Indian Foreign Minister to Europe: “Eurocentrism Is Dead”

Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s External Affairs Minister, had some very blunt words for Europe in his address to the GLOBESEC 2022 Bratislava Forum on June 3, as part of his four-day tour of NATO allies Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Defending his country’s foreign policy decisions, he refuted the idea, pushed very undiplomatically by the Europeans and the U.S., that India must choose to ally with one or another “power axis” — either Europe and the U.S. or Russia-China. India, as “the 5th or 6th largest economy in the world”, has its own interests, and can make its own choices.

He told one questioner during the Q&A period, “Do not think it’s necessary for India to join any axis. India is entitled to its own choices which will be a balance of its values and interests. I’m not sitting on the fence just because I don’t agree with you. It means I am sitting on my ground.”

Jaishankar was unsparing with Europe. “A lot is happening outside Europe. There are so many human and natural disasters in our part of the world, and many countries look to India for help. The world is changing and new players are coming in. The world can’t be Eurocentric anymore. Europe has to grow out of the mindset that its problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems aren’t Europe’s problems.”

Although many in the West attempt to pressure India by pointing to parallels between the current conflict in Ukraine and disputes between China and India, the latter are much older, he said. “So, the Chinese don’t need a precedent somewhere else in the world on how to engage with us or not engage us, or be difficult with us or not be difficult with us. I don’t see this frankly as a very clever argument, but a very self-serving one.” Yes, the relationship with China is difficult, he recognized, but “we are perfectly capable of managing it.”

As to Delhi’s position on Ukraine, he countered with a reference to Europe’s policy: “if I were to take Europe collectively, which has been singularly silent on many things which were happening, for example in Asia, you could ask why would anybody in Asia trust Europe on anything at all?”

In response to another question on whether India’s purchase of Russian oil is financing Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, he pointed to the West’s hypocrisy. “If countries from the West, Europe, U.S. are so concerned, why don’t they allow Iranian oil to come to the market; why don’t they allow Venezuelan oil to come to the market?” He also rejected claims that India has imposed an export ban on wheat, saying that India has been exporting wheat, but “then we saw a run on our wheat, in large part by international traders based in Singapore and the U.A.E.” Low-income countries were being squeezed out. “Our good will was used for speculation. We will not give speculators open access to the Indian market like what we saw happening with vaccines. We don’t want to see that for wheat.” India, he said, has exported wheat to 23 countries this year.

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