Script: Amb. ASHOK SAJJANHAR, Former Diplomat, President, Institute of Global Studies & Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation
The 6th edition of Raisina Dialogue, India’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geo-economics, was held this week in virtual mode. It focused on political, security, economic, health and social challenges thrown up over the last more than a year by the coronavirus pandemic. The conference was held virtually this year due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered an inspiring and motivating Key-note Address. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark were the Chief Guests and also spoke at the Inaugural session.
In his address, Prime Minister Modi raised some fundamental questions about direction in which the world has been moving since the last 70 years when the 2nd World War ended and a number of international institutions including the UN were established. He said that the fundamental concern of the global community at the time of the end of the Second World War appears to have been to prevent a 3rd world war from taking place. What the world should have actually thought at that time was ways and means to do away with global poverty, famine and hunger and how the world could cooperate to benefit entire humanity. He asserted that in an age of competition, world had forgotten spirit of cooperation. Concern for welfare of humanity had unfortunately been left behind. He exhorted world to transform this challenge into an opportunity as it is still not too late to effectively deal with the problems of today and the threats of tomorrow.
Mr. Modi gave a clarion call for adopting a human-centric approach in dealing with the challenges that confront the world today. He declared that in other cases, it might be possible to move from Plan A to Plan B, but while discussing the future of world, there was no Planet B. There is only Planet Earth which everyone should strive to preserve and safeguard. The resources of earth are held as trustees by people and they should protect them well for being bequeathed to future generations.
It is imperative, Prime Minister declared to ‘Walk the Talk’ as India had done, notwithstanding its somewhat limited resources. He stressed that while protecting India’s large population of 1.3 billion people, India had also reached out to help its neighbours and shape a coordinated response to deal with the pandemic. In the early stages of the pandemic, India had supplied medicines like hydroxyl-chloroquine and paracetamol as well as equipment like PPEs, masks and others to more than 150 countries in the world, especially in our neighbourhood and beyond, particularly to developing countries.
In the present instance, India had supplied vaccines to more than 80 countries. The Indian Prime Minister emphasized the importance of cooperation and acting together if the virus is to be defeated. He acknowledged that the resources required to vaccinate the entire humanity are enormous but committed that India will share its experience, expertise and wherewithal with the whole of mankind in the fight against the pandemic. Mr. Modi’s Address set the tone for deliberations during the rest of the conference.
In a panel with the French and Australian Foreign Ministers, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar asserted that India’s area of interest and influence spanned a region much beyond the area extending from the Strait of Malacca to the Gulf of Aden. He added that usage of terms like ‘’Asian Nato’’ was an exercise in mind games and that India’s foreign policy will not be dictated by others.
The overarching theme of the conference was ‘’Viral World: Outbreaks, Outliers, Out of Control.’’ Discussions during the conference focused on five broad sub-themes viz. Future of Multilateralism; Securing and Diversifying Supply Chains; Holding ‘Bad’ Actors to account including Big Tech as well as Big Nations; Info-demic and navigating a ‘No Truth World’; and Building Back Better, Greener and with Gender Sensitivity.
A total of 50 sessions were held during the virtual Dialogue. 150 speakers from 50 countries and multilateral organisations participated in discussions. Over 2,000 attendees pre-registered from more than 80 countries and a large number of participants also took part through social media.