Era of great caution behind us: Jaishankar

If India has to grow, it has to shed its traditional caution, step out more, be more confident and articulate its interests, said external affairs minister S Jaishankar amid indications that China’s aggression on the Line of Actual Control may have spurred New Delhi to discard the historical hesitations and explore fresh geostrategic options.

Speaking at an interaction, Jaishankar said India has moved away from the traditional notions of nonalignment. “If we are to grow by leveraging the international situation, we have to exploit the opportunities out there. Can’t do that by saying, ‘I’m going to stay away from it all, and when I find it convenient I will step out’. Either you’re in the game or you’re not in the game. The era of great caution, and greater dependence on multilateralism, is behind us. We have to step out more. We have to be more confident, we have to articulate our interests better. We need to take risks. Without taking risks, you can’t get ahead. Those are choices we have to make,” the minister said.

Jaishankar’s remarks come as the Covid-19 pandemic and China’s border challenge pose both a crisis and an opportunity for India to reset its own economic and international compact.

Answering a question whether non-alignment is all about distance from the US, he said, “Non-alignment is a term of a particular era and a particular geopolitical landscape. There are two aspects to it. One part of it is to be independent, which has resonances from our history and freedom movement. That remains and is the continuity factor. The other part was legitimate in the ’50s and ’60s — stay out of trouble, don’t get entangled in other people’s problems.”

The minister further said: “Today, India has a contribution to make. People turn to us for solutions. We’re no longer the bystander. We have a contribution to make. We have to weigh in on big issues — like the rules for connectivity, maritime security, terrorism and climate change.”

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