India will work with its international partners to uphold a rules-based order, respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, and peaceful resolution of disputes while retaining strategic autonomy in decision-making, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said on Thursday.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which Shringla described as the “most catastrophic event after World War 2”, has “uncovered the vulnerabilities of nations” and led to the emergence of plurilateral platforms to cope with new challenges, he said while delivering a lecture at an online event marking the diamond jubilee of the National Defence College.
Speaking on the theme “Leveraging strategic autonomy in a turbulent world”, he said: “While there is a strong intent to cooperate, the need to retain strategic autonomy is even greater.”
Without naming China, whose aggressive actions have resulted in efforts for coordinated responses by countries in the Indo-Pacific region, Shringla referred to India’s upcoming two-year stint in the UN Security Council and said: “We remain committed to upholding a rules-based international order underpinned by the rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international seas, respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty and peaceful resolution of disputes.”
India’s objective will be advancing the security and economic interests of all countries against the backdrop of the Security Council’s dynamics having changed in the past decade. “As a rule-abiding democracy and positive contributor to the security of global commons, India aims to bring innovation and inclusive solutions to foster development. Reformed multilaterism is going to be a top priority for us,” he said.
In this context, Shringla pointed to India’s role in supporting a fair and inclusive WTO, World Bank and IMF and its role in digital taxation negotiations. He also said India had emerged as a net security provider in its extended neighbourhood by being at the forefront of humanitarian assistance operations and cooperating with Indo-Pacific countries on maritime security, anti-piracy and marine pollution.
However, Shringla cautioned that the global economic fallout of the pandemic will remain a challenge in the times to come, and require a carefully deliberate approach. “The breakdown of global supply chains has perhaps for the first time led us to think and explore alternative possibilities. India’s view has been to look at this challenge, not as a constraint, but as an opportunity for our economy as well as for rebalancing the international system,” he said.
“While keeping our strategic autonomy, we recognise the value of profitable economic convergence and the need to diversify as a need of the hour,” he said, noting that this was reflected in India’s virtual summits with Australia, the European Union (EU), Denmark, and Sri Lanka, and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue consultations.