H.E. Jawed Ashraf, Ambassador of India to the Republic of France and Principality of Monaco, invited members of the AAPA to breakfast at his residence in Paris on April 9 for an on-the-record wide ranging discussion just ten days before India’s national elections (April 19 – June 1). India has 968 million registered voters, he pointed out, and the country has installed 1.2 million polling stations.
Ambassador Ashraf highlighted the gains India has made recently, including the country’s strong recovery from Covid (GDP growth between 7-8% last year), 750-billion USD in total trade receipts, a steadily decreasing fiscal deficit, the third largest number of startups in the world, and over 200,000 villages now with. broadband connections.
In response to an hour’s worth of Q&A with our membership, the ambassador said he was concerned by the acceleration post-Covid of the polarization in world order. This less-united world, he said, makes it difficult to solve multi-lateral challenges, such as combating climate change and narrowing the economic divide between the global north and south. He believes India is in a position to play an important mediating role, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, where it sees China as the biggest obstacle to stability, noting that, “China and India are not exactly the best of friends.”
Post-WWII organizations have become ossified, he believes: Western hegemony is ending and new groups, such as the BRICS, are emerging. French President Macron, he thinks, could provide the key to working together to find a new world  not led by the US or China.
On the  US elections, a Donald Trump victory, the ambassador  predicted, would push India much closer to Europe.
And on press freedom, the ambassador tried fending off criticisms from members by  citing parallel incidents in other countries, not surprisingly resulting in limited accord.