Former Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran Discusses Indian Foreign Policy in a Transitional Era
February 19, 2012
Author: Charles Hobbs
In a weeklong visit to the Harvard Kennedy School’s Future of Diplomacy Project, former Indian Foreign Secretary and Fisher Family Fellow Shyam Saran participated in a series of events focusing on India’s relationship with the United States and growing role in international affairs. In addition to a public address, Saran met with faculty and hosted seminars for students interested in regional developments. Saran’s visit, which was cosponsored by the Harvard Kennedy School’s India and South Asia Program, was part of South Asia Week, an eight day long series of panels, discussions, and lectures about the role of the subcontinent in 21st century international affairs.
Speaking on February 15th, Saran painted a picture of an India in transition. For decades a stalwart member of the Non-Aligned Movement, rapid economic growth has meant that the macro-level impact of India is rising on the international stage. At the same time, however, Saran cautions that India’s domestic challenges, including inequality and extreme poverty, complicate India’s ability to contribute internationally.
“There has been a sense in the past that we should deal with domestic growth requirements first, and that we will consider our foreign linkages in the future,” said Saran. “However, the fact is that over the last 20 to 25 years, the salience of cross-cutting global issues has risen significantly.”
In addition to commenting on India’s general strategic role in the 21st century, Saran also highlighted a number of specific challenges and opportunities for Indian foreign policy makers. In particular, Saran highlighted the burgeoning relationship between India and China—China is India’s largest trade partner—and the possibilities for building a relationship between the traditional rivals based on shared interests.
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