S Jaishankar’s remarks came at an interactive session at a security conference in Munich.

New Delhi:

India should not be criticised for having multiple options, asserted External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday when asked about the country’s foreign policy priorities in the backdrop of observations that it is traversing from “non-alignment to all alignment”.

His remarks came at an interactive session at a security conference in Munich in the presence of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

While putting the question, the moderator specifically mentioned India’s continuing procurement of crude oil from Russia notwithstanding Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Why should it be a problem? I am smart enough to have multiple options. You should be admiring and not criticising. Is it a problem for others? I do not think so,” he said.

In that context, Mr Jaishankar explained the different pulls and pressures countries face, adding that different nations have different histories and challenges and it is very hard to have a unidimensional relationship.

“I do not want you, even inadvertently, to give the impression that we are purely and unsentimentally transactional. We are not. We get along with people, we believe in things, we share things…but there are times when you are located in different places, different levels of development, different experiences, all of that gets into it,” he explained.

“So life is complicated, life is differentiated,” he said.

“Good partners provide choices, smart partners take some of those choices” Mr Jaishankar said.

The External Affairs Minister also described the October 7 attacks on Israeli cities by Hamas as “terrorism” but at the same time, referring to Tel Aviv’s response, said Israel has an international obligation to observe the humanitarian law. He also highlighted India’s long-held position of a “two-state solution” on the Palestine issue.

Israel has been continuing its military offensive in Gaza as part of its retaliation to the unprecedented attack on Israeli cities by Hamas on October 7. India strongly condemned the terror attack by Hamas and has been calling for de-escalation of the situation.

To a question, the External Affairs Minister said the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India- China-South Africa) grouping started in an era when Western dominance was very strong.

Mr Jaishankar said last year, around 30 countries showed interest in being part of BRICS as they saw value in it. There must be something good we have done, he said.

“I think it is important today to make a distinction between being non-West and anti-West. I would certainly characterise India as a country which is non-West but which has extremely strong relations with the Western countries that is getting better by the day,” he added.

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