(From left) ThePrint's Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, former NSA and foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon, and former US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg at the CPR Dialogues in New Delhi Tuesday | Photo: @CPR_India | Twitter
(From left) ThePrint's Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, former NSA and foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon, and former US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg at the CPR Dialogues in New Delhi Tuesday | Photo: @CPR_India | Twitter
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New Delhi: The outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus has shown that the world is still globalised and the decoupling of economies has not started, according to Shivshankar Menon, India’s former national security adviser and foreign secretary.

“Coronavirus shows you that you are still a globalised world. You’ve seen the effect. You’ve seen what has happened to your stock markets too. I think there is no decoupling,” Menon said at the CPR Dialogues in New Delhi Tuesday. Menon was addressing a session on India-US relations, moderated by Shekhar Gupta, founder and editor-in-chief of the ThePrint.

ThePrint is the digital partner for the CPR Dialogues.

“We might say ‘de-globalisation’, but if you look at the proportion of world trade to GDP, we are now back to 2008 levels actually. Yes, the US and China are on-shoring production. Those production chains have shrunk since 2008,” Menon said, adding that the world might “evolve into a differently globalised world”.

James Steinberg, former US Deputy Secretary of State, who was also on the panel, said what is happening with the coronavirus outbreak is showing how the question of “vulnerability” has increased.

“Global supply chains are being disrupted by coronavirus… There can be a backlash against these vulnerabilities,” Steinberg said, adding that there will be huge risks in managing this.

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India-US relationship

According to Menon, the India-US relationship is more about strategic convergence today than any other aspect.

“The relationship walks on many legs now. It’s not just China or the view of the region. When we say Indo-Pacific, it is an inchoate expression of the kind of region we want. It is an open region which is not centred on any one power. This is where we have got the fundamental convergence,” he said.

Menon added that since the US is now India’s biggest trading partner, both countries should work in a more coordinated manner, and said he believes both sides will make further progress in maritime security.

On greater strategic convergence between the US and India, Steinberg said its future lies in the “idea of an open international system”.

“It is not an anti-China thing… It just sets the rules of the system where China can either decide to participate or resist,” Steinberg said.

Menon also highlighted that there is a tendency to view the relationship between the US and China similar to that of the US and the erstwhile Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“I don’t think China can be contained by anybody today. China is a big factor in the world economy, which the Soviet Union never was on that scale at all. This is an intertwined globalised world,” Menon said.

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‘India cannot be seen campaigning for one US party’

According to Steinberg, even if India is confident that the US President Donald Trump will be re-elected this year, “it is the worst thing to bet on one party”.

“The long-term relationship cannot be seen as loyalty to any one party. It damages the sustainability of the relationship… A sitting President should be given a warm welcome, but it cannot be seen as campaigning for the President,” he said.

Menon said both sides need to work towards making the India-US relationship bipartisan, though he added that Trump is probably the only US President this century who has “not started a new war”.

“This image of Trump being unpredictable and dangerous… I think he is fundamentally conservative… He certainly has instincts. We need to stop analysing Trump the way we have been analysing the previous cerebral US Presidents,” he said.

Steinberg agreed, saying Trump is “not reckless”.

ThePrint.in is the digital partner for CPR Dialogues. Read this series of curtain-raiser articles ahead of the conference.

Also read: There is an asymmetry at the heart of India’s complex engagement with the world

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