Asserting that having radically divergent views of how the world runs is likely to enhance disruptive tendencies, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj here on Wednesday said terrorism is the mother of all disruptions today.
Delivering the plenary address at this year’s Raisina Dialogue, India’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geo-economics, Sushma Swaraj said it is “important that the world today debate and clarify the practices and ethos which underwrites the international order”.
“This makes it all the more important that the world today debate and clarify the practices and ethos which underwrites the international order,” she said.
“Having radically divergent views of how the world runs is more likely, than not to increase unpredictability and enhance disruptive tendencies.”
Organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation think tank, the theme of this year’s Raisina Dialogue is “Managing Disruptive Tendencies: Ideas, Institutions and Idioms”.
Observing that there are question marks about the old liberal order, Sushma Swaraj said that finding greater common ground for more effective international relations and more efficient global economics is today a big challenge.
“Terrorism is undeniably the mother of all disruptions today,” she said. “Our attitude towards it has evolved in the last few decades.”
She said there was a time when terrorism was seen as other people’s problem or a law and order situation and also used as an instrument of statecraft “but that time has long gone by”.
“We are all now very clear that terrorism anywhere can threaten societies everywhere. The challenge is even more serious in a digital age, with greater propensity to radicalisation,” the minister said.
Citing the example of the Islamic State terror organisation as having reinforced this stereotype, she said: “While not without basis, what is even more dangerous is terrorism from governed spaces; in fact, terrorism actively supported and sponsored by states. To expect that an activity which draws on all the ills of the world — fanaticism, crime, bloodshed and illegal trade — will not have a corrosive impact beyond its intended arena is unrealistic.”
This, she said, would not spare its originators and practitioner and ensuring zero-tolerance towards terrorism is the call of the day.
“The message is particularly to those who continue to believe that it can be an instrument of convenience,” Sushma Swaraj said, without naming Pakistan.
Observing that the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) is another disruptive element, she said that “the fact that proliferation threats are encouraged in large measure by arguments that favour the actual use of WMDs, especially nuclear weapons” cannot be ignored. “I am glad that there is also a session devoted to nuclear unpredictability.”
“Let me add that support for proliferation may also not just be theoretical. Many contemporary developments have their roots in longstanding proliferation linkages that the world deliberately chose to overlook.
“Like terrorism, nuclear proliferation cannot be addressed effectively in a segmented manner. Fuller disclosure and greater accountability are a must.”
On the current global order, Sushma Swaraj said that what characterises international relations today “is a sharp departure from longstanding assumptions and practices”.
“Some of that certainly reflects structural trends, that have led to the rebalancing of the global economy, and consequently, of international politics. This is particularly true in respect of Asia.”
Averring that economic and commercial happenings shape the global order in a very profound way, Sushma Swaraj said: “While the focus in the past was essentially on comparative advantage and market access, there is now a growing realisation of the critical importance of connectivity.”
In this context, she referred to the Chabahar Port in Iran and air corridor to India that have benefitted Afghanistan, the under-progress India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway that will boost connectivity between India and southeast Asia and the International North-South Corridor between India, Iran and Europe.
“Implementation of our SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) doctrine will similarly have a positive effect on sea-borne trade,” she stated.
Stating that the building of connectivity is a consultative process, Sushma Swaraj said that it should be based on norms of transparency, good governance, commercial viability, fiscal responsibility and “respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity”, which is an obvious reference to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
“New lines of connectivity must certainly be treated as positively disruptive when they accord with such practices,” she said.
She said that for the foreseeable future, it appears that “nations with growing capabilities and larger awareness will have to step forward and bear more responsibility”.
“On India’s part, I can state that this is already happening. Whether it is the civil war in Yemen, the earthquake in Nepal, the landslides in Sri Lanka, the water crisis in Maldives, the cyclone in Myanmar or the typhoon in Fiji, we are amongst the first responders in humanitarian assistance and disaster response situations.”
Referring to the Indo-Pacific region turning into the centre of geopolitics, Sushma Swaraj said regional cooperative endeavours may now acquire greater credibility and salience.
“In our own region, we are finding a renewed interest in collaborative activities in the Indo-Pacific and even in the Bay of Bengal,” she said.