Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has defended New Delhi’s policy approach, criticizing “attempts to restrict choices” Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India Minister of External Affairs, attends the 2024 Munich Security Conference on February 17, 2024 in Munich, Germany. © Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Indian foreign policy imperatives are not influenced by “imported ideologies,” Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar declared in a speech at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi on Monday. The country will instead embrace the philosophy of ‘Bharat’, championed as “a statement of independence” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Jaishankar stated that Bharat means it is natural for India to approach world affairs from the perspective of its own “interests, world view, sentiment and culture.” He went on to say that “a crucial difference is that of not allowing our approach to be clouded by imported ideologies and global conformism. Instead, there is a self-assured analysis of how our national goals are best advanced, coupled with the experiences we share with others and the empathy that it generates.”

Taking note of the growing global conversation on multi-polarity, the diplomat questioned the existence of “hierarchical frameworks, unilateral initiatives and attempts to restrict choices” in what could be seen as a veiled jab at some of New Delhi’s partners, who continue to question its ties with Russia amid the Ukraine conflict. “The reality however is that preaching is not the same as practicing,” the diplomat stressed.

Global public square: India sets the stage for geopolitical dialogue that the divided world needs now Global public square: India sets the stage for geopolitical dialogue that the divided world needs now

The comment comes days after Jaishankar was pressed to defend – at multiple forums – India’s foreign policy choices, including its continuing engagement with Moscow. In the past, Jaishankar has described Western sanctions on Russia as “levers” that advanced economies have at their disposal and argued that “many parts of the world” do not accept them. At the Munich Security Conference earlier this month, Jaishankar was again probed on ties with Moscow and whether New Delhi’s Western partners “have a problem” with it. The diplomat responded by stating that India should be admired for keeping “multiple options” open.

“Everyone conducts a relationship based on their past experiences. If I look at the history of India post-independence, Russia has never hurt our interests,” Jaishankar said.

At the same time, in his speech on Monday the minister asserted that New Delhi “perceives the distinction” between being “non-west” and “anti-west,” adding that finding common ground while asserting its own identity is an “essential requirement.”

The top diplomat also emphasized India’s role as a “voice” of Global South which he claimed is “strongly aggrieved at the treatment meted out to it” and is “truly struggling to make ends meet” as rising debt, significant inflation and global trade disruptions continue to affect less developed nations. India, seen as the de facto leader of the Global South, orchestrated the African Union’s inclusion in the G-20 during its presidency last year.

The minister also reiterated a pitch for India’s inclusion as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), arguing that “multilateralism in the current era stands grid-locked.”

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