New Delhi: India has had an “exceptionally difficult” challenge along the northern borders in the last three years and the country responded to it very resolutely and has been maintaining the kind of military deployment necessary for national security, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Saturday on the lingering row in eastern Ladakh with China.
He said this in an address at the FICCI, while explaining how the Modi government makes choices after choices with confidence however difficult and tough they may be.
“It could even be what happens at our border. Again you all know in the last three years, we have had an exceptionally difficult time in terms of the challenges on our northern borders,” Jaishankar said.
“Even though this happened in the middle of Covid, yet we responded very resolutely, very determinedly and to date we are still deployed in whatever manner is necessary for our national security,” he said.
The Indian and Chinese troops are locked in an over three-year confrontation in certain friction points in eastern Ladakh even as the two sides completed disengagement from several areas following extensive diplomatic and military talks.
Jaishankar also explained how India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, tried to create global awareness against terrorism or went ahead for cooperation under the Quad framework though there was a narrative that it could make somebody uncomfortable, seen as an oblique reference to China.
“If somebody else is uncomfortable, that’s their problem,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we have to do what we have to do. however difficult and tough that is. It is about the confidence of being able to exercise choice after choice,” he said adding such an approach will “define us as Bharat”.
The external affairs minister also cited how India confronted the challenge of terrorism.
“There is no society which is more traumatised in the modern era tha us when it comes to terrorism,” he said, noting the Modi government showed a sense of resolution to “shape” global agenda on it.
Without specifically mentioning India continuing procurement of crude oil from Russia, Jaishankar asserted that its choices on energy purchases were driven by national interests.
“When it came to our energy purchases, our national choices and national interests were supposed to be subservient to the political correctness of other countries who by the way had made their own arrangements to soften the blow for themselves,” he said.
India maintained purchase of crude oil from Russia notwithstanding pressure from the West to not do so in view of the Ukraine conflict.
Talking about the India growth story, Jaishankar said there is no question that the “world looks at us as an exceptionally strong area of growth”.
“We have made big decisions but we are clearly poised to make many more. We have nursed big ambitions, we have implemented much of what we promised but again there are still a lot we have to achieve,” he said.
“To me Vikshit Bharat — it is both a vision to achieve as well as a set of specific goals and a short description of it would be to really how to make India a developed country in the next 25 years,” he added.
The external affairs minister described the last five years as a “very traumatic for the world” and cited as reasons the “Covid shock”, developments in Afghanistan following withdrawal of the US troops, the impact of Ukraine conflict, the ongoing violence in the Middle-East and the implications of the competition between the US and China on global supply chains.
Jaishankar said the world is today moving towards greater insecurity and more protectionism, adding the trading rules implemented globally in the last two-to-three decades have actually raised a lot of question marks about their effectiveness.
Today, we are really looking at what happens when trading rules are gamed and when competition has been unfair and when the insecurities of Covid-era have caused many geographies, many regions, big economies to talk about strategic autonomy, he added.
Jaishankar said while it is acknowledged that opening up to the world is good, but at the same added that “opening up to the world must happen only when there is a level playing field for our own industry at home”.
“It cannot be at the cost of our industry and I think that is one message that the Modi government has given in a sustained manner over the last one decade,” he said.
The external affairs minister described the industry leaders as “builders of national strength”.
“I think that is a larger responsibility that must always be in your mind,” he said.
Jaishankar also called on the big businesses to help India build its own supply chains.
“I think it is important, especially for big businesses in India to help build Indian supply chains, to support Indian vendors. Because at the end of the day, no country will be strong if it does not have its own supply chain, if it does not have basic requirements,” he added.