The US is adjusting to multi-polarity and re-examining the balance between its domestic revival and commitments abroad, the EAM said

The US has shown greater caution in its power projection and an effort to correct its over- extension since 2008, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in his keynote address at the 5th Indian Ocean Conference 2021 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

“It may have taken different forms and been articulated in very different ways. But there is a larger consistency over three Administrations that they themselves may not readily recognize. It is expressed in footprint and posture, terms of engagement, extent of involvement and nature of initiatives. Overall, the United States is moving towards greater realism both about itself and the world. It is adjusting to multi-polarity and rebalancing and re-examining the balance between its domestic revival and commitments abroad,” the EAM said

“This makes it a more active partner beyond orthodox constructs. Given how strong its influence is on the Indian Ocean, this cannot but have implications. We must also bear in mind the uniqueness of the US polity and its ability to reinvent itself,” he added.

As regarding the rise of China, he said the emergence of a power at a global level is an extraordinary happening. “That this is a ‘different’ kind of polity enhances the sense of change. The USSR may have borne some similarities, but it never had the centrality to the global economy that China has today. The consequences of China’s growing capabilities are particularly profound because of the extrapolation of its domestic seamlessness to the world outside,” Jaishankar said.

“Whether it is connectivity, technology or trade, there is now an ongoing debate on the changed nature of power and influence. Separately, we have also seen a sharpening of tensions on territorial issues across the breadth of Asia. Agreements and understandings of yesteryears now seem to have some question marks. Time will, of course, provide answers. Cumulatively, all these factors underline the importance of establishing a multipolar Asia as a foundation of a multipolar world,” he added.

“For the Indian Ocean region, this means more activities and stronger cooperation among resident players. It will lead to new equations and more contemporary understandings not just among themselves, but also perhaps with external interests,” Jaishankar reckoned.

“The very centrality of the Ocean to global economic processes will ensure responsiveness to the ongoing changes. Given the combination of fatigue and risk aversion that is now so pronounced, it also means a greater proclivity to find regional answers,” he explained.

According to Jaishankar, Indian Ocean nations are called upon today to take greater responsibilities, fashion better relationships and display more initiative.

Mentioning that two developments have significantly heightened uncertainties that the Indian Ocean countries contemplate, he said one is the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“It leaves both the immediate and extended region grappling with serious concerns about terrorism, radicalism, instability, narco-trafficking and governance practices. Given proximity and sociology, we are all affected one way or the other,” the External Affairs Minister argued.

“The second is the impact of Covid on a region that is particularly vulnerable to health and economic stresses. The pandemic has not just been a once-in-a-century shock to the international system. It has also thoroughly exposed all its fault-lines and shortcomings,” he said.

“In economic terms, the dangers of over-centralized globalization are starkly apparent. The answer lies in both more reliable and resilient supply-chains as well as in greater trust and transparency. In political terms, the absence of vaccine equity and the reluctance to cooperatively address a challenge of such magnitude spoke for itself,” Jaishankar said.

International organizations failed the world, whether in terms of establishing the origins of the problem or in leading the response to it, he observed.

“What we have seen instead are specific countries stepping forward in different ways to mitigate the crisis, some individually, others in partnership. India has done its fair share. It has been expressed in the supply of medicines, vaccines, and oxygen. Or in a willingness to take care of the expatriate population in times of difficulty,” Jaishankar said.

“As we move from a ‘just in time’ globalization to a ‘just in case’ one, the Indian Ocean will witness shorter and multiple supply chains and a broader definition of what constitutes national security. These could well shape the nature of the recovery process,” he pointed out.

“We also need to expeditiously normalise travel through certification recognition so that livelihoods are restored ASAP. India has worked out solutions with about a 100 nations in that regard,” Jaishankar informed.

“We need that not just for a longer term rebuilding of the Indian Ocean community but also to address pressing challenges emanating from post-Covid economic recovery. A world of more decentralized globalization obviously offers greater opportunities to many more nations,” he further stated.

“These would be accentuated by a stronger desire to foster localization and promote regionalism. It is important that we do not perpetuate or even repeat some of the mistakes of the pre-Covid era,” the External Affairs Minister noted.

Drawing attention to the concerns of terrorism faced by nations of the Indian Ocean he said, “Worries about terrorism have got stronger in the light of recent developments in the Af-Pak region.”

“The international community has voiced those sentiments in UN Security Council Resolution 2593 by demanding assurances that Afghan soil will not be used for terrorism, by pressing for inclusive governance and seeking safeguards on treatment of minorities, women and children,” Jaishankar further stated.

“On the existential issue of climate change, countries of the Indian Ocean have the highest stakes. There is widespread disappointment about the lack of adequate progress on climate finance,” he held.

He said the world is seeing a glaring vaccine divide whose implications were so obvious.

“The needs of the Global South have become much stronger in the last two years. The real damage of the Covid, apart from its direct health and livelihood consequences, is how much it has set back sustainable development goals,” Jaishankar said.