Month: January 2020

The myth of the liberal order is caught between shifts in domestic attitudes and the balance of global power

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As we approach the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century, it is clear that the international liberal order is facing a moment of crisis. The political, economic and security fundamentals that underpinned it are invalid, with no consensus on others. Globalization is now being confronted by economic nationalism. Attempts are being made to close open borders. Strongmen politicians are leveraging multiple grievances—real and perceived— to legitimize populist rule. And international norms and institutions appear less relevant to managing the global commons. There is a sense that the global order is once again becoming more Westphalian—that the gains of interdependence are being undone. There is a visible reassertion of sovereignty—from democracies and otherwise. And above all, there is an uncertainty about what this century has in store for our societies.

Within the punditry that seeks to understand why the world is as it is today, the overwhelming sentiment is that popular and populist leaders have undermined what was a well-meaning and well functioning international order. We intend to correct this narrative. From our perspective, the world has fundamentally been defined by the spirit of Darwinism: the ‘survival of the fittest’. The processes of global governance merely legitimized what was otherwise coercive state diplomacy. It provided a means to amass and maintain power and wealth without the use of military force. As our book will show, the crisis of global governance is, in many ways, a comeuppance for the custodians of the post-1945 world order. The story of decline does not begin with populist leaders trampling on an existing world order—although they certainly are. These leaders are the product of the contradictions that have always defined the liberal order.

Before we detail this any further, it is useful to set the context. Where are we now? For one thing, the guarantors that once evangelized the liberal international order are themselves being swept away by the undercurrents of these shifts. American elites remain dismayed that the US elected Donald Trump—an individual with no interest in global partnerships or liberal posturing. European elites are mortified by the rise of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), the National Rally, Viktor Orbán, and others who represent values ostensibly antithetical to those of the European Union (EU). Those who would stand for globalization and multilateral values, on the other hand, are struggling for relevance. Macron is fighting a wave of popular discontent over his ‘business friendly policies’, while Angela Merkel will have demitted office after fighting a losing battle against a populist resurgence in the EU. From the perspective of Western elites, the norms, institutions and partnerships that were so carefully crafted in the post-war period can no longer sustain their peace, freedoms or security. On the contrary, it is these very ideals that are seemingly the root cause of the problem. The wave of popular anger in the transatlantic community is directed at free movement and open borders; towards globalization and the volatility of interdependence; and towards the elites in politics, business, academia, and media that support these policies. Local identity and sovereignty—both of which the international liberal order was thought to have subsumed—are reasserting themselves everywhere.

The wave of popular anger in the transatlantic community is directed at free movement and open borders; towards globalization and the volatility of interdependence; and towards the elites in politics, business, academia, and media that support these policies.

This domestic turbulence has also shaken the security foundations of the international liberal order—the transatlantic and transpacific partnerships of the United States. A core diplomatic mantra of the Trump administration appears to be irreverence for all that was revered. His administration has adopted economic and security policies that are bordering on hostile towards the EU and Japan. It has been relentless in compelling both to ‘pay more for their own defence’. More than this, Trump has also been willing to raise military tensions in these regions—with Iran in West Asia, and North Korea in East Asia. His willingness to use unilateral force and pressure in lieu of multilateral negotiations has caused much anguish in Europe, Japan and South Korea. More consequentially, perhaps, Trump has been more than willing to undermine the institutional frameworks of the global order—namely the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). He sees both organizations as captured by actors inimical to American interests that infringe on the absolute sovereignty of the US.

Amidst this turbulence in the West, there is also a resurgence of the East. The old empires and civilizations of Asia, especially China and India, are beginning to impress upon the world their size and weight. China, undoubtedly, is leading this charge. While the West is thinking local, China is going global. In 2017, President Xi emerged as the unlikeliest defender of globalization, stating, in a very statesmanlike fashion, that the international community ‘should adapt to and guide economic globalization, cushion its negative impacts and deliver its benefits for all countries’. More important, the Middle Kingdom is investing in infrastructure projects across Asia and Europe in an unprecedented effort to connect the two continents. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a multi-billion dollar geopolitical and geoeconomic thrust that will see China emerge as the chief arbiter of an Eurasian political, economic and security arrangement. In doing so, Beijing is steadily undermining the efficacy and legitimacy of the post-war alliance arrangements. In Europe, the China-led 17+1 arrangement is eroding the EU’s influence over its eastern borders. China’s aggressive naval build-up in the South China Sea (SCS) is displacing American military power in the Pacific, and sowing discord among the member states of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Its investments in G7 nations like Italy have divided and derailed any potential Western response.

 Amidst this turbulence in the West, there is also a resurgence of the East. The old empires and civilizations of Asia, especially China and India, are beginning to impress upon the world their size and weight.

Equally significantly, China’s rise is being accompanied by an alternative proposition for global governance. Remember, China bears an enduring grudge against those who profess to lead the international order. China’s political histories are stories about humiliation, subjugation and suffering at the hands of outsiders. There is some disagreement in international affairs literature about exactly what change, and how much of it, China actually seeks. This line of thinking, however, misses the point. China is large enough that the influence of its domestic arrangements will be felt organically in other parts of the world. Beijing has only grown more authoritarian at home and more assertive abroad under the presidency of Xi Jinping. And China is certainly exporting bits and pieces of this model. The most obvious manifestation is surveillance technologies that China’s massive technology companies are selling in developing countries around the world. China’s propositions are certainly international; they are infused, however, with Chinese characteristics. It is a proponent of globalization—but a morphed version that prioritizes state-led capitalism with the People’s Republic of China in command. Beijing favours international institutions, but seeks to subvert their original purpose. In the UN, for example, China has attempted to introduce human rights language that privileges and protects state interpretations, as opposed to more universal (read, in Chinese eyes, Western) international values.

The myth of the liberal order is caught between these shifts in domestic attitudes and the balance of global power. And it is crumbling under these pressures because it is unsuited to balancing internationalism and sovereignty, or to managing a more multipolar international system. Many write and speak about the international liberal order with rose-tinted glasses and a sense of nostalgia. This could not be further from the truth. It was hardly international— premised as it was on America’s system of post-war alliances. While it did guarantee sovereign equality, it is difficult to argue that decision-making authority was sufficiently diffused. Instead, important institutions were run by the largest and most powerful countries. The fabled Washington Consensus, meanwhile, privileged the commercial interests of a handful of geographies, often to the detriment of emerging economies, the environment, and the blue-collar worker. Nor was this order truly ‘orderly’. If institutions could realistically impose limits on the unilateral actions of all countries, we would not have seen disastrous Western interventions in the Middle East. Perhaps, the only legitimate claim the international liberal order can truly have is to liberalism itself. It certainly helped that the victors of World War II were all open, democratic societies—even though much of the world was not. With the original guarantors of this order themselves in disarray, it is understandable why its resilience is fraying. The idea of global governance, then, was ultimately a consensus-building framework for the global political, economic and security elite. As a popular right-wing Indian commentator tweeted, ‘The entitled elites don’t believe in the survival of the fittest but the survival of the fatuous, frivolous and the feckless.’ In other words, pedigree, privilege and personal networks have defined who is at the high table—and more important, who isn’t. This may be a Trumpian statement to make—but as our chapters on development and cyberspace will show, both twentieth and twentieth-first century debates have been monopolized by small but vocal and influential communities. The backlash we are seeing today is driven by a groundswell of grassroots opposition to many of its central tenets and philosophies.

If institutions could realistically impose limits on the unilateral actions of all countries, we would not have seen disastrous Western interventions in the Middle East.

Where, then, does the world go from here? We look to India for answers and alternatives. It is not lost on us that it might seem opportunistic for two Indians to make a case for Indian leadership. But the appeal is too strong to ignore. A soon-to-be relatively wealthy, democratic, multicultural state with an instinct that privileges multilateralism and rules-based order, is the perfect antidote to the increasingly parochial and unilateral mood defining global politics. The rules-based order is shared commitment by all countries to conduct their activities in accordance with agreed rules that evolve over time, such as international law, regional security arrangements, trade agreements, immigration protocols, and cultural arrangements. Its identity as an Asian power gives it a sense of responsibility to ideate and execute equitable global rules that protect the interests of the marginalized. And its civilizational philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam—the whole world is one family—have tempered its willingness to use force as a means to achieve its political interests. This is not to say that India itself is insulated from the disruptions underway around the world. We see strident nationalism increasingly defining the Indian political space as well. Nor is an Indian ‘rise’ inevitable—inequality remains persistent and social risks and economic mismanagement, as well as the risk of divisive politics, continue to daunt the nation. However, providing solutions for the world at large is a fine motivation for Indians to get our house in order. And India’s phenomenal transformation over the past seven decades gives us much to be optimistic about. Of course, we are conscious that Indian leadership is not an end in itself, but a means. The twenty-first century requires this new ethic in order to revive the legitimacy and efficacy of global governance. The rise of India must catalyse methods for governance that are more inclusive, democratic and equitable than before and its own national experience must temper the mercantilism embedded in today’s market-led growth and development models to one where markets are made to serve humankind. It may be time for a New Delhi Consensus, which is not a metaphor for Indian exceptionalism but a call for a more inclusive and participatory world order. This is the most pressing Indian imperative.

 The rise of India must catalyse methods for governance that are more inclusive, democratic and equitable than before and its own national experience must temper the mercantilism embedded in today’s market-led growth and development models to one where markets are made to serve humankind. It may be time for a New Delhi Consensus, which is not a metaphor for Indian exceptionalism but a call for a more inclusive and participatory world order. This is the most pressing Indian imperative. 

A new, fractured global order is upon us. India’s response must evolve accordingly

As political ideologies fail to provide purpose and meaning to individuals, they are increasingly finding refuge in identity and religion. The thin line separating church and state is collapsing rapidly.

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The international community will stumble into the third decade of this century amidst much uncertainty and anxiety about the future. There is a sense that the gains of the past century are being undone, that grievances — real or perceived — are being manipulated by “strongmen leaders” who have gained currency across the world, and that subsequent generations are likely to be worse off than their ancestors. Many blame our current predicament on these leaders, who are seen to have undermined the norms and institutions that their predecessors were instrumental in establishing. Yet these populist figures are not drivers of change; they reflect it.

How did we get here? It is increasingly clear to communities and countries that the distribution of agency in the international system is inequitable and no longer reflects contemporary realities. It is this anger and disappointment, directed against globalisation, that has powered the rise of these strongmen and women.

While the project of economic integration has successfully reduced inequality among countries, its domestic consequences were given insufficient consideration by those evangelising the old global economic order. Should exclusionary economics and the rise of nationalism really surprise us when 10 per cent of the global population controls 84 per cent of its wealth? As the fourth industrial revolution continues to accelerate the demise of manufacturing and implicate organised labour, a deep sense of economic insecurity is fuelling perverse socio-political developments around the world.

While the project of economic integration has successfully reduced inequality among countries, its domestic consequences were given insufficient consideration by those evangelising the old global economic order

The affected individual has found an ally in digital technologies. Ordinary people now possess a loud megaphone to communicate with each other and with the state, sometimes supporting the establishment, and often undermining it. From the Arab Spring at the turn of the past decade to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, digital technologies have erased the asymmetry between the voice of those in power and those governed. This understanding of digital technologies is now being reassessed as well. The very tools that allow communities to mobilise are fast becoming instruments to subdue and control them. Today’s technologies, defined by ubiquitous surveillance and algorithmic decision making, are concentrating wealth and power into the few hands capable of designing and deploying them. The coming decade will inevitably witness a new tussle between agency and control.

Taken together, the anxieties around technology, globalisation and representation have left democracies around the world struggling to contain discord and discontent. Once characterised by the rule of elite institutions arranged around a set of established principles, democracy’s immediate future is being recast by the changing mood on the streets that is challenging many old norms and values. We are all struggling to define this moment. Scholars and scientists are certainly trying, describing the political climate in democracies variously as illiberal, authoritarian, partial or empty. However it is theorised, it is clear that the texture of democracy will undergo a dramatic shift in the time it takes to fully appreciate the limitations of today’s political projects.

As political ideologies fail to provide purpose and meaning to individuals, they are increasingly finding refuge in identity and religion. The thin line separating church and state is collapsing rapidly. Dislocated from the factory floor and distant from the corridors of power, individuals who once organised themselves under an imagined state of cosmopolitanism are now rallying around a far narrower, tribal sense of self, often located in specificities of place, religion and ethnicity.

Dislocated from the factory floor and distant from the corridors of power, individuals who once organised themselves under an imagined state of cosmopolitanism are now rallying around a far narrower, tribal sense of self, often located in specificities of place, religion and ethnicity.

This fracturing of the political-economic consensus has diminished the international community’s capacity for collective action. The most crucial failure perhaps relates to mitigating climate change. The 2020s are certain to be a crucial decade for climate action and politics. Once a priority only for scientists and activists, the impact of climate change is now more visible and more devastating than any time in history. Consider, for instance, that climate refugees now outnumber those fleeing conflict or looking for economic opportunity. Individuals, businesses and states remain at war with their environment and constrained by short-term thinking in their limited efforts to end this conflict.

When the world is struggling to manage the most pressing existential risk, is it any surprise that other international regimes are equally gridlocked? Twentieth-century rules relating to trade, connectivity, innovation, peace and security have all become forums for the application of perverse unilateral state behaviour. Instead of searching for shared interests that can make these regimes fit for purpose in the 21st century, states are locked into an increasingly destructive zero-sum race.

In these challenging times, defined by what we characterise in our new book as the “New World Disorder”, we cannot overstress how important it is for us in New Delhi to rethink the paradigms that are challenging our world order. Today, the need is for India’s reflexive and discrete responses to these challenges to evolve into the creation of a coalition of like-minded leaders who will use their individual and institutional capacities to respond to the demands of global governance in the 21st century.

This century will take shape in an era of strong leaders, strong corporations and strong communities. It will be an era where cooperation is sporadic, where contest is frequent and consensus is elusive. We hope that India will find the courage to take fresh new initiatives to catalyse a new consensus for our world.


Navigating the Digitisation of Geopolitics

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From the steam engine to penicillin to the atom bomb, the development and deployment of frontier technologies have always been intimately tied to geopolitical disruptions. Those disruptions often manifest as a race towards the acquisition of new technologies – or diplomatic elbowing to consolidate gains from scientific breakthroughs and keep these out of reach of challengers. Tensions fuelled by digital technologies are the most recent manifestation of this historical trend. Yet, today’s technologies, due to the breadth of their reach and the democratization of their ownership, are having a unique influence on the geopolitical landscape.

The differences of digital

Across the three previous industrial revolutions, innovations upended existing balance‑of‑power arrangements. The steam engine and gunpowder facilitated Europe’s colonial ambitions. Using technology, Europe was able to marginalize the cultural relevance of Asia and Africa and contain them within the amorphous formulation of the “Third World”. And the atom bomb helped end World War II, leading to the rise of the United States and creating space and demand for the international liberal order.

Whether it is the emerging contest over trade and technology between the United States and China, disputes between platforms and labour over the terms of employment or disagreement over the regimes managing international data flows that are carriers of intelligence, value and wealth, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is similarly leading to a new period of contest and churn. And, as in the past, a new world order will inevitably result. Nevertheless, four crucial differences set apart digital technologies and the disruption they herald.

The development and deployment of frontier technologies have always been intimately tied to geopolitical disruptions

First, few other technologies have diffused so pervasively across all aspects of human life in the same manner as digitization. Most importantly, none created an external, mediated – or “virtual” – reality, in the way that digital technologies have. As digital spaces mature, the “distance” between the real and the virtual is rapidly collapsing. The virtual world has real world consequences. The “#MeToo” mobilizations on social media catalysed agitations on the street. Digital campaigns across Europe, America and Asia influenced political outcomes of the realm. The 2019 events in Hong Kong SAR offer another example. While protesters deftly leveraged communications technologies to grow their (physical) protests, Beijing responded with heavy‑handed influence operations on Western social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, meant to advance its own message at home and abroad.

The distinction between biological, digital and virtual will blur further with advances in technologies like brain‑machine interfaces and virtual reality. This will create new surface areas for the application of statecraft. Neat distinctions between the liberal international order, and its presumably illiberal counterpart, will be difficult to draw. After all, the virtual world – as the earlier examples show – has no rules of the road that separate the good from the bad.

Second, geopolitics in the 20th century (and earlier) was almost always concerned with the state. The state was the only unit capable of exercising influence and enforcing outcomes in international politics. Take the example of the Global Positioning System (GPS), which became the fulcrum of American power – thanks to its surveillance and intelligence‑gathering capabilities – especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The US government denied India access to GPS data that its military sought during the Kargil conflict in 1999. Digital technologies of a more recent vintage, however, have undermined the state’s monopoly over the affairs of citizens and resources. Geopolitics in the digital era will increasingly be shaped by a plethora of actors, including large technology platforms, sub‑state actors, non‑state actors, digitally mobilized communities and even influential or vocal individuals.

Consider the following developments: content on social media has fuelled violence across Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Chinese companies are selling surveillance tools to governments across the developing word. Online propaganda created by the Islamic State fuelled bombings in Brussels in 2016. The #MeToo community created a global political movement, organically picking up allies without need for negotiations, backroom deals or diplomatic roundtables. These may appear disconnected events. However, they all point to the increasing relevance of non‑state actors in influencing key events – events that may support or undermine state interests or international regimes.

Third, the scale and velocity of technology‑driven events are unprecedented. A decade ago, the conversation about social media and communication technologies centred on their emancipatory potential, as in Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution and the 2010‑2012 Arab Spring. However, this narrative has shifted dramatically: digital technologies are seen as national security vulnerabilities, or even as tools for authoritarian governments to control and subdue large populations. Put differently, the multiple technologies and political processes that are converging have created an environment of unknown variables. It is nearly impossible to predict which technology, or combinations thereof, will produce what type of political consequence or security risk.

Finally, digital technologies have created a “platform planet”. The aggregation of individual identities, mobilization of political voices, determinants of economic growth and provision of national security were earlier processes conducted under national regimes. Today, many of these processes have migrated to the digital and virtual arenas. The Westphalian state will soon co‑exist and be implicated by the amorphous “cloud state”, which exists beyond its geography. In this territory, domestic debates are not limited to citizens, and economic opportunities are dependent on the
architecture of the cloud rather than trade regimes.

Geopolitics in the digital era will increasingly be shaped by a plethora of actors

As a result, the “platform‑ization” of statecraft is visible. In other words, states understand that geopolitical gain will come from the “globalization” of their own technological systems and attendant standards, products, rules, social norms and technical infrastructure. China’s digital governance propositions, for instance, will vastly differ from those of the United States. It should surprise no one that the standard‑setting Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers decided, in May 2019, to ban Huawei researchers from publishing in its journals. The move was in
response to the US government’s blacklisting of Huawei from its supply chains, and in deference to the European Union leveraging the General Data Protection Regulation to advance its own cyberspace rules. Other powers like Russia, India and Indonesia are exerting their own interests.

The consequence of these processes, however, has been the increased fragmentation of cyberspace. The platform states are likely to be less interoperable than ever before. The “decoupling” under way between the American and Chinese technological systems is only a precursor of what is likely to come. Other jurisdictions and geographies will be implicated in messy, complex ways that will not resemble a conventional struggle between “superpowers”.

Managing the digital landscape

Collectively, these four trends will help shape the geopolitics of our era even as communities and countries struggle to negotiate a new relationship within national boundaries among the state, enterprises and citizens. Creating and managing global regimes for this new world will require states to anticipate risks to domestic institutions and processes, maintain economic interdependence, identify strategic vulnerabilities and national security challenges, and develop international norms and institutions.

Because the Fourth Industrial Revolution is unfolding as the global landscape becomes increasingly multipolar, no single state will possess the political capital to enforce its own interests. Just like the G20 was incubated to manage the global economy in a multipolar world, there is need for a new digital collective, perhaps a “D20” comprised of the largest digital economies and technology companies. It should function as a steering mechanism of sorts, managing the implications of digital technologies while more formal institutions mature.

The international community must also create mechanisms to facilitate “platform interoperability”. Global stability has always been a function of interdependence – the economic and political matrix of relationships that states enter into. If the fragmentation of our global technological system continues, competition, even confrontation, and instability are inevitable. Arriving at a functional mechanism to allow national technological systems to talk to one another, despite technical, political or social differences, will be crucial.

Informal and normative international rule‑making processes must support both these imperatives. The treaty system functioned effectively in the bipolar and unipolar world of the 20th century. It is no template for the future. In the short term, it is also unlikely that states will be able to achieve a convergence of interests on digital issues. Instead, the international community must work towards standardization in core economic and security operations, while allowing states the flexibility to manage the social and political consequences of emerging technologies domestically. This  may be a suboptimal arrangement, but it is likely to be a more effective one.

There is need for a new digital collective, perhaps a “D20” comprised of the largest digital economies and technology companies

The “emerging technologies” discussed today are mostly those that have matured from internet‑related breakthroughs in the late 20th century. The international community is only beginning to respond to the set of challenges they have raised. What lies ahead? The next few decades will see even more rapid advance in technologies, with some that place the human body at the frontier of innovation, and even a new arena of geopolitical contest. The intervening period will test the world’s ability to learn the right lessons from the tensions that require resolution today – and apply them to build 21st‑century arrangements.


This essay originally appeared in The Shaping a Multiconceptual World

Battle for Clean Air is the best climate mitigation strategy

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The turn of the decade expectedly brings no respite for societies that have been at war with the environment for centuries. Instances of bushfires, storms, floods and other extreme weather patterns continue to wreak havoc. The last 10 years were the warmest in all of human history. We know that earlier predictions about climate tipping points—the moment in time where a climate cataclysm is likely—were optimistic. As it turns out, we are fast running out of time. This is a global trend which implicates everyone and requires collective action.

The most damaging indictment of our failure is the images of entire cities gasping for breath as fuel emissions, construction dust, commercial businesses and farm waste residue create toxic ambient conditions that are severely undermining the right to breathe. The World Health Organization estimates that air pollution is the leading cause of nearly 7 million premature deaths every year. Even worse—air pollution is an intergenerational killer. 90 percent of all children around the world breathe polluted air and 600,000 die before they turn 15 every year. A recent study by the Centre for Science and Environment in Rajasthan found that one infant mortality takes place every three minutes due to Lower Respiratory Tract infection caused by air pollution. These are staggering statistics that must serve as a wakeup call for government’s businesses and communities. Apathy is not a policy option.

The 2020s must be the decade when the international community finally delivers on the promises of sustainable growth of which right to clean air must be an integral objective. This is easier said than done. It is not certain that we will make the right decisions. Climate change and air pollution are “wicked” public policy challenges. There are multiple interrelated casual factors—from the planets own environmental systems to anthropogenic causes—that are driving our societies and ecology to a crisis. These challenges require leadership resolve and innovative responses.

It is time to acknowledge that complex systems require structural solutions that focus on multiple actors, institutions and processes. There is no silver bullet that can clear this smog that chokes. Ever since the dawn of the industrial revolution over two centuries ago, human societies have consciously accepted the trade-off between growth and the environment. We need new models that can create millions of jobs, drive the economy and eradicate poverty without necessarily sacrificing our environment. Single-minded focus on macroeconomic indicators cannot continue to define our political-economic consensus.

It is time to invest in leadership that cuts across ideologies and identities. This might be a difficult task in today’s polarized and parochial times—but common enemies have always catalyzed new partnerships and alliances. The battle against climate change and air pollution might just be the cause that societies can rally around. The answer ultimately lies in political will and incentive. The commitment to clean air must become an electoral issue—our politicians and leaders must be compelled to fight for votes on a platform that supports the right to breathe.

At the Raisina Dialogue this year, incubating a global green new deal is a crucial priority for ORF and its partners. Securing the right to breathe will be the theme of one of our opening dinners—and it will bring together lawmakers, business leaders and civil society practitioners to debate and discuss how best to achieve this. Over the following two days, the Raisina Dialogue will debate how the development agenda can be de-securitized and reclaimed by local communities; how the international community can support progress towards achieving universal health coverage (UHC); how global governance can respond humanely to climate change induced migration; and how states can leverage the 4IR to rediscover linkages between the economy and environment.

We hope that these conversations strengthen the green transformations that our world so desperately needs. We have already taken the initial steps: At the Raisina Dialogue, ORF will launch a study led by Jayant Sinha, MP which draws on success stories from Germany, UK and California to provide a compelling case for why green transitions make for good economics and politics. It is time to strengthen this process. From e-mobility to renewable energy sources, a new green design should be at the core of our urban agenda. It is time also to operationalize climate smart agriculture rather than relegate it to a buzzword. There is an inherent collateral co-benefit in doing all of this: A political and economic agenda that prioritizes the right to breathe will inevitably catalyse the systemic change urgently needed to mitigate the clear present danger posed by global warming.