Provocation, Uncertainty & Turbulence: A Lighthouse in the Storm?
The Raisina Dialogue, organised by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), is India’s flagship geopolitical conference. Even if the Western media hardly pays very much attention to it, the conference has several advantages over similar Western gatherings, such as the World Economic Forum or the Munich Security Conference. This year’s 7th Raisina Dialogue was of particular relevance due to the backdrop of the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, which also took place in India beforehand. The Raisina Dialogue was inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi together with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
The Raisina Dialogue takes place annually in New Delhi, and lasted this year between the 2nd – 4th March. It was preceded not only by the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, but also by a meeting of intelligence and security chiefs from more than two dozen countries. This particular meeting received little attention from the international press. “India is trying to make its presence felt by bringing together the world’s intelligence agencies to exchange views on issues of common interest. The talks focused primarily on global security, which included counter-terrorism, radicalisation, drug trafficking and illegal arms smuggling,” according to one Indian official present at the event.
Economic Co-operation Despite Geopolitical Confrontations
As far as the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is concerned, although there were numerous points of agreement, no joint final declaration was reached because there was ultimately no general consensus on the war in Ukraine. Countries outside the Western bloc had already criticised proposed attempts to impose a uniform security ideology at the G20 forum, which had originally been primarily concerned with economic and financial policies. In view of both the hosting role of the G20 meeting and the Raisina Dialogue, the question for the Chinese delegates in particular regarding how far India could take leading roles would be answered by whether the discussion of economic co-operation would remain unaffected by geopolitical confrontations or not. Indian Prime Minister Modi specifically commented on this question: “We all have our positions and our views on how these tensions should be resolved…We should not let problems that we cannot solve together stand in the way of problems that we can solve.”
The Rapprochement of China & India
Representatives from over 100 countries participated in the Raisina Dialogue 2023 under the conference motto of Provocation, Uncertainty, Turbulence: A Lighthouse in the Storm? Within the framework of the numerous panels complementing the lectures, the participants did not simply shimmy along a predictable agenda in self-congratulation, as is familiar from the discussions from comparable Western events, but instead offered thoroughly controversial positions. But what are the most relevant insights from a European perspective? With regards to new bloc formations, there was a fruitful rapprochement between China and India after promising talks on one of their own mutually biggest obstacles – the border dispute in Eastern Ladakh. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang spoke of normalising the situation as soon as possible. China had also declared its willingness to speed up the resumption of exchanges and co-operation with India in various fields, to resume direct flights at the earliest possible date and to facilitate people-to-people exchanges. As neighbouring countries and major emerging economies, China and India have far more common interests than differences, according to Qin Gang, adding that “the two sides should view their bilateral relations in the context of the once-in-a-century changes in the world, understand bilateral co-operation from the perspective of their respective national rejuvenation and be partners on the path to modernisation”.
Regional Solutions to Regional Problems
Indian Culture Minister Meenakshi Lekhi underlined the importance of multilateralism within the context of ever-changing geopolitics, targeting reforms in the multilateral framework. The prevailing global scenario, she said, requires a fresh look at the methods and ways things have or have not been dealt with. The Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Radhakrishnan Hari Kumar emphasised the benefits of “regional solutions to regional problems” regarding current challenges in the maritime domain. Of course, all of these statements leave much room for interpretation, but they should not be interpreted as an enthusiastic endorsement of expanded US influence in the Indo-Pacific region. In terms of economic policy too, Asia ticks differently when compared to what we generally know from the capitalist economic systems of the Anglosphere. Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stressed that the government is not in a “mad rush” to sell everything and will continue to have state-owned, professionally managed companies in strategic sectors. Sitharaman was primarily referring to nuclear energy, space, defence, transport, telecommunications, power, petroleum, coal, minerals, banking, insurance and other financial services.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed at the Quadrilateral Panel to his counterparts from the US, Australia and Japan that for the United States, the future lies in the Indo-Pacific region. Forums like these are the hallmark of the Raisina Dialogue, where a wide range of geopolitical thrusts are given a platform. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also spoke at the Dialogue. As far as the understanding of democracy is concerned – or, more precisely, the liberal definition of it – one would wish that a panel such as The Liberal Conundrum: Whose Democracy is it Anyway? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIa6-Lytpjs) would also be present at similar Western conferences. But perhaps it is precisely this diversity of debates and topics which could make these such conferences outstrip their self-congratulatory Western counterparts in the foreseeable future.
Sascha A. Roßmüller
ETN Vice Chairman
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