Hiring of one Software Developer at Publications Division Headquarters, New Delhi on contract. || Subscribe print version with complimentary e-version @Rs.530 per annum; Subscribe only e-version @Rs.400 per annum. || !! ATTENTION ADVERTISERS !! Advertisers are requested to give full details of job Vacancies/ Minimum size will now be 200 sq.cm for shorter advertisements || Click here to become an e-resource aggregator of Publications Division || New Advertisement Policy || ||

Editorial Articles

Issue no 9, 28 MAY - 3 JUNE 2022

New India: Constructive Realism, Humanitarian Approach

K V Priya

The seventh edition of the prestigious Raisina Dialogue began on April 25 with Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating it in the presence of distinguished foreign dignitaries.

India's premier conference on geopolitics and geo-economics, committed to addressing the most challenging issues facing the global community, was attended by over 200 speakers across the globe.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Union (EU) Commission President, the chief guest, graced the occasion with her address.

The who's who of the world leadership, touring India for the annual foreign policy conference, included former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt, former PM of Canada Stephen Harper, former President of Maldives Mohamed Nasheed and former Australian PM Anthony Abbott.

In addition, Foreign Ministers of Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Guyana, Nigeria, Norway, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, and Slovenia also attended the conference.

The conference is a joint venture of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the independent think tank, Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

Raisina Dialogue 2022, as it was called this year, was held, as it has been since 2016, in New Delhi after a gap of two years due to the corona virus pandemic. In 2021, it was held virtually with delegates around the world. The theme for 2022 was "Terranova: Impassioned, Impatient, and Imperilled".

 Why the name Raisina Dialogue?

The Raisina Dialogue is on the lines of the Shangri-La Dialogue held at regular intervals in Singapore and derives its name from the Raisina Hills, an elevation in New Delhi, which is the seat of the Government of India, as well as the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

A New Dawn: While India has always been an active participant at global forums, with the bold initiative of Dialogue - also referred to as the Raisina Samvad - at the behest of dynamic Prime Minister Narendra Modi beginning in 2016, it has helped Indian diplomacy leave its imprimatur on global politics. It also signals the stellar role India seeks to play, equipping itself to face the emerging political, economic, environmental, security, and technological disruptions that threaten everyday life.

As a country of one billion-plus people, India cannot remain a mere passive observer in global forums. Instead, Raisina Dialogue is one of the initiatives with which the country aims to expand its influence on the emerging complexities of global dynamics across different sectors.

The Raisina Dialogue is an indicator of a paradigm shift away from traditional centres of power to emerging economies. As an emerging economy, India just does not want to be a mute part of the global conversation but lead the way ahead, given its size and contribution to the world's economy.

Raisina Samvad or dialogue is one of the several initiatives as an intrinsic part of PM Modi's new doctrine that puts 'India First'-drive reform and transform for the security and prosperity of Indians.

PM Modi’s New doctrine

By focussing on emerging challenges, leading the way forward and by providing solutions, PM Modi’s new doctrine also encompasses India's millennia-old innate globalism and the practice of 'Vaasudhaiva Kutumbakam' (the entire world is our family). This is best exemplified by how India took the lead in supplying Covid19 vaccine to different parts of the world.

Last year addressing the sixth edition of Raisina Dialogue virtually, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said that the mistakes and misdeeds of the past seven decades need not constrain our thinking for the future. "We must think of the entire humanity and not merely of those who are on our side of the borders. Humanity must be at the centre of our thinking and action," he said, expostulating on the theme of the world as a family.

This is a concrete example of how India is being prepared by the dynamic Prime Minister to play a leadership role on various issues of interest to the international community and humanity at large. In other words, India is shifting its gear from 'rule-taker' to 'rule-maker'.

Reflecting India's ambitious global aspirations and staking its claim as a global player, the Raisina Dialogue is also rewriting the traditional north south economic and political divide.

Success: The success of the global multi-stakeholder policy forum can be attributed to multiple factors. First, India is the second-largest country in the world in terms of population; second, the rapid growth of the Indian economy in the new millennium; third, the reforms being undertaken by successive governments and accelerated in the Modi era; and fourth, the rapidly increasing globalisation of Indian economy (trade now contributes nearly 40 per cent of India's GDP). Because of this India can ill-afford to ignore external developments as it is more susceptible to them than ever before.

The potential of global engagement is deepening every year with the collaboration between the government and private think tanks.

This is well-attested by the fact that Raisina Dialogue is a strategy by the Modi government to recalibrate that discourse and discard the traditional bureaucratic pretence that the government knows best. This comes out well when we see the wideranging issues that have been brainstormed and the question that has been raised by the leaders.

Previous Summits: Keeping in view this dictum, all the Raisina Dialogues so far have brain-stormed issues of geopolitics and geoeconomics. When the first Raisina Dialogue was held in 2016, over 100 speakers from over 35 countries attended to speak on the theme, "Asia: Regional and Global Connectivity". In 2017, over 120 speakers from 65 countries discussed "The New Normal: Multilateralism with Multipolarity".

The third edition in 2018 dealt with "Managing Disruptive Transitions: Ideas, Institutions and Idioms". The theme for the conference in 2019 was "New Geometrics, Fluid Partnerships, Uncertain Outcomes".

The theme in 2020 was "Navigating the Alpha Centurys". In 2021, the conference was hosted in a hybrid format. The theme was "Viral World: Outbreaks, Outliers and Out of Control".

 Held physically after a gap of two years due to the pandemic, the theme of the Raisina Dialogue was: "Terranova: Impassioned, Impatient, and Imperilled". Spilling over 100 sessions with around 210 speakers from 90 countries and multilateral organisations, the Dialogue was a roaring success.

Raisina Dialogue 2022

The three-day international conference took place in the lengthening shadow of global events. "The world battled to recover from the devastation caused to lives and livelihoods by a once-in-a-century pandemic, it was struck by two bolts that came from out of the blue. The first saw a dark veil descend yet again over Afghanistan; the second has just redrawn the iron curtain through the heart of Europe" observed ORF Chairman Sunjoy Joshi.

"Together, these three events force us to examine the political undergirding of a rapidly deglobalising world. The cracks in the post-war multilateral liberal system have now become tectonic rifts. If history has taught us anything, it is that such a confluence of event-chains can alter power dynamics and reshape the world order," he added.

Commenting on the theme of Raisina Dialogue 2022, India's External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar pointed out that big ideas will define the emerging global realities. "Considerable turbulence is evident in many parts of the globe. The need for constructive conversations and encouraging diverse opinions along multiple tracks has never been more. In this discourse, we aim to map the evolving geopolitical and geo-economic trend-lines, question prevalent dogmas about the international system, and encourage future oriented thinking."

Shaping the Geopolitical Puzzle

The current stalemate involving Ukraine and Russia in Europe is teetering on the edge of a global disaster and is being predicted by analysts of morphing into the Third World War. Already global supplies of many commodities from the region are affected. While the Western allies led by the USA are supporting Ukraine, China has openly sided with Moscow. Now both sides are approaching India in the ongoing stalemate.

 As a rising global power, India is trying to engage with the world with its identity and interest. The conflict in Europe is such an instance.

Asked about India's role in the current geopolitical scenario, Jaishankar noted: "This idea that others define us, that we need to get approvals from other quarters, I think that's an era we need to put behind".

On the Ukrainian crisis, he asserted India has not taken any side, but its own. "The idea to get approval for our own decisions, we should get back to that era," Jaishankar said.

Compared to India's public support of the erstwhile Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, India's current stakes are high across geographies and sectors. This is one reason why India has remained neutral and realistic, not willing to take sides.

Which is why given its historic relationship and trade partnership, Russia found it hard to ignore India's demand for the creation of a humanitarian corridor to evacuate its civilians. Russia heeded India's demands and helped repatriate about 22,500 citizens. It is important to mention here that about a quarter of Ukraine's international students are Indians.

Wide Appreciation

This realism underlying India's diplomatic and logistical response to the crisis was appreciated by one and all.

Since 2014, India has been balancing itself on the tightrope of Indian diplomacy while navigating global hegemons with the US-led West on one side, and Russia and China in two different directions that seek to expand their influence and interest.

 Another instance of this realpolitik is how India maintains its ever-increasing trade ties with China while strengthening its ties with the island nation of Taiwan, achieving in the process, a magnificent balance.

In 2021, India's trade with China surpassed the $100 billion mark for the first time to reach $125 billion, driven by demand for electronic products, chemicals, and auto components. India's imports accounted for the bulk of the trade, reaching $97.5 billion, while exports crossed $20 billion for the first time.

Besides, India's neutrality in the current stalemate in Europe will act as a catalyst for Russia to act as a moderating influence on China's nefarious expansionist designs on Indian borders.

Amid the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the US imposed sanctions on Russia. It is feared that it will disrupt Russia's defence supplies to India. It is significant that 85% of India’s imports were from just three countries: Russia (46%), France (27%), and USA (12%). However, punitive sanctions imposed on Russia by the USA and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) allies, including France, for its invasion of Ukraine had created a dilemma for India and accounted for it repeatedly abstaining from voting against Moscow in the United Nations General Assembly over its militarism.

Ignorance Exposed: European Commission's President Ursula von der Leyen in her address to the Raisina Dialogue stressed that Europe believed in the 'rule of law and fundamental rights' pointing out that democracy in Europe was 2000-year-old while now India was its largest home. It is well documented that democratic republics existed in India from the 6th Century BC to 400 AD, much before it found its moorings in Europe, as claimed by Ursula.

Besides Ursula other European leaders such as Norway's Foreign Minister, Anniken Huitfeldt spoke of brutal killings and bombings by Russian forces. In short, they questioned India's role in defending free societies.

No more a pale imitator: India did well to turn the tables. It asserted how Europe's invocation of global unity in protecting the rules-based order in the wake of the Russian invasion in Ukraine is selective. Jaishankar wondered why there was no outrage and rule-based order not applied when there was turbulence in Afghanistan?

"When the rules-based order was under challenge in Asia, the advice we got from Europe was to do more trade. At least we're not giving you that advice. In terms of Afghanistan, please show me which part of the rulesbased order justified what the world did there," he noted testily.

Similarly, European powers did not react when India was attacked by China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) or when Pakistan was supporting terrorists not only in India but also in Afghanistan.

His observations came while fielding questions from visiting global counterparts during the Raisina Dialogue.

On pressure being mounted by the western nations for New Delhi to toe Europe's line in sanctioning Moscow, Jaishankar said- we don't behave as a 'pale imitator' of other nations and are also not bound by the approvals of other quarters or forces, unleashing a full-blooded, picture of New India to the world.

Global Perception: All this proves that India can and will tilt towards itself. This is also being realised by many of those who attended the Raisina Dialogue, 2022.

Stephen Harper, Former Prime Minister of Canada, who was present, said that the Indian government is creating the nation's own identity vis-à-vis China. "India is defining itself and its definition is changing according to its economic transformation, global trade, support in medical issues and its nature of being a free and democratic society," he observed. "As China rises as a disruptive power, India pushes itself to play a greater role," Harper added.

The Raisina Dialogue also brought to the fore the number of actors in the world who are brimming with optimism and confidence to collaborate with India. Velina Tchakarova, Director of the Vienna based think tankAustrian Institute for European, and Security Policy added that Europe's perception of India has changed 'gradually positive' over the years. "There is an understanding that we need to do more with India on bilateral and multilateral terms. Amidst the new bipolar tussle between America and China, there can be a third way for Europe and for India to play a role. Both can build their own centre of trading power," Tchakarova added, emphasizing the need to sign the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) between India and Europe as early as possible.

Sessions: Over 100 sessions spread over three days during the global summit kept leaders, policymakers and experts engaged in intellectually stimulating conversations on the emerging challenges in different sectors.

A session titled, 'The Battle Against Vaccine Apartheid', discussed steps to bridge the vaccine divide. How can nations be incentivised to urgently invest in vaccinating the underserved geographies? Is it time to rethink investments into global health care systems? What could be the contours of a new global health agenda at the G20? Considering the two-year-long battle against the pandemic, these questions are timely and will decide the course of action ahead.

Another session was on the manipulation of information being marshalled by state and non-state actors as a weapon of war. As lines between fact and fiction blur, information warfare is set to be the 21st century's most devastating and consequential digital battleground. How can states and corporations limit the harms of online disinformation wars fuelled by bots? Without endangering free speech, how can they address the social divisions and subversion engendered by manipulated content?

Two other interesting sessions in geopolitics were the attack on multilateralism and how the UN has failed to respond to multiple crises while the other was China after the Ukraine conflict.

On the last day, two other sessions on gendered governance focused on how women are reshaping our thinking on power, politics, and peace. It also discussed the feminist foreign policy. Another session titled, Women Leadership and Sustainable Development Goals focussed on how woman leadership be enhanced across the political sphere, boardrooms, and financial systems?

The Raisina Dialogue is just the beginning of how India can be a new thought leader and pave the way for the present and future not only for India but for the welfare of entire humanity.

(The author is New Delhi based Freelance Journalist writing on current affairs)

E-mail: indiadescribe@gmail. com

Views expressed are personal.