ICWA organized a two-day online International Seminar titled “Celebrating 75 Years of Indian Foreign Policy” on 17-18 January 2023 at Sapru House, New Delhi. The seminar was held in virtual format and it saw the participation of former diplomats and defense personnel, eminent scholars, strategic thinkers from India and abroad. The objective of the seminar was to mark seventy-five years of Indian foreign policy through deliberating upon its trajectory since Independence as well as the present and future policy priorities.
In the Inaugural Session, Amb. Vijay Thakur Singh, DG, ICWA highlighted the broad contours of Indian foreign policy and its evolution over the past seven decades since Independence. She highlighted that, guided by its traditional values and principles, India’s foreign policy in the past seventy-five years, while serving the national interest well, has overcome many challenges and made seminal contributions to the global discourse. India has pursued an independent foreign policy which has stressed on the need to maintain strategic autonomy and continues to evolve to address emerging challenges. India will continue to fulfil its role among the comity of nations as a force for good and a voice of reason. India will continue to participate actively in various multilateral or plurilateral platforms and will continue to be a voice of the developing world.
The first session titled “From Oppression to Freedom: An Independent World View” was chaired by Amb. Nalin Surie, Former High Commissioner to UK and former Ambassador to China and Poland. The speakers of the session were Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director, Vivekananda International Foundation; Prof. Swaran Singh, Centre for International Politics Organization and Disarmament, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Dr. Sanjaya Baru, Member, Governing Body, ICWA; and Amb. Vishnu Prakash, Former Ambassador/High Commissioner to Canada and South Korea. The session deliberated upon the emergence of Indian foreign policy from the shackles of colonialism to lay the foundation of an independent world view of a young and developing nation. It discussed the shaping of foreign policy of a civilizational state which re-emerged on the international arena. Speakers stressed the need to study India’s history, ethos, culture and civilizational background to better understand its contemporary foreign policy. Discussions were held on how India played a leadership role of the third world in its struggle against colonialism. It also focused on how the story of today’s India is that of an aspirational nation which considers its development and growth as not being separable from that of other countries of the Global South.
The second session on “Setting the Norms: The Indian Way” was chaired by Prof. S.D. Muni, former Member Executive Council, MP-IDSA and ProfessorEmeritus, JNU. Speakers of the session included Amb. Anil Trigunayat, Former Ambassador of India to Libya and Jordan; Amb. Manjeev Singh Puri, Former Ambassador to Nepal and Brussels; and Amb. Ajay Bisaria, Former High Commissioner to Canada and Pakistan. The session highlighted that the current world order is in a state of flux facing interconnected challenges such as the pandemic, rising geopolitical tensions, economic inequalities and digital vulnerabilities. The experts examined India’s role in various regional, multilateral and international bodies like UNSC, G20, SCO in leading or contributing to solutions to challenges like global warming, climate change, sustainable development, counter-terrorism. The session acknowledged that India seeks to promote a pluralistic and inclusive global order that is based on the foundation of an internationally agreed normative architecture.
The third session titled “New India: Foreign Policy in the Present Decade” was chaired by Amb. Asoke Kumar Mukerji, Former Indian Permanent Representative to the United Nations. The speakers of the session were Amb. Amar Sinha, Former Ambassador of India to Afghanistan; Amb. Navdeep Suri, Former High Commissioner to Australia and Ambassador to Egypt and UAE; and Mr. Rudra Chaudhuri, Director, Carnegie India. Experts in the session underscored India’s role as a sustainable developmental partner that is shaping a new discourse on the pathway of cooperation. India’s development partnership model based on trust, respect, sovereignty, transparency, collaboration, and requirements of the partner country was positively assessed. India’s development partnership is growing in scale and scope and is a mutually beneficial partnership that is human-centric in its approach. It was acknowledged that India has a polity with a flavour that is uniquely its own which is shaping its expanding global engagements, its engagements in new constructs and its global initiatives.
The fourth Session on “Indian Foreign Policy: Perspectives from Various Geographies” was chaired by Dr. C. Raja Mohan, Director, the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. The speakers in this session were Dr. Ji Yeon Jung, Research Professor, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul; Dr. Nicolas Blarel, Associate Professor of International Relations at the Institute of Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands; Dr. Amrita Narlikar, President, German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA), Germany; and Dr. Michael Kugelman from the Wilson Center, Washington DC. The session deliberated up on how India’s foreign policy is viewed and perceived by other nations/regions. The experts underscored that India’s importance in global politics has been growing steadily and cooperation with India with various regions of the world remains significant and unique. While the present-day world is faced with strife and conflicts, India as a rising power and major economy remains confident in building dynamic and constructive relations with all nations and global actors alike. Discussions were held on how various regions of the world perceive India’s growth and development, its conduct of foreign policy and how India is a positive force in the emergence of a new world order.
The fifth session of the seminar titled “India and the Global Order: Setting the Narrative” was chaired by Amb. Pankaj Saran, Former Deputy National Security Advisor of India, former Ambassador to Russia and former High Commissioner to Bangladesh. The speakers in the session were Lt. General Syed Ata Hasnain, Chancellor, Central University of Kashmir; Lt. Gen. Vinod G. Khandare (retd.), Adviser, Ministry of Defence, GoI; and Dr. Zorawar Daulet Singh, Adjunct Fellow, Institute for Chinese Studies, New Delhi. In this session, speakers discussed how India is charting the global strategic narrative, by reflecting on the changing nature of India’s foreign policy of reacting to global initiatives to setting the narrative. This strategic shift in approach is reflected in how India, both as a maritime and continental power, is shaping its role as a global player beyond its neighbourhood and extended neighbourhood. The session emphasised that various factors, such as India’s economic performance, self-confidence in its growth, internal political stability and resilience have allowed India to assert itself in the international arena. Indian foreign policy was acknowledged to have successfully shown the ability to navigate the complex and turbulent world in recent years and leverage geo-political and geo strategic advantages.
The last session on theme “Indian Foreign Policy – The Next Seven Decades” was chaired by Amb. DB Venkatesh Varma, Former Ambassador to Spain and the Russian Federation. The speakers in this session included Prof. Ajay Darshan Behera, Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra, Founder and Honorary Chairman of Kalinga Institute of Indo-Pacific Studies; and Dr. Zorawar Daulet Singh, Adjunct Fellow, Institute for Chinese Studies, New Delhi. The speakers underlined that India’s foreign policy, besides being an instrument for domestic development, security and prosperity and for fulfilling domestic aspirations, is positively contributing to global developments and to meeting regional and global challenges. It was assessed that the current geopolitical tumult can provide India an opportunity to strengthen its role in international affairs. The session emphasised the areas in which India would have to build its capabilities to fulfil its vision of a developed India by the centenary of its Independence in 2047. The experts maintained that a multi-polar world is conducive for India’s growth and development given India’s unique ability of maintaining balanced relations with countries across the world.