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Monday, November 29, 2021

India’s claim for permanent UNSC seat populist: Former foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon

Menon said that the leadership of many countries, including India, relied on nationalism, personality cults and other forms of legitimacy, as economies around the world slowed down.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
November 18, 2021 3:58:50 am
United Nations Security Council, Shivshankar Menon, social welfare, populist, populism, Japan, China, IndiaShivshankar Menonwas India’s National Security Adviser when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister from 2010 to 2014. Express file photo by Cheena Kapoor

Describing India’s claim for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council as “populist”,  former foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon asked whe-ther the move will help feed people or result in social welfare.

Virtually addressing students and professors of Ahmedabad University during a talk on “Geopolitics and Indian Strategy” on Wednesday, Menon said, “Populism not just diminishes your capacity to bargain or negotiate… it also has other effects… If you are driven by personality cults and ego, other people will use it. It is a weakness… You are trying to shape the world environment to work for you, but if you are more busy satisfying your ego or status goals, then what happens to the transformation of India. That gets left behind.”

“There is a problem with populism because your vision gets clouded and you start making choices for… historical revenge, status. My favourite example is: Why do you want to sit on the UN Security Council. Is it a beauty contest where other people have to vote for you? I do not see how it helps. Is it going to feed people? Is it going to help in people’s welfare?… I do not see this as a big goal we should be seeking. But it is a populist goal,” he added.

Pointing out how globalisation threatened local identities globally, increased urbanisation and gave rise to authoritarian leaders, he said, “The paradoxical result (of globalisation) has been politics of emotion, which has led to the rise of new authoritarians, whether it was in Japan, China, India, Turkey, Russia, all the way up to (Donald) Trump. They appealed to nativism, nationalism, used personality cults to try and manage the economy.”

Menon, who was India’s National Security Adviser when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister from 2010 to 2014, said that the leadership of many countries, including India, relied on nationalism, personality cults and other forms of legitimacy, as economies around the world slowed down.


Taking about how India’s foreign policy has helped people in the past 70 years, Menon said, “I think you should be justifying foreign policy to your people by saying: how does it help your welfare. Does it help your welfare or not. If it doesn’t, it is not good foreign policy.”

“When I say, India’s foreign policy has overall been a success in past-70 plus years, I use two measures: One, Indian people are better off today than before, and for the past 50 years at least, we have managed to stay out of war ans therefore created a peaceful environment, and certainly pulled a lot of people out of poverty, in the period when we integrated with rest of the world. Second, we have improved our position vis-a-vis every country, except China,” he added.

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