EAM Jaishankar reveals contrasts in ‘street’ and ‘Lutyens’ view on foreign policy

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It is important for people in the policy world not to be out of sync with the basic instinct and feeling of their society, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on the wide contrast between what people think on foreign relations and what policymakers in ‘Lutyens Delhi’ do.

In his recently published book The India Way, the EAM Jaishankar writes: “It may be hard for the diplomats to digest, but the Indian street displayed better instincts that Lutyens’ Delhi when it comes to accessing opportunities and risks abroad. Their geopolitical understanding may not be formal, but they intuitively know with whom to trade and where to travel. Their choices in immigration and education were made well ahead of policy shifts in Indian diplomacy… Say what you will, but the street has a well-developed instinct, whether it is about Russia or America, China or Pakistan.”

Speaking exclusively to Republic Media Network’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami on this particular observation, the EAM cited three examples on why he thinks common Indian citizens think well ahead of diplomats in the establishment.

“Most people who had a general sense of the country and the world knew that India needs better relations with the United States, whereas you had a very negative view from ‘the old order’. Our people started travelling, trading, doing business, and emigrating to America. This tells you they knew it will be in our interest,” Jaishankar said, referring to the tectonic shift in India’s policy for closer ties with the US in the recent decades, which was predated by favourable public opinion towards the West.

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Average Indian’s view on Russia, Pakistan

Another example India’s top diplomat drew was the country’s approach to Russia.

“An average person has a strong and good feeling towards Russia. They won’t necessarily know that (then-Soviet premiere) Khruschev came in 1955, the Russians cost their Security Council veto for India or they helped us in (the Bangladesh war) in 1971. But they, through this osmosis, living through what they inherited the sense of whether is it a friend or not. I have met people who have been predicting all sorts of things in the relationship, which in fact has been remarkably steady relationship.”

On Pakistan, Jaishankar noted that the Indians have always felt strongly of the state-backed terror by our western neighbour even as New Delhi kept open avenues for dialogues. 

“The street has always felt in past that Pakistan should not be allowed to get away with cross border terrorism. An average person on the street knew that somewhere these dialogues are not right. A country which does cross-border terrorism, doesn’t trade with you, doesn’t allow normal people-to-people contact with you, which blocks your connectivity, surely there is something fundamentally wrong with that.”

He added, “It is important for people in the policy world not to be out of sync with the basic instinct and feeling of their society.”

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