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Transcript of Interview of External Affairs Minister at India Today Conclave 2021 (October 08, 2021)

October 09, 2021

Rahul Kanwal: Good evening. India has always had to navigate a very complex neighborhood. But rarely before in time, has our country had to face so many simultaneous, global headwinds. From the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan to the PLA's military buildup along the line of actual control. The Geo strategic risks to India are clear and present.

The man responsible for charting the course of India's Foreign Affairs through these turbulent waters is a longtime practitioner in the fine art of diplomacy, considered by many, in the Foreign Services as the finest of his generation, Dr. Jaishankar now has that rare opportunity to shape policy in his area of professional expertise. It's that sweet spot that lakhs of professionals dream about but only the chosen few, get to practice.

Ladies and gentlemen, join me in welcoming for his conclave debut in New Delhi, the External Affairs Minister of India. Dr. Subramanian Jaishankar. Can we have a warm round of applause please. Joining me for this interaction, India Today's, Foreign Affairs, Editor, Geeta Mohan and Executive Editor of India Today, television, Shiv Aroor.

Rahul Kanwal: Dr. Jaishankar, welcome. Let me start by asking you about your reading of the current situation in Afghanistan. There’ve been lots of reports about the Baradar faction and the Haqqani faction being at loggerheads. How are you working towards recalibrating India's relationship with the new Afghanistan in light of the reality of the Taliban Takeover in Kabul, Dr. Jaishankar?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Yes, yes. First of all, thank you Rahul. It is good to be with all of you today. Look, the situation in Afghanistan is still unfolding. There is still a lot of lack of clarity. Obviously, some of the more visible changes are apparent. So you have to make your, take your positions, make your decisions on basis of what you have. Now, the general sense in the international community is that there are some basic expectations, which the world has of Afghanistan. The most basic of them is actually the fact that Afghan soil will not be used for terrorism against other countries. There are also expectations about the nature of the government that it would be inclusive in some form that, you know, there's a view about what are considered governance standards in this day and age. So, question of, you know, how you deal with minorities, with women, with children, how you deal with people who want to leave your country, you know, go out of your country or come into your country. I mean, are legitimate at the moment. So I think these are all live issues and we are obviously quite involved in shaping the thinking of the international community on that, partly because we also happen to be at this time a UN Security Council member, many of these debates are taking place there. Some of them are taking place in the G20 format. We had a Foreign Ministers’ meeting of the G20. So I think it's so if you know, it's evolving. We are obviously responding to the situation as you go along. But beyond that it's hard to take a very definitive position because the situation on the ground doesn't allow for it.

Geeta Mohan: Just a question on the engagement. We know that when the Taliban took over Kabul, there was the first engagement between our ambassador in Doha Deepak Mittal and Stanikzai and since then, we've not really seen real engagement. So are we going to adopt a "wait and watch policy” because it seems like the Haqqanis have set the tone and tenor when it comes to ties with India with the Indian Administration and the Haqqanis tweet, in many ways than one really sets the tone over there. And he speaks of Somnath Temple, taking pride in smashing the idol of Somnath.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Look, we are in different businesses. Okay, you are in the news business. I'm in the diplomacy business. By nature, I would be more empirical, would be more, I'd be more careful about my judgment I mean by but the nature of our business. Okay? As opposed to yours, so, I am not sure, I would completely agree with some of the things you say, you know, this person has taken charge, and I mean fine, people may take positions, people may tweet, we can speculate that is our right, but I think when it comes to policy making, I would do kind of double, triple, quadruple diligence. Be very, very deliberative about my judgments.

I have, you know, there's no great compulsion on me to take very sharp definitive positions and be public about it, you know. So, so there could be things happening, which, you know, I may not be able to speak about, but at the moment, as I said, I mean, as you said, actually our primary contact has been in Doha and that's where it is.

Shiv Aroor: Minister Jaishankar from the Haqqanis ,that Geeta was talking about too, I'd like to draw your attention now to Pakistan. With everything that's happened in Afghanistan. And like you said, many things are still, you know, in movement and in flux right now, how much more complicated has it made our navigation of the situation with Pakistan because the perception is that the ISI has won with everything that's happened in Pakistan. And therefore, the simplistic way it's been looked at is that this has been a strategic setback for India, vis a vis Pakistan, how are you navigating that?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar:Okay, again, I would take the same situation and say, I have to operate out of a given, you know, a set of assumptions. I can't say. I wish it hadn't been like this, or the Americans had stayed on, or they'd have gone out a different way. They've done. What they've done. I have to live with it and, and deal with it accordingly. If you ask me, say, October 8 is my security situation more complicated than it was on August 8th of course it is. Now, but you yourself would agree with me that sometimes we all tend to make very sweeping sort of statements, judgments or assessments. I think the picture is a little more complex, more granular than that. You know, it's been what it's been less than two months since the Taliban took Afghanistan. So at, you know, and it's quite obvious also that things are far from settled, even in Kabul.

So, you know, look, I would urge some patience, some deliberation and some caution. Now, I understand. I mean, that in the, you know, in this day and age, that's not how media can approach it. Because you people have different compulsions, different timelines and different pressures. So, so we will have this gap between you and me. This is, you will keep provoking me with very strong statement saying, okay, react to that.

I'm not ducking it. I'm just introducing an element of, you know, sort of practicality out there and said look there a a lot of things, there are many things we know the many things we don't know, and I'll have to and, in some cases, we will wait for the situation to play out..

Rahul Kanwal: Shiv is hoping that you’ll bat like Virender Sehwag and you are offering a defence like Rahul Dravid instead.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Absolutely.

Rahul Kanwal: And that's fine. How do you see the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan impact our internal situation in Jammu and Kashmir. We've seen a ceasefire for the past several months. Now, being broken with terrorists, being infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir and higher numbers than recently. We've seen a spate of killings over the last few days. Are you concerned that the situation in Afghanistan complicates the already complicated situation in the valley?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar:You know, obviously, I would be concerned about what has been happening in the last few days, especially some of the targeted killings. But whether I would make that connection to what is happening with Afghanistan, I don't know, you know, I would, I would like to see evidence of some kind of connection there if there is. Maybe there is maybe there isn't, but I would obviously be concerned at some of the things which have happened in Srinagar.

Geeta Mohan: In terms of the internal security itself, there are reports not just Indian Intel reports, but also the UN reporting that Pak based terror groups, now, joining hands and ranks with the Taliban is a concern. Is that a real concern for India?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Look Geeta the way, a very large number of Pak Nationals who you call them foreign fighters, call them terrorists. They were there. I mean, it’s not something I need to say. There are UN reports which speak about them. Okay? And speak about them in the thousands. Now again, you don't need to believe me. Look at some of the debates which are taking place even in the United States and the Congress, Congressional hearings, questions being asked saying, what was the role of Pakistan at this point of time in that situation? And you have seen the responses from the American administration which are very telling. So things are happening there. I mean the role of Pakistan in what happened in Afghanistan is not a secret, I mean it is very very public, it is more public now because even they now speak about many of these things. So, obviously, that is a concern for the entire neighborhood. I mean, for the whole region.

Shiv Aroor: Minister Jaishankar, staying with Pakistan for a moment. There's been a ceasefire, you know between the two sides since February this year. The ceasefire violations themselves as a result have gone down, but there are still infiltrations happening, dialogue hasn't been happening between the two sides for a while now. Could you give us a perspective of your vision of when you think things might sort of get back on track? We know about you know, a probable back-channel and things like that, but is it, is it something that's foreseeable, Sir, India and Pakistan talking to each other again?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar:By the way, the sense, we don't talk is a bit exaggerated. They have an Embassy, we have an Embassy. I mean, our foreign Ministry talks to the Embassy, their foreign Ministry, talks to our Embassy. So it's not like there is no communication. I mean, diplomats have continued to do what diplomats are supposed to do. I think the issue which you are in a sense pointing to was, the fact that previously, there was a beyond the routine diplomacy engagement on a, on a certain set of issues. Now, this is not new some years ago, 2016 to be precise, the starting from Pathankot and then culminating at URI. Events went in a direction which made it very difficult to continue with that particular mode of engagement.

And at the end of the day, there is a big question which all of us need to ask ourselves when you say, when do you see that coming back? You tell me. When do you see Pakistan becoming a normal country, and for me, a normal country is a country which doesn't sponsor and execute terrorism against its neighbours, which trades with its neighbours on a MFN basis, which has connectivity with its neighbours, which allows people to move on the basis of visas. I mean, the way we do with all our other neighbours, if I look at a Bangladesh, or a Nepal, or Sri Lanka or a Maldives. Question is, when do I have something similar with with Pakistan now? Right now? Obviously, the prospects don't look good because the bottom line is that it is the, not just the only one of our neighbours, you know, there are very, very few. To my mind, actually no other situation in the world today, where a country actually runs this kind of scale of terrorism against the neighbourhood.

Rahul Kanwal: Minister, what's your reading of the state of play with China? We've seen a massive military buildup which seems to continue infrastructure projects bringing in air assets. Pumping up air defences. We've tried to cope up as best as possible given the asymmetry in our economic and military capabilities. However, things aren't quite as bad as they were immediately after Galwan, but they haven't completely come back to normal either. As External Affairs Minister, How do you read what's happening on the other side of the Himalayas?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Well, the way I read it is that we from the 1980s, I think developed a workable decent relationship with the Chinese, predicated on the fact that there would be peace and tranquility in the border areas. This was not just an assumption or a conversation. It was written into agreements between us now, come 2020. We saw the Chinese site disregard those agreements for reasons, which are still not clear to us because I still am and I've met my counterpart a number of times and others in, you know, our system of engaged each other, but they, I know, I have still not heard a credible explanation as to why they chose to bring that size of forces to that sector of our border. Now, if peace and tranquility is disturbed, then attempts are being made to change the LAC, the status quo unilaterally, and large forces are brought to the border in contravention of written agreement, then obviously the relationship will be impacted. Now if we need to get back to a normal relationship, which they say that they want and which both of us believe is in our mutual interest, then I think they need to stick with the agreements. And do, you know, the right things.

Now, we've had yes, some progress, we've had progress in Pangong. So we've had progress in a few other areas, but I think the larger problem remains which is that there is a very sizeable Chinese force, very close or if I mean close. If not at the LAC.

Geeta Mohan: Dr. Jaishankar, it's not so much the achievements of Modi administration in international affairs, but it's the difficulties in relations that finds a lot of space in domestic politics. Now we've seen Rahul Gandhi walk out of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Relations when it comes to discussions on China demanding that there needs to be discussion. There has been a lot of talk from the opposition on whether if the government has been transparent enough. Just wanted to know whether if there is a sense in the government in briefing the opposition of the difficulties that the government faces or the difficulties that the government now faces with China and whether if the government indeed has been transparent with the country and with the opposition?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Look, I've been in the government a long time, a really long time and over multiple governments. I think, you know, governments, obviously when it comes to national security situation, all governments, when it comes to national security situations, say enough so that you know people outside the government, have a fair sense of what is happening and expect that people outside there will be supportive of larger National objectives and goals. Now, if sometimes it doesn't happen because people are busy politicking, I'm I just have to say it's a very sorry state of affairs, but I don't think, you know, just look back at the last year and a half. I mean we know so much about what is happening out there. So nobody can say, oh, I have not been told enough or there has been lack of briefing. I mean, I don't know, the standing committee episode that you're referring to but I can tell you for example, as a foreign minister we have a consultative committee. And we, you know, this is this issue has been discussed. So it's been discussed in Parliament. You know, Raksha Mantri has given repeated statements. So I, think you know, somewhere we need a sense of responsibility and maturity when it comes to national security matters. It should not be a subject for posturing.

Shiv Aroor: Minister, staying with the China, you know, from the political part of it. Just going back to the LAC for a moment. There are, as you no doubt know, there have been multiple rounds of talks, over a dozen rounds of talks between the Corps Commanders. You've met your counterpart a few times. There's a question of the return to status quo, of April, 2020, and there is also a sense that, you know, that the Chinese are there in large numbers, they are talking to us, but there's no sign of any really big disengagement. Have things changed on the ground, Sir? Is there a realization that this situation is becoming a kind of semi-permanent, foreseeable future kind of situation where we have to live with the Chinese in large numbers at our doorstep?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Have things changed on the ground with reference to April 2020? Yes. Yes. Well, obviously, I mean things have changed enormously on the ground. I mean they brought forces up. So we have counter deployed. So now if you ask me, how long will that continue, it will continue as long as they deploy.

So look, let me be very, very clear about one thing. Yes, I mean they have done things as I said which were in contravention of agreements etc. But there's been no lack of resolve of firmness or effectiveness in terms of what we have to do to protect our national security. So we will also add additional deployments and they have stayed, they have stayed through one winter. We are getting it close to another winter.

So I have every confidence that the Indian Armed Forces will do what they have to do to protect this country. And I expect everybody else who is reasonably patriotic to have the same confidence.

Rahul Kanwal: Dr. Jaishankar, having one hostile neighbour is bad enough. At this moment we have the PLA amassed along the LAC. We have the Pakistani army, which continues its nefarious designs along the Line of Control and in Jammu and Kashmir. And now we have in Afghanistan, China and Pakistan working in concert. Would you say in some senses this is a worst-case strategic situation playing itself out. And how are you recalibrating India's strategy given the fact that you've got two hostile neighbours working so closely in tandem?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: You know, Rahul way coming back to this point, which is you post the problem as though I have a choice in the matter. I don't, you know, I have what I have. So if I you know, I've had a pretty much, a continuously difficult situation on my western border. Now if along with that I have an aggravation on my northern border, but I will do what I have to do to meet it. You know, I can't say well I'm overstretched or I don't like it or you know, this is a very complex challenge.

I'm presented with a, with a, clear and present danger and I have to respond to that. And I would say, very frankly, we have, you know, the armed forces, have done that, have done a very good job in responding to it.

Rahul Kanwal: You know, the one thing I am sure many people sitting here at the India today Conclave and watching on TV, or on digital assets would really appreciate, is the manner in which not just that we stood up to the PLA, but we stood up to neo-imperialism of kind being shown by the United Kingdom on the issue of the Desi vaccine. The same vaccine when they're administering to their citizens, to others, they think is good enough for them to be allowed to travel the world over and when India administers the Covishield, somehow they had a problem, and that's, you know, really a sign of a new assertive India, saying, okay, you don't let me in. I don't let you in. Now you're quarantined as well. Well done. Dr. Jaishankar.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Well, thank you. I just think it's a sensible, India. I mean, what else would you do about it? To me, this was a problem, which shouldn't have arisen in the first place. So we did what we had to do and I'm glad we've sorted out the situation and I had a very, very cordial talk with my counterpart this afternoon. So I hope both of us agreed that we should find ways by which travel happens more freely and naturally and without quarantine between our countries. So that's what it is.

Geeta Mohan: Just shifting focus to the United States of America, we’re looking at entirely new theater. That's the AUKUS. We know Prime Minister Narendra Modi, went to the United States of America. The Quad Summit was a great success. But how do you see the Quad vis-à-vis AUKUS, which is a military alliance and it is very openly and very openly says, it's a counter China Alliance.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Well, look, I'm not part of AUKUS. So what AUKUS says,-doesn’t say it's for them to, to decide. My understanding of it is a large part of it derives from a particular capability, which is a Australian submarine capability and whatever discussions, the concerned countries have had about enhancing that capability. But very frankly, I don't see a particular connection between any of that and the Quad. I mean, first of all two of us in the Quad, Japan and us have not, you know, not involved in it. Secondly, a lot of Quad countries, two of them or one of them sometimes have other relationships, other trilateral, or quadrilaterals or other organizations, so it's not that there's any understanding that the four Quad countries, only deal among themselves. Everybody deals with everybody else. I mean, we ourselves have a trilateral, we and Australia with Indonesia. We have a trilateral, we and Australia with Japan. So in fact, you know, interestingly we and Australia have a trilateral with France. Okay, which was supposed to meet in New York, which didn't. So look today, the nature of diplomacy has changed, this combination of countries sitting together and figuring out how best to advance their interests and address their concerns. This is getting more and more routinised. So this is evolution of the international order partly because we are moving away from the bipolar and the unipolar world. So, even the United States, you know, finds it useful to work with other countries and obviously other, you know, lesser powers even more so and the fact is also that the reality of the strategic landscape, multilateral solutions on initiatives are not readily available. So I think to some extent, you know, the UN is, gridlocked. It is anachronistic. It's you know, often not there. So, when you have that situation, but the problems are still real and pressing, I think countries have just decided. Okay, we'll go find our own fix and this is one of those cases.

Shiv Aroor: Minister you've been at the very tops of India's official machinery. And now you're the Minister, very curious to know and I'm sure a lot of other people are as well. If you could give us a little bit of insight into how the machine sort of recalibrated itself, from a trump Administration to a Biden Administration. We all know what the Trump Administration was like. Yeah. I just want to know how, you know, how is it? How is it dealing with Trump? And how different is it dealing with President Biden?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Our machine, or their machine?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Our machine? OK

Shiv Aroor: and your Ministry in particular?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Sure. That's the machine. It's the nature of our business to adjust to whatever is out there. Okay, I mean, so if you have a Trump Administration you obviously study the Trump Administration, dissect it, figure out who are the players, what makes them move, you know how to work. How do you make your pitch? What are their sensitivities? So it's in a sense of universal proposition. I mean, diplomacy is about studying, foreign governments, countries, administrations and figuring out how to get your work done. Now, I quite take your point, that there is a contrast between Trump and Biden and you know, you study it and decide how to adjust your, you know, your working methods and your agenda and your articulation and in a sense your tactics.

Rahul Kanwal: Is it a fair assessment from the outside that the Modi government would have been more comfortable continuing to work with the Trump administration than it is working with a Democrat administration which whenever it gets an opportunity likes to raise issues sometimes which the Indian government or the ruling party doesn't find very happy to have to engage?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: No. Look, you know. My first experience with Prime Minister, Modi, engaging the United States was not with Trump. It was with Obama. Okay. Now I want you to go back when Trump won the election, and if you check back many of you actually said, it would be very difficult for Indians to deal with Trump.

Okay, then when the next guy wins the election, all of you says, we're going to be very difficult for the Indians to deal with Biden. Now, I hate to disappoint you. We are going to be actually fairly good at dealing with whoever's out there. That's our job.

Rahul Kanwal: So we've all seen, Yes, Minister, you're amongst this very few who has been on both sides of the table. Give everyone sitting here some insights and you can let your guard down and bat like Sehwag for a moment. Between on the difference. between being say Foreign Secretary and Foreign Minister, I am curious to know, which one do you enjoy more, which is the trickier job and which one, what kind of insights do you have one?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Well, actually, you know, I've done three of those jobs, which is the Minister Hacker job, the Appleby job, but I've also done the Bernard job, which is being the Special Assistant to the Minister. Now if you refer to, Yes Minister and then tell somebody, let your guard down the Appleby in me comes out, you know and so look, it's a different. It's a different role. It's a different kind of, I would say in a sense, a different mindset. I would tell me that the big change was once you are political, once you're a Minister, you are actually, are less departmental, you have a much greater exposure to the bigger picture. I mean you were very simple for starters. For example, when you sit in in Cabinet meetings, you have a full 360 view of the government, all the departments, what are the concerns? So you tend to see your own responsibilities in that light. Whereas if you are a Secretary of a department, however enlightened you are, at the end of the day you are very much, I won't say a prisoner of your department but a champion of your department. So it is, it is a difference. It is a difference in it is an evolution in a way and obviously, if I didn't like it, I wouldn't be doing it.

Rahul Kanwal: Which one did you enjoy more?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: I always enjoy most what I'm doing currently.

Rahul Kanwal: See, that's the advantage of being a diplomat, not one comma, full stop out of place. You can't get him swishing outside the off stump and get him caught behind us. That's not going to happen.

Geeta Mohan: One question again, on your personal experience. Is there anything as a diplomat that you would have changed? in terms of your Minister in the past of decisions taken that you thought you could have done differently, now that you're a Minister?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: I, you know, I've never thought about it that way, but I do want to tell you that, you know, and I say this particularly of recent times, look good Ministries, good Government in a way runs, very much on the basis of the Minister and the Secretary sort of working as a team. And when I was Foreign Secretary, I had Shushma Ji as my Minister and we got along very well. I mean, you cover the beat so you've actually seen it. And foreign policy being what it is, it is also, in all countries, you know foreign policy today, very much involves the executive head of the government. So the Prime Minister in our country is also very deeply involved and as we get bigger, you know, more capable more global that it is something, which is natural. It's not unique to us, in every country, every society that has happened. So, I would say almost, you know, it's not like you do something as a Secretary, which you don't know as a Minister or you. It's a very, very collaborative kind of decision making by very nature. All at least everything important tends to be by definition very, very collaborative. So maybe when I look back not now, not really. I think I've been quite pleased with what we did.

Shiv Aroor: Very collaborative partnership. But if I could ask you Minister, were there any things that you didn't expect when you became a Minister? Were there any surprises? Did you find that there were certain things that looked different when you were Foreign Secretary, but you had a completely different perspective about in terms of the machinery when you are Minister?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Well, I mean, first of all, I didn't expect to become a Minister. So I mean, that was the first surprise. When I did, look, I had one great advantage. Okay, to be minister of a department, which you have kind of grown up in, is a huge advantage. And especially so, in our case because, you know, the Foreign Service is a one ministry service. I've not worked in some other places outside but by and large so, you know your organisation very well. I mean, it's actually you come up in that organisation, that's an enormous advantage. Now, the downside of that is you then also need to liberate yourself from the day to days of that organisation, you know, you have to tell yourself and your External Affairs Minister that you're not Foreign Secretary, that you don't you detach yourself from lot of that. Which I think I've tried.

Rahul Kanwal: Tried rewriting statements ever.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: You know, that's not a Secretary or a Ministerial.

Rahul Kanwal: When it comes to you. If you decide that you want to make changes and ........

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: It's always collaborative. So but what look, you know, it, the initial days to call there is a transition but I think I adjusted to it fairly quickly. And, I was discovering learning new things as a political person. So I also you know, I couldn't be stuck in my old world. I mean I had a new world, I had entered and I had a lot of learning out there. So a lot of my interest and energies went into that. So I think that's how I made the transition.

Geeta Mohan: Just one, you know, don't be guarded. Just one honest answer on a mistake that you thought you made as a Minister and you know a learning of sorts.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Why don't you tell me? You know, honestly, as I said, the number of times you talk to each other. The it's we are far more interactive than actually you people would imagine. So, if you're asking me whether decisions you made, which you would have revisited, that could be, you know, but they were not my decisions as a Secretary or somebody else's decision as a Minister. They were our decisions. And that's been very much, you know very much sort of I would say in a way of hallmark of also the Modi government. I mean, it's a very, it's there's a lot of emphasis put on team effort on, you know, you use sports analogy. Okay. It's a very team driven way of working. Not just between Minister and Secretary, but even between Ministers of it is, I think what I see, I mean, how much time I spend with my ministerial colleagues, working out larger foreign policy issues, you know, say finance, trade, health, civil aviation, you know, how much we go into each other's offices, talk to each other, WhatsApp each other. It's actually far more than my recollection of previous governments. But then bear in mind, I wasn't the Minister, I was the, at that point, the civil servant.

Rahul Kanwal: One of the most important points Dr. Jaishankar makes in his book, The India Way, anything that's something, which all of us need to reflect on is that growing up and in our readings, we spent so much time reflecting on what American thinkers and strategy wall or British thinkers, German thinkers, maybe recently even Chinese thinkers have been writing. And so little reflection on Indian writings, Indian strategy. You bring that out in your book and I want to use this opportunity for you to reflect on that larger point, that a lot of our thinking on Foreign Affairs, strategy, war, typically comes out of the western world and not so much out of our reading of the Mahabharata, Ramayan which you keep on to keep going back to in your book. And that's something which I found to be a real eye-opener. And I was wowed by how you brought it all together, to present the India Way as it is right now. And why is that so important to you Dr. Jaishankar?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Well, you know, it's something which I mean, I wrote it in the book, but it's something which I had thought about for a long time partly because for me, Mahabharat has always been probably the greatest sort of strategic book ever written. I mean, there isn't a situation in the world you encounter, which doesn't have some kind of analogy out there and it's something. But, you know, from probably my early teens, is you been absorbing it. But I wrote it at that point of time. In fact, you know, interestingly one person with whom I discussed a lot of that was Sushma Swaraj and I wrote it at that time, partly, because I felt that we you know, India has changed, if you look today, you know, at our politics at our personality at you know the aspirations at actually how much in a sense deeper, broader, our system has struck roots, the widening of people, you know, where are people drawn from who today are setting the debate, you know, discussing the big issues of the day. I think we have become a much broader, much more diversified, much more truer reflection of our country and such people, I felt would readily relate to an argument, which was long inside me, which is look, please look at your own history, your own culture, our own tradition. There is so much out there and if you draw on it, you will actually get because remember one of the most obvious sort of practices of my trade is to find that analogous situation, you know, if you tell someone. So and so in a foreign country is just like so and so in India, they get it. Okay, immediately the sort of.

Rahul Kanwal: So, what did you tell someone recently so-and-so is who, and who is he similar to in India? Let's see what you do. You go for it.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: It's X and Y, so, but you know, that's, that's what you do. And that exercise was part of that.

Shiv Aroor: Minister. We are almost out of time, but I definitely wanted to ask you, you know, this is a government that's reputed to be very high tempo. Hardly takes any breaks, the Prime Minister as well. You are in a one of the hottest seats in this government apart from reading and writing. I know you read a lot. I know you write a lot apart from that. Do you get a lot of breaks? Do you take breaks out? How do you unwind? We'd like to know?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: Breaks, like you mean off days?

Shiv Aroor: Off days and two, to relax.

Rahul Kanwal: What are you talking Shiv. What's that?

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: No, look, I think today. There's so many things happening in the country, around the world. That even if somebody gave you an off day, you won't take it, you know? Because you would have stuff to do, you'd be involved in it. So, I mean, I do all the things which normal people do. You know, I mean, I take a walk in the morning. I play some sports.

Rahul Kanwal: He will beat you at squash Shiv. He will beat you at squash even now.

Rahul Kanwal: One last question Sir. We spoke of the India Way. The Mahabharata, the Ramayana. I want to take you to Chinese Military tracks and text and strategy and I'm very curious to know from you because if you read Chinese texts and strategy, they talk of the warring kingdoms talk of two scenarios, one is power, that is rising, and I referred to modern day China, which believes it's time has come in therefore starts asserting itself over neighbouring kingdoms. The other is the most fatal mistake a power can make. In its rise, it believes its reasoning, sooner than it actually has, that leads it to make fatal errors, and I draw you now to, what's happening between China and say, India along the LAC, which leads to counter balancing between other Kingdoms in the modern context, India, America, Australia, Japan coming together as a counterbalance force against the rising superpower. When and I want you to look now into the future and tell us 30, 40 years from now would China have made the fatal mistake of the Warring Kingdoms of having believed that it's time has come before it actually did.

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar: You'll only know that answer 30-40 years from now. No, I look I had haven't first of all, I as India, I have a bigger aspiration and frankly, a bigger existence, then be just a counterbalance to other people. Okay. I have my own interests and how I'm going to pursue it and often that may lead me to make some decisions, which would be in concert with others. In some cases. It may not be. So implicit in your question was, you know, we kind of are you, are you part of a larger strategy of counterbalancing? I don't think that is the case. I think India, there is a rise of India. Okay. We are, I still argue in the initial stages of a rise of India, but the rise of India may happen at a different speed with a different dynamic and a different nature, but I think 30 40, 50 years from now, people will look back and say okay, these guys also did something phenomenal in their rise. So I wouldn't reduce, you know, ourselves to that. In terms of, you know, what China does as a historical population. I don't think it's just a you know, in the Chinese history. I mean, I think it's a in fact, I example, which is much more quoted, is that of Germany that, you know, could Germany, if you were to ask a hypothetical historical question, could Wilhelm handle the First World War differently. That you actually had what was the strongest power of its times, you know, which went and united whole lot of other countries by their behaviour. So there are examples. There are also examples of countries who have been very successful in managing the rise. The United States is one so, you know the beauty of History is you pick the examples you want to do. So eventually political science determines which part of history you like. So I would be a little cautious on that score.

Rahul Kanwal: Very rarely. Do you have as Foreign affairs Minister a practitioner with whom you can have a deep conversation about Chinese military text or the Warring Kingdoms or even German military history and that is just fantastic. And that's you know, really good for all of us as Indians to have whether we agree or disagree with some of what you did. But to have someone as accomplished as you at the wheel of India's foreign affairs, this is the first time you've come in real life too and India Today Conclave you shared some really sharp insights with what's going on in your mind and how you're calibrating India's foreign policy and we deeply, appreciate you have taken your time. Can we have very warm round of applause for India's, Foreign affairs minister. Dr. Subramanian Jaishankar. It's been an absolute privilege and a pleasure listening to you over the last 45 minutes. Thank you, Sir.

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