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Keynote Address by Secretary (West) at the Inaugural Session of the 3rd D&ISA Fellowship

January 09, 2023

A very good morning to everyone! I welcome you all to India and to the third edition of India’s Disarmament and International Security Affairs Fellowship Programme. I thank the Dean, Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service (SSIFS), Shri Sanjeev Ranjan for inviting me to deliver the keynote address and share my thoughts with you.

2. We launched this Fellowship in 2019 with the aim of raising awareness and exchanging views among officials from across the world on issues related to contemporary disarmament, non-proliferation, arms control and international security affairs. It fulfills the mandate of UNGA Resolution "United Nations study on disarmament and non-proliferation education” and is also in line with the focus on ‘Disarmament Education’ in UN Secretary General’s Agenda for Disarmament ‘Securing our Common Future’.

3. Unfortunately, we were unable to conduct the programme in the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, I am happy that we are back with increased participation from far and wide. This carefully curated programme is an eclectic mix of lectures by leading experts, field visits and extra-curricular activities. I am sure you will have an enriching and intellectually stimulating experience over the next three weeks and will leave India with lifelong friendships and delightful memories.

4. It is a privilege to address a room full of diplomats from all over the world today. Regardless of which country we come from, our approach is identical- understand the changing contours of the global landscape and traverse this terrain to achieve the most optimal outcomes for our countries. Let us see where the world is today.

5. In the last few decades, with the rise of globalization, there has been a rebalancing of the global economy towards the Indo-Pacific region. There is greater interconnectedness and multipolarity, but also divides and uncertainties. The COVID-19 pandemic generated severe economic stresses across the world and further altered geopolitical and geo-economic equations. Extreme weather events due to the global challenge of climate change are unfolding with greater frequency and intensity. And, the global macro economic landscape appears wobbles on fears of inflation, public debt and recession. The conflict in Ukraine has exacerbated food and fuel security, particularly for the developing world.

6. These are also challenging times for disarmament and international security issues. There are serious concerns over the future of strategic arms control, including the New-START Treaty, as countries expand and modernize their arsenals. Attention to nuclear weapons is today at a new peak since the heights of the cold war.

7. The goal of elimination of nuclear weapons from national armaments has been reaffirmed by the General Assembly on several occasions, but remains elusive. Nuclear weapons continue to constitute an important element of the security calculus of many countries. We should remind ourselves that any breakdown of deterrence will have catastrophic socioeconomic and environmental consequences for the entire world.

8. India, as a responsible nuclear power, is committed as per our nuclear doctrine to maintain credible minimum deterrence with the posture of no-first use and non-use against non-nuclear weapon States. We appreciate the affirmation in the joint statement on "Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Race” by the P5 in January 2022 that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”. The Leaders Declaration at the last G20 Summit in November 2022 affirmed that "the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible”. Such declarations increase trust and reduce the risk of misinterpretation or miscalculation.

9. India attaches high importance to the full, effective and non-discriminatory implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and its universalization. India firmly believes that the use of chemical weapons, anywhere, by anybody and under any circumstances cannot be justified. We also give a high priority to universalization of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and call for its institutional strengthening, including negotiation of a comprehensive and legally binding Protocol, providing for an effective, universal and non-discriminatory verification mechanism.

10. The world today is witnessing exponential investment in new and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing, genomics, quantum computing, drones, and so on. With the development of new technology emerges a new set of capabilities, all of whose applications may or may not be purely peaceful in nature. In view of the dual-use nature of such technologies, there is a risk of proliferation to unintended or unauthorized end users, including terrorists and other non-State actors.

11. India actively contributes to global efforts towards non-proliferation. India participates in multilateral export control regimes such as Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Australia Group (AG) and Wassenaar Arrangement (WA)—of which we assumed the Plenary Chairmanship from 1 January of this year. Our membership application to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has been kept pending for nearly 7 years due to political impediments, which is not in global interest. As a country with a mature civil nuclear industry, we look forward to joining the NSG and further contributing to the rules-based international order.

12. As a major spacefaring nation, India has vital developmental and security interests in space technologies. India has a successful record of space launches and operational capability. The main objective of our space programme is ensuring the country’s socio-economic development and its security. Since the launch of the first satellite by the Soviet Union more than six decades ago, the domain of space has undergone tremendous transformation. Today, space assets have become indispensable for the global economy and military operations. The number of stakeholders in the space sector is growing. The flipside is that space is becoming increasingly congested, which raises the potential for disputes and conflict. India remains opposed to the weaponization of outer space and supports collective efforts to strengthen the safety and security of space-based assets.

13. Ladies and Gentlemen, international security is impacted by the scourge of terrorism, which, like climate change and pandemics, affects us all. For many decades, India has been a victim of cross-border terrorism sustained through financial, political and moral support of some States. At the UN Security Council, where India recently completed its tenure as a non-permanent Member for the period 2021-22, counter-terrorism was one of our focus areas. As Chair of the Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) of the UN Security Council, we hosted a Special Meeting of the Committee in October 2022 in India, and as President of the UN Security Council, held a briefing on the topic ‘Global Approach to Counter Terrorism — Challenges and Way Forward’ in December 2022. In November we hosted the Third No Money for Terror Ministerial Conference.

14. Before I conclude, it would be opportune to provide you a peek into India’s approach to international relations. Today, we are building stronger bridges with both developing countries and advanced economies. Apart from G20, we are members of a growing number of groups and mechanisms. Some of them are relatively established like the BRICS and Commonwealth. Others have been more recent like the Quad and SCO. And still others are emerging like the I2U2 and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. We are also increasingly engaging the world in group formats, reflecting the growing interest on their part to cooperating with India. This could be with the ASEAN, Africa or the Pacific Islands, or indeed the Nordic nations, Caricom, CELAC or Central Asia. Our growing collaboration with the European Union is of particular importance.

15. India tends to avoid extreme strategic and political behavior, which is rooted in our cultural history. As the land of the Buddha, India believes in the philosophy of the "Middle Path” which is not to be mistaken for passiveness or neutrality. Our preference is to be a moderating influence and a consensus builder, and this has been amply demonstrated in the context of the Ukraine conflict. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said that this is not the era of war, and dialogue and diplomacy alone can provide solutions.

16. Our approach to international relations is also guided by our philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, that is, the whole world is one family. During the pandemic, when nations across the world became inward-looking, India provided COVID-19 related medical equipment and vaccines at a particularly difficult time to more than 100 countries, especially in the Global South.

17. India’s commitment to multilateralism is well-recognized and is one of the tenets of our foreign policy. On the multilateral front, the year 2022 has been an important milestone for India. We completed our two-year tenure as non-permanent Member of the UNSC, took over as Chair of G20, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), and chaired the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on UN Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA) in the 30th year of its establishment.

18. In closing, an observation that will perhaps resonate more with young diplomats with full careers ahead. When taking over the G20 Presidency in Bali, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the need for a sense of trusteeship among humanity for the safe future of the planet. Our global challenges, from disarmament and non-proliferation, to environmental crisis, pandemics and terrorism, necessitates global solidarity and reformed multilateralism. As G20 President, India will attempt to reorient the world towards an agenda that is inclusive, ambitious, action-oriented and decisive. The theme of India's G20 Presidency – "One Earth, One Family, One Future”, fully reflects our intent to make the G20 a catalyst for global change.

19. I am delighted to have had this opportunity to place my thoughts before all of you. I am sure you will enjoy your very own three week multilateral setting in India. I also wish you a happy, healthy and successful 2023!

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