India mostly used force defensively when threatened, almost always within its own borders: Jaishankar

Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

If India is threatened tomorrow, there is no ambiguity that it will use force, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said on Thursday. However, he also stated that the country has been cautious on the use of force, noting that over the last 75 years since Independence, India has “mostly used force defensively when it was threatened, almost always within its own borders.”

To a question on the application of force outside the national jurisdiction, posed at a book launch, Dr. Jaishankar said that India had relatively limited experience of that. “One is Sri Lanka in 1987. It was a very difficult, very troubling and end of the day a very counter-productive experience. That did scar policy makers for a generation. Don’t get sucked into endless, open-ended commitments,” he said.

He was speaking at an event to launch Grasping greatness: Making India a leading power on the last day of the three-day Global Technology Summit organised by Carnegie India in partnership with the Ministry of External Affairs. The book was edited by Ashley J. Tellis, Bibek Debroy and C. Raja Mohan.

Further, the Minister said that overall, countries tend to be cautious on the use of force outside their jurisdictions while there are some exceptions like the U.S. Most countries today would be very cautious on the use of force outside their jurisdictions, he said. “They would like to keep it targeted, purposeful and would avoid getting sucked into something they cannot see,” he added.

To a question on evolving interests, Dr. Jaishankar said that for a country like India, interests are growing. “The global environment makes it more and more necessary, for countries individually or in combination, to secure their well being. It’s not like someone will do it for you. That expectation is less and less with each passing day,” he stated.

Talking of capacities, he said that people don’t realise how often capacities constrain choices. Stressing on the importance of capacities he referred to India’s first nuclear weapons test in 1974. “The exercise of our nuclear options were often capacity driven. There is a good reason that the first (nuclear) test was 1974. It was a capacity influenced decision. It wasn’t an entirely policy-influenced decision,” the Minister said.

In this regard, he said that India’s capacities have grown over the years, resulting in an increase in manoeuvring space. “Ability to influence environment has grown,” Dr. Jaishankar said.

Talking of rising India and a middle power, he added that an India which is economically strong is an asset to a large part of the world.

China conducted its first nuclear weapons test in 1964 and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968 to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. India has not signed the treaty, calling it discriminatory.

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