The Return of History
In the sixth edition of our flagship annual journal of essays, the Raisina Files, we seek to take stock of where we are as people, communities, and countries. We intend to discuss and clarify responses to challenges that have arisen due to the pandemic, and discover and chart pathways to opportunities in the post-COVID19 world. Our contributors engage with the new war in Europe, and its consequences for the region and the world. Most importantly, the fine minds who have penned the essays that follow, seek to describe what lies ahead, how it will be arranged, who will shape it, and who will likely benefit from what unfolds.
Raisina Files 2022 mirrors the theme of this year’s Raisina Dialogue, “Terra Nova: Impassioned, Impatient, and Imperilled.” We have identified six pillars and areas of discussion within this overarching theme to engage with critically—Rethinking Democracy: Trade, Tech, and Ideology; End of Multilateralism: A Networked Global Order?; Water Caucuses: Turbulent Tides in the Indo-Pacific; Communities Inc.: First Responders to Health, Development, and Planet; Achieving Green Transitions: Common Imperative, Diverging Realities; and Samson vs Goliath: The Persistent and Relentless Tech Wars. Together, these six pillars of the Raisina Dialogue capture the multitude of conversations, opportunities, and anxieties countries engage and grapple with.
In this volume:
Editors: Samir Saran and Anahita Khanna
- The DragonBear: Putin’s Choices | Velina Tchakarova
- Forging China-Resistant Supplier Compacts | Jeffrey Jeb Nadaner
- Democracy, Technology, Geopolitics | Sameer Patil and Vivek Mishra
- Materials That Matter | Andreas Kuehn
- Scripting a Third Way: The Importance of EU-India Partnership | Amrita Narlikar
- Emerging Domains of Conflict in the 21st Century| Lydia Kostopoulos
- Advancing Trade Governance – Only for Democracies? | Renato G. Flôres Jr.
- The World in Disarray: Is This the End of Multilateralism for Trade? | Stormy-Annika Mildner
- Anticipate, Reform, and Elevate: Looking Toward W20 India 2023 | Erin Watson-Lynn
- The Pandemic at 24 Months | Sridhar Venkatapuram
- The Season of Caucuses: QUAD, AUKUS, and the Exclusive-Inclusive Duality of Indo-Pacific Asia | Rory Medcalf
- Oceanic Choices: India, Japan, and the Dragon’s Fire: How does the QUAD Work? | Satoru Nagao
- Diverging US and Indian Approaches to Europe: The Problem of Ukraine | S. Paul Kapur
- India’s Unicorn Step-Function Growth Signals the Emergence of its Innovation Ecosystem | Nisha Holla
- Exploring the Inequities of Climate Finance | Mannat Jaspal and Terri B. Chapman
- Enabling the Green Transition to be a Just Transition | Nuvodita Singh and Akshima Ghate
- Meta-Soft Power: Flipping the Scales Between Art & Culture | Nicolò Andreula and Stefania Petruzzelli
As the BRICS passes through a crucial milestone of its existence, celebrating 15 years of its formation, this report examines the initiatives launched since inception and makes recommendations for consolidating and streamlining the agenda.
The BRICS remains a prominent grouping in the global governance architecture due to the individual influence of each member-state and the collective size of their economies. The confidence in BRICS from within and the perceptions outside the grouping are shaped by its successes in institution-building and resource mobilisation. The highlight of BRICS’s success is its strong focus on issues of financial stability and global governance reforms, particularly in areas related to macroeconomic stability. These are supplemented by attention to sustainable development issues backed by finance and technology.
The BRICS agenda has witnessed a steady expansion of its scope ever since its inception. During the initial years, the agenda was focused on responding to the trans-Atlantic financial crisis with a special focus on multilateralism, particularly the need to reform the international monetary and financial architecture. Subsequently, the BRICS established the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, two flagship financial initiatives that remain the biggest success stories of the plurilateral to date. Notably, with the outbreak of Covid19 in 2020, there has been a special focus on responding to the pandemic and coordinating recovery.
Given the expanding scope, there is a need for consolidation and streamlining of the BRICS agenda. This will help address structural deficiencies and facilitate the smooth coordination for building consensus on key issues. To realise these goals, a thorough review of the BRICS cooperation mechanisms is necessary. This joint academic study presents an assessment of the various tracks under the BRICS framework, such that the grouping can better pursue the collective agenda of economic cooperation and sustainable development.
The year 2021 has been significant, with the Indian presidency underscoring ‘BRICS@15: Intra-BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation and Consensus’ as the theme. The aspect of ‘consolidation’ received special attention. The Indian presidency also helped in concretising several action areas that had remained dormant. A case in point is the Agriculture Research Platform proposed by India at the 2015 Ufa Summit with a memorandum of understanding signed during the Indian presidency in 2016. This was launched in the virtual format in 2021, again during India’s presidency.
India’s presidency of BRICS in 2021 has set a definite example for streamlining of the BRICS agenda. As the agenda consolidates, future presidencies will find room for emerging themes that require urgent attention. Consolidation does not always only mean weeding out weaker sprouts, but to have comprehensive approaches towards setting common goals so that even relatively weaker initiatives can be scaled with resources. A preliminary assessment of the initiatives launched by BRICS is presented in this report.
- BOOKS AND MONOGRAPHS, ORF
- JAN 19 2018
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Over the years, India earned the epithet of a reluctant power in Asia — exuberant in its aspirations, yet guarded in its strategy. However, as the challenges in its immediate neighbourhood and beyond continue to evolve, India is today gearing up to embrace a larger role in the far wider theatre of the Indo-Pacific.
Forming the core of the ongoing global economic and strategic transitions are a rising and assertive China, an eastward shifting economic locus, and the faltering of Western-led multilateral institutions. These converge with domestic development and national security objectives to demand that India strive to expand its presence, reach, and voice both on land and in the sea in its extended neighbourhood. Today, New Delhi is actively seeking to create opportunities for mutual development in the Indo-Pacific, in the Arabian Sea and in Africa even as it engages like-minded nations in the pursuit and preservation of a rules-based order that promotes transparency, respect for sovereignty and international law, stability, and free and fair trade. In both these endeavours, the United States is an appropriate and willing partner. As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated in his address to the US Congress in 2016, “[a] strong India-US partnership can anchor peace, prosperity, and stability from Asia to Africa and from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific.”
The US has been a principal architect and the traditional guarantor of a liberal economic and maritime order in the Indo-Pacific. While the commentariat in the US and India might express apprehension at the idea of US President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ strategy, this moment must be seen as an opportunity to rebalance the Indo-US relationship to reflect a real convergence of strategic interests, as opposed to an abstract engagement based on values alone and one that has disregarded the core interests of both countries.
Even as the phrase ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ replaces ‘Pivot to Asia’, it is clear that the US will continue to play an important role in the region.
The US is acutely aware that disengagement is not an option when the contests of the region are, in fact, irrevocably moving both westwards and eastwards, and ever closer to its own spheres of influence. Thus, maintaining an influential presence and assets in the region effectively responds to its agenda. The US continues to retain an unequivocally large military presence in the Indo-Pacific. Moreover, Washington appears intent on finding ways to address shortfalls in its defence budget. The most recent defence bill specifically authorises the establishment of the new Indo-Pacific Stability Initiative to increase US military presence and enhance its readiness in the Western Pacific. As it remains an invested actor across the Middle East and in Afghanistan, and as it confronts an unrelenting North Korea, it must seek to empower regional like-minded nations such as India, which it recognises as having an “indispensable role in maintaining stability in the Indian Ocean region.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies a few days before his visit to India in the fall of 2017 is a testament to the continuity of the relationship: “The increasing convergence of US and Indian interests and values offers the Indo-Pacific the best opportunity to defend the rules-based global system that has benefited so much of humanity over the past several decades.” In a way, the title of his speech, “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century”, should set the tone for the Indo-US relationship; and this new direction must not be influenced even by changes in leadership in the two capitals. It must first be imagined and then crafted as a multi–decade relationship that engages with the disruptions that abound in a multipolar world. This 21st century partnership must take into account each country’s economic trajectory, political values and strategic posture. The Indo-Pacific region will be the theatre in which this partnership will truly be realised. Both President Trump and Prime Minister Modi seem cognizant of this reality, and are intent on creating a new blueprint for this long-term engagement.
The terms of this bilateral cannot be limited to maintaining the regional balance of power. Rather, both countries, in concert with other likeminded powers, have a stake in enabling and incubating a peaceful, prosperous, and free Indo-Pacific. As these countries align in their desire to see a new regional architecture emerge, the following present themselves as the most crucial domains where a strengthened India-US The New India-US relationship can have deep and influential impact in a region that matters to the whole world:
Defence trade and technology
India’s designation as a ‘major defense partner’ of the US, and the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative provide a bilateral platform for defence trade and technology sharing with greater ambitions and at a faster pace. The ‘Make in India’ initiative strengthens scope for coproduction and co-development. The new appetite for business reforms is catalysing the largest volumes of foreign direct investment ever received by the country.
As India undertakes broader defence transformation initiatives, US defence companies can collaborate with New Delhi in its USD 150 billion military modernisation project. They can do this by jointly identifying the gaps and working together to equip Indian forces in the short run. This must be followed by cooperation on advanced technologies to help build up the country’s defence manufacturing base in the longer term.
Continuous progress on these fronts will enhance Indian capabilities, enable greater readiness of Indian forces, and level the playing field. Specifically, priority military hardware, technologies and areas for joint production need to be identified. Pending sales, such as that of the Guardian RPVs, need to be expedited, along with the micro unmanned aerial vehicle project. Further, the matter of quality and subsequent liability of equipment made in India through joint Indian-US ventures needs immediate attention. Additionally, the hesitation of US companies in sharing proprietary and sensitive technology is a concern that will need to be taken up on a case-by-case basis.
Maritime freedom and security
There is a rare moment of clarity in US and Indian policy circles on the importance of each other in this region. This is important if the countries are to act as “anchor of stability” in the Indo-Pacific.
It is time to begin conversations on new arenas of military cooperation, intelligence sharing, and strategic planning, to include advanced platforms like fifth-generation fighters, nuclear submarines, and aircraft carriers. Already, the two countries share a maritime security dialogue, which was instituted in 2016, as well as working groups on aircraft carrier technology and jet engine technology. They should be strengthened further and complemented by new working groups.
The annual Malabar exercise, which now formally includes a third partner, Japan, is another key feature of military cooperation, improving coordination and interoperability. Adding to these efforts are the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, which will create maritime logistic links, and a white shipping agreement which promotes regional maritime domain awareness.
India-US maritime security cooperation is critical because it supports efforts that prioritise joint stewardship for ensuring freedom of navigation and unimpeded trade across a maritime common that is a major conduit for commercial and energy supplies, and is rich in natural resources, ecosystems, and biodiversity. Moreover, the Indian Ocean Region is extremely vulnerable to extreme weather events that are likely to increase significantly in the coming years. To address these developments, the US and India can cooperate to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in the region.
Further, the two sides are committed to resisting the aggression that China has displayed in the South China Sea and elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific. Indo-US cooperation in the Indo-Pacific must also serve to affirm the principles of freedom of navigation and peaceful settlement of maritime disputes.
An expanded bilateral maritime partnership that involves transfer of technology to build India’s capacity in the Indian Ocean Region will help create a more stable and balanced security architecture there. This same partnership should explore new forms and formats of joint exercises and naval drills, such as anti-submarine warfare and maritime domain awareness missions, and encourage support for Indian leadership as “force for stability” in the IOR.
India and the US must also collaborate to promote a market-driven blue economy as a framework for growth and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific — home to bountiful hydrocarbon, mineral, and food resources, as well as burgeoning coastal populations.
India and the US can further elevate cooperation in marine research and development to create common knowledge hubs and share best practices. They can collaborate to develop mechanisms and foster norms that ensure respect for international law. The US can support regional collaboration in the Indo-Pacific to explore new and environmentally conscious investment opportunities in maritime economic activities and industries, such as food production and coastal tourism. Direct investments in Indian efforts, such as in identified coastal economic zones and the Sagarmala initiative, and participation in regional groupings like the Indian Ocean Rim Association, are two ways in which it can do so.
Effectively, the US can support India in creating a resilient regional architecture in the Indo-Pacific that places an emphasis on stability, economic freedom, growth and maritime security.
Today, states in the Indo-Pacific are in dire need of funds and expertise to improve infrastructure development and regional connectivity. Beijing has introduced its own project — the Belt and Road Initiative — through which it is investing in infrastructure initiatives across Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific. While connectivity is undoubtedly the primary aim of the project, it is increasingly clear that China seeks to expand its political and military influence in the region under the aegis of the BRI. To prevent the emergence of an Asian order inimical to the rules-based order, states must work together to forge a more inclusive approach towards an emerging regional architecture. This framework must be willing to accommodate everyone, including China, in connectivity projects from Ankara to Saigon, or the sea lanes seeking to link ASEAN with Africa.
For this to occur, pragmatic, democratic, and normative powers need to first create a political narrative within which Asia’s connectivity will take place. This narrative must underscore the importance of good governance, transparency, rule of law, and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. This can then be posited against strictly bilateral projects such as the BRI, which burden participating countries with debt and environmentally unsound projects. This alternative proposition to China’s BRI can then become the blueprint for connectivity and integration from Palo Alto to Taipei, Bengaluru to Nairobi, and Tel Aviv to Addis Ababa. The possibilities are endless and straddle hard infrastructure, digital connectivity, knowledge clusters, and value chains in the Indo-Pacific space.
The India-US partnership has an important role to play in this respect. The American vision of the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor supplements India’s Act East policy, and India-US cooperation in physical and soft infrastructure can link cross-border transport corridors; help create regional energy connections; and facilitate people-to-people interactions. Further, India and the US can cooperate as “global partners”, with US investment in Indian projects in Africa. Accordingly, the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor proposed by Japan and India can provide a common platform to all three states. Further, the US can nurture burgeoning regional partnerships between Japan, South Korea, Australia, and India, as these countries work towards building a consultative and collective Asian framework.
Digital connectivity, trade, and technology
Digital connectivity merits particular attention. After all, in the next decade, the largest cohort of internet users will emerge from the Indo-Pacific region. China is working aggressively to ensure that digital platforms in the region will be influenced by its own model for cyberspace premised on sovereignty. A major part of China’s BRI is the new “information silk road”, which facilitates investments by Chinese companies in South Asia’s internet architecture.
Accordingly, the US and India must cooperate to ensure that digital platforms, trade, connectivity and norms are shaped according to the democratic and open nature of the internet. To do so, they must create a framework that responds to developing-country imperatives such as affordable access, local content generation and cybersecurity. Already, Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Digital India’ programme provides a model for other states in the region to use internet-enabled technology to spur economic growth. India’s Aadhaar initiative, a unique digital identity programme, has already generated significant interest amongst South Asian states. American companies have increasingly sought to adopt standards and technologies to leverage this platform and build new markets in India. For example, WhatsApp has integrated with India’s unified payments interface to provide digital payments. Examples of other development initiatives are also abundant. Elsewhere, the Google RailTel initiative aims to provide WiFi at 400 railway stations across India by 2018.
India-US bilateral cooperation in using the digital as a tool for economic development and empowerment can be the template to connect the three billion emerging users in other developing countries in the Indo-Pacific and across Africa. As digital norms are institutionalised — whether pertinent to data flows and e-commerce, or related to critical infrastructure, defence, and public services — there is a real opportunity for India and the US to build and subsequently provide a model working relationship for the digital economy. Effectively, the US and India can propose a set of ‘Digital Norms for the Indo-Pacific’ that can be operationalised under their various dialogues and mechanisms for cooperation in the region.
In international negotiations, India finds itself caught in a shrill and binary debate pitching growth against climate
India’s position in climate negotiations is based on the importance of access to energy for human development. This is supported by data, including the positive correlation between energy access and the Human Development Index (HDI). Estimates vary on how much energy is needed to meet basic human needs (hereafter referred to as “lifeline energy”). The methodologies vary depending on whether these basic needs are considered through the prism of GDP growth targets, HDI levels, or calculations of the energy needed to meet a predetermined set of development goals.
This essay will argue that, if the climate debates have allowed even a nominally equitable level of coal consumption towards meeting lifeline energy needs, India currently has immense room for manoeuvre. The analysis relies on a benchmark metric: that 2,000 watts per capita is a basic level of lifeline energy, covering housing, transport, food, consumption (of manufactured goods), and infrastructure. This is based on a study by Novatlantis, which demonstrates that this level of consumption could power daily life in Western Europe. Therefore, lifeline energy is defined liberally in this study, as being high enough to cover the minimum lifestyle needs of citizens in developed countries.
Consumption after the financial crisis
While developed countries such as OECD and EU member states have reduced per capita coal consumption since the financial crisis, developing countries such as India have increased consumption over the same period. This reduction by developed countries does not necessarily reflect a greater degree of climate “responsibility”, and, conversely, the increase in consumption by India does not reflect “irresponsibility”, as this analysis will demonstrate. Table 1 shows the total per capita consumption of key regions and countries that are shaping the climate change discourse.
TABLE 1: TOTAL PER CAPITA COAL CONSUMPTION
|of which: OECD||1,316.0||1,143.0||1,100.6|
Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2015; The World Bank; author’s calculations
Taking a closer look at coal consumption before and after the financial crisis, it is apparent that the trends are nuanced. Two key sub-trends are visible in Table 2, which tracks coal consumption against total primary energy consumption. The first is that, while developed countries have been cutting total energy consumption, developing countries have been increasing it, albeit at a gradually declining pace since the crisis. Second, while developed countries have cut coal consumption faster than total primary energy consumption, developing countries have increased coal consumption faster than total primary energy consumption. Clearly, then, coal consumption is very much part of the lifeline consumption matrix for developing countries since they require base load generation for industrial-driven economic growth (which is a prerequisite in countries such as India for improving the HDI and generating employment).
TABLE 2: CHANGE IN COAL CONSUMPTION VS. TOTAL PRIMARY ENERGY CONSUMPTION
Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2015; The World Bank; author’s calculations
Finally, Table 3 shows that the average citizen of the US and of China both consume nearly the entire 2,000W lifeline energy benchmark in the form of coal. Conversely, in India’s case, only about 19 percent of the 2,000W benchmark is consumed in the form of coal. In fact, citizens of OECD countries get a much larger proportion of their energy needs from coal than citizens of non-OECD countries. This is also a function of the disparity in per capita energy consumption as a whole between developed and developing countries – while coal consumption as a percentage of lifeline energy in developed countries is decreasing, the gap between the per capita coal consumption of developing and developed countries remains vast.
TABLE 3: PERCENTAGE OF LIFELINE ENERGY DELIVERED BY COAL, WITH A PER CAPITA NEED OF 2,000W
|of which: OECD||66%||57%||55%|
Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2015; The World Bank; author’s calculations
India’s twin imperatives
The World Bank’s Special Envoy on Climate Change recently stated that “clean energy is the solution to poverty, not coal”. This is a view that resonates within a number of development-financing institutions based in OECD countries. For instance, the US Export-Import Bank stopped funding greenfield coal power generation projects worldwide in 2013. The World Bank also seems to be moving in this direction, even though coal consumption has been increasing in developing countries and coal-based energy remains the most practical option at a large scale. This narrative isolates economic growth from lifeline energy and skirts over the role of growth in development.
The preceding analysis attempts to address some myths related to coal consumption. First, in per capita terms, developed countries in fact consume much more coal than developing countries: The average OECD citizen consumes about double the coal of the average non-OECD citizen. China is a notable exception. And if Chinese per capita coal consumption is a benchmark, the debate on India’s consumption is clearly redundant.
The average Indian already spends much more on renewable energy (as a proportion of income) than counterparts in China and the US
The per capita trends show that India will supply a larger proportion of its 2,000W benchmark through clean(er) fuels than developed countries. There is enough room for India to increase its coal consumption while continuing to accelerate its renewable-energy thrust. India has set a target renewable-energy capacity of 175 gigawatts by 2022. This means that it will be among a handful of countries to source a large proportion of its lifeline energy needs from non-conventional sources. The average Indian already spends much more on renewable energy (as a proportion of income) than counterparts in China and the US. To spend even more, purchasing power will need to grow, and so, in turn, will lifeline consumption.
This has clear implications for India, and for other similarly placed developing countries. Unlike developed countries, which have already seen peaks in their energy consumption, India must respond to two imperatives. First, to increase its lifeline energy as well as clean energy. This means that the country will have to ensure financial flows towards lifeline energy, make coal consumption more efficient, and engage with the international financial system to ensure that regulations do not make clean energy investments more costly than they already are. Second, and at the same time, lifestyle emissions need to start adhering to or approximating the Swiss model, which shows that “daily life in Western Europe could be powered by less than one-third of the energy consumed today&rd The estimated 20 million people at the top of India’s socio-economic pyramid, and large companies that consume as much energy as counterparts in developed countries, must be included within the paradigm of “climate responsibility”.
 In 2014, China accounted for more than half the world’s coal energy consumption, at around 3.9 billion tonnes of oil equivalent, while Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries consumed just over half this figure. China’s target of capping coal consumption at 4.2 billion tonnes by 2020 was welcomed by OECD countries. See data from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, June 2015, available athttp://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp-country/de_de/PDFs/brochures/bp-statistical-review-of-world-energy-2015-full-report.pdf; “China seeks to cap coal use at 4.2 billion tonnes by 2020”, Agence France-Presse, 19 November 2014, available athttp://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/business/china-seeks-to-cap-coal-use-at-4-2-billion-tonnes-by-2020/articleshow/45205271.cms.↩
 UNDP, 2013; The World Bank, n.d.↩
 Shripad Dharmadhikary and Rutuja Bhalerao, “How Much Energy Do We Need?”, Prayas Energy Group, May 2015, available athttp://www.prayaspune.org/peg/publications/item/298-how-much-energy-do-we-need-towards-end-use-based-estimation-for-decent-living.html(hereafter, Dharmadhikary and Bhalerao, “How Much Energy Do We Need?”)↩
 Novatlantis, “The 2,000-Watt Society”, 2007.↩
 Rachel Kyte, “World Bank: clean energy is the solution to poverty, not coal”, theGuardian, 10 August 2015, available at http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/aug/07/world-bank-clean-energy-is-the-solution-to-poverty-not-coal.↩
 Sunjoy Joshi and Vivan Sharan (eds), “The Future of Energy”, Observer Research Foundation, 2015, available at https://www.economic-policy-forum.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ORF-EPF-Final-Report-The-Future-of-Energy.pdf.↩
 Samir Saran and Vivan Sharan, “Indian leadership on climate change: Punching above its weight”, Planet Policy blog, The Brookings Institution, 6 May 2015, available athttp://www.brookings.edu/blogs/planetpolicy/posts/2015/05/05-indian-leadership-climate-change-saran-sharan.↩
 Dharmadhikary, Shripad and Bhalerao, Rutuja, “How Much Energy Do We Need?”, Prayas (Energy Group), May 2015.↩
July 14, 2014, Monday, Niti Central
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Samir Saran along with Mr. Raja Mohan, Mr. Manoj Joshi & Mr. Ashok Malik, authored a different kind of a book. Usually these kind of books get stocked up in reference sections of an economist’s library, but this is out in the market. While speaking on the situation that the Nation has been through in the last decade, he says, “UPA’s lack of political direction has resulted in economic crisis”. The book suggests ways to rebalance and reform the political situation for a brighter future.
ORF POLICY PERSPECTIVE, Issue # 1, FEBRUARY, 2014, OBSERVER RESEARCH FOUNDATION
ORF Faculty members Nandan Unnikrishnan, Samir Saran and Uma Purushothaman have provided inputs for this Policy Perspective.
The Russia-India-China (RIC) grouping is the only body that brings together the three largest Asian countries at a time when there is a churning in the existing security architecture in the region. But, RIC seems to have lost steam amidst the alphabet soup of
multilaterals in which the three countries are engaged, despite some efforts lately to rejuvenate the forum.
Together, Russia, India and China occupy around 50 percent of Asia’s landmass. The three countries constitute some of the largest economies in Asia. They certainly also have the largest political stakes in the region. There are a lot of potential synergies among the three countries, making a compelling case for their collaboration. Therefore, it is natural that they should have a significant say in the emerging governance architecture in their neighbourhood and be an influential voice on issues of global governance.
Given the commonality of strategic goals, the RIC forum appears to be an appropriate platform that should now identify a unique roster of issues, which would differentiate it from other multilateral organisations, like BRICS and SCO, as well as allow the three powers to specify common objectives in the region and at global forums.
The first task would be to flag important issues in which the forum should engage. This exercise needs to be ambitious as well as steeped in a degree of realism. Congruent interests must also be accommodated in this effort. The three countries need to spell out some of the nuanced yet converging positions on key issues. Keeping these twin objectives in mind, some of the potential areas of engagement at the RIC forum may include:
Afghanistan is an area of interest for the three countries. Moscow, Delhi and Beijing want Afghanistan to be stable and each of them has a significant stake in ensuring that Afghanistan is not a refuge for terrorism or a haven for terrorist organisations. This can build on previous discussions held among the three National Security Advisors trilaterally and among other officials bilaterally. The three could work on projects for the economic development of Afghanistan and integrating the country into the regional economic mainstream, making it a subset of the SAARC effort to create a common South Asian market. Afghanistan can potentially become the geographic trade bridge between South Asia and Central Asia. Towards this end, it would help if Russia is brought into SAARC as an observer. This may have the added benefit of providing a
certain equilibrium to the RIC platform.
2.COUNTER-TERRORISM AND CYBER SECURITY
There are some global issues on which prima facie the three countries should have similar positions. India, Russia, and China could pursue a dialogue on counter-terrorism issues—starting with the exchange of information. Moreover, the forum could discuss cyber-security and develop a common understanding on cyber-governance. This is important given the growing online populations as well as the rise of digital commerce in all three countries; much of the discourse on management of cyber-space currently emanates from the West. It is important that RIC maintains
the distinction between cyber-governance and cyber-security.
3. STRATEGIC DIALOGUE
RIC can take up strategic issues, including the emerging security architecture, the situation in West Asia and Central Asia. At the multilateral level, they could discuss coordinating positions within the BRICS and SCO. India should lobby within RIC to promote reforms in the United Nations, including the Security Council, and specifically get RIC to endorse India’s candidature for the Security Council. The three countries should also work towards a consensus on pushing reforms
in institutions of global governance.
4.CONVERGENCE ON CENTRAL ASIA
There are sufficient synergies between Russia, India and China in Central Asia to justify deep cooperation. The three countries have ongoing bilateral dialogues on Central Asia. They could expand this engagement by also having a trilateral dialogue on the region. RIC must work towards thwarting the rise of Islamic extremism, providing political stability in the region and extending such stability to Afghanistan. The Indian subcontinent could be connected with Russia and Central Asia by developing transportation and telecommunications links via China.
5. THE RUSSIAN FAR-EAST
RIC could develop a roadmap for joint collaboration projects in the Russian Far East, which
Moscow is keen on developing. India and China could pitch in with their respective skill and labour competencies as well as investments.
6. EXPANDED SECURITY COOPERATION
RIC countries can cooperate in non-traditional areas such as disaster management, human trafficking, and drug trafficking by developing joint guidelines on these issues. They could also
enhance their cooperation in counter-piracy and humanitarian relief in the Indian Ocean.
7. NUCLEAR COOPERATION
The nuclear non-proliferation regime is witnessing dramatic changes with the temporary deal and talks between the West and Iran. RIC needs to engage with this emerging global nuclear order. Additionally, RIC countries could look at means to enhance civil nuclear cooperation among themselves. India and Russia are already partners and China has long to mid-term plans to enter this space commercially. This would offer India and China the chance to further their claim to play a strategic role in shaping the new nuclear order. It could buttress India’s entry into the four nuclear export control regimes, i.e. the Australia Group, Wassenaar Arrangement, Missile
Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
8. ENERGY COOPERATION
The three countries should discuss energy security in Asia as they form the core of much of the energy supply and demand of the world. India and China are two of the largest importers of energy and Russia is one of the largest exporters of energy. According to IEA estimates, by 2030, China is projected to consume 200 bcm of gas while India is projected to consume 116 bcm. At the same time, Russia’s gas production is expected to reach 727 bcm while Central Asia is expected to produce around 323 bcm. The three countries could discuss the creation of an Asian energy grid. This would go a long way in ensuring energy security for the region as well as allow these
countries to determine prices suitable to them.
9. TAPPING THE SOCIAL SECTOR
Russia, India and China can broaden joint research, cooperation and exchanges in education, agriculture, healthcare and science. They could also work towards a common understanding on global governance issues like maritime spaces and outer space.
10. COMMERCE AND TRADE
RIC could also discuss a multilateral currency swap arrangement on the lines of the Chiang Mai initiative. They could discuss the possibility of the establishment of a framework for enhanced cooperation among Chambers of Commerce of the three countries and improvement of the exchange of information on commercial opportunities and specific trading conditions in order to boost trade and investment. The RIC should discuss ways and means of promoting bilateral trade—using the trilateral to strengthen bilateral trade ties. Joint projects, for example, in aerospace should also be on the agenda.
The Indo-Russia relationship is one with hardly any differences at the political level. India and Russia should leverage this special relationship in order to deepen China’s integration into the RIC format.
To conclude, RIC stands at a historic moment when it can further Asian integration at a time when the region is seeking to redefine itself. RIC can also significantly influence the development of the new rules of global engagement. This moment must not be lost. To this end, the following specific suggestions may help give the RIC forum greater relevance in the near future:
• Establish an annual RIC summit level meeting;
• Start a RIC dialogue on Central Asia;
• Intensify the RIC Dialogue on Afghanistan;
• Institutionalise a Dialogue of National Security Advisors on Cyber Security and Counter Terrorism;
• Create a joint working group on energy cooperation;
• Create a joint working group on drafting joint guidelines for cooperation in disaster management in the
Nandan Unnikrishnan, Vice-President & Senior Fellow Samir Saran, Vice-President & Senior Fellow Uma Purushothaman, Associate Fellow February, 2014, Observer Research Foundation
An Empirical Assessment of Large Indian Companies
It is widely accepted today that the onus for business responsibility must lie with senior management and Board members of corporations. The contours of what constitutes ‘responsibility’ though are still under discussion and description. However, there is a broad consensus that this must imply integration of environmental, social and economic priorities within the business model and governance processes of companies.
The Board of Directors of any firm have a significant role to play in terms of providing strategic vision as well as performing critical oversight of business operations. Therefore any efforts at embedding sustainability within business operations, whether through mandatory or prescriptive frameworks, must originate at the level of the Board.
Additionally, the entire market ecosystem within which firms operate is also relevant to the business responsibility discourse. For instance, the performance metrics of production supply chains are often overlooked by companies. Even within large companies, oversight of supply chains, are limited to negotiations on price points and timelines. This must see radical transformation. Similarly, long term risk assessment frameworks around environment, social responsibility and good governance practices must become a part of decision making processes at the highest levels.
Lack of awareness at the level of the Board is not the only impediment to holistic integration of sustainability priorities in the case of large Indian companies. For enhanced community engagement to become a pillar of business operations, systemic policy hurdles need to be addressed (for example: inefficient licensing regimes in critical sectors).
In India, like in most other places, corporate governance and business responsibility tend to be viewed as being mutually distinct. However, this study shows that there is visible correlation between adherence to corporate governance regulations and business responsibility norms – which is precisely the paradigm of ‘responsible corporate governance’ that is referred to in this research report.
This study establishes that large companies that already have the basic mandatory processes and governance structures in place are more likely to also be the ones that tend to adhere to voluntary norms. Therefore, further analysis and research is required to study behavioural drivers at the level of the Board as well as the impacts of regulatory processes across and within sectors. On the external front, sustained effort is required by stakeholders to bridge institutional capacity gaps, in order to streamline and harmonise regulatory processes and policies with ‘intra-company’ mechanisms.
So clearly, two sets of core issues need to be addressed. The first, dealing with internal corporate processes; and the second related to the interaction of these with the regulatory environment and societal expectations. This study is the first step in analysing some of the above and beginning an engagement with multiple stakeholders to discover next steps and pragmatic pathways that would allow accelerated adoption of best in class responsible corporate governance practices by all and certainly by the large corporations that have a compelling impact on society, environment and development.
I would like to thank the Indian Institute for Corporate Affairs (IICA) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, for their continued support and guidance in the conceptualisation, and writing of this report. And, I would like to congratulate Vivan Sharan and Andrea Deisenrieder for their stellar work and very interesting research on one of the most debated themes of these times.
Chairman and CEO, gTrade