Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee introduced policy corrections that reflected the end of the Cold War and the new global balance, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said Friday and noted that the former PM sought a modus vivendi with China that was based as much on mutual respect as on mutual interest.
Jaishankar also said the winds of change are most apparent in the Indo-Pacific and it is there that the diplomatic creativity which Vajpayee inspires should be most strongly applied.
“We are looking at a complex set of transformations that are simultaneously underway. The Indo-Pacific is witnessing both multipolarity and rebalancing,” he said in his opening remarks at the Second Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture which was delivered by Michael Fullilove, the Executive Director of the Lowy Institute of Australia.
“The Indo-Pacific is seeing great power competition as well as middle power plus activities, and orthodox politics, including territorial differences, are in sharper play, side-by-side with currencies of power like connectivity and technology,” Jaishankar said adding, “In fact, no other landscape illustrates better the widening of our definition of national security.”
Talking about Vajpayee, Jaishankar said, “If we are to look at the essence of his approach to international relations, it is evident that this focuses on responding effectively to global changes.”
“Where the United States was concerned, Vajpayee introduced policy corrections that reflected the end of the Cold War and the new global balance. At the same time, he kept India’s course steady vis-à-vis Russia despite the turbulence of that era. With China, whether as Foreign Minister or as Prime Minister, he sought a modus vivendi that was based as much on mutual respect as on mutual interest,” Jaishankar said.
“With Pakistan, Vajpayee strenuously tried to dissuade them from their path of sponsoring cross-border terrorism,” Jaishankar said.
“All this, of course, was underpinned by his belief that India must develop deeper strengths at home. This found expression in the exercise of the nuclear option as it did in the economic modernisation that he presided over,” the External Affairs minister said.
In his lecture on “Australia, India and the Indo-Pacific: The need for strategic imagination”, Fullilove compared diplomacy with cricket, saying the game of cricket is in many ways similar to the great game of the relations between states.
“Like foreign policy, cricket is a long game. A Test match can take up to five days…things are opaque in cricket as in diplomacy. Sometimes a draw can be a win. Cricket and foreign policy require many of the same qualities, including intelligence, skill, patience, discipline, toughness and imagination,” he said.
“Bilateral relationship between New Delhi and Canberra has the character of a long innings, we started slowly but now that we have settled in, we are taking our shots and the runs are flowing,” Fullilove said.
He also suggested establishment of a high-level economic dialogue between Australia and India.