External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday said that in the post-Covid world, "debt is a very big problem and trade has been very challenging"."And on top of that, we've had the conflict in Ukraine, and that has affected the globalised world, it has affected every part of the world," he said.
Jaishankar said this in his address at the joint session of the Senate's External Affairs and Defence Commission in Rome, during the last day of his two-day visit to Italy."It may be different. I know in Europe, because the conflict is at your doorstep, in fact, in a way, right in Europe, this is in many ways the most intense and obviously the most affected part.
But in even further regions, I've seen today energy problems, food problems, fertilizer problems, inflation, all of this, in many cases, directly driven by what has come out of the Ukraine conflict. We also are now watching with increasing concern, at the Middle East... obviously, all of us will have an interest in ensuring that there is no escalation. But it is definitely an issue of concern," he said further.
In terms of solutions, the foreign minister said that it is important for countries to build more reliable and resilient supply chains. "Because what we experienced during Covid should not continue to happen. It should not be that most of manufacturing and most of supplies are located in one part of the world, and if something happens in that part of the world, all of us are at risk.
"Secondly, it's important as market economies, as democratic societies, that we also cooperate among ourselves to build supply chains which are more predictable, which are more governed by rules, which are more stable, which are less political.
"So I think how to re-globalize today, how to ensure that there is more centers of production, how to create new supply chains, additional supply chains, is a very big challenge, and it is certainly something which Italy and India should be working together," Jaishankar said.
The Minister further said: "We see, very frankly, very difficult times ahead, very turbulent times ahead, and there are many reasons for this. If one takes just the last five years, I think the impact on the global economy certainly, but even on society, of Covid has been very, very traumatic.
"There are still many countries and many societies which have not recovered from it. We have seen that progress in sustainable development goals in many countries has been rolled back, that many more countries today are facing financial economic crisis," Jaishankar pointed out.
Referring to trade negotiations with the European Union (EU), Jaishankar said: "We are, since 2021, in the midst of negotiating a set of agreements, the most important of which is a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, one on geographical indications, also on investment.
"Just this morning, I was reviewing where we were with my Trade Ministers. These are complex negotiations, and I think even by comparative standards of Free Trade Agreements, I think the one with the European Union is generally regarded all over the world as the most, I would say, perhaps one of the highest standards and therefore the greatest difficulty in negotiation. We also have, last year, set up a Trade and Technology Council with the European Union.
"The EU only has two of these Councils, one with the US and one with India. And the fact that the three of us; because we also have a similar forum with the US; the fact that the EU, the US, and India are today coordinating and cooperating very closely on technology matters is something which is very important to recognise.
"In recent years, there have also been more conversations between us on connectivity, as I mentioned. And we very much welcome, both Italy and the European Union's greater interest in the Indo-Pacific. For us, your presence there, your activities there, your interest there is a stabilizing factor.
And I think in a globalized world, it is important that all of us take an interest in all corners of the world to the best of our ability. And for us, this too has emerged as a new facet of our cooperation. And finally, as I said, that we both believe in a rules-based order. When it comes to big international issues, the cooperation in multilateral institutions, there is much more that brings us together than keeps us apart," Jaishankar emphasised.