'Part-vaccinated, part-neglected' world not safe, global cooperation only way out of pandemic, says S Jaishankar

New York: A part-vaccinated and part-neglected world is not going to be safe and if large countries pursue their national interest, disregarding everything else, the world is going to have some "big problems", External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday, underling that "our sense of national security" has widened as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the pandemic bearing heavily on everyone's minds, he said there are questions about vaccine accessibility and affordability.

Now, we can't have a world which is part-vaccinated and part-neglected, because that world is not going to be safe. So how do we get through the global challenges in a global way. I think that's the main question and here the importance of countries willing to harmonise the national interest with global good, the foreign minister said.

"If countries, especially large countries, pursue their national interest, disregarding everything else, I think the world is going to have some big problems, the minister said.

Jaishankar, during a conversation with former US National Security Adviser General HR McMaster in Battlegrounds' session on 'India: Opportunities And Challenges For A Strategic Partnership' presented by the Hoover Institution, said apart from the public health and immediate medical response amid the pandemic, there are larger issues for the world order and global politics.

"Today clearly, we all need to think very much more about health security. I would argue that our sense of national security has actually widened as a consequence of the pandemic. Today, whether it is medicines, vaccines, last year it was masks and PPEs. In some countries even food because the supply chains when they were diverted made people anxious, he said.

Jaishankar added that he is hearing the strategic autonomy increasingly from the West this time, in Europe for example.

That for essential things, we need to be self sufficient, or we need to de-risk our exposure, that we shouldn't be over dependent on single geographies or one set of supply chains, he said.

"The post-pandemic conversations, in fact even as the pandemic is going on, the conversations are beginning to change towards more resilience, more reliability, how do you de-risk the world. And to my mind, it really makes an argument for what I would call decentralised globalisation - that you have different centers of production, you have the assurance that if something God forbid goes wrong somewhere, the world will not then be so completely threatened as the way we have seen really in the last year.

He said India has been hit by a "very devastating" second wave of COVID-19 and the virulence of the strains of the virus this time were far more than the first wave, which resulted in a much higher caseload as well as much greater fatalities unfortunately".

"At the end of the day, the big takeaway is when you have a global challenge, a global problem of this scale, the only way out is global cooperation, global mitigation," he said.

Jaishankar added that India has been dealing with this challenge of hospitalisations, oxygen, beds and these are things which America knows well because you went through it as well last year including in the city where I am now in New York.

"So, when people look at the television screens and see what's happening in some foreign country, I think there needs to be that realisation that this could easily happen to us. In many cases it has happened to us, and the right response is therefore to help each other out and I am glad to say we have seen a tremendous outpouring of international support and solidarity at this time," he added.

In response to a question on the aggression of China's ruling Communist Party and what more can nations do together to build a better future, Jaishankar said, I don't want to make this about country A or country B, however big the countries may be.

"To my mind, this is the big issue. The world's not going to be the same after COVID, whenever that after is. It's not going to be the same because all of us in different ways are going to worry about our international exposure," he added.

He said historically when times are good, one tends to see international relations as endless opportunities waiting to be exploited.

When times are tough, you realise that those opportunities come mixed with a lot of risks, which take place and we are going through one of them, which is the pandemic. The big takeaway is if we need a better world, a safer world, a less risky world - something which by the way works for everybody because that too is an issue. If we construct a world order in the name of globalisation, but it works for some countries at the expense of others, it works for some people in some countries at the expense of others, we are going to have a frankly dysfunctional international relations and dysfunctional societies, something which has been visible in the last decade.

So, I would argue that in many ways international equity and fairness are not just noble principles. They are practical, common sense. It's like creating a broader stakeholdership in the world, so that the totality of the world is better balanced, he further said.

Jaishankar arrived in New York on Sunday evening on his first visit to the US after India entered the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member in January this year.

India will assume Presidency of the Council in August. It is also the first visit by a senior Indian minister to the US after President Joe Biden assumed office in January.