External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar spoke on the nation’s altering image internationally, vaccine diplomacy and Indo-China relations at the Indian Today Conclave South 2021 on Saturday, 13 March.
Asked about India’s shift from a democracy to an ‘electoral autocracy’ as illustrated in the V-Dem report, the EAM said, “You use the dichotomy of democracy and autocracy. You want the truthful answer? It is hypocrisy. You have a set of self-appointed custodians of the world who find it very difficult to stomach that somebody in India is not looking for their approval, or play the game they want it to. So they invent their rules, their parameters, pass their judgments and then make it seem as though this is some kind of global exercise.”
Jaishankar went on to cite the example of India’s international vaccine supply to 70 countries, saying that it was the so-called ‘Hindu-nationalist’ government that did so. He contrasted India’s contributions to that of western countries.
Okay, we are the nationalist guys. We have given vaccines to 70 countries in the world. So tell me, how many vaccines have the internationalist countries given? Which one of these countries has said, ‘while I’m servicing my people, I shall service people outside who need it as much as my people do’? Where are these people when it comes to that?External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar
India’s international inoculation efforts have recorded an estimated 339.67 lakh doses in commercial deals. Over 80 lakh doses have been delivered free of charge and 165.24 lakh have been sent under the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation as well.
He added, “We are supposed to be shrinking civil rights because of our mindset apparently.”
The Union minister also compared the respect for the institution of elections and said, “Here you can say ‘I’m in this country, nobody questions our election’. Can you say that in those countries?”, in an apparent allusion to former US President Donald Trump’s outcry over the presidential elections.
The US-based NGO Freedom House report had categorised India from “free” to “partially-free”.
The external affairs minister also shed light on the months-long stand-off between India and China, and said, “I think we went through a very difficult period, and we are still not past it.”
‘India, China Regaining Places in Global Order’
India and China have been engaged in a soft border dispute in eastern Ladakh for over 10 months. Of the several highly volatile points on the border, disengagement has begun at one.
“Now, obviously, when a relationship is doing well, we would respond positively. So, if you extend your hand. I’m going to extend my hand, too. But if you point a gun at me, I shall point a gun at you. That’s reasonable and logical.”
He added that China’s rise has been phenomenal. “When a global power rises, it will have repercussions. It will create ripples that we shall feel directly. Now, we have problems, historical issues, boundary tensions. So, the possibility of the impact of that on us is, obviously, quite significant.”
Stating that the government “can’t have tension on the border”, Jaishankar stated that “We will be the second and third largest economies in the world in the very near future. We are the most populous countries in the world. We are the two Asian civilisations, which are, regaining their places in the global order in a sense.”
The Union minister also spoke candidly on his shift from a technocrat to a politician and the aspirations of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the south concerning the upcoming Tamil Nadu elections.