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Indian diplomacy adjusting to ‘uncertain’ world order: Shringla

Foreign Secretary says the world is ‘complex’ and can no longer be defined in ‘binaries’

India has created capacities to take on future waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Friday. Delivering a lecture at the Public Affairs Forum of India on “India’s Foreign Policy in the post-COVID World: New Vulnerabilities, New Opportunities,” he said Indian diplomacy was adjusting to the “uncertain” world order.

“We have created capacities in terms of hospitals and equipment so that we are better prepared for future waves that may come. We have provided essential support in this national effort through our diplomatic efforts,” said Mr. Shringla. He revisited the overall effort to deal with the second wave of COVID-19 that intensified in India beginning with March and drew a multi-agency response from the Government of India that included ramping up medicines and oxygen capacities.

Mr. Shringla pointed at the role played by Indian embassies in Washington DC and Moscow which “facilitated discussion” on India’s vaccine diplomacy with leading vaccine manufacturers in the United States and Russia. The Foreign Secretary said the current phase had also brought new opportunities in the digital world.

“Opportunity has been created by transition to knowledge economy. Transition to a virtual world points towards transformation, but rapid one. India is well placed to take the advantage of this transition,” said Mr. Shringla.

He also pointed at the changing nature of diplomacy in the world and said the world is “complex” and can no longer be defined in “binaries”. “Indian diplomacy is adjusting to this complex and uncertain environment. The challenge before us is to create capacities in the face of unexpected and catastrophic events of the kind that we are currently faced with. We have to be able to repurpose organisations at very short notice to deal with unexpected challenges. Existing hierarchies and structures are often unable to cope with such challenges and may require re-engineering,” said Mr. Shringla.

He pointed out that diplomacy earlier was conducted along principles of “balance of power” but the rules of diplomacy have changed after the arrival of COVID-19 and added, “Today’s environment is multilayered, multi dimensional. Binaries and simple equations have been replaced by complicated algorithms.”

“We must engage simultaneously with multiple centres of gravity and capacities in an extremely complex and fast moving global scenario,” said Mr. Shringla, summing up the post-COVID diplomatic challenges emerging before India.

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