Multilateralism must be functional, creative, practical and generous in order to serve larger interest of people in the world

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has hit out at multilateral institutions, including the United Nations for their failure to be responsive to the Covid-19 pandemic when the situation demanded them to be active and effective.

“The past six months laid bare the shortcomings of multilateral institutions. In the UN, we could not even agree to messaging on fighting the virus, let alone coordinate responses. This reflects a larger systemic failure. Clearly the multilateral machinery is exhausted, if not broken. The cry for reformed multilateralism becomes stronger than ever before,” Jaishankar said at the alliance for multilateral meeting on Monday.

He said the Covid-19 pandemic reaffirmed the centrality of multilateralism in our interconnected world-not just in war and peace, but also for international governance.

“Multilateralism if it is to grow, must be not just generous but creative plus practical as well. My message to this conference is: lead by example,” he said, adding humankind responds to adversity by adapting to find new pathways. Adaptation is based on reimagining, reinventing and rebuilding, but most of all, reform. Meaningful reform requires us to re-imagine multilateralism, especially in this 75th year of the United Nations.

“What can India do to make the world a better place in this situation? For a start the answer is building back, and building stronger, after this pandemic. We must create new capacities, make a greater contribution, even as we advocate a fairer process of global decision making. This is precisely what is underway in India,” Jaishankar said.

In a veiled reference to China and international dependence on it because of its being global supply chain, he said “as supply-chains snapped, the world stopped.” He obliquely referred to ‘Aatma-Nirbhar Bharat’ as a response to disruption caused to the supply chain.

“Prime Minister Modi has issued a call for ‘Aatma-Nirbhar Bharat’ (Self-Reliant India). That fully reflected our civilizational ethos of caring for all creation. Today, our goal is not just to rebuild, but making growth environmentally and socially sustainable,” he added.

With regard to the2015 Paris Agreement, he said, “Our commitment to the goal of Paris remains firm. This includes amongst others phasing-out single-use plastic. It covers access to potable water, through our Jal-Jeevan (Water for Life) Scheme, which will create 190 mn rural water connections. This will be as transformative as the UJALA (or Brightness) scheme, which helped us record a 130-fold increase in our LED market in five years. Through this, we save 30 Terrawatt-hours of energy per year. And it means greener and smarter recovery efforts.”

On digitization, the External Affairs Minister said, “India built upon digitization and adoption of fintech platforms in the making since 2014. We launched the world’s largest direct cash transfer scheme, covering more than 80 mn citizens. We used our ecosystem of mobile usage and affordable data to drive the world’s largest contact tracing effort, as 150 mn people downloaded AarogyaSetu, our contact-tracing app.”

“In the true multilateral spirit, these are experiences and resources that India will share with others. Our approach is to develop solidarity within and outside our borders. During this pandemic, we extended medical aid, personnel and training to 150 countries. Our flights of returning nationals carried our neighbours. Our financial support extends to them as well,” he added.

Talking about production of anti-Covid-19 vaccines, he said, “Where vaccines are concerned India will make its due contribution. We seek today to build upon a range of multilateral responses to global challenges.

In this context, he also talked about the International Solar Alliance. “Since 2015, this 87 signatory-alliance is propelling Earth to a low-carbon growth trajectory. Similarly, the Coalition for Disaster-Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) aims at a climate-change and disaster-resilient future for all.”