Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Raisina Dialogue 2020

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As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, the world is witnessing multiple global challenges and major power shifts. While new powers are on the ascendance, some old powers have begun to experience erosion in their global standing. Two types of historical power shifts are taking place—power transition and power diffusion. China’s phenomenal rise has shaken the world. But India, too, looms large on the global radar screen. Asia has emerged as a global centre of economic gravity, as a theatre of increasing security tensions and as a source of decisive influence in global environmental change.

Innovation is the calling card of the future. The history of innovation is the story of ideas. If you don’t innovate, you sleepwalk into oblivion. This is equally true of foreign policy and promotion of strategic interests. The new complex world poses serious challenges but also opportunities. With the centre of the world moving East, the West’s long run as top dog is ending, but the challenge from emerging powers is not a zero-sum contestation. It requires new thinking and new worldview. It is against this background, one needs to analyse the ‘Raisina Dialogue’ as India’s flagship platform of geopolitics and geo-economics.

With the advent of the Narendra Modi Government, India’s foreign policy has become robust and pro-active. India has used its strengths like democracy, demographic dividend and huge markets in pursuit of its foreign policy goals. The Raisina Dialogue owes its success to India’s strong economy and its activist foreign policy. Over the years, the Raisina Dialogue has focused various facets of the changing global architecture from the “new normal” in 2017, “disruptive transitions” in 2018 and “new geometrics” in 2019 to “navigating the alpha century” in 2020

The fifth edition of the Raisina Dialogue saw the participation of a record number of 12 foreign ministers including Russian, Iranian, South African, Australian and several former Heads of States and governments, scores of strategic thinkers, academics and others. Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the inaugural meeting.

While addressing the Raisina Dialogue, External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar said that India and China have complex relations but “neither country can get this relationship wrong”. He also underlined India’s “stabilizing” role to balance “forces of disruption”. He also clarified that India has not closed the door on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The various global leaders saw India as a key player in regional and global affairs. Many spoke of how India has to be seen as essential to their prosperity and global stability. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov came out with Moscow’s full support for India as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Lavrov, was, however, critical of the Indo-Pacific as a “divisive concept” aimed at containing China. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif berated US unilateralism and urged Europe to stand up the bullying from across the Atlantic.

Other dignitaries who addressed the 3-day meeting included former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, former Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen, former Bhutanese premier Tshering Tobgay and former South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo. Most of them echoed the sentiment of former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen who said he would like to see India as a strong component of “the global alliance of democracies”. Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to the length of saying that a big part of the answer in the future to the complexities of the multipolar world will be a role played by India.

India has come a long way. But it still faces many challenges, particularly in its neighbourhood. There are many unrealized opportunities. Its quest for securing support for geopolitical balancing will continue. As Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat said, terrorism remains a major challenge. Whether the government will follow the formula suggested by Gen. Rawat to de-radicalise the youth remains to be seen.

Script: Dr. Ash Narain Roy, Director, Institute Of Social Sciences, Delhi

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