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Remarks by Minister of State for External Affairs, Smt. Meenakashi Lekhi at the Dubrovnik Forum 2023

Posted on: July 10, 2023 | Back | Print

Thank you very much. I must thank the organizers through you for arranging this forum for a conversation around issues, and that too an honest conversation. At least on the first panel, my point of view is, there has been open-hearted conversation. So open-hearted conversation becomes essential in addressing the issues, and the issue that we are faced with, and I'll pick up the strands from what has been spoken before. One is, is this the first disorder in our living memory? Answer is no. And if you look at it from India's perspective, I have another hat to wear, where I also hold the Office of the Minister of Culture, and one of my offices is in a building which is the National Gallery of Modern Art, and I often quote that the collection in that modern art gallery is 400 years old plus. So that is Indian perspective.

So 400, 600 is modern for us. And we talk in terms of, you know, 6th century BC and 5th century BC, etc, etc. So that's the whole perspective you get. And in that perspective, one of the important ways of looking at the problems is that what we call order or what we call disorder is very transitional, and the global view cannot, and especially in the case of Europe, cannot be geographically limited to Europe, because if you have to look at things, it has to be looked at from strategic perspective and global perspective. And your actions can lead to exactly the opposite impact what we are trying to achieve and engage.

So far as India is concerned, I must look at the logo. You've chosen a beautiful logo, which is chess, and chess came from India. So from India's perspective, we don't want to be the pawns. We want to retain our autonomy, and we want to retain our strategic autonomy. And for that reason, the engagements have to be at various levels. And in those levels, I must say, so far as Europe is concerned, we look at it as a reliable partner, because end of the day, we are democracies, voice of the people matters, and when people speak in unison or otherwise, in maybe chaotic at times, but that voice nevertheless matters. So democratic engagement, plus we are all market economies. The government, according to me, and according to government of India, has no business to be doing business. So business is usually done by non-government bodies, and which are businessmen and conglomerates and corporate.

But behind the shield of corporations, if there are governments operating, it becomes difficult to engage with, and multilateralism is something we all believe in, and that is what we believe. And when it comes to global order or disorder, my perspective and point of view would be that if Europe limits itself to World War II and post-World War II order; so World War II was in the sense that we created UN, and through UN, we wanted to create global order, and that creation of UN itself, post-1945 - is this the first conflict we are seeing? UN was created with two purposes in mind. One major purpose was that conflict, if at all come between the countries, they need to be peacefully resolved, and we should not allow any conflict to happen, and if there is a conflict, there should be bodies and people who can engage and avert that conflict. Now, from 1945 till 2023, this is not the first conflict, and this is, according to me, not the last conflict, because we have to reform the UN, we have to work at multilateral fora, which is in the interest of Europe as well as India, and we have to identify that when I say democracy, India is also the mother of democracy. The perspective that India brings on the table is that you need to engage, and more so, dialogue and diplomacy becomes more and more important in the times of crisis.

And like-minded bodies, people who think alike, need to collaborate, work together to resolve the issues, and work at reforms. And reforms until worked at, this disengagement of a sort, and having a very focused approach will not help, and the consciousness of Europe needs to go beyond geographical entity, and more in terms of strategy. So when we strategically engage, we have to look beyond the immediate benefits, and democracies will always have a cost to pay. If everybody wants cheaper iPhones, so be it, because that can lead to debt trap, that can lead to change in governments, that can lead to disinformation, disinformation, and that can also lead to strategic dependence, and that strategic dependence is not good for democracies.

And I actually was very impressed by the words used by the Foreign Minister of Croatia when he said we have to work towards public goods and not towards individual benefits. So if we take this as a phrase which is to be followed by action, then we need to think that when do people, conglomerates, governments, become so superficial that everything gets to be done for personal benefits, and not for global good, or not for public good. So things which lead to those instances also need to be averted, and that's where Indian perspective comes from. And perspective which has seen ups and downs, which has seen invasions, which has seen conversions, which has seen 1.4 billion people, and the kind of transition we have gone through. Over 75 years, the kind of achievements, and especially nine years if we focus on, 46% of global digital payment is being done in India, and that's the kind of infrastructure India has successfully built in nine years.

1.6 trillion dollars worth of goods and services is what India is exporting. When you look at Indo-Pacific, 50% of the global trade and 80% of the European trade is channeled through this region, and when you're channeling through this region, this is the key to how world is going to be shaped at. And for shaping the world as we all believe in, I think certain strategic thinking and also strategic engagements, which are beyond personal greed and more on need and sustainability, will help. India is one country which has achieved its target of renewables of 40%, nine years before the requisite time, and we did not stop there. Prime Minister started with campaign LiFE, which is sustainable living, and sustainable living in terms of life or environment. And so whenever you're achieving some target, opportunity also means responsibility. So let's be responsible for our jobs and words, and words need to lead to action.

We are a land of Buddha, as Prime Minister said also, that this is the time for Buddha and not yuddha, which means not war. And so the thought behind Buddha was it is a middle path, and that middle path, which is not leading to any axis of any sort. So whether it's consumerism or it's piety, you have to choose a path in between, and that middle path will lead to enhancement of everyone, growth, prosperity, peace will follow. And that's the Indian thought which can take everyone together. And if I may say that we have very, very ancient thinking, a few century B.C., a Vedic word. Of course, we took G20, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, that world is one big family. But there is another thing, which we usually do a prayer before yoga, and which says, sa? gacchadhvam, sa? vadadhvam, sa? vo manamsi janatam, which means let's walk together, let's speak the same language in unison, and let's all live in harmony and peace. So till we decide to work on these principles, the disorder is going to be the order. So if we really want a true order, these three factors need to be collaborated with and cooperated with.