China, Cyber and Technology, foreign policy, Great Power Dynamics, Indian Froeign Policy

Letters from Peking: What Galwan Valley taught us this summer

Galwan, Huawei, Battlefield, Determination, Chinese Space, Atmanirbhar Bharat, Mandarin, App Ban, Escalate costs, misinformation, propaganda, Washington, Xi Jinping

There are five major takeaways from the ongoing crisis in Ladakh that will inevitably shape India’s China policy significantly. The first is that Xi Jinping’s China is at a stage—and in a year—where it has simply ceased to care about global public opinion or parameters of reasonable conduct. It has little interest in healthy relations with India and considers the diminishing of India’s role, growth, weight and presence as a key foreign policy objective.

Xi Jinping’s China is at a stage—and in a year—where it has simply ceased to care about global public opinion or parameters of reasonable conduct. It has little interest in healthy relations with India and considers the diminishing of India’s role, growth, weight and presence as a key foreign policy objective.

From its blatant support of terrorist infrastructure directed against India to its defence of terror states, the Chinese world view sees an India under siege as necessary and useful for its own strategic comfort. By seeking to grab territory by force, it has announced it considers India an adversary and will seek to harm it more directly. Some in India can continue to sink their heads deeper in the sand and avoid reading the letter from Beijing, but the message is clear—the “Hu & Wen” days of “partnership”, of an “Asian Century for all”, of “BRICS for a better world” are passé. This is Imperialism with Chinese Characteristics.

The second takeaway is that China is perfectly at ease with the coexistence of commerce and conflict, trade and war. It has perfected the ability of sleeping with its enemies and selling to them as well. Beijing has successfully done so with the Americans for decades. It has inveigled successive regimes in Washington to underwrite and create the biggest geopolitical risk to a world order crafted by the US and its allies. With this experience, China believes it can attack India, abuse Indians and support violence against Indian interests, all while conducting economic statecraft and everyday business. The Chinese are smug in their belief that actions in Ladakh will not hinder trade with India but may even win it negotiating space vis-à-vis a diminished India. It is for New Delhi to puncture this notion.

Beijing has successfully done so with the Americans for decades. It has inveigled successive regimes in Washington to underwrite and create the biggest geopolitical risk to a world order crafted by the US and its allies

The third takeaway points to the Chinese strategic ability to manipulate and game democratic societies. China creates dissent and discord through misinformation and propaganda. This summer, it has weaponised the openness of the Indian public sphere. And it will continue to do so. Delegitimising the government and political system of the enemy is a central objective of long wars, and there should be no doubt that this is an epic struggle, which may have started in the Himalayas but will travel to maritime Asia and the Pacific. India cannot ignore the propensity of the Chinese to turn Indian democracy against India itself.

China creates dissent and discord through misinformation and propaganda. This summer, it has weaponised the openness of the Indian public sphere. And it will continue to do so

In the recent episode, if the Chinese attempt at information warfare was thwarted, it was only because of the inability of Chinese influence operations to overcome the domestic media/social media bulwark. This provided a teflon coating to the national leadership that the Chinese found hard to breach. But such dynamics cannot be taken for granted forever. They have to be future-proof and individual-agnostic.

The fourth takeaway is simply: “No way, Huawei”. India must attach costs to Chinese ambitions. Even though there is stark asymmetry between the economic and military capabilities of the two countries, the defender has the advantage of being able to deploy specific tools that even unequal realities. Banning Chinese apps and making this tendency viral globally must be an Indian priority.

We must also draw lessons from recent history. India was the lone significant absentee when the nations of the world presented themselves at the court of Emperor Xi in 2017, at the Belt and Road Forum. Today, India is no longer alone and there is a considerable coalition against BRI. Similarly, India’s app ban and digital wall against China must be evangelised and turned into a global endeavour, particularly in the developed world—the key geography that matters to Beijing.

India’s app ban and digital wall against China must be evangelised and turned into a global endeavour, particularly in the developed world—the key geography that matters to Beijing

The final takeway relates to the unpredictability of the actions of the 16 Bihar Regiment, their dogged resistance and their fierce aggression. Besides economic costs, battlefield costs must also be imposed. Towards this, 16 Bihar and its brave soldiers inflicted costs that the Chinese are still assimilating and factoring into their land grab programme. Causalities in the battle theatre were the ‘unknown unknown’ even for the Mandarins in Beijing. As the defender of sovereign territory, India will need to be ready to escalate costs for Chinese adventurism.

Battlefield grit and determination will be of utmost importance in the dark days that may define the Himalayan relationship. Similarly, interdiction and disruption capability in the oceans will be crucial. To count on others to intervene and assist in these objectives may be a bonus but must not be our core strategy. Atmanirbharta to handle China across terrains and domains is what India needs. To this end, it is time to shed inhibitions and build capacities and partnerships—where feasible—that will deny China space, literally and figuratively. Politics of presence is the essence of sovereignty. India must be present through roads, infrastructure and potent force in the mountains and in the seas, which may well be the next theatre of action.

Eurasian Sudies, Great Power Dynamics, India-Russia, Indian Froeign Policy, international affairs, Quad, RIC, Russia, SCO

The US approach to the Russian federation will not determine the interaction of New Delhi and Moscow

India has been one of just few countries that’s managed to buy Russian weapons and avoid US sanctions. Nevertheless, anti-Russian sanctions sometimes serve as discouraging factor in Russian economic ties with other countries including China. Will India succeed in balancing between US and Russia, or the threat of sanctions will leave its mark on Russia- India cooperation?

Samir Saran: The sanctions on Russia are unilateral sanctions outside the UN system. While I do not speak for the government, India is unlikely to allow such sanctions to hurt its core relationships and objectives. Russia is India’s most important partner and US approach to Russia will not determine India’s engagement with Moscow. Our defence partnership and business relationships are vital and India will strive hard to ensure that these grow and strengthen. The US understands India’s views and concerns. The past year has seen the defence partnership with Russia grow stronger and I am confident that this will be the case in the future as well.

IzvAbout two years ago India joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. So far, has the country felt any bonuses from participating in this organisation? Did membership in this club change anything for India?

SS: In my view these are early days for India at this club. India is currently settling in and is still finding its way about. The SCO if reimagined and designed can potentially have an important role to play in the Asian Century. It can be a group with Russia – India – China (RIC) at its core, from which contours of a political union in Asia can emerge. This will require major efforts and India will need to partner with Russia to make this happen. While the current impact of this membership is minimal, the potential of SCO to contribute to the future growth and stability of the region and continent (if developed appropriately) is immense.

IzvIn one of the interviews you suggested that the two crucial powers defining the future Asian Order are China and India. Though, to be sustainable the Asian order would need more players, including Russia. What role can Russia play in the region and in Asia? And from an Indian perspective where does Russia belong, East to the West?

SS: India sees Russia as a Eurasian power that straddles Europe and Asia. India also appreciates Russia’s role in the Asian continent and its leadership of the Asian century. An Asian order will be incomplete and impossible without a central role of and for Russia. Without doubt Moscow understands geopolitics and strategy better than most in the world and it is the single most decisive actor in that sense. Russia has to reconcile with its Asian identity and embrace the continent more robustly. There are signs that this is happening.

IzvIndia, just like Russia has been a supporter of a multipolar world. In the this context, is the US push for the quadrilateral alliance comprising Australia, India, Japan and the US an attempt to disrupt this multipolar order? Beyond the general talk about the need for the largest democracies to unite, does the Quad have any substance?

SS: The Quad is an outcome of a multipolar world, where many countries are creating multiple coalitions that serve specific purpose and interests. The Quad is not incompatible with any other plurilateral or multilateral arrangement nor with the idea of dispersed power centres collaborating on specific issues. Quad is in its infancy and will require more political investments from the four capitals if it is to be a significant institution.

Izv: This week India will be preoccupied with the Parliamentary elections with outcome being far from predetermined. Can we say that Russia is an weather friend and partner for India regardless of which party will be in power? Or there are some nuances?

SS: Yes – A strong Russian relationship is a multi-party consensus. And irrespective of which party assumes power in India, the bilateral will continue to receive highest consideration.

Interview originally appeared in Izvestia

Bangladesh, India, Indian Froeign Policy, Neighborhood Studies, Strategic Studies

India and Bangladesh need to create a 20 year joint vision of growth and development

Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, Teesta Water Treaty, Rohingya crisis, India, India-Bangladesh, Narendra Modi, PM Modi

New Age: How do you assess the need for the presence of strong and meaningful political, social and other institutions in ensuring benefits of the fourth industrial revolution?

Samir Saran: We require strong institutions and forward-looking policies in which the government’s role is light and one of enablement. Innovation succeeds when we allow individuals to create solutions, devise business models and unleash value. The government’s job is to move away from being omnipresent and to nurture an ecosystem that catalyses opportunities in this new industrial age. These are largely going to be centred around how people are able to create solutions to today’s problems with a clever deployment of new technology, evolving financing arrangements and efficient delivery mechanisms.
The government would essentially play an enabling role rather than a supervisory role — of a catalyst, instead of regulators. We are in a transition when better governance would have to be the mantra for the fourth industrial revolution.

NA: Do you think that effective human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are essential in creating an environment where people can adapt themselves to ever-changing technological and economic advances?

SS: Human rights, the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press should be protected irrespective of industrial or technological transformations. These essential human needs must be respected universally. I am, however, not convinced that these are base conditions for success in the fourth industrial revolution. The Chinese model tells us that you can be a controlled state; you can have disregard for certain kinds of rights, you may not support certain kinds of freedom and yet you produce robust economic models that are based on technology. That being said, the value of rights and freedom must be enshrined and cherished by all.

NA: You have mentioned the necessity of bringing in transformation in governance in preparation for the fourth industrial revolution. Is it possible to bring in effective transformation in governance without ensuring representative democracy in a country? Why?

SS: Democracy is a political choice. It is a political arrangement that people have chosen as a collective. It is not the only model. China is not a representative democracy. It is managed through a one-party system which is non-transparent and certainly non-representative and yet it has done remarkably well on the governance front. It has effectively provided its people with security, health benefits, pension, insurance and amenities such as water, electricity, roads etc. I don’t think governments are going to succeed just by being democratic. On the other hand, it does not mean that if you are not a democracy, you cannot deliver good governance. You have to view governance and democracy as two discrete yet interrelated facets of political arrangements. Although they implicate each other, they are not mutually dependent.

NA: When most of the experts give emphasis on changes in the thought process of bachelor’s students and re-skilling of professionals for multitasking, to what extent are primary and secondary education levels of education important in relation to technological changes to cater to the needs?

SS: The debate is not about the importance of foundational schooling, which is important for human minds. The question is what should be taught during this time? How should we create an educational ecosystem that is harnessing and developing abilities to allow the youth to succeed in a new technological age? These are important questions. Should we follow the old format, which privileges human capacity to assimilate and remember vast knowledge? Or should we privilege the creativity of the individual to deploy that knowledge for practical purposes. We live in a world where the internet offers each individual the ability to tap into vast pools of information. It is our capacity to use that knowledge in a manner that is unique and different that matters. I believe that in 10 years, we need to seriously rework and rethink all formats of education. Primary and secondary education will also have to respond to the demands of this age.

NA: How are cultural changes linked to the fourth industrial revolution?

SS: There are many changes. I will mention three of them. The first is the dislocation of human identity from workplaces. Earlier, people who worked on farms had specific identities. If you worked on a factory floor, you were a blue-collar worker. In a corporate office, you were a white-collar worker. Now everyone is working on a mobile. All of us are delivering goods and services using our personal devices. Now that the mobile is the office, how do we identify ourselves in a professional class system that is defined by the first industrial revolution? We need to rethink our social order. The factory and the farm are no longer very relevant in our social order. Individuals have to relocate their social identity.

The second is that technology and globalisation have enabled the aggregation and mobilisation of communities who may never have interacted otherwise. For example, there were protests in Europe against nuclear power. These are communities with large per capita income that were holding protests from ideological and ethical positions. Thousands of miles away, in a small village in Tamil Nadu, fisher folk also held protests against nuclear power. These communities belong to a very different economic stratum. Their realities were very different. In Europe, people get electricity for almost 24 hours a day, but in villages, access to electricity is erratic and uncertain. And yet the idea of protests against nuclear power appealed to both the communities. Was it the power of communications that allowed ideas to travel quickly to a different location and find appeal amongst different stakeholders? Or was it a coincidence?

The third is the emergence of a new collective identity. Consider, for example, the women’s march that happened after the election of Donald Trump. During the march, criticism of Donald Trump became the rallying point for women, religious minorities, LGBT activists and others that are marginalised from the mainstream. We begin to see a new collective emerging, courtesy the power of social media and the power of communications. In the gathering against Donald Trump, their identity was not defined by religion or gender. All of them were anti-Donald Trump. That was a single identity.
The relationship between identity formation and technologies is an evolving science. I do not think that we have sufficiently studied the implications of technology on society, on our communities and on how we engage. It is fast moving and it is very dynamic. We need to pay attention to this.

NA: Bangladesh and Indian authorities claim that the two countries have been enjoying all-weather friendship since 2009. What imbalances do you see in Bangladesh-India relations?

SS: I cannot speak for the [Indian] government. I speak as an academic. I clearly see three challenges. But these are also opportunities. The first is to completely re-conceptualise our border arrangement. There is no reason that India needs to have an eastern border that adheres to the same rigid and securitised conception of a boundary that we have on our western border. India’s eastern border is an opportunity for both of us to create arrangements that allow free movement of people, goods, ideas and culture. We have a very strong government-to-government relationship. We must now create more layers and more levels of engagement. A more porous border will help this.

The second is that both the governments are increasingly focused on internal challenges of growth and development. They serve their societies. However, If we are so self-obsessed, so inward-looking, do we have enough time, resources and capital to create a bilateral and regional architecture that is urgently needed? We must plan for the long term and create a 10- or 20-year joint vision. This must include areas of mutual importance: human development, trade and economic partnership, the maritime commons and the blue economy and the digital economy. This common long-term vision for the region and for our own individual growth and aspirations has not yet been conceptualised. We still see a rather one-sided conversation on the future of growth and development. We have to make it far more balanced. I think that India has a lot to learn from some of Bangladesh’s’ experiments in improving opportunities for women and using grass-roots communities to catalyse changes. Development processes have to be bidirectional. We have to share common experiences and create new knowledge pipelines that flow in both directions.

The third is that we must engage our youths. A half of our populations are under the age of 25. To ensure that our historic relationship is strengthened, our youths must be engaged with each other. Otherwise, they will forget our historic ties. The next two generations will not see or remember the relationship as we see it today. We will have to reinvent and rebrand our old relationship in ways that younger generations respond to. They must believe that it is worth sustaining, growing and serving. Our people-to-people ties are limited to an old-elite that are either angry with each other or romanticise. We have to unleash the power of youth to create a new constituency that believes, serves and strengthens the bilateral relationship.

NA: A good number of Bangladeshis believe that Bangladesh is the only friendly country to India in South Asia, addressing a plenty of strategic and security problems as well as extending transit and transshipment facilities connecting the north-eastern India to the mainland. Do you think India should reciprocate it? How?

SS: India should ensure that its single-most important foreign policy priority in the coming years is Bangladesh. I agree with the view that Bangladesh has truly been our friends and that India has sometimes not been as engaged as it should be. I do not think that it is the government’s fault alone. India is a country which is composed of multiple actors. We have to ensure that the corporate sector, civil society, academia and the media are more engaged with Bangladesh than they are today. From my interactions in Dhaka, it is clear that there are not enough opportunities to have conversations among the academic and strategic communities across the border. If there was a monthly conversation happening in Bangladesh with Indian visitors, we would understand each other better. Indian views cannot be represented only by its high commission and diplomats. Civil society, academia, cultural artistes and businesses need to do more and should be in this city more often. I think that we have been too obsessed with China, the United States, the European Union and Russia. We have sometimes neglected our most important friends and partners and Bangladesh is certainly on top of that list.

NA: Border killing has not stopped despite repeated assurance from the highest political level of India, and, none other than, the prime ministers, including the incumbent Narendra Modi. How do you see this?

SS: I am not in a position to comment on the security situation along the border. Having said that, we have to rethink our borders completely. I think that it is self-defeating to militarise and securitise borders with a friendly country. Borders should be a place to create economic values, not to create political tension. Friendly countries do not have rigid borders. Our security concerns along the western border are unfortunately projecting on our borders with Bangladesh. We must remove the barbed-wire fences and walls and create economic opportunities along the border. This requires political will from both the governments. But as the larger country, India must make more efforts to make it happen.

NA: Do you find anything wrong in India’s Bangladesh policy?

SS: First, India has to devote far more attention, resources and political capital into ensuring that Bangladesh is completely aware of India’s thinking on matters that implicate it. Bangladesh should never be surprised by our actions. Second, as India grows, our economic engagements must be favourable to Bangladesh. The United States has allowed India a favourable balance of trade. Our balance of trade should be in Bangladesh’s favour. As a bigger economy, we must ensure that our neighbours benefit from our growth and that we do not trap them in perverse economic dependencies. Third, India must see Bangladesh not just as a neighbour but as a partner in the Indo-Pacific. Bangladesh is a country of about 170 million people. How many countries have such a large population? Very few. Bangladesh is already nearly a $300-billion economy and will likely rank among the top 20 economies in the coming decade. Bangladesh has to be re-imagined as an important geopolitical actor that is going to be crucial for stability in the Indo-Pacific. The Quad, which includes the United States, Japan, Australia and India, is good for macro-stability. But the lasting and resilient arrangements will come out of partnership between India and Bangladesh and from engagements with Sri Lanka and through organisations such as SAARC and BIMSTEC.

NA: What actions should India take to settle disputes on shares of trans-boundary rivers, including the Teesta, at the earliest to uphold commitments made with Bangladesh at the highest political level?

SS: The next government in India must keep this on top of their agenda. They must create a favourable climate for conversations between the centre and state governments to ensure that this barrier is overcome. It must be the top priority of the new government.

NA: People in most of the neighbouring countries are unhappy about the hegemony of India, which is expected to emerge as a global power from at least strategic perspectives. Do you think that it is possible for India to achieve this fully, keeping its neighbours dissatisfied?

SS: I do not think that India is now articulating its vision in this manner. For the next 15 to 20 years, India’s priority will be to lift millions of its people out of poverty and then provide them with affordable health care and skills for new opportunities and invest in their future. If we do this correctly for the next 10 to 15 years, our goals will be achieved. The asymmetry of size always creates certain degrees of insecurity. Our problem is that many of the actions are in response to China’s rise. But our actions sometimes adversely affect smaller countries around us. We are in a unique situation where two large countries, each with billion-plus population and with 4,000 kilometres of disputed borders, are rising simultaneously. This is creating a complex political situation. Yes, sometimes our neighbours confront this complexity. We must be sensitive to it. India must go the extra mile to ensure the salience of our neighbours in our foreign policy.

NA:Do you think that the Indian government should mount pressure on Myanmar to take the Rohingyas back to their home in Rakhine State in a sustainable manner?

SS: India is very much aware of this crisis. Over a half a million people were made refugees in an already vulnerable and volatile region. It is in India’s interest that India should ensure that Myanmar and Bangladesh arrive at a fair and reasonable conclusion. I believe that India cannot play a big brother. We have to allow organic resolutions. Our governments must work together to ensure an equitable resolution to the crisis. The host country must push Myanmar to create that condition. And India must facilitate the return of the Rohingyas to Myanmar.

NA: Do you think that the perpetrators engaged in crimes against humanity against the Rohingya people in Rakhine should be brought to justice at the earliest?

SS: We should have zero tolerance towards this as people who believe in peace and pluralism. I think the global multilateral system and institutions that were responsible for preventing this from happening have failed to ensure the security of the Rohingya people. We must provide them with justice and relief.

NA: Anything you want to add?

SS: Bangladesh and India must respond to our legacy issues without losing sight of future opportunities. An India-Bangladesh relationship has a dual imperative. We must build on our past to ensure that we work towards the future together.

Bangladesh, India, Indian Froeign Policy, Neighborhood Studies, Strategic Studies

Nations make choices based on self-interest, this is true for India and Bangladesh as well

Dhaka Tribune: How do you describe the current relationship between Bangladesh and India? Do you find any irritants in the relationship? If so, what are those and how could those be overcome?

Samir Saran: Both India and Bangladesh have in recent years strived to overcome many of the legacy issues in their relationship. Today, we have an opportunity to strengthen our engagement even further. This requires the polity and people of the two countries to achieve closure on some irritants that continue to fester, especially the Teesta water sharing arrangement. New Delhi will need to make an extra effort to resolve India’s internal contradictions and move ahead with the agreement that is a real and an emotive issue for the people of Bangladesh. A fresh approach to bilateral trade relations is also needed. Bangladesh businesses and society need to see tangible gains from India’s rise and trade terms need to be more favorable to ensure equity on this front.

DT: You said on Wednesday (March 13) that the relationship between Dhaka and Delhi is at its best. Do you think that there are areas where both countries can work to further the relationship?

SS: I had remarked that the government to government relationship between the two countries were strong and robust and had achieved a new high in the recent past. I had also mentioned that for a truly sustainable and strong relationship, it is necessary to invest in creating new constituencies that can take the relationship forward. We have to ensure that our businesses, media and research institutions collaborate with greater intensity and conviction and provide a new impetus to this very important bilateral. The two countries must also support purposeful conversations on trade and infrastructure connectivity in the region, within and outside regional institutions such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the BIMSTEC. The common determination of the two countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offers a possibility for them to collaborate in this journey. Our homegrown solutions can be shared with each other and also with the larger developing world. Technology sector, smart cities, rural transformations and the blue economy potential of the region, all offer new opportunities for partnership.

DT: Many people in Bangladesh tend to believe that India tries to dominate over Bangladesh and makes effort to intervene into the internal affairs of the country. Are they right? Do you think the relationship is based on mutual respect and interest?

SS: India has and always will respect equality in international relations and respect for sovereignty. It does not interfere in the internal affairs of others and has always adhered to international law and norms of state behaviour in its relationship with other countries. This is true of Bangladesh as well. When India lost a maritime dispute to Bangladesh in 2014, under a dispute resolution proceeding, it respected that verdict in contrast to some other countries in the region which have rejected such processes when they have gone against them. The relationship is certainly built on trust and mutual respect as can be seen in the process followed to resolve the border issue as well. All nations make choices based on their self-interest and this is true for India and Bangladesh as well.

DT: Do you agree with those people who suggest that if the Teesta water sharing agreement is signed, border killing is brought to zero and the trade imbalance that is heavily in favour of India are addressed, Bangladesh-India ties will be further strengthened?

SS: Without responding to the subjective allegations, let me first put on record that the India-Bangladesh ties are indeed strong. This is not to say that issues do not remain. The solutions are more often hindered because of domestic politics in India and Bangladesh, and less so for the lack of political will at the level of the leadership of the two countries. I am sure that we will see a new momentum in Delhi to address all outstanding issues after the general elections in May. I have always favoured soft borders, they should be a location that enhances commerce and value creation. Hard boundaries are a tragic consequence of old mindsets. Trade issues and Teesta water sharing arrangement must be addressed at the earliest to the satisfaction of all.

DT: What are the areas both the neighbours should work on in the coming days for the benefits of their peoples?

SS: Both India and Bangladesh seek development and economic growth for their large and young populations. We must do this at a time when new technologies are changing the way we work and live, and we must do this in a carbon constrained world. These are new challenges for both of us. With similar demographics and development outlooks, these should be the key area of cooperation going forward. On the regional front, India and Bangladesh should also now start imagining a political and economic order for the Indo-Pacific. Both countries have an interest in sustaining a rules based order in the region, both have increasing stakes in a favourable and stable external environment.

DT: There is a perception in Bangladesh that the Indian government favours Awami League. Should it be the case? Should Delhi not work with the government of the day?

SS: India and Indians respect the democratic choices of the people of Bangladesh. While Delhi will maintain good relations with all political parties, it will naturally work with the government in charge of the country. Having said this, it is time that we engage with Bangladesh and its citizens and institutions more robustly. Diplomacy today is also about engaging with individual and communities effectively.

China, Eurasian Sudies, India, Indian Froeign Policy, Russia, Strategic Studies

India’s balancing partnerships in Eurasia

Samir Saran, India, China, Indian foreign policy, Eurasia, Chinese technology, Belt and Road, US withdrawal, EU, nation building, technological growth, frontier technologies, sustainable growth

How do you judge China’s approach to Eurasia through the Belt and Road policies?

Samir Saran: China is the first country in recent times that has created a blue print which recognises that Europe and Asia are part of one single landmass. Beijing has created intermediate linkages for this “supercontinent’s” markets and communities. As China moves up the industrial value chain, it seeks wealthy European markets as a key consumer of high-end exports. On the other hand, it views smaller states in East Europe, West and Central Asia and South Asia as suppliers of raw materials, geographies for new transportation networks, and dependant markets for its exports of goods, services and labour.

China and Russia have one binding cause — disdain for the international order established by the West.

It has also found, not surprisingly, a willing partner in Russia — whose residual influence in Central Asia and Eastern Europe makes it a key player in an integrated Eurasia. Both countries have one binding cause — disdain for the international order established by the West. With Russia currently on its side (although this is not a certainty over the long term), the Middle Kingdom is able to set the rules of trade, economic development and security in these regions. Its sizable influence in regional organisations like the SCO, the 16+ 1initiative and the AIIB also provide China the institutional leverage to achieve this.

China’s attempts to integrate these continents, however, will not be free of political friction. Some of the sub-regions that inhabit Eurasia — think South Asia — already possess existing balance of power arrangements. In effect, China seeks to disregard these, and co-opt nation states into its Belt and Road network. Already, larger states, such as those in West Europe and India have voiced reservation and disapproval. In India’s case, such protestations led to a prolonged military stand-off in the Himalayas in 2017. These powers will gradually develop alternative propositions and arrangements for their sub-regions and indeed for the supercontinent. The implications of this contest, the changing coalitions and evolving politics and trade relations will define the coming decades for Eurasia.

Can India escape China’s orbit for economy and technology in the future?

SS: The resilience of the international system has begun to strain just as India is “emerging” as a global power. The erstwhile providers of security and global public goods, such as the US and Europe, appear to be looking inwards even as India requires technology and finance. China meanwhile, is in the midst of a multibillion dollar geo-economics thrust that is capable of both underwriting India’s economic growth and undermining its influence in regional and global affairs.

In the coming decades, India faces the proverbial catch-22 situation with China. New Delhi must learn how to stand firm against China in the political and security realm, while courting it for new investments and growth opportunities. So far the results are mixed on the latter. Bilateral trade remains a persistent irritant — with Chinese exports dominating the economic relationship. On the other hand, Chinese technology companies and venture capitalists are some of the leading investors in India’s budding technology industries.

Part of the answer will also lie in India’s domestic choices The returns from the economic reforms India undertook in the 1990’s are fast waning. India will have to undertake complex systemic reforms across its political and economic institutions if it is to reap the benefits of the fourth industrial revolution. And it will have to do so while providing employment and social mobility to the one of the world’s largest and youngest workforces.

India will have emerged as one of the worlds three largest economies by 2040, alongside the US and China.

The question therefore is not whether India can “escape China’s orbit.” By most estimates, India will have emerged as one of the worlds three largest economies by 2040, alongside the US and China. As it rises, Delhi will provide development solutions to the rest of the emerging world. The question therefore, is whether India can provide effective democratic alternatives for growth and development in the 21st century.

Can the EU contribute to India’s frontier technologies and sustainable growth?

SS: The EU can do much more than contribute to India’s economic and technological growth. Both these actors are geographical pillars of the Eurasian landmass, and invested actors in the Indo-Pacific. Both share a commitment to liberal democracy and market based economics (to varying degrees). And both actors believe in supporting a rules based international order through robust institutions.

The EU and India share a commitment to liberal democracy and market based economics.

These realties make India and the EU key partners in shaping a 21st century order. This realisation is already dawning on the EU. Just last year the bloc released its “elements for a strategy with India”— the first since 2004. And both sustainable development and innovation are key pillars of this strategy. While currently, India may not possess its own coordinated strategy for the EU, this is not likely to be a permanent state of affairs.

The overall state of the international order certainly adds a fresh impetus to the EU-India partnership. With both China and the US increasingly embracing their own unique forms of nationalism, the world is in need of ‘issue’ and ‘interests’ based alliances and coalitions capable of sustaining multilateralism. In fact, between the EU and India lies an opportunity to find common grounds and positions vis-a-vis both China and the US. Even as the EU and India can, for example, carry forward the Paris Climate Change agenda despite the US’ withdrawal, they can together address and moderate China’s state sponsored mercantilist economic policy.

We are currently in a moment in time, where the EU is roiled by populist politics and India itself is still a relatively small economy preoccupied with nation building. Nevertheless, long term trends favour a strong relationship between the two. It is time for both actors to act rapidly on this opportunity.

Great Power Dynamics, India, Indian Froeign Policy, Strategic Studies, USA and Canada

India in vanguard of new order: Raisina 2019

This year’s Raisina Dialogue looked ahead of the disruptions that have agitated global politics for the past few years and interrogated what they mean for an emerging world order. As the international system rapidly drifts away from the moorings of its Atlantic origin, its future will be decided by the complex interactions among new actors, voices and demands. After a period of relative unipolarity at the turn of the century, we are entering a world that is not only multipolar but also ‘multiconceptual’.

Why multiconceptual? For one thing, the concentration of economic wealth is “relentlessly shifting eastwards,” as noted by Mark Sedwill, the UK’s National Security Adviser. This transformation will certainly create new ‘poles’ of power—India and China chief among them. It will simultaneously diminish the influence of extant powers. Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Joseph Borell alluded to this reality when he called on Europe to “influence or be influenced”.

Beyond the diffusion of economic power, the world is also grappling with an explosion of new actors, values and interests—from powerhouse cities to powerful multinationals and networked civil society groups.

This global complexity is straining the ability of the international community to adapt and respond to the momentous social and economic transformations that are currently underway. Every year, dire warnings about the impact of climate change pass by unheeded. The global economy is being increasingly driven by digitisation and associated technologies, with returns accruing mainly to owners of capital. Economic opportunities and jobs for millions, on the other hand, are being lost to automation. Meanwhile, our institutions of governance are struggling to address tensions of inequality and identity.

Around the world societies are responding by taking solace in national solutions and populist prescriptions that promise to put local concerns ahead of global ones. Perhaps it is only natural that a period of geopolitical flux should coincide with a renewed emphasis on the power and authority of the state. The consequences of this trend for international norms and institutions, however, are dire. “The insecurity felt by millions will weaken respect for international law and institutions, human rights and the principles of collective security,” warned Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg as she inaugurated the 2019 Raisina Dialogue.

Quad plus one, Quad, Indo-Pacific, Raisina, Raisina Dialogue

More worryingly, the perception of exclusion reduces our collective capacity to arrive at a consensus. And in a world that is more interdependent—and more fragile—than ever before, finding solutions requires more, not less, international cooperation. How can multilateralism, then, be made relevant in a multiconceptual world?

To start with, we certainly require a new international framework to capture the diversity of reality, views and voices that exist today. Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said as much when she suggested that key public policy questions be asked in “villages and small towns, to school classrooms, and to vernacular media outlets.” She was alluding to the fact that the international system requires a new consensus which is more inclusive and diverse. It also requires a new ethos defined by the common interests and urges of the many, rather than the shared objectives and strategies of a few.

Second, the international community requires a new ‘new deal’. This is true both domestically and for global governance. The Washington Consensus is no longer relevant in the fourth industrial revolution. The twin forces of globalisation and technological change will create new winners even as they leave many behind. Designing inclusive economic models will require new policies capable of balancing sovereign compulsions and global interdependence. They will also require unlikely partnerships at the global level. There is no reason, for example, that the NATO and the SCO cannot have influential conversations on the Indo-Pacific or Afghanistan or, for that matter, the BRICS and the G7 cannot harmonise their diverse economic models and expectations from a global trading regime.

Raisina Dialogue, Raisina 2019, Showstopeer, Samir Saran
Source: PhotoLabs@ORF

Third, new coalitions and partnerships must emerge. French Secretary-General for European and Foreign Affairs Maurice Gourdault-Montagne said “issues based alliances will proliferate if the international order continues to fragment.” However, such coalitions, especially between those with shared values and interests, have a role to play in supporting the international order in its period of transition. Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne saw such potential in India, a country with which Australia could support a “rules-based order”. Such coalitions must be able to cut across geographies, issues and interests.

Fourth, global governance must account for new actors. Over 60 per cent of the world’s GDP is now generated in cities. The market capitalisation of the largest technology companies far exceeds the GDP of even significant countries. By this reckoning, Apple is bigger than Saudi Arabia. Solutions to big-ticket challenges like climate change and the future of work may well emerge from these networks of power and other key voices like think tanks and civil society organisations. Instituting new mechanisms for dialogue between such actors can create more effective global feedback loops.

Fifth, international institutions must reclaim some legitimacy. In the middle of the 20th century, the organising principle of ‘one country-one vote’ in international affairs resonated with many post-colonial societies. While global institutions have rarely proved truly democratic, it is evident that the key to legitimacy is a real distribution of decision making authority amongst stakeholders. India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale warned that the “tussle between unilateralism and multilateralism” would continue unless international steering mechanisms are able to better capture today’s global realities.

Sixth, the international community must embrace informality. Formal global institutions can often be ineffective in responding to challenges that are sudden and complex. Informal coalitions and governance models, on the other hand, can summon the human and technological capital that is required to collaborate at scale. The global climate change agenda, for instance, is being quietly led by coalitions of cities from the global north and the global south. They are rapidly scaling and transferring innovation, ideas, resources and capital.

Seventh, the innocent appreciation of technology being benevolent and beneficial has changed the world over. Technology is now both a tool and an actor that can dramatically enhance quality of life and radically destabilise societies and nations. Foreign Secretary Gokhale captured the essence of this juxtaposition by suggesting that the rapid development of social sciences alongside science and technology is a prerequisite for ensuring that innovation benefits humankind. A new ethic of human engagement awaits discovery.

Last, though not the least, it is worth noting that securing geopolitical stability and protecting multilateralism will certainly require new stewardship. It is increasingly likely that in the coming years India will be a prime candidate for this role, even if only because India is a microcosm of the world at large. Rapid technological advances, a booming labour force and the imperative to develop in a resource-constrained world will define the ‘India story’ and, in turn, impact the future of billions in the developing world. Thus India presents a unique opportunity as an arena to resolve many of the world’s contradictions.

Raisina, Raisina Dialogue, Raisina 2019, Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia
Source: PhotoLabs@ORF

India is a post-colonial state that has emerged as a vocal proponent of a liberal, rules-based international order. It is located at the intersection of Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific, two regions that will define the 21st century. And it has always been willing to navigate complexity by seeking shared objectives. Very few countries, for example, can claim to engage with powers like Russia and China while embracing a strategic partnership with the US. As Minister Swaraj noted in her address, “India’s engagement with the world is rooted in its civilisational ethos: co-existence, pluralism, openness, dialogue and democratic values.”

It is for this very reason that Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim described India as “an enigma.” In many ways, the annual Raisina Dialogue is an attempt to deconstruct what makes it so and why this is relevant to the world. The feedback we have received from world leaders in the fields of politics, industry, media and civil society makes it clear that India’s choices matter more than ever before. Increasingly, the conversations that take place at the Raisina Dialogue are not only teasing out an Indian consensus on world affairs but a larger consensus capable of shaping a less unstable, more predictable world reorder.