India has certainly moved on to a very serious responsibility and active diplomatic role by assuming the Presidency of G20 in 2023, which is running with full speed aiming to reach concrete and solid answers to the most complex and dangerous world situation at the begging of the current century.
In terms of second track diplomacy, the Raisina Dialogue figures as the country’s premier foreign affairs event, showcasing India’s engagement with global actors, be them governments, former statesmen, corporations, think-tanks and professionals from all continents. Initiated in 2016, shortly after the Modi government took office, the Raisina Dialogue could be considered a beam of India’s foreign policy, diplomatic influence and engagement with the world.
Themed “Provocation, Uncertainty, Turbulence: Lighthouse in the Tempest?”,the Raisina Dialogue took place in New Delhi between March 2-4, 2023 and was inaugurated by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who delivered the Key Note speech, this year’s forum offered a novel view over the global affairs: unlike we are often told, we do not live in a world divided between East and West, but a world where countries do work together whenever their interests converge, sharing – oftentimes – the same concerns and cooperating for similar aims.
For three days, 250 participants, among them a former President, three former Prime Ministers, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and other decision makers from all over the world exchanged views andinsightful analyses on the current complex dynamics of the global affairs in a setting organized by the Ministry of External Affairsof Indiaand the influential Indian think-tank, Observer Research Foundation (ORF) – one of IRSEA’s partners in the region.
In his message to the 2023 edition of the Raisina Dialogue, India’s Minister for External Affairs, Dr. S. Jaishankar, described the forum as an “opportunity for us to be future ready” and “probe geo-political palpitations before they become tremors”. While noting that “the Ukraine conflict (…) is making the world even more anxious”, the Minister noted that “The behavior of states has also contributed to greater tension and sharper polarization in an already difficult scenario”.
Introducing the theme of 2023 Raisina Dialogue edition, Sunjoy Joshi, Chairman of ORF and Honorary Member of IRSEA, noted that “multilateralism lies fatally wounded”, proposing “new rules for the road now”. The Indian pundit decried the “hope and optimism” set for the decade, commenting that, instead, 2020s “hit a series of blind-spots. The idea of globalization itself as an engine of growth lies broken and rudderless”. Instead of a “globalised world riding its way to universal prosperity on the back of free markets”, currently “the challenge is to respond to a world where multilateralism lies fatally wounded in wars that spill into domains that no Geneva Convention controls.”
According to Joshi,“Trade, global finance, energy, food - everything is become a weapon” and “the pandemic of hate and anger spreads with far greater virulence than Covid-19 itself”, most likely in reference to the camp-building atmosphere we are all witnessing in the geopolitical architecture of today.
The Indian doyen particularly stressed the position of “nations, middle powers, beleaguered emerging economies”, many of whom feel trapped or “caught in-between” competing superpowers, states which “given a choice have no interest in engaging in geo-political competition much less playing ball with revisionist powers keen to overturn the existing global order.”
The Indian expert on Foreign Affairs is reluctant to the alternatives the world is now facing, namely “minilateralism” or the “plutocracy of independent globally connected financial hubs”. The reason for the anticipated failure of these alternatives lies in the sheer fact that the “problems that confront us can never be contained within such restricted walls”. In other words, the ORF Chairman suggests new ways to deal with new challenges: “more than ever we need new rules of the road, because we no longer travel just as a community of states, but have been joined by a multitude of new actors who can traverse these highways with far greater speed than we do as nations.”
Clearly, India’s narrative seeks the position of a country not only as a mediator between the tectonic forces which have already started to shape the global architecture of tomorrow, but also as an engaged vector between these forces. Benefiting its experience in the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War, it is not entirely impossible for India to bet on attracting like-minded actors towards peace and security through multilateralism, understood as multi-polar participation. These desiderata within current international and regional complicated circumstances might prove challenging; on the other hand, finding common grounds regionally could well propel India to a more tangible position worldwide.
One could argue that the Raisina Dialogue has successfully started a path of transforming a punctual event into a chain of relationships that will go a long way into India’s future diplomatic objectives. The high level of the participation at this very important event stands as a self speaking proof of sharing the concern for the current complex dynamic of the global affairs and finding solutions meant to save the world peace by consolidating the security and not giving way to insecurity.
Indeed, especially in the light of the dramatic processes that have already begun to shape a possibly new global architecture, avenues such as the Raisina Dialogue are not only welcomed, but truly necessary. In times of complex, often confusing, events, it is the mutual respect and chances for dialogue that deter slipping into hasty actions. Undoubtedly, the themes and questions that emerged during the Raisina Dialogue will shape our understanding of 2020s multilateralism: be it climate change, technology in the digital age or the threats to security and democracy, the answer lies in trust (re)building and creating a common framework of understanding the new challenges that all actors of the international community, be them state and non-state, are confronted with. Most certainly, an active and assertive United Nations could play a wider and more authoritative role in this direction, benefiting not only of a truly global audience but equally capitalizing on an undeniable global trust.
Despite certain differences dictated by each country's national interests and priorities, forums such as Raisina Dialogue will continue to represent valuable platforms for understanding each other through dialogue. And the events we are now crossing call for such peaceful dialogue louder than ever. It is high time to realise that Dialogue, not war is the answer to the challenges posed by 2020s to the world and mankind.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position or view of IRSEA.