out? So that brings me then to the next question. What does it take
us to get to that new compact? And obviously the first point there is to have the realization that there's a need for a new compact. I think that realization is today strong in the United States. I see that, to a certain extent, in Japan. I see that less in
Europe but it is moving in the right direction. So even the awareness aspect of it clearly needs more work for this to develop further.
Now when I say what does it take, I would say that awareness first of all needs to translate itself into a recognition of the need for a new balance, which means you really have different kinds of collaborations, different conversations and in all of this obviously
India would hedge enough to make sure that it will always have a strong bargaining hand vis-à-vis the West. So the fact that India has other equities and other activities does not detract from what will, at the end of the day, be a sort of a central aspect
of its foreign policy direction.
There are other aspects of what it takes and one of them is also an understanding of a changed India. A changed India, that democratization over the last 70 years in India has had its own impact, that if you look today at India, the politics of India, the social
aspects of India - bluntly put , the old elite is now out of business and really you have a new set of people there with different thoughts, with their own sense of roots who relate to the world obviously differently from the people who dominated the Indian
political scene before them. A third aspect of it, certainly from the Indian point of view, would be in one part how do you build bridges and there the role of the Diaspora would be very important. But increasingly what we can see is that the treatment of
the diaspora abroad becomes a factor in India's responses to a particular country or society. So I see that not just as a conversation between India and its diaspora but also a factor in our relations with other countries and other partners. And in a sense
that's a two-way factor because the diaspora also relates, particularly the Indian diaspora relates much more to development in home country than many other diasporas do. That's something we can discuss if there's interest.
From the Indian point of view as I said we, in the past noted the fact that the current world order is very much built on institutions and practices which were advanced, which were created, envisaged and socialized by the West. But looking ahead, our sense
is really the theories of the decline of the West are grossly overstated. That if you look at technology, if you look at even defense budgets, if you look at the will to exercise power, if you look at new instruments of pressure which have appeared on the
international scene in the last ten years, in all of this actually the West very much maintains its leads.
So the task before us, if we are to move in this direction, is one of course to strengthen our convergences and there are issues today, very obvious issues to work together. Issues like counter-terrorism, issues like maritime security, issues like connectivity.
But there will also be divergences and I think part of the challenge would be to manage those. Lot of those would arise in third country situations like Russia or Iran and some of it would also be to overcome history. That one of the burdens that India carries
is the fact that it was not a central part of the order that emerged in 1945. It wasn't on the high table at that point of time.
So how do you make the world more contemporary, how do you make the world order more contemporaneous and here I would argue that it is very much in the interests of the West to do that but it obviously again is not a task that is easy. The symbol of that is
the UN Security Council but that's not the only facet of that particular argument.
So I would end with a concluding observation which is that as India itself rises, we are today the fifth or sixth largest economy which certainly would be the third largest economy even in nominal terms by 2030. We will be the most populous country in less
than the next five years, so the question which we ask ourselves and I guess in a way the world asks itself is really what kind of power India would be, and I think a large part of that answer is obviously with us. But I think one part of that answer is also
with the West and what kind of relationship we now forge together, to my mind, would really give us the full picture. So I would stop my remarks there and I'd be happy to take questions.
Good morning. Thank you so much Dr.Jaishankar for essentially giving us the Jaishankar Doctrine and you know what was anyway going to be a fascinating conversation has sort of been elevated by your willingness to engage in a preview really
of a strategic vision of how India engages with the West in the 21st century under your leadership and the leadership of your government. Thank You ambassador Singler and your team from the embassy, all of you, honored guests. They're very grateful that he
would take time this morning to join us. So I'm going to ask the minister a couple of questions to get this conversation going and then of course open it up, you can indicate using your name tent if you want to ask a question I’d be happy to call on you, and
again just to remind you that this is on the record.
So Dr.Jaishankar let's start with, in a sense a softball if you would, right, we will start the bouncers in a minute.So starting with the Prime Minister's appearance with President Trump in Houston, then a very
full week, as Damon alluded to, of bilateral and multilateral meetings in New York and then last afternoon with Secretary Pompeo in the evening, you’d probably leave Washington and the United States with a much clearer sense of how the West, as you've described
them, is thinking about India at this US-India relationship to where you would like it to be. Would you be willing to give us a bit of a readout as it were about what do you take away from this very long set of meetings over the last week?
External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar:
First, my meetings aren't over yet so I still have a few more secretaries to go. I'm meeting Secretary Asper I think tomorrow and the new NSA as well as the Homeland Security
Acting Secretary and will be meeting a lot of businesses in different formats. But look, to my mind I'd kind of put my interest areas in two broad baskets. One would be really the politics of the West, particularly the internal politics of the West because
to say that the Western societies are today having an active debate would be the understatement of the year. Every one of them in some form has that as an ongoing activity, but really these few years are going to take us in a very different direction than
in the past, that's very obvious. And it's also obvious it's very differentiated. I spend a lot of time in Europe, not just in this job but even in my previous job and as you can see today that if you take the breadth of the political spectrum, both to the
left and the right, there's been a kind of a expansion and I think to a large extent that's true of American politics as well. And when you have the two extremes expanding, you obviously have, in each case, much sharper arguments with it but our concern is
not to get into those arguments because we look at the aggregate outcome and where do individual power centres and our nation stand and where do they stand collectively.
And that really brings me to the second basket, and the second basket which is the economic, technology basket, if you would, because I think the rate of change, rate of social change in the world is so extraordinary today and the importance of Technology holds
a promise which goes actually beyond our imagination. That if we were to think back every five years you couldn't have imagined where you were then. And what does that do for our relationship because in India we can't grow the old-fashioned way, we can't go
up the manufacturing ladder and then industrialize and then scale it up, so we'll have to, kind of, do a very unique mix of leapfrogging, of shortcuts, of improvisations.
So if you were to ask me, how is India going to grow- would it be manufacturing, would it be services, would it be start-ups, would it be skills, would it be exports, would it be you know globalized talent driven, would it be insular - my answer would be all
of the above because I think we’ll kind of end up in that situation. And that kind of India with this much more differentiated complex West- their coming together to me is really a proposition which is very desirable but clearly not just not inevitable but
not easy. It will have its challenges, I mean there will be issues, there will be decisions we would make which some segments here may not like, it would work the other way around as well and we'll have to take our lumps as we try to forge a different and
So I leave after this trip even more fascinated by the internal discourse of the places I visited, but I also leave confident because of everybody I met and all the conversations that I have had. I think I’ll leave very confident of the fact that our relationship
with the United States, which I have said has been the thought leader in that direction, today has a strategic significance.