News Brief

India Should Not Be Defensive About Its Domestic Politics In Negotiations With Other Countries: Jaishankar

Kuldeep Negi

Dec 19, 2023, 10:08 AM | Updated 10:08 AM IST

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar conveyed a pointed message to Indian and Western diplomats on Monday, stating that Indian negotiators should not feel the need to be defensive regarding their "domestic politics".

Speaking at the book launch for “India’s Moment: Changing Power Equations around the World” authored by ex-Indian diplomat, Mohan Kumar, Jaishankar argued that the influence of domestic politics is not exclusive to Western or European countries.

He pointed out that it's often perceived as reasonable for these countries to make certain decisions due to their significant domestic lobby, yet the same consideration is rarely extended to his own domestic lobby.

He emphasised that all political systems have domestic politics at their core, and there's no need for defensiveness about this.

"American domestic politics or Western or European domestic politics is often made to appear very reasonable… they can't do this because they have a big domestic lobby. What about my domestic lobby? How often do we talk about that? So, domestic politics is there in every polity and we should not be defensive about our domestic politics. Well, other countries assert it, often as almost as a baseline of a negotiation… saying, this is my way of life. This may not be absolutely market based, but you’ve got to accept it because it is cultural, it is social, and is historical. So, that’s my domestic politics," he said.

Jaishankar emphasized the significance of reflecting on past decisions and continuously adjusting India's approach to improve foreign policy.

He asserted that, after 75 years of independence, it's crucial to reevaluate India's past choices instead of assuming they were the only possible options.

He suggested that these considerations of unexplored alternatives need not be merely theoretical or retrospective.

"Often, In fact, we had situations where issues were debated…and I think, it’s important to look back, keep looking back, keep refreshing, correcting ourselves… I think, that’s one way really about getting foreign policy right,” he said.

He issued a warning regarding Free Trade agreements, noting that India is currently engaged in significant negotiations with substantial partners.

"But again, one reads about that it is going to happen. It’s the last leg, it should happen by Diwali. Why are we holding back? I hear this naysayers narrative coming back. Why isn’t India quickly signing up with the UK? Nobody says why isn’t the UK quickly signing up with me? So, somewhere it is like we have to make that accommodation. We are the people who are holding back and we should speed it up because every FTA and every open step is an achievement in itself," he said.

“Now FTAs have a use… I’m not at all in denial, I think… but FTA is at the end of the day, for a country with the per capita income that we have, for a country with the small producers that we do. I would very, very judiciously consider the merits and the risks of an FTA. Because at the end of the day, exposing every decision of an FTA is exposing millions of people, their livelihoods around them," he said.

"It is something where really the future of our society, the lives of people, the livelihoods of people hang in balance. And we need to take that very much into account,” Jaishankar added.

Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.

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