India's engagement with other countries in politics, economics, trade and other fields will intensify, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said even as she urged youths to consider taking up a career in the field of foreign policy.
Describing the 21st century as "Asia's century", she said, "As we push forward into this brave new century, it is also increasingly clear that the biggest problems of tomorrow cannot be solved by nations acting alone."
The Union minister was speaking at a felicitation function for winners from the All India Essay Competition for the Kendriya Vidyalayas, at the MEA headquarters here.
"I hope through this exercise we have been able to expose students to think about the myriad ways in which our foreign policy choices impact on our daily lives. Because, at its core, foreign policy is designed to create a favourable external environment for a nation's domestic progress," she said.
Swaraj, while emphasising the finer points of foreign policy and external affairs, said that the idea of the competition was to engage the youth, as they were the "bright sparks of hope" that will guide this nation forward in the years to come.
"Even as I speak, my colleague is in Paris attempting to reach an agreement on combating climate change that will protect India's right to sustainable growth while recognising the dangers of global warming...
"From cyber crimes to free passage on the high seas, from reforming international institutions to peacekeeping in distant lands, we can only solve the problems of tomorrow if we act together today," she emphasised.
She hoped that through the competition the MEA have been able to inculcate in young minds the importance of "our engagement with the world", and see the world through "your (students) eyes".
"I would urge you also to think about a career in public service and foreign policy. This century is going to be Asia's century, our century. India's engagement with the world in politics, economics, trade, security, technology, education and all other fields will intensify and deepen.
"What better way to define India's place in the world than to actually work as an ambassador of our heritage and values and a promoter of India's interests abroad," she said.
Twenty-five winners from each of the KV regions spread across the country were awarded at the event at the Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan, which was also attended by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, MEA Spokesperson Vikas Swarup, Secretary (East) Anil Wadhwa, and KV Sangathan Commissioner Santosh Kumar Mall, among others.
Among the 25 entries, girls outnumbered boys, and the three grand winners among them were also girl students. Alibha Priyadarshini, 17, from a small town Bargarh in Odisha (Raipur KV Region) won the top prize.
Speaking further Swaraj said, "Every day we are confronted with the threat of terrorism that recognises no borders - we are safer only because nations constantly speak to each other - informing, advising, alerting."
Winners from each of the 25 regions were selected on the basis of essays that they had write on one of the seven topics, either in English or Hindi.
"The reason all of you are here today is because of a simple question that we in the Ministry of External Affairs put to all the Kendriya Vidyalayas in the country – Why does foreign policy matter?
"And we asked students to frame their responses through seven different prisms – India's Soft Power; the International Day of Yoga; India and United Nations; India and Her Neighbours; The Indian view of Climate Change; The Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi in the Contemporary World; and India-Africa Ties – Partnership for the future," she said.
She hoped that through this exercise, MEA has been able to expose students to think about the myriad ways in which our foreign policy choices impact daily lives.
"Because, at its core, foreign policy is designed to create a favourable external environment for a nation's domestic progress. How can a nation progress if it is constantly threatened by war or economic insecurity," she asked.
Taking the symbolic gesture of handshake during bilateral meets as a metaphor, the minister said, many ask how the farmer in Andhra Pradesh or a shop-owner in Rajasthan, or the employee in a private firm in Maharashtra benefit, for example, when our Prime Minister shakes hands with a foreign leader.
"Well, the simple answer is that a handshake signifies an agreement which could lead to investments which in turn would propel growth and create jobs. But foreign policy is much more than investment and jobs," she said.
"And don't forget the millions of Indians who live and work outside India, collectively referred to as the Indian diaspora. Protection of their interests and concerns is also an important priority for our government. And is yet another reason why foreign policy matters," she added.
Swarup said Kendriya Vidyalays was just a beginning in MEA's engagement with the people and youth in particular, and the ambit would be widened from here.
KV Sangathan Commissioner Mall said the essay competition spanned "1,125 KVs and 12 lakh students" under them.
The 25 students and representatives teachers yesterday met President Pranab Mukherjee and HRD Minister Smriti Irani.