Foreign policy debates in Parliament and the media seem to be obsessed with Pakistan, Union Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor said here on Friday.
Speaking at the School of International Studies in JNU on “Why foreign policy matters?”, he said: “There appears to be little appetite for in-depth discussion on the merits of participating in NAM or the importance we should give to bodies such as SAARC and other issues.”
“International relations is a neglected subject on our campuses. Our country has a handful of thinkers on international issues. In size, quality and range of output we have a long way to go before we can match the role played by countries such as the U.S.”
To be taken seriously as a potential world leader, it was necessary to develop the institutions, practices, personnel and mindsets required to lead in the global arena, he said.
Mr. Tharoor asserted that foreign policy was too important an issue to be left to the Ministry of External Affairs. “Exchanges should occur among MEA officials, the academia, corporate sector and civil society.”
He also emphasised the importance of learning the national language of countries to leverage international relations. “Language specialisation should be linked to careers in foreign relations.”
Outlining India’s position in world affairs, Mr. Tharoor said: “We have to seek to redefine our place in the world that has changed from the geo-political realities of 1945 which shaped the current international system including the permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council.”
Interacting with JNU faculty and students, he spoke about India’s chances as a permanent U.N. Security Council member. Stating that the constitution of the Security Council reflected the realities of 1945, Mr. Tharoor said: “For instance, Europe which has 5 per cent of the world’s population has 33 per cent representation in the seats of the Security Council.”
For expansion of the Security Council, the UN Charter had to be amended. “The threshold for amending the Charter is very high,” he admitted.
“The issue is who will benefit from the expansion. A formula is needed that is acceptable to two-thirds of the world’s countries and is not unacceptable to the five countries whose powers may be diluted.”
Efforts were on to gain support for India’s admission as a non-permanent member to the Security Council for the 2011-12 term, he added.
Speaking about the importance of foreign policy in an era of globalisation, Mr. Tharoor said: “Post 1991 reforms, India has emerged as a poster-child for globalisation. Our growth would have been impossible without the rest of the world. People, goods and ideas are moving across borders with ever increasing, frequency, speed and ease.”