Farewell Dinner for H.E. Milinda Moragoda

India Foundation hosted a Farewell Dinner for H.E. Milinda Moragoda, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to India, on September 26, 2023. Shri Y. K. Sinha, Chief Information Commissioner of India, felicitated H.E. Milinda Moragoda on the occasion. Amb Ashok Kantha, Former Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, and Capt Alok Bansal, Director, India Foundation, shared their reflections on evolving India-Sri Lanka ties at the farewell. In his remarks, H.E. Milinda Moragoda spoke about friendly relations between India and Sri Lanka and the major economic assistance of India to Sri Lanka during the financial crisis which is an example of close bonhomie that exists between the two countries. He also mentioned about the proposal for reintroduction of Indian bison (gaur) in Sri Lanka, which has been extinct in the island nation for long, and talked about the cooperation received from authorities in India. He also said that the government authorities of both the countries should work on enhancing people-to-people connect and focus on retaining our common cultural values.


Talking Tibet Series

India Foundation organized its first installment of the “Tibet Talks” Round-Table Discussion series on the topic “Tibet’s environment crisis and its implications” and featured a presentation by Dr. Lobsang Yangtso, a Senior Environmental Researcher at the International Tibet Network. The Round-Table Discussion took place on September 18, 2023 at India Foundation office. The session was chaired by Capt Alok Bansal, Director, India Foundation and Dr. Lobsang Yangtso mainly focused on excessive damming of major rivers originating from Tibet and its implications on lower regions and displacement of nomadic life in Tibet. The Round-Table Discussion was attended by young Tibetan diaspora in India, young Indian scholars and the India foundation team.


Interaction with Ma. Dr. Krishna Gopal

Conservatives’ Collective of India Foundation organized a general interaction with Ma. Dr. Krishna Gopal, Sah-Sarkaryavah, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, on September 01, 2023. The interaction session was chaired by Prof. Shri Prakash Singh, Director, South Campus, University of Delhi. The session was attended by senior academicians, bureaucrats, young scholars and professionals based in New Delhi.

In his initial remarks, Ma. Dr. Krishna Gopal emphasized on the need for youth to have conceptual clarity on the fundamentals of Hindutva, and to build solid academic scholarship on the subject. He pointed out towards a general lack of understanding of the Hindutva movement in academic circles, notwithstanding the political positions of individual scholars, and discussed the need to promote well-researched and balanced scholarship on the Hindutva worldview. He also later discussed the distinction between Western conception of ‘nation-state’ and Indian idea of ‘rashtra’, and deliberated on the scope for generating academic work on the unique nature and trajectory of ‘rashtra’ as an ideational entity. He further elaborated on the nature of ‘Bharatiya sanskriti’ and the scope for in-depth research on Indian culture and traditions. He noted the presence of substantial academic research on Indian culture and traditions in both English and regional languages, and stated that such lesser known scholars and their works should be brought into limelight, and the knowledge produced be promoted through mainstreaming in academic circles, translation, felicitation of the scholars, and re-publication of past scholarship.


The BRICS Platform as a Prototype of the Polycentric World Model

Diversification and complexity as principles of internal organization are embedded in the behavioral program of any system, including society, politics and international relations. The historical process, in the form of a tendency towards polycentrism, realises and fulfils the natural craving of humanity for “unity in diversity”, as is commonly believed in Indian philosophical thought. It can also be said that the path to “diversity”, i.e. the polycentric structure of the ecumene, reflected in its own way the change of milestones in the historical development of mankind. “History has not ended but returned”. So, figuratively and succinctly, the Indian futurologist Parag Khanna defined the main line of the current world development [Khanna, 2019, p. 12].  India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar assessed the state of the modern world no less expressively and concretely: “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems” [How to survive a superpower split, 2023].

At one time, Fareed Rafiq Zakaria [Zakaria, 2008] unambiguously defined “tectonic shifts” in the world economy and politics, dividing the last five centuries of world history into three unequal stages:

  1. The ascent of the West, which began in the 15th century (directly related to the great geographical discoveries) and underwent a “dramatic” acceleration at the end of the 18th century, under the influence of the first industrial revolution, which predetermined the long-term economic and political domination of the nations of the “North Atlantic space” over the rest of the world.
  2. The self-assertion of the United States as the main world power (since the end of the 19th century), which acquired an uncontested character in two decades after the dismemberment of the USSR (Zakaria published his book in 2008).
  3. The “rise of the rest”, which inevitably gave impetus to a new regrouping of geopolitical forces in the international system and is taking place before our eyes, in “real time” mode.

However, the eminent author made a few mistakes in dating the last phenomenon: the current “tectonic shift” began two decades earlier, in the second half of the 1980s. This process involved countries in its whirlpool (then they were called “new influentials”), among which Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, India, etc. clearly stood out. (It should be noted that China, which had just entered the path of accelerated economic growth, did not figure in the forecast scenarios of international political scientists at that time.) The main feature of this newly emerging community was their own, particular interests, which were different from the aspirations of the USSR and the United States and their respective allies. However, the dramatic events of the late 1980s and early 1990s “obscured” the objective trends and processes in the world system, and the formation of the grouping of new influential members of the world community is already taking place in a new context, against the background of the emergence of a polycentric or (in the terms used by Zakaria) “post–American world”

Initially, in the mid-2010s, the “post-American world” had already acquired some specific contours of “seven-centric” system, which then included the following countries and regions: Brazil, the United States, Western Europe, Russia, India, China and Japan. After the events of February 24, 2022, the “fallout” from this “cohort” of Western Europe and Japan was quite quickly revealed because they “reactively” migrated to the status of a economic and geopolitical “periphery” of the United States. It is easy to notice that even then, in addition to the recognized leaders of the world economy, relatively new forces were included in the “seven-centric” world, which even then were collectively referred to as BRIC.

Already in the mid-1950s, it was possible to distinguish the  three peculiar “poles” of world development. The Non-Aligned Movement was added to the Soviet Union and the United States, led by the leaders of India, Egypt and Yugoslavia. In fact, the movement towards a polycentric form of  the world space had actually begun. However, the progressive movement of the world historical process, enriched in the mid-1980s by the emergence of “new influentials”, was interrupted by the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991. Nevertheless, the backward ‘traction’ of global processes, manifested in the short-term reign of the “unipole” / Pax Americana, only delayed the “return of history”, i.e. the transformation of the main part of humanity into a genuine force and subject of world politics.

Today, in retrospect, we have the right to believe that such a development of the international system was a kind of historical accident. In our opinion various circumstances support such an interpretation of world development. Firstly, the collapse of the bipolar world was not dictated by the logic of historical development. A significant (and perhaps decisive) role in the collapse of the USSR was played by a subjective factor, i.e. the desire of the late Soviet ethnocratic elites to divide politically and economically the space of the largest country in the world. It is clear that an external factor, the actions of the “collective West”, also played a certain role in the development of destructive processes in the USSR. Secondly, the United States a priori could not exercise “global governance” through mechanisms of political and economic control abroad, since after the collapse of the USSR, the United States accounted for only 25% of world GDP (the maximum value of American GDP was in 1944 when it reached about 35% of the world’s aggregate). Thus, a kind of duality of world politics arose: the United States, which did not have the necessary political and economic resources for “global governance”, tried to implement the idea of Pax Americana, while the rest of the world was not psychologically prepared for a new, multipolar world order. Thirdly, this contradiction continued to grow and was first felt around 2005 after the failure of the expeditionary mission to Iraq. Obviously, since then, the need for a new, more just international order has been clearly felt as an existential necessity, primarily in the “Global Orient and the Global South”. This necessity has given impetus to new, non-West-centric institutional forms of international communication.

Even then, at the beginning of this century, the question was often asked: how viable is the ‘platform’ formed by Brazil, Russia, India and China (and soon the Republic of South Africa) as a geo-economic and – in the foreseeable future – a geopolitical union? In other words, will the new platform, using the academic style of the late Samir Amin, be able to become a new “world project”? These were not idle questions, and it was almost impossible to answer them in monosyllables. On the one hand, the systemic global crisis of 2007-2009, according to authoritative Western and Japanese experts, has far from exhausted its “destructive” potential for the world economy. Thus, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao sharply criticized the United States and other Western countries. He blamed “inappropriate macroeconomic policies of some economies and their unsustainable models of development characterized by low savings and high consumption” and “an excessive expansion of financial instruments in blind pursuit of profit, lack of self-discipline among financial institutions and rating agencies”. Wen added that the direct impact of the crisis on China was “limited because of our banking system”. This time it was China that warned Western leaders, not the other way around [Hiro, 2010, p. 183]. Therefore, in the current situation, as a result of a comprehensive financial and economic crisis, which Western institutions were powerless to manage, it seemed natural for super-large nations to coordinate their actions in order – keeping in mind the tentative  integration of their economies and markets – to avoid the consequences of severe geo-economic shocks, and, prospectively, to turn the BRICS into a space relatively autonomous from the “triad of globalization” (USA – Western Europe – Japan) and capable of ‘adapting’ to  the coming “shocks”. Naturally, the mutual geographical remoteness and the specificity of the national interests of each of the countries ultimately adjusted the pace and trajectory of integration processes.

On the other hand, there were (and they have not disappeared to this day) factors of non-economic origin (the historical memory of peoples; prejudices, sometimes consciously cultivated by elites in their narrow-group interests; the invisible presence of the factor of “third” countries in bilateral relations, etc.), hindering the seemingly natural processes of economic cooperation and integration.

In our opinion, if it is possible to single out the ‘leaders’ of cooperation and integration in the BRICS at the first stage of development of this association, then they were certainly China and Brazil. And there were good economic and political reasons for that. Firstly, both giants are quite deeply involved in the global economy and therefore tried to diversify their foreign economic relations in every possible way, to avoid unilateral dependence on the markets of industrialised countries and their changing circumstances (highlighted by the global financial and economic crisis of 2007-2009). Secondly, Brazil (approximately since 2003) and China (since the XVII Congress of the CPC, October 2007) began to pursue an active socio-economic policy, which, as the Russian sinologist A.I. Salitsky did, could be defined as a movement from reform to development [Salitskii, 2018]. The essence of this policy is to vigorously stimulate domestic demand, to consistently equalise the levels of economic development of various regions of the country, to progressively reduce social and property disparities in society, etc. The goals of such a policy are clear and transparent. They include an increase in the standard of living of the masses and – on this basis – the expansion of support in society for the economic and political system. Identical goals make the development strategies of both countries clear to each other, increase their interest in joint ventures, including cross-investments. China has acted very vigorously in this direction [Hiro, 2010, p. 182-184]. The new international role of the “rising economic powers” – Brazil, Russia, India and China – prompted the then Managing Director of the IMF, D. Strauss-Kahn (2007-2011) to call for the organisation to redistribute votes in the Fund in favor of these states.

Even at the initial stage of the platform’s existence, it was erroneous to call Russia and India “outsiders” to economic integration within the BRICS (then in the BRIC format), but the official line from Moscow and New Delhi, despite their active participation in quadrilateral meetings at the official level, raised some questions for China and Brazil. First, what was the relationship between geopolitics (support for the idea of BRIC at the highest state level) and economics (stimulating integration processes in a multilateral format) in the foreign policy strategy of India and Russia? Second, what economic and political forces in the two countries were ready to actually participate in the formation cooperative ties within the framework of the then BRIC format? Third, did Russia and India have a long-term strategy for BRIC consolidation?

At that time, it was difficult to get an exhaustive answer to these questions. Now, after almost 15 years, we can try to explain the reasons for the “lag” of Russia and India in the struggle for the BRIC in the following way. In India, the elites found themselves in a kind of conceptual vacuum after the collapse of the USSR and the “departure from the East” of the so-called “new” Russia. Indeed, their hopes for a long-term “America-Centric” world in which India would have an important (but an essentially auxiliary) role to contain China in the Asia-Pacific region turned out to be a geopolitical illusion. In addition, the elites and the people of India had difficulty overcoming the “complex of historical memory” in relation to China, stemming both from memories of the border conflict of 1962 and from the fear of the accelerated economic growth in China, which could turn into geopolitical expansion, holding the prospect of “encirclement” of India in South Asia. The warnings of the Indian military at that time that China could allegedly launch a preemptive nuclear strike on India in 2017 did not look accidental at all. However, history itself turned out to be the best healer of peculiar “historical diseases”: after February 24, 2022 India felt like a real-world power “without exceptions.” This process has gained a positive inertia of irreversible forward motion.

For Russia, in our opinion, the BRIC/BRICS “project” was initially primarily an intellectual problem that needed to be solved methodologically and integrated into our country’s foreign policy strategy as a “building material”. At the beginning of this century, a rather strange and contradictory picture was emerging. After all, back in the second half of the 1990s, a general idea was put forward about Russia’s independence in the world space. However, as historical practice shows, an idea is transformed into a concept and into principles of activity only when it is filled up with the necessary “details”. In short, post-Soviet Russia, which initially made a
“Western choice”, had to comprehend not only the limited benefits of a unilateral orientation towards Western Europe, North America and Japan, but also to realise and feel the ongoing “change of milestones” in world politics, hence moving its axis towards the “East and the Global South” and finding a practical algorithm for embedding Russia in the era of “the return of history.”

At the beginning of this century, irreversible changes commenced to materialise in the system of international relations. After the quickly revealed fiasco of the American-British “expedition” to Iraq, the course of world history underwent a significant acceleration. Intellectuals in the West openly talked about the “end of the Empire” and the decline of Pax Americana. The inability of the “collective West” to cope with the financial and economic crisis of 2007-2009, which acquired an all-encompassing and global character, seems to have undermined the psychological foundations of Western dominance over the rest of the world. By itself, a simple question arose: what will happen after the “end of the Empire”? In 2010, the authoritative international expert and analyst Dilip Hiro noted that the New International Order after Empire did not revolve around the United States: “Nor is it dialectical – the United States versus China, the West against Asia, or democracies versus autocracies.” The developments described by him have cumulatively led to “an international order with multiple poles, cooperating and competing with one another, with no single pole being allowed to act as the hegemonic power. Quite simply, the age-old balance of power is back at work” [Hiro, 2010, p. 5-6]. The events and processes of the early 2000s gave rise to crisis phenomena in the activities of international institutions (UN, IMF, etc.) and faced the world with the need to create new transcontinental formats and platforms capable of adequately responding to the irreversibly increasing economic and political diversity of humanity.

Thus, the initially amorphous BRIC/BRICS platform began to acquire the qualities of an international organisation potentially capable of consolidating that part of the world that was outside the “golden billion” and no longer objectively fitted into the “global liberal order” headed by the United States of America. A material basis for the development of BRICS and similar organisations was provided by several phenomena, mainly:

  • the natural exhaustion of the US ability to exercise “global governance”, individually or jointly with ‘allies’;
  • the long and vigorous economic growth of China;
  • the self-assertion of India as a “civilisation state”;
  • Russia liberating itself from the psychological crisis / historical “fatigue” after the collapse of the USSR;
  • the emergence of a whole group of states – unequivocal opponents of the “world liberal order” (Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, etc.);
  • the civilisational and political consolidation in the Arab world;
  • the desire of Latin American nations to speak to the world freely, “in their own voice”;
  • the “awakening” of the oppressed Africa.

In our opinion, the growing instability of the international financial system, governed exclusively by the United States and other countries of the “collective West”, also played a significant role in accelerating the development of the BRICS project. The political and economic causes of the chronic instability of world finance were described by the prominent Indian economist Amiya Kumar Bagchi: “The U.S. neoconservatives … have announced that the United States should enforce its will on the rest of the world and international laws are there only for other states. This doctrine is a sign of U.S. weakness in the economic field: the United States can no longer pay for the energy resources it needs for the kind of military-centered, environmentally destructive path of profit accumulation it is pursuing, and hence militarism has become a means of grabbing resources without paying a proper price, increasing the profits of crony companies and generating employment in defense industries” [Bagchi, 2005, p. 335].

The BRICS figure itself is implicitly present in the relations of the two most populated countries of the world – India and China. Thus, the noted Indian historian of international relations Z. Daulet Singh maintains that the resolution of the conflict in Doklam in the summer of 2017 occurred under the influence of three circumstances of purely “non-military” origin. Firstly, “invisible” mechanisms of conflict resolution were involved in such formats as BRICS and SCO, which some Indian “analysts” are nevertheless instantly demeaning. Secondly, the joint interest of India and China in a solidary dialogue with the West on the reform of international financial institutions has affected their behaviour. Thirdly, bilateral trade and investment are beginning to play an increasingly important role in the Elephant-Dragon relationship [Daulet Singh, 2020, p. 103].

So, the values defended by India, Russia, China, Brazil, the Republic of South Africa and other countries are about arriving at an equal international dialogue as well as about the rejection of the idea of “supercivilisation”, allegedly endowed with the right to impose its behavioral models on other “civilisational states”. The “civilisational states” seek to legitimise the polycentric forms of national political organisations, the indivisibility and “inclusiveness” of the world security architecture, as well as the universal value of sovereignty. In the political and economic sense, the BRICS activities are focused on the search for a common ideological platform for the international financial institutions that promote the goals and interests of the countries of the “Global Orient and Global South”. In the view of the BRICS countries, the world of the future is a space of equal interaction between “civilisational states”. The formula for such interaction should be the principle of “unity in diversity”, well known to Indian philosophical thought. We can say that the BRICS objectively brings a new “Axial Age” (in the sense given by K. Jaspers), developing theoretical and practical foundations for inter-civilisational dialogue and interaction in a rapidly changing world.

Considering BRICS as a viable alternative to the “rules-based order”, many states of the “Global Orient and Global South” express a desire to join this association. Currently, according to Russian press reports, the list of potential BRICS members includes the following countries: Algeria, Argentina, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkiye, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, etc. [Dimkin, 2023]. More recently, Bolivia, Cuba and Morocco have been cited as potential BRICS members. Thus, the possible number of future BRICS member countries (1) inevitably puts on the agenda the elaboration of criteria for joining the BRICS as a separate problem.

Under these circumstances, it will inevitably have to take into account the experience (sometimes negative) of other economic associations. Thus, the rapid expansion of the European Union to countries at a lower level of socio-economic maturity than the “pioneers” of integration constantly raises the problems of disparity and development imbalances in the EU. On the contrary, the experience of ASEAN ‘platform’, based on the principles of gradualism and consensus, deserves serious study and critical application. Another problem (to a certain extent arising from the first one) is the active use of national currencies in mutual settlements of the BRICS countries. National currencies, as we know, are stimulators of exports, production and one of the driving forces of economic growth, which is so necessary for the BRICS countries. Of particular importance is the problem of cross-investment in the BRICS countries. The discussion on the creation of a single BRICS currency can and should continue. Nevertheless, the introduction of a single currency seems to be a matter for the more or less distant future though the BRICS resolution of 2023 commits the member-states to studying the possibilities for alternative payment mechanisms and submit a report on this in time for the 2024 summit. President Putin was particularly insistent on this aspect of BRICS development and offered the use of existing Russian mechanisms applied within the Eurasian Union though he stopped short of suggesting a common monetary unit, calling instead for the growing utilisation of national currencies.

In our opinion, the preservation of the viability of the BRICS format, – and all five current participants are interested in this now – allowed for only three realistic scenarios. The first scenario presupposed the actio of the BRICS in different configurations and in diverse modulations, without formally expanding the format, i.e. using the formula “BRICS+.” Even more than a half of the world’s states may take part in some discussions, including some countries traditionally referred to as the “collective West” (for example, Hungary or South Korea). In fact, we can see a new format in terms of content, but partly inheriting the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The second scenario (that was rejected) implied the preservation of the BRICS five as the core of interaction between different regions of the world. However, only Russia and Brazil have obvious integration projects along the borders (the EAEU and Mercosur, respectively) with a potential expansion of their areas (in the first case through the addition of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, possibly Mongolia and Iran and in the second case – across Latin America and the Caribbean). It is doubtful that China or India will be able to adequately represent the ASEAN countries or Pakistan, (though India has formed BIMSTEC to better integrate its neighbours into a regional association and is making progress in connecting the Indian Ocean Region Association (IORA).  South Africa would have to take on the impossible task of representing the entire African continent. It would have been unclear in this case how to interact with such an important region as the Arab world.

The third scenario that was chosen at Johannesburg implies a very cautious increase in the composition of the BRICS by adding a few countries in the initial stage. It also implies changing the acronym for the Grouping to reflect the changed composition, The selection of countries had to be based both on the political preferences of the current participants and on objective quantitative indicators. The resulting “top-7” or “top-10” countries of the Global South do not necessarily have to become an alternative to Western-centric institutions trying to implement global governance, but it will definitely consolidate by its very existence the transition of the world order towards polycentrism. The most “adjustable” countries seemed to be Indonesia, which would anchor BRICS in the ASEAN mega-region, and Nigeria, representing Tropical Africa. However, both were kept out for now. Indonesia is more or less comparable to Russia and Brazil in terms of population and GDP, while Nigeria is not just competing with South Africa for the right to represent Africa, but steadily turns quantitative growth into qualitative changes (for example, local oligarchs have been able to form national TNCs, second only to South African ones on the continent). Nevertheless, in ASEAN, under the leadership of Indonesia, Thailand, which applied to the BRICS too, is quite comparable with South Africa.

On the eve of the BRICS 2023 summit Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Argentina seemed to be the three most likely nations to join, and they made the cut, along with the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and Iran, surely as the result of a compromise between the five current members.

Of course, all speculative calculations about the economic, political or cultural-ideological weight of countries are usually broken by the facts of the real course of history. Nevertheless, it is useful to provide some factual and statistical data for 2022 (see the table).

Some leading countries outside the “collective West” (2022)

Country Population, million persons GNI by PPP, USD billion Merchandise exports, USD billion Outward FDI stock, USD billion Military expenditures, USD billion
Brazil 215.3 3,716.7 334.1 327.5 20.2
Russia 145.6 5,222.9 531.9 315.3 86.4
India 1,417.2 11,636.8 453.5 222.6 81.0
China 1,412.2 30,001.7 3,593.6 2,931.7 292.0
South Africa 59.9 932.8 122.9 200.0 3.0
Indonesia 275.5 3,925.9 292.0 103.9 9.0
Nigeria 218.5 1,234.8 62.7 13.6 3.1
Iran 88.6 1,605.1 73.0 4.2 6.8
Turkiye 85.3 3,151.1 254.2 56.9 10.6
Ethiopia 123.4 345.3 3.9 0.0 1.0
Egypt 111.0 1,619.6 49.3 9.2 4.6
Saudi Arabia 36.4 2,172.0 410.5 167.5 75.0
Algeria 44.9 580.8 61.1 2.8 9.1
UAE 9.4 824.2 598.5 239.9 n.a. (more than 20)
Argentina 46.2 1,203.5 88.4 44.8 2.6
Mexico 127.5 2,684.8 578.2 196.0 8.5
Venezuela 28.3 n.a. 5.1 25.5 Less than 0.1
Pakistan 235.8 1,496.7 30.9 2.8 10.3
Bangladesh 171.2 1,316.1 54.7 0.4 4.8
Thailand 71.7 1,439.2 287.1 179.8 5.7
Kazakhstan 19.6 531.4 84.7 22.1 1.1

Data from the World Bank (https://data.worldbank.org/indicator) with some figures for Russia by Rosstat (https://rosstat.gov.ru/), while FDI statistics put from [UNCTAD, 2023, p. 200-203] and military expenditures estimates put from SIPRI (https://milex.sipri.org/sipri).

If we take the population (and here the “demographic dividend” is hidden), gross national income when calculated by purchasing power parities (i.e., the scale of national economies), exports of goods (in fact, the competitiveness of the country’s production), the outward foreign direct investment stocks (the power of national business and ability of companies to internationalise their activities), and military spending (that is, the ability to protect their achievements from the encroachments of other powers), then South Africa is an unambiguous outsider among the BRICS. Nevertheless, there is not a single country among the applicants for joining the BRICS that would overtake South Africa in all respects (we have listed 15 countries in the table, since other applicants – for example, Bahrain, Zimbabwe and Nicaragua, are not significant countries economically).

It was not so clear how the Middle East and North African region (WANA) was to be dealt with. For example, Iran is undoubtedly a “civilisational state”, whilst Turkiye claims the same role, by pursuing a very active foreign policy and, due to its ‘westward’ orientation, has achieved more impressive economic dynamics. There is no recognised single leader in the Arab world – Saudi Arabia is the historical center of Islam and an important regional player, but it is obvious that neither Egypt, nor Algeria or the UAE will accept the Saudi Kingdom to represent their region in any important international format, such as the “enlarged BRICS”. The situation with Latin America is not yet free from difficulties, since it is nearly impossible to decide which country can more adequately represent the Spanish-speaking countries of the region – Argentina, Mexico or even Venezuela? We should not also forget about the applications of countries as demographically large in population as Bangladesh. In the event, the nations that were not invited in Johannesburg were promised the opportunity to become dialogue partners in the coming months or years and some may eventually acquire membership.

As the dynamics of the development of the Russian Federation over the past 30 years show, the economic weight, military-political ambitions and even the wealth of ideological concepts for “export” can change very much under the influence of internal short-term fluctuations in the economic and political conjuncture. It is also reasonable to recall the figures of a century ago, which show that the simplest traditional geopolitical categories should not be discounted. For example, the five largest states in 1922, both in terms of population and area, were (alphabetically) the British Empire, China, the French Empire, Soviet Russia (then the USSR) and the United States of America. It was these five who, two decades later, became the victorious powers in World War II, received exclusive permanent seats of the UN Security Council with veto rights, and within half a century it was again the United States, the USSR, the United Kingdom, France and China that became the owners of nuclear weapons (without granting such a status to India). We ought to emphasise that Germany and Japan, despite their ambitions during the 1930s, which led to the global catastrophe of World War II, were not among the five largest states.

Any ambitious power can live with a variety of statistical indicators without experiencing discomfort from it. Now some well-known Western politicians love to demean Russia, the largest country in the world by area, by pointing out its comparatively modest demographic and economic weight. But some Russians are still alive who, as students, learned that the USSR, despite its then struggling economy and low living standards won World War II, successfully launched the first artifical satellite and the first manned space flights, led the global movement against colonialism and, in principle, became one of the superpowers. We believe that it is appropriate to quote the luminary of national economic geography, Professor N.N. Baranskiy, in the first chapter of his textbook “Physical Geography of the USSR”, which was mandatory for all Soviet schoolchildren since 1935. He wrote: “Only the British Empire is larger than the USSR in area, i.e. England …, but the possessions of England are scattered in all parts of the world, divided by oceans and are politically weakly connected; our Union is one continuous territory and … is politically so tightly soldered as no other state in the world” [Baranksiy, 1935, p. 3].

Summing up, it can be noted that the activation of the BRICS format is caused by long-term trends in global development, but specific configurations will depend on the political decisions of countries and their leaders. Russia currently feels like a power capable of transforming the current world order, that is clearly unfair to the majority of humanity. Moreover, it is the Russian Federation that will assume the BRICS chairmanship in 2024. Nevertheless, this does not mean that other BRICS participants should neglect this format. On the contrary, South Africa, Brazil and India are actually the most interested in it, since outside of this format their leverage in international relations would decrease. In addition, in our opinion, institutional reforms of the world order not involving the military-power component are possible only through the strengthening of the BRICS and the expansion of its activity.


Author Brief Bio: Andrey VOLODIN and Alexey Kuznetsov are working with Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences (INION), Russia.



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  6. Bagchi A.K. (2005). Perilous Passage. Mankind and the Global Ascendancy of Capital. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 423 pp.
  7. Daulet Singh Z. (2020) Powershift: India–China Relations in a Multipolar World. Macmillan, 348 pp.
  8. Dimkin (2023). 30 countries have applied to join the BRICS (in Russian). Available at: https://www.tinkoff.ru/invest/social/profile/Dimkin/e1749d6a-29d9-425f-a699-a92fc57e733a/; accessed 08.08.2023.
  9. Baranskiy N.N. (1935). Physical Geography of the USSR (in Russian). Moscow: Uchpedgiz, 119 pp. Available at: https://elib.rgo.ru/safe-view/123456789/211979/1/MDAyX1IucGRm
  10. UNCTAD (2023). World Investment Report 2023: Investing in Sustainable Energy for All. United Nations, 228 pp.

Note 1: (some sources alluded to 50 states, but shortly before the 2023 BRICS summit, the President of South Africa, as its host, announced a little more than 20 official applications)




BRICS: The role of the unit of account for the new “basket of currencies”

For years, the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have been experimenting with the use of their national currencies in trade and agreements within the group and also with other emerging countries. A process of progressive de-dollarisation of their trade and economies is underway, involving now other regions of the world like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries and the nations of Mercosur.

In this context, many Western analysts continue to assert that the BRICS coordination has no future, it is doomed to fail. These “experts” should remember that BRICS coordination came into being in connection with and as a response to the Great Global Crisis of 2008, caused by the collapse of the U.S. and international banking and financial systems. The effects were devastating with respect to the production of goods and to world trade. The hardest hit was indeed the poor and developing countries. That is, those who did not bear the responsibility for economic and monetary mismanagement and financial speculation, but who paid a heavy price for the consequences.

All financial data confirm that the global financial situation is today worse than that of 2008. For example, world public debt moved from $41 to $92 trillion; global debt is at $305 trillion, $45 trillion higher than its pre-pandemic level; the mostly unregulated and often speculative Non-Bank Financial Institutions (NBFI) overcame the Banking System globally, etc.

Therefore, despite all the legitimate differing national orientations and sometimes diverging or competing interests of the BRICS countries, the necessity to have a safety net and of crafting an alternative to the likely crisis of the dollar and related systems remains stronger than before.

Multilateralism and the challenge of a new international financial order

Multilateralism is today the only means of peacefully addressing and resolving the many global challenges, political, economic, monetary, and even those concerning security. It is a concept recognized in Europe as well. Among others, François Villeroy de Galhau, the governor of the Banque de France argued this during the May 2022 Emerging Market Forum in Paris in a speech on “Multipolarity and the role of the euro in the International Financial System.” He stated that “while Bretton Woods disappeared when the convertibility of the dollar into gold failed, the international monetary system remained based on the U.S. dollar. The idea of a global currency has not thrived in academic debates, much less in policy discussions.”

Even as early as the 1960s, Henry Fowler, the Treasury secretary under President Lyndon Johnson, warned that “providing reserves and trade to the whole world is too much for one country and one currency to bear.”

The idea of change had been taken up in 2010 by Michel Camdessus, longtime managing director of the IMF, who had launched an initiative to highlight the shortcomings of the international financial system, particularly its global governance and over-reliance on a single currency.

This debate is also very intense in the United States, even if ignored by most of the media. For example, a leading American economist, James K. Galbraith, asked the question: “Can the United States survive the rise of a multipolar world?”

Galbraith is an economics professor at the University of Austin in Texas, best known for drafting the first legislative plan to save New York City from bankruptcy in 1975. He is the son of John Kenneth Galbraith, a famous economist and a close associate of various American presidents, starting with F. D. Roosevelt, for whom he implemented the price control policy during the Second World War.

To the question above, formulated in his article published by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, James Galbraith answers positively but adds, «not without a political upheaval, stimulated by inflation and recession and by a declining stock market in the short term and, finally, by demands for a realistic strategy in tune with the current global balance of power». He says that “the dollar-based order has thus far been sustained mainly by instability elsewhere and the lack of a credible alternative.”

He expects China to work to “set up bilateral or multilateral payment mechanisms, with willing partners, that bypass the conventional medium of the dollar.” However, it will be inevitable that the question of an alternative to dollar reserves will be raised. In addition to the role of gold, “an international financial asset will emerge, composed of a weighted set of securities of the participating countries, similar to Eurobonds … In the reality of Eurasia, this means a bond based predominantly on the Chinese currency.”

His prediction is that “the dollar-based financial system, with the euro serving as a junior partner, is likely to survive, for now.” A significant no-dollar, no-euro zone could be created, cut out for those countries that the US and the EU consider adversaries, primarily Russia, and for their commercial partners. China will act as a bridge between the two systems: it will be the fixed point of multipolarity. “If tough decisions are to be made against China, then a real division of the world into isolated blocs, as in the Cold War, would become a possibility.”, he says.

The role of national currencies in trade

China is clearly at the forefront of using its currency, the renminbi, for its international trade and investment. The most resounding agreement was the one signed in 2018 in renminbi and rubles for the supply of Russian gas to China for the equivalent of about $400 billion. It should be kept in mind that it imports $250 billion worth of oil and another $150 billion worth of commodities such as steel, copper, coal, and soybeans from the rest of the world every year. All these commodities are today valued and traded internationally in dollars. Therefore, China also has to pay for them in U.S. currency. The use of the renminbi, therefore, has become a strategic priority for Beijing. Trade in the renminbi is intensively done with the other BRICS countries but more in general with the other emerging economies worldwide.

China and Saudi Arabia, for example, in addition to oil agreements, recently signed a memorandum to coordinate the economic initiatives of the Belt and Road Initiative with the Saudi “Vision 2030” program of industrial and manufacturing development. The agreements include cooperation in space, nuclear, missile, new energy such as hydrogen, and major infrastructure including the construction of “Neom,” a $500 billion super modern city. Among the contracts signed is one with Huawei, the telecommunications giant, which, despite U.S. opposition, already has 5G network agreements with almost all Gulf countries. The prospect, of course, is to bring BRI with all its infrastructure, technology and industrial projects to that region and on to the Mediterranean. China has naturally proposed to use the renminbi in payments for energy supplies and more generally for trade.

Another example is Egypt, which applied to join the BRICS in 2022, and is reportedly considering issuing renminbi-denominated bonds for the Chinese market. Beijing has already signed currency swap agreements with more than 30 countries, including Japan and Russia, allowing the renminbi to be used for certain trades. Many cooperation projects between Brazil and China are already financed and settled in the Chinese currency and in the Brazilian real. In 2019, Russia and China signed an agreement to use ruble and renminbi financial instruments to cover 50 percent of all their bilateral trade in the coming years. The implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the financing role of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank help to internationalise the renminbi.

Many infrastructure projects with the Asian countries involved are already contracted in the Chinese currency. More surprising is the renminbi deal between China’s National Offshore Oil Company and France’s Total Energies on 65,000 tons of liquefied natural gas imported from the United Arab Emirates. The deal is being handled through the Shanghai Petroleum and Natural Gas Exchange; an exchange created to facilitate renminbi payments.

India likewise has been preparing its currency, the rupee, to play an important role in international markets for quite some time. According to Indian policy experts, “sanctions have created a new world of countries seeking to trade using their own currencies instead of the U.S. dollar.” They also claim that sanctions have harmed third countries, such as India, which are only guilty of having trade relations with those who, for a variety of reasons, have been subjected to sanctions. For example, Venezuela and Iran are rich in oil and have been India’s major crude suppliers in the past. Trade was effectively stopped because of U.S. sanctions. Myanmar has also been subjected to several sanctions, tightened after the latest military takeover. Indian trade has also paid the price. India argues that the Western sanctions policy will remain in place for a long time and that other countries may be targeted in the future. This fear is prompting policy makers to set up alternative payment systems. The goal is to create parallel systems that can enable trade, rather than immediately “replace” the dollar.

The Indian reflection starts with energy. It states that the global energy scenario has changed over the past two decades. After the growing role of the Chinese renminbi, which has emerged as an alternative to the dollar, New Delhi wonders whether the rupee can be a third player with a petro-rupee. As is well known, India is the world’s third-largest consumer and second-largest importer of energy. Indians complain that the world oil and gas trade is conducted almost entirely in dollars on Western exchanges and with prices that do not represent real demand. India argues that the 2008 crisis challenged the dollar’s role as the single global currency and that its instability would double U.S. debt, prompting Washington to retreat from globalisation processes. It is noted that unilateral and geopolitically motivated sanctions have aroused strong resentment toward U.S arbitrariness. Hence the move to internationalise the rupee through the creation of a hub for a new international oil and gas market, possibly linked to the Mumbai exchanges. In this way, the Indian government could bring its influence to bear on energy price formation.

The proposal of a new currency

From the standpoint of the already long experience of the use of national currencies and looking at the future perspectives for stronger institutional cooperation, discussions and proposals about a new BRICS currency are legitimate. I do not believe that such a common currency is a factual possibility in the near future, but the studies upon this are today urgently needed.

Russia has been at the forefront of this idea. In mid-March 2022 a meeting dedicated to the “New phase of monetary, financial and economic cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the People’s Republic of China” was held in Armenia, under the auspices of the Eurasian Economic Commission and of Renmin University of Beijing, to define the contours of a new international monetary and financial system, at least as regards the Eastern part of the world.

The EEU is the economic and commercial union in which Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia participate, with a GDP of approximately 1,700 billion dollars. It means to establish a close collaboration with the Belt and Road Initiative, the new Silk Road charted by China. Already in 2020, China had increased its trade turnover with the EEU by about 20%, while national currencies of the concerned states accounted for only 15% of total trade.

What was on the table at the conference was precisely the creation of a “new currency” based on a basket of currencies, among them the ruble and the yuan, also anchored to the value of some strategic raw materials, including gold.

To think that it is just a desperate reaction to the recent imposition of super sanctions on Russia would be a misleading assessment. Instead, it is a project that has been in the field for many, many years, both in Russia and in China.

The project was made public as early as October 2020 by Russian economist Sergey Glazyev, a member of the Council and minister in charge of Integration and Macroeconomics of the Eurasian Economic Commission. He had proposed creating new national payment instruments to set aside the use of “third country currencies”, obviously meaning above all the dollar and the euro, in commercial and monetary transactions between members of the Eurasian Union and China.

Glazyev stated that the idea was the response “to the common challenges and risks associated with the global economic slowdown and the restrictive measures against EEU states and China”. The Russian economist argued that the financial and payment infrastructure was already in place and it was necessary to develop a system of incentives to encourage its use in trade and economic relations.

The minister of the Eurasian Economic Commission proposed: 1) to develop mechanisms to stabilise the exchange rates of the national currencies of the member countries, reducing bank commissions and interest on loans; 2) to create mechanisms to determine the prices of goods in national currencies within the framework of the agreements between the EU and the Belt and Road Initiative, subsequently also involving other countries, possibly those of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and those of the ASEAN.

Furthermore, in an interview on April 14, 2022, with The Cradle, the online journal of geopolitical analysis, Sergey Glazyev recalled that, together with economists from the Astana Economic Forum, a decade earlier he had proposed moving towards a new global economic system based on a new trade currency pegged to an index of the currencies of the participating countries.

It was then proposed to expand the underlying currency basket by adding some exchange-traded commodities. A monetary unit based on such a large basket was mathematically modeled, demonstrating a high degree of resilience and stability.

In the first phase of the monetary transition, these countries would use their own national currencies and related clearing mechanisms, supported by bilateral currency swaps. Price formation would still be guided by prices determined on various exchanges and denominated in dollars.

This stage, according to Glazyev, was almost complete. After Russia’s reserves in dollars, euros, pounds and yen were “frozen,” the Russian economist said it would be unlikely that any sovereign country would continue to build up reserves in these currencies, instead it would seek to replace them with other national currencies and gold.

The second phase should include new pricing mechanisms that would no longer refer to the dollar. Pricing in national currencies would incur overhead costs, but it would still be more attractive than current pricing in “pegged” currencies, such as dollars, pounds, euros, and yen. The only remaining global currency candidate, the Yuan, would not take their place due to its inconvertibility and limited external access to China’s capital markets.

The third and final phase of the transition to the new economic order would involve the creation of a new digital payment currency.

As can be seen, according to Glazyev this new currency would be open to BRICS and other interested countries. In my opinion, this is an interesting idea but not a practical one. A preparatory middle step is needed, first in the form of a unit of account.

The example of the ECU

The European currency unit, ECU, indicates the unit of account established in March 1979 within the European Monetary System (EMS), whose structure was defined as a basket made up of specific amounts of each community currency, weighted according to the importance of national economies, in terms of gross domestic product and intra-community trade.

The ECU was not a circulating currency and did not replace the value of the currencies of European Economic Community (EEC) member countries. A unit of account is one of the functions of money. It is a measure, a standard numerical monetary unit of measurement of the market value of goods, services, and other transactions.  Therefore, it is a necessary prerequisite in commercial agreements that involve debt.

Using a mechanism known as the “snake” the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) tried to minimise fluctuations between member state currencies. It attempted to create a single currency band, pegging the EEC currencies to one another, with the aim to achieve stable, fixed ratios over time, and prepare the ground for the European Single Currency to replace national currencies.

The ECU replaced the European Unit of Account (EUA) which was introduced in 1950 for the European Payment Union. Originally the EUA was defined with the same value of a US dollar. After the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, with the 1971 decoupling of the dollar from gold, the EUA was redefined as a basket of European currencies. In 1974 the EUA basket was designed to have the same value as the IMF Special Drawing Rights basket.

Since the 1980s, the ECU experienced a notable development in its private monetary and financial uses (issue of bonds, bank deposits and credits, travelers’ cheques, etc.) and particularly in the commercial sector as an invoicing and payment currency. With the adoption of the euro on 1 January 1999 by the European Economic and Monetary Union, the ECU ceased to exist. The conversion between ECU and euro was established on the basis of a ratio of 1 to 1.

The ERM and the ECU processes were undermined in 1992 by Margaret Thatcher’s announcement of her outright opposition to the European Economic and Monetary Union. The general economic instability in Europe pave the way for an impressive speculative attack against some currencies, like the British sterling and the Italian lira.

The speculative attack against the sterling became known as the “Black Wednesday” of September 16 1992. The same day the UK government was compelled to withdraw the sterling from the ERM. According to reports the UK spent over £ 6 billion trying to defend the value of the currency. In those days the big financial speculators moved in to kill the ERM. Press reported that George Soros, known as “the man who broke the Bank of England”, made a speculative profit of over £ 1 billion in few days. Later the UK Treasury estimated the cost of Black Wednesday at £3.14 billion.  For other people the overall cost to the British economy was much, much higher.

In the same days of September, the Italian lira also became the target of massive international speculation. The entire process was more widely analysed in Italy and was known as the “Britannia Story”. In fact, shortly before the crisis began, at the beginning of July, an informal meeting took place on Queen Elizabeth’s yacht Britannia off the harbor of Civitavecchia, near Rome, involving British and international financial interests and representatives of the companies in which the Italian state had a stake. The discussion was about the privatisation of these companies.

Italy had to face huge costs from the Bank of Italy’s attempts to defend the value of the lira from speculators. More devastating was the effect of the devaluation of the currency following waves of speculative attacks: the privatisation of the state-partly owned companies was carried out over time with a “discount” of about 30%!

The undermining of the ECU and of the ERM was the result of speculation and strong political opposition from dominating Anglo-American power centres. The timetable towards the single currency planned by the European States was upset. European leaders wanted a slower process to be able to combine the monetary union with other fiscal and political unitary decisions. To prevent the collapse of the process to build up the European Union, the monetary transition and the creation of the euro were accelerated. Now, Europe’s structural weaknesses are apparent, due the fact that the single currency and the European Central Bank are not supported by other, common political, economic, social and defence institutions, such as a single ministry of public finance.

The ECU experience could be a very important case study in the process of creating a BRICS unit of account. The technical aspects can be studied and improved. Eventually, some of the European economists who worked with the ECU process can still be consulted.

According to me, the most important lesson to learn is the way ECU was attacked and undermined. I am sure the BRICS leaders are well aware of this danger. It is important, therefore, to prepare a number of strong defensive measures against speculative and other attacks. The BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) has been conceived as a defense mechanism to face situations and threats as experienced in the 2008 global financial crisis. The latter originated in the US financial and banking sectors awash in debts and immersed in speculations, its devastating effects reverberated dramatically in the emerging economies. Along with the creation of a unit of account, the BRICS should modify and improve the CRA in order to be able to support it in case of need.

Another step in the same direction could be the creation of a strong gold reserve inside the New Development Bank as an alternative defence instrument in case some national currencies of BRICS members come under international speculative attack.


On the occasion of the 14th annual BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit, dedicated to a “New era of global development”, organised in Beijing at the end of June 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the member-countries are preparing to create an international reserve currency.

Speaking online at the BRICS Business Forum, he said: “Russia’s financial messaging system is open to connect with banks, thus projecting the need for a BRICS member country reserve currency. The Russian MIR payment system is expanding its presence. We are exploring the possibility of creating an international reserve currency based on the BRICS basket of currencies.’

After the sanctions imposed by the West against Russia following the war in Ukraine, it is an almost inevitable move, expected by those who analyse political processes with a scientific and realistic approach, without ideological bias or prejudice.

Among the various sanction, in addition to the freeze of more than 300 billion dollars of monetary reserves of the Central Bank, Russian banks have been excluded from the SWIFT system of international payments. However, there are other global bilateral or multilateral settlement systems for cross-border financial services, such as the Chinese CIPS system. CIPS processed about 80 trillion yuan ($11.91 trillion) in 2021, an increase of more than 75% year-on-year. According to SWIFT data, the yuan maintained its position as the fifth most active currency for global payments, with a share of 2.14% of the total.

In the context of the present growing global conflicts, it is legitimate from the side of BRICS countries to prepare and alternative separate monetary system, but I believe that inevitably the emergence of two counterpoised systems, a Western one and an Easter-Southern one, would increase the danger of a direct confrontation.

On these matters, I share the evaluation of Villeroy de Galhau, already mentioned above. He acknowledged that a fragmented financial system poses a serious danger. We must avoid moving from a dollar-dominated system to a conflictual non-system between the dollar world and, for example, the Chinese renminbi world. This would generate instability, with the risk of competitive currency devaluations. It could lead to the development of separate payment systems with limited interoperability and weaken the global financial safety net. In particular, he noted that to avoid the mistakes of the past, we would need to generate a collective momentum toward a stable, market-oriented multipolar financial system.

Indeed, on the basis of a stronger international position and the growing influence in the so-called global South, the BRICS should work to propose and organise a reform of the entire international monetary system based on a basket of currencies, involving also the dollar and the euro.

Unfortunately, in the context of the war in Ukraine, the European Union is behaving as as junior partner of NATO. Nonetheless, it should be remembered that the economic reality and the genuine interests of Europe demand a more autonomous and independent strategic and geopolitical orientation. In my opinion, it is of utmost importance that the BRICS group, which has proven to be realistic and responsible hitherto, work for alternative global monetary and financial reform in collaboration with those in Europe, and also in the USA, who are committed to a peaceful future based on global justice and cooperation.

Author Brief Bio:  Paolo RAIMONDI is an Economist; Columnist for the newspaper “ItaliaOggi”; and Expert member, Eurispes BRICS Lab.





François Villeroy de Galhau,  https://www.bis.org/review/r220517b.pdf

Henry Fowler, see IMF Summary Proceedings Annual Meeting 1965 9781475565157-9781475565157.pdf


James K. Galbraith,  https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/the-dollar-system-in-a-multi-polar-world

On the Yerevan meeting, see https://www.ispionline.it/it/pubblicazione/prove-generali-di-monete-rivali-34394 e https://kapital.kz/finance/103768/yeaes-i-knr-razrabotayut-proyekt-mezhdunarodnoy-finsistemy.html “EAEU and China will develop a draft international financial system”

Sergey Glazyev 2020. See various interventions in http://www.eurasiancommission.org/en

Glazyev’s interview with The Cradle https://thecradle.co/Article/interviews/9135




President Vladimir Putin: “Greetings to BRICS Business Forum participants June 22, 2022”


www.brics-info.org  Brics information Sharing & Exchanging Platform for all the information and speeches,

www.brics.utoronto.ca for all the final declarations and other official papers.

Vedi www.ndb.int for the New Development Bank

BRICS Foreign Ministers meeting, final declaration and speeches http://brics2022.mfa.gov.cn/eng/hywj/ODMM


BRICS, determined, on a winding and long road towards a multipolar world

The summit in South Africa (August 22-24) has unveiled the new BRICS development roadmap. Where is it going? How do the players themselves envision the future? Within what time frame? Following which paths? With which companions? With what strategy? In order to have a clearer view of this checkerboard, let’s examine at ease, the path already traveled and the possible responses following that landmark gathering.

The emergence of the BRICS was inevitable, although the birth of its name is anecdotal. The grouping represents a fundamental move forward towards a more impartial and multipolar world through emancipation from the hegemonic system. Its growing strength and attraction are increasingly felt. This is why the eyes of the whole world were trained on the summit, which took place in South Africa on August 22-24. We believe that we should focus our attention more on the long-term action plan that is being traced, than on the summit itself, which is only a moment in the execution of the former.

Two objectives are of paramount importance in their action plan, namely the introduction of a currency shared between the BRICS countries and their expansion in terms of new members. A review of progress made in this regard was done at the Summit.

The BRICS members have agreed to admit Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates in the group. Furthermore, the door is wide open, dozens more countries could join the bloc[1]. This enlargement is a great step forward in the development of BRICS and also in the transformation of the world.

Birth and development

By grouping together under the acronym BRICS, the four countries which had the highest growth rate, namely Brazil, Russia, India and China and later South Africa, the Goldman Sachs bankers did perhaps not realize that they were giving an identity to a tectonic shift at world level in the economic and financial fields and even beyond.

This movement reflects a basic need in the development of the Eastern and Southern world countries: the search for and creation of a fairer and more balanced global system for the greatest number of countries. In 15 years of existence, this informal alliance has already managed to stand up and acquire more substance and legitimacy. It will revolutionise and restructure the world. During the last summit, the BRICS has substantiated and started on its new roadmap, in front of an assembly of more than 50 participating countries from all over the world.

Why does BRICS strive to create an alternative system to the one that was established at the end of WWII? It is true that this time-tested latter one provided a stable framework to the world at large for decades and that the World Bank and the IMF joined forces for global recovery after the massive destructions.[2] However, this system, under American control, is far from fair and balanced, regarding the countries of the global East and South. The aid is given subject to conditions that the changes imposed will be accomplished, without taking into account the reality of the country, and the sums awarded incur high social costs under the logic of the Structural Adjustment Program. It has created more problems than solutions, for example in the case of Asian countries after the financial crisis of 1997-98.

An alternative architecture is more than necessary because G7 cannot represent, and does not reflect the world in relation to political, economic, demographic and aspirational criteria.

The BRICS group represents more than 40% of the world’s population and about 26% of the global economy and provides an alternative forum for countries that are outside the platforms dominated by traditional Western powers. Its influence and economic weight encourage more nations to join.

Encouraging results but some gaps remain to be filled

In terms of strategy, the BRICS follows a dual axis: while seeking to reform as much as possible the existing system, in particular the World Bank and IMF, it carries out actions with a view to creating and operating a new financial system as well as strengthening the autonomy of national currencies and preparing to create a common currency.

Regarding the working method, a step-by-step philosophy is practiced within the group, especially for strategic projects.

In this real world, the BRICS does not sit back idly dreaming, nor does it get lost in empty talk. It strives to help the countries of the Global East and South in particular, concrete instances, where it is urgent and possible to intervene. Thus, the BRICS created: the BRICS bank, the New Development Bank (NDB), encouraged the use of local currencies and set up the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA).

The NDB is a useful tool to help needy countries through the financing of projects at acceptable rates, such as the transition to electrical buses (Brazil), hydropower plants (Russia) and water supply (India), etc.

Encouraging the use of national currencies for transactions has the effect of reducing dependence on US dollars.

The BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) created in 2015 is a framework to provide support through liquidity and precautionary instruments in response to actual or potential short-term balance of payments pressures. With the CRA, the BRICS comes to the aid of countries that face short-term payment difficulties.

With the goodwill and efforts of its members, the BRICS has gradually become an effective and operational cooperation platform. In addition to these tangible benefits, the BRICS has given more voice to members and to the Global South, structuring a whole new geostrategic narrative and giving hope for the rise of a new world order.

At the same time, the BRICS should address some shortcomings if it wants to move faster and more solidly.

The BRICS does not exist as a formal organization yet, it is an annual summit between the supreme leaders of five nations. The presidency of the forum is rotated annually among the members. It is a cooperation platform. Circumstances play an important role. The members are in a fairly relaxed relationship. Despite their shared interest, they have divergent national interests determined by their respective geographies, histories, cultures and strategies. The articulation between these interests requires a lot of work and formalism.

The new objectives

Several programmes are to be launched or purused with more strength and speed.

Extension process

Given the growing number of candidates who wish to adhere formally or informally (more than 40 according to South Africa[3]), it has become urgent to come to an agreement about the details of conditions and the process of accepting membership, both for official candidates and for observers, who should wait before joining BRICS. India is leaning towards a stricter vetting process, while China seems to be pushing for greater openness. The idea of ​​the “BRICS +” put forward by Yaroslav Lissovolik deserves a new reading.[4]

Expanding the group too quickly should be avoided before all have a clear idea of ​​what they want. The experience of the European Union is an interesting case study in this regard.

There was convergence on the first batch of new members. Other applicants are to become partner-countries by the time of the next summit to be hosted by Russia. This addition also makes BRICS a forum for some of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers and exporters.

Creation of the BRICS currency

There is an ongoing discussion about the need for a common gold-based BRICS currency.

This new common currency would drastically reduce the dependence of current and future BRICS member-countries on USD, and provide autonomy, financial stability and protection against possible sanctions and turbulence linked to the cycles of the American economy. When agreed upon, it is bound to dynamite the existing hegemony and prepare the onset of the new global order.

For a subject of such importance and complexity, the process of convergence must be pursued among the BRICS countries, particularly between China and India, to further enable and develop the use of national currencies. In particular, regarding the internationalization of the Rupee, India chooses caution in the adoption of the initiative, since it fears that such a move might introduce unexpected complexities and uncertainties well-established business relations with its partners.[5]  Intense discussions were expected to take place during the Summit (see below). Vladimir Putin spoke extensively about the ‘irreversible’ process of dedollarisation during his address to the Summit and emphasised the growing reliance on domestic currencies for trade between BRICS members and the diminishing role of the US currency,

Other issues on the agenda included discussions about geopolitics, trade and infrastructure development. Putin described Russia’s efforts to develop both the Northern maritime route (along the Siberian coast) and the North-South Corridor between the Indian Ocean and the Baltic Sea.

Convergence and divergence between members

The BRICS members totally share a common interest in wanting to establish an alternative global order, different from the current one under US leadership. At the same time, they may have divergent analyses and positions on a number of issues, for example in the case of India and China.

These two very large countries are neighbours and share a very long common border. Although conflicts have taken place in the past, Beijig and Delhi have a common interest in securing autonomy and development for the Global South. This does not preclude them from having divergent positions on certain subjects, such as the extension of the BRICS and the creation of the BRICS currency.

India has taken note, as all the other BRICS members, that the countries of the West (the US, Europe, Japan, etc.) are in relative decline. At the same time, India also keeps in mind that these countries are still very powerful players, with huge resources in terms of capital, technology and market. It is vital for India to continue cooperating with them while increasing its economic interaction with China. It is not about aligning with anyone else; India decides according to its own interests. India has a right to align with itself.[6]  This is completely understandable.

The creation of the BRICS currency is one topic of intense discussion between the two partners. China seems ready to give it a go, while India sees this prospect differently, as was clarified by S. Jaishankar, the Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs.[7] Creating a currency is a long process which heavily impacts the economies of the countries concerned and which will shake up the world economy. Some precautions and preparation are just good common sense.

Once sufficient convergence is achieved between the leading BRICS members in the coming years, the idea of ​​a kind of BRICS currency zone like the Euro Zone could be examined.

Are these the seeds of a separation? Absolutely not. These discussions are healthy within a structure of this scope and magnitude. As long as the areas of ​​divergence do not exceed the points of convergence, this remains an internal matter, manageable within BRICS.

The danger of a hybrid war against the BRICS?

Not everyone wants to see the creation and development of a global alternative order embodied by the BRICS initiative. The latter is the target of hybrid warfare attempts aimed at slowing it down or even stopping it.[8]  Of course, it is useless to get flustered about predictable opposition from certain quarters but, at the same time, awareness and countermeasures may be required.

The Summit and prospects

The evolution towards a new world order is not a sprint but a full-fledged marathon.[9]  The upcoming Summit was an opportunity for intense work between members at the highest level and helped refine the roadmap leading to a new stage in the development of the BRICS.

As many had predicted, there were no sensational and disruptive announcements, to live up to the expectations of the media about the introduction of the BRICS currency. Convergence is a slow and complex process. On the other hand, a step forward relative to expansion of membership was taken.

One thing is certain: the BRICS, as an irresistible trend, will continue to develop, sweeping away all obstacles, despite its slowness and the turbulences that lie ahead, along the way. A new world is possible, although the road is long and winding.

On the other hand, the possibility of a dialogue between the BRICS and the G7 is not to be ruled out, either, in the medium and long term. One day perhaps, they might find a way to work together in an unprecedented multipolar structure, starting with the acceptance of one or two members of the G7 as observers at the BRICS summits, and later, allowing them to join in closer cooperation within the broader framework of the G20.

Author Brief Bio: Alex Wang is former executive manager of a World TOP500 company. He has assumed, during his long career, key responsibilities in domains of HR, sales, wholesales, procurement & supply chain and open innovation. As the founder of JAC (“Joint Alliance for CSR”) established in 2010, Alex has contributed greatly to the CSR development in global telecom industry. As the honorary chairman of TESFEC (Association for Ecologic transition & Solidarity), Alex actively participates in SDG development. Holder of two PhD (philosophy & engineering), Alex is an active geopolitical writer.


[1] https://www.reuters.com/world/brics-poised-invite-new-members-join-bloc-sources-2023-08-24/#:~:text=JOHANNESBURG%2C%20Aug%2024%20(Reuters),order%20it%20sees%20as%20outdated.

[2] Michel Camdessus, La scène de ce drame est le monde, treize ans à la tête du FMI, Les Arènes, 2014.

[3] Plus de 40 pays veulent rejoindre le groupe des BRICS, selon l’Afrique du Sud, TRT AFRIKA, 21 juillet 2023.

[4] Yaroslav D. Lissovolik, BRICS-Plus: the New Force in Global Governance, RIAC, Moscow, Russia.

[5] Balinder Singh and Dr. Jagmeet Bawa, Reshaping Global Dynamics: BRICS Summit 2023 And Emergence Of New Geopolitical Era – Analysis, August 15, 2023.

[6] S. Jaishankar, The India Way: Strategies for an uncertain world, HarperCollins, 2020.

[7] Balinder Singh and Dr. Jagmeet Bawa, Reshaping Global Dynamics: BRICS Summit 2023 And Emergence Of New Geopolitical Era – Analysis, August 15, 2023.

[8] Pepe Escobar, The Hegemon Will Go Full Hybrid War Against BRICS+, June 10, 2023.

[9] Ray Dalio: Principles for dealing with the changing world order, Simon & Schuster, 2021.


Inflection Point for the BRICS?

“Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws” – Mayer Amschel Rothschild, 1790 

What began as a 2001 prediction by Jim O’Neill from Goldman Sachs[1] and became a geoeconomic reality in 2009 when the four states listed by him held their first summit in Ekaterinburg, Russia has now reached a crucial stage of evolution. Will it remain a club of five very diverse and even sometimes diverging powers huddling together every now and then to devise cooperative ventures in development finance, science, and technology or will it expand to accommodate new members and project itself as a non-western G-10, 20 or 40, reminiscent of the Non-Aligned Movement of the seventies or of the Group of 77 of the same period?

Will it be able to hold on to the principle of unanimity in its decision-making or will it split into two or more camps under the pressure of strategic rivalries and economic disagreements? Could it even turn into an alternative or rival of sorts to the UN Security Council, still dominated by the winners of the Second World War who refuse to really make room for the new great powers?

There are differences in the strategy to be followed with regard to the two most important decisions now under consideration. While China and Russia seemed to favour the rapid admission of new members, India and Brazil made it known that they wish to grant eligible candidates partner or observer status for the time being[2].

Likewise, while Moscow and Beijing have stated their intent to launch a new common reserve and trade currency for the Group in the short term, India has reservations about that project and prefers to grow bilateral or multilateral transactions between the respective national currencies, as is now happening between India, China, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates, mainly in the energy market (e.g. India is paid for its exports to the UAE in Dirhams which are used to settle India’s oil purchases from Russia and Russia, in turn, is paid in yuan for energy deliveries to China). Whether two systems can be used side by side (currency swaps and a common BRICS basket unit) remains to be seen.

Major tests of the Organisation have been the Ukraine crisis that began in 2014 when the Western powers imposed several rigorous sanctions on Russia following the Maidan Putsch and Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and, from the February 2022 Russian ‘Special Operation’. The four other partners, while supporting a cessation of hostilities and a peaceful resolution, have kept a broadly neutral policy with regard to that enduring international confrontation although Beijing has tacitly supported Russia.

Another challenge to the viability of the BRICS system was posed by the bloody clash between the Chinese and Indian armies on the Galwan area of Ladakh around their Himalayan border in the summer of 2020. Yet, in spite of these systemic shocks and perhaps because of the very instability and unpredictability of the international situation, the partnership has survived by focusing on issues where cooperation between the members is mutually beneficial and steering clear of conflictual issues. It should be recalled that the almost seismic political transition of 2019 in Brazil between the Left-Wing government led by Lula de Silva and his hard-right opponent Jair Bolsonaro, known for his pro-US sympathies and his aversion to China and Communism did not negatively affect the BRICS. Even Bolsonaro recognised the benefits of BRICS membership. It should not be forgotten that a number of valuable academic, scientific and educational joint projects for cooperation have been launched and mostly successfully implemented between the BRICS members. The group indeed is not solely an economic and geopolitical assembly, it is also a cultural cooperation platform that helps citizens of its participant states to bypass hitherto hegemonic or at least preponderant universities, foundations, endowments and thinktanks.

Yet, the biggest challenge since its inception was faced at the latest summit of August 2023. The BRICS had to decide whether to add new members from a fast-growing roster of applicants that exceeds forty countries, of which nineteen have formally requested admission, including several important states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Argentina. Even France’s President Macron made an unexpected attempt for his nation to join the Organisation when he sought an invitation to the Johannesburg Summit. Although China appeared open to it, whereas India probably had no objection, Russia nipped the proposal in the bud by pointing out that France is a sponsoring party to the unilateral Western sanctions against Russia and other nations and is therefore ineligible according to the BRICS Charter.

Why is this rapidly rising worldwide interest in an organisation, which was initially dismissed by the Western powers as a rather toothless league of developing or declining states scattered around the globe and having little in common apart from holding grudges against the current neoliberal order? The response is clearly to be found in the systemic crisis of the said neoliberal financial and monetary order and in the need for a solution that the BRICS may offer. While the US[3] and EU[4] economies decline as a result of untenable neoliberal policies of financialisation and industrial downsizing, their Fiat currencies (the US Dollar and the Euro) are no longer trusted as safe havens for the reserve holdings of governments and corporations, particularly those of all the other nations and alternatives backed by tangible values such as gold, strategic minerals and fossil fuels are in urgent demand.

The quest for an alternative to the US greenback has been ongoing since the beginning of the 21st century at least but it was massively accelerated by the Ukraine crisis in 2014 when the Government of the United States resorted once again to its familiar policy of economic, judicial and financial sanctions against an allegedly rogue state. However, that time the target is not another North Korea, Iraq, Syria or Iran but Russia, a nuclear superpower, controlling the largest landmass and owning the greatest reserves of natural assets on the planet. The weaponisation of the world’s main reserve and trading currency by the US Government and its subordinates against an increasing number of nations, in violation of international law and of the UN charter, was seen as a clear and present threat to all other countries, even those that had good but essentially tributary relations with the self-appointed leader of the free world.

Another triggering factor was the endemic, out-of-control money-printing by the US Treasury/Federal Reserve that has grossly abused its ‘exorbitant privilege’ as an emitter of the global currency to flood its economy and all others with ever more virtual dollars, actually IOUs whose principal is not intended to be ever repaid. The engineered COVID-19 epidemic crisis provided a new ‘force majeure’ escape for the US to keep its ailing economy afloat by distributing free money to its banks, companies and citizens. However, The inevitably resulting inflation did not immediately occur because of the remaining ut dwindling ability of the US to make the rest of the world absorb the rapidly expanding mass of Dollars which still account, together with the Euro, for 80% of all trade settlements and currency holdings.

Russia – and to some extent China, which has been designated as a systemic rival and strategic competitor by Washington – took the opportunity of the widespread alarm to promote a proposal for de-dollarisation based on the creation of a new, ‘democratically managed’ multinational ‘basket’ reserve and trading currency, backed by gold and possibly by other hard assets, such as fossil fuels and strategic minerals, that could provide security and stability for business and protect the savings of all member states from the inevitable devaluation of the fiat currency and from the actually negative (with regard to inflation) interest rates offered by US Treasury bonds.

Some early steps in that direction were taken by the D-20 Long Term Investors Club, which held a conference in Modena, Italy in 2008 with the participation of economists and bankers, Savings and Loans and pension fund managers from several countries. The founders and participants floated proposals for a return to principles of sound investments into tangible, productive assets and companies, amounting to de facto partial ‘de-financialisation’ of the economy. In November 2012, another conference on the same theme was convened in Milan under the auspices of the ‘Eurasian Razvitie (Development in Russian) Development Corridor Project’, planned on behalf of the Russian Railways Corporation, and further discussions were held during successive annual sessions of the Astana World Economic Forum in Kazakhstan[5].

Some of the ideas taken up at the Milan conferences were about in-depth reforms of the global trade regime and currency systems on the lines proposed by the late Nobel Economics Prize Laureate, Professor Maurice Allais (2009). The priority was to limit and reduce the influence of major private banks and MNCs that were seen to have taken over economic leadership from governments to impose a ‘technocratic feudal system’ to the benefit of a small, self-coopting minority of plutocratic stakeholders. Real free trade was to be defined as fair trade and great attention was paid to the IMF study authored by Jaromir Benes and Michael Kumhof “The Chicago Plan Revisited”[6] to slash private debt by 100 percent, while boosting growth and stabilizing prices.

There was also a proposal to evaluate the original Simons and Fisher’s 1936 Chicago Plan that advocated for national states to resume control of the creation of money and buy back private debt by issuing fiat currency as equity, not debt, while segregating the monetary and credit functions, in keeping with the Swiss ‘full money’ banking reform proposal. In the suggested new system, banks would be required to hold 100% reserves for loans (as proposed by Milton Friedman in 1967) and state-created credits would be invested in priority fundamental research and technological and industrial applications. It was noted that an earlier FMI-sponsored study of such a proposed reform had been predictively analysed according to the DSGE stochastic model and found feasible. It was indeed concluded that it would result in a major gain in welfare for societies implementing it.

Policies dovetailing with the proposal include the issuance of low or zero-interest public credit (special bonds, project- or industry-specific when suitable) to state-sponsored research bodies or in some cases to public-private partnerships on the basis of market evaluation and analysis of socio-environmental priorities and product/process commercial potential. Financial facilities can be provided, on the basis of such credit instruments, to attract innovating entrepreneurs.

The economic and financial roadmap advocated by the D20/LTIC and the Razvitie planning team flagged the threat posed by private equity funds, defined as cartelised corporate predators ‘churning borrowed fiat money in the short term’ for their own profit while destabilising industry and the economy in the process.

The Modena initiative was one of the sources of inspiration for the Astana World Economic Forum of 2011, which promoted President Nazarbayev’s anti-crisis plan prepared by economist S N Nugerbekov. The proposal for a radical reform of the international financial system led in the following year to the creation of the G-Global, an informal advisory platform to the  G-20 Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico. G-Global also drew inspiration from the 2009 Moscow West-East Economic Forum for its Think20 Report based on the submissions of the D-20 study group and supported by some eminent economists, including Nobel Economics Prize Laureate Robert Mundell.

This preparatory work paved the way for the BRICS hard asset-based common currency project and for the creation of new cooperative financial institutions, the New Development Bank (NDB), also known as the BRICS Bank, and the Asian Investment Bank (AIB) as well as a new Gold Exchange[7] in Shanghai, that opened in 2017.

A major qualm of the emerging economies about the current financial system is shared by many in the leading capitalist countries as well. The aforementioned Nugerbekov report notes that 10 to 20% only of capital is invested in the production of material goods. {The other} 90% consist of virtual and derivative financial products used for short-term speculative transactions.’

The BRICS currency system is envisioned as a tool to correct that imbalance. An ingenious interpretation of its likely mechanisms is provided by columnist Dimitry Orlov[8] who describes it as a notional accounting unit created to rate the value of commercial transactions between currencies. An alternative method is to emit chits (short-term loans at zero interest) that can periodically be either cancelled out if the trade is balanced or renewed on identical terms. If trade imbalances cannot be corrected, gold may be provided by the debtor country in proportion to its trade volume with the other BRICS partners, only to compensate for the deficit in trade (and not to be lent or sold by the recipient) and priced in the earlier described notional accounting units.

The bad news for the American Dollar in this regime is that the participating states would have an imperative reason to sell their US Treasury holdings against gold in order to accumulate sufficient reserves of the latter. Other analysts suggest that other resources, such as gas, oil, and precious metals could also be used like bullion, if priced in the common currency chit units.

All those discussions are building up towards the decoupling that is now taking place, gradually but at high speed and not only in BRICS member states and in those that are applying to join them.

One of the most farsighted analysts of the global financial scene, Ankit Shah, has pointed out how, by replacing the old LIBOR interest-rate index, based on the estimations of London member institutions (‘Each bank estimates what it would be charged were it to borrow from other banks’), with the SOFR[9], the United States is imposing its Treasury’s data as the sole standard, depriving non-American partners of a say in interest-rate setting decisions. The response from abroad according to him will be the ‘indigenisation’ of lending rate regimes in different countries and economic blocs[10]. Thus, de-dollarisation is a predictable reaction to the increasingly autocratic management of the international economy by the US Federal Reserve and Treasury Department. Russia is in urgent need of it as it is not allowed to function normally under the current sanctions regime which is likely to be permanent, as is the case for many other such punitive measures slapped on other states several years ago. China foresees the time when it will come under similar pressures and wishes to prepare by developing a parallel, alternative system while other countries, in Asia, Africa, the Americas and even in Europe are aware of the coming currency crisis and financial-political earthquake which will make them all the victims of fateful economic decisions taken in the US and EU ruling circles. The quest for a way out is therefore an inevitable process, and only the manner and the timeframe in which it will be carried out remain topics of discussion. It will not be solely a result of the endeavour by certain ambitious rival powers to upstage and overthrow the United States from its hegemonic pedestal. Rather it is a consequence of the economic decline of the hegemon itself, no longer able to sustain the system it built when it took the place of the waning British Empire.

The spendthrift management of the American economy in the last decades and Washington’s ever more frequent use of sanctions and military aggression to keep challengers under control have eroded the trust it enjoyed in most parts of the world in the middle of the 20th century when the fear of communist revolution kept many governments and societies under the US financial and military umbrella.

Monetary and financial regimes, like civilisations and empires, go through phases of growth, acme, and decline ending in their disappearance. The bell now tolls for the fiat Dollar system. The American government knows it and is predictably trying by diverse means to prevent the BRICS from going ahead with its projects for an alternative international trading currency. Accordingly, much disinformation circulated about this year’s Johannesburg BRICS summit, aimed at convincing the world that the conclave was doomed to fail. The heads of the member governments were surreptitiously advised not to go, or to attend only virtually. South Africa was heavily pressured to comply with the arrest warrant opportunely issued by the International Criminal Court against the Russian President and, as a result, Russia was represented physically by the Foreign Minister. Rumors of dissension and mutual backstabbing within the group floated even in media that used to ignore previous such summits.

It is clear that the collective West is worried about the ongoing actions and plans of this association that it does not dominate but, as the saying goes, the horses appear to have already bolted out of the stable.

Priorities for Pilot Projects:

-Suitable for and needed in the target area (Eurasian region).

-Wide use and preferably low cost with applications in many areas.

-Bringing about major savings in energy and other natural resources and externalities, with special regard to housing, heavy industry and transportation (e.g. new materials for rail, road, air and space vehicles).

-Advances and fosters education and research.

-Promotes interdisciplinary research integration.

-Sustainability at the interaction of Environment, Economy and Society.

-Should be conducive to widespread improvement of living conditions, ecologically nurturing or at least non-toxic.


Author Brief Bio: Côme Carpentier de Gourdon is currently a Distinguished Fellow with India Foundation and is also the Convener of the Editorial Board of the WORLD AFFAIRS JOURNAL. He is an associate of the International Institute for Social and Economic Studies (IISES), Vienna, Austria. Côme Carpentier is an author of various books and several articles, essays and papers.



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_O%27Neill,_Baron_O%27Neill_of_Gatley

[2] https://www.thiesinfo.com/L-Inde-et-le-Bresil-s-opposent-a-un-elargissement-rapide-du-groupe-des-BRICS_a1042.html

[3] https://www.fitchratings.com/research/sovereigns/fitch-downgrades-united-states-long-term-ratings-to-aa-from-aaa-outlook-stable-01-08-2023

[4] https://www.cnbc.com/2023/06/08/euro-zone-enters-recession-after-germany-ireland-growth-revision.html

[5] https://www.vijayvaani.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?aid=2334

[6] https://www.d20-ltic.org/

[7] https://en.sge.com.cn/

[8] https://reseauinternational.net/les-brics-en-or/

[9] https://www.newyorkfed.org/markets/reference-rates/sofr

[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1M9SvX-6HQ&t=4s



BHARAT (India) for BRICS – A Pathway to Liberate the World

Dedollarisation = Decolonisation = Deradicalisation = Demissionarisation

The World is moving out of the Single Country Reserve Currency format after centuries. Be it a new reserve currency representing a basket of all participant national currencies or trade in national currencies, the Dedollarization process is confirmed. This marks the end of the ills which the single country reserve currency format brought in this world with a lopsided unipolar international trade passing for globalization.

The process of radicalisation of the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East began with the birth of the petrodollar. There were hardly any Arabic black burkhas in the Indian subcontinent before that. There was no single community domination of the property market on both sides of highways across Indian cities before the fiat dollar of 1971 and the petrodollar of 1973.

Following are the notable evils of the Single Country Reserve Currency format in the last 50 years –

  1. Destruction of the correct Valuations of the physical assets, commodities and core sectors of manufacturing, farming, food processing, logistics, defense and precious metals.
  2. Destruction of Self-employment and Entrepreneurship model in all societies. Destruction of family as an institution by sponsoring waves of individualism, hyper consumerism, feminism and wokism across countries.
  3. Funding of protest and terror finance across the world straight from the printers of the central banks in the West.
  4. Funding of Sabotage and Religious conversion activities straight from the printers of the central banks in the West.
  5. Luring of talent from other sectors to the Information technology sector, which was born out of the Fiat dollar of 1971, by attracting them to outsourcing projects and very high pay scales while making them do ‘digital coolie’ tasks.
  6. Luring of talent to the West by offering them Fiat dollar- based high incomes.
  7. Playing the Diplomacy of ‘Two-Bucket theory’ by telling every economically healthy nation that your neighbor is a rogue nation deserving to be sanctioned, which means you have to continue with the US dollar for trade by default. Arms and dollars go to one nation while sanctions are handed over to its supposedly rogue neighbor. That explains Russia on the border of China, China on border of India, India on the border of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia – Iran, Iran-Israel and EU-Russia and other such ‘two buckets’?
  8. Almost none of the erstwhile English colonies have been able come out of the slave-churning degree-factories converting entire society into jobbers as part of the colonial agenda.
  9. All countries which cannot print their own currencies to purchase energy became financial colonies of the US in every sense of the word. All central banks look at the Federal Reserve while framing monetary and fiscal policies to ensure physical goods are sent to the West against lower and lower payments in return for a currency backed by nothing (Fiat money).
  10. While the West enjoyed distributing social benefits, income security, food stamps and whatnot by endless currency printing, the rest of the world has had to slog overtime to earn US dollars in order to buy any foreign commodities. The West simply printed the currency endlessly to consume far above its needs while floating paper assets in huge proportions in the market to take down the valuations of what the others export to them.

Instead of the physical asset valuing the derivative, the derivative paper assets are now setting the value of the real physical asset. With a large portion of the population turning to speculative trade and passively investing into others businesses, with the edge the dominating country’s reserve currency, the goods producing nations have ended up with a pittance as payments for their work. The West enjoyed weekends off, multiple vacations through the year, distributed money cheaply to businesses, leading to enormous tech-innovation, weaponised those IPRs and kept buying up the immigrant brains.

The dollar-loans international bodies continue to impose direct and indirect policy decisions to the subject nations to ensure they remain in the doomed loop of poverty and continuous dependence.

  1. The American lifestyle has been sponsored by the rest of the World since 1971 as Dollar-inflation was passed on to the rest of the World by transactions referenced in US currency.
  2. Sponsoring Start-ups and particularly e-commerce, directly funded by the central banks of the West at the lowest rates of interest to underlime entrepreneurship, offline trade by small and medium enterprises in all countries by selling products online much below the cost of the products. Not surprisingly, most of these online giant distributors have never been profitable.

The intent and pace of Dedollarization is speeding up with the topmost energy producing and energy consuming countries becoming BRICS members. The BRICS will expand with effect from January, 2024 with the addition of othe UAE, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Argentina, Egypt and Iran across the continents. In all probability, the ‘two opposite bucket’ countries worldwide which have clashed and thereby kept the reserve currency status alive till now, are now joining hands. The ‘cats’ may still keep fighting each other, but they have agreed to first eliminate the monkey (US dollar) as their in-between.

The formation and trajectory of BRICS+ & the Global South needs to be on  the following two common themes –

  1. Agreement to disagree –

This is to say no country will poke its nose into others’ internal affairs, no country will be bossing others, no country will have sanctioning privilege, no country will have to face any kind of political compulsions, no country will give any kind of lectures on human rights, no country can seize assets or curb multilateral participation of others and any country can freely exit the format, if they choose to.

  1. Agreement to Decolonise from the imposed Western templates of governance –

This is to say many of the BRICS nations will now revisit their understanding of history, scientific discoveries, performance indicators, indexes and ranking criteria from finance to trade to health to education to languages and all walks of life. The ‘natives’ will resurrect from the colonial conformism imposed through centuries of western domination.

The core theme & strength of BRICS of non-commonality is currently being portrayed by many experts as the reason for the futility of such a grouping. Only time will tell, if such truly democratic grouping can produce outcomes or not, compared to the contemporary unidirectional, standardised associations promoted and inspired by Western models. My view is that BRICS was formed exactly in order to escape from Western standardisation.  Many of the ‘developing’ economies suffer from internal chaos and reduced valuations of their productivity because of dollarisation, invoicing and referencing their international trade in dollars.

What did Bharat offer to BRICS in the South Africa Summit 2023?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the most of Bharat’s stature by timing the Moon landing of Chandrayaan–3 to coincide with the BRICS Summit. The success of insertion on 5th August, 2023 was complimented by this.

After Subhashchandra Bose, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is perhaps the first Indian leader exercising full sovereignty in governance and decision making, internal as well as external. Many earlier Prime Ministers faced external compulsions when making decisions for various reasons including coalition politics. At the Africa Summit of BRICS – 2023, he offered the following objectives for the BRICS grouping.

  1. Unified payments interface
  2. BRICS Space Exploration Consortium
  3. To make BRICS future-ready, Bharatiya platforms like – DIKSHA, ATAL labs, BHASHINI, COWIN & India Stack
  4. Skill-mapping of BRICS nations’ capacities
  5. Repository of BRICS traditional medicine knowledge
  6. Cooperation in protecting of Big Cats in the BRICS nations

Following are the Dedollarization updates from the Johannesburg Declaration of the XV BRICS Summit – 2023

  1. We task our Finance Ministers and/or Central Bank Governors, as appropriate, to consider the issue of local currencies, payment instruments and platforms and report back to us by the next Summit.
  2. We stress the importance of encouraging the use of local currencies in international trade and financial transactions between BRICS as well as their trading partners. We also encourage strengthening correspondent banking networks between the BRICS countries and enabling settlements in the local currencies.
  3. We call for the need to make progress towards the achievement of a fair and market-oriented agricultural trading system.
  4. We agree to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in trade in services as established in the BRICS Framework for Cooperation on Trade in Services.
  5. We agree to enhance dialogue and cooperation on intellectual property rights through, the BRICS IPR cooperation mechanism (IPRCM).
  6. We look forward to the report by the BRICS Payment Task Force (BPTF) on the mapping of the various elements of the G20 Roadmap on Cross-border Payments in BRICS countries.
  7. We have also tasked our Foreign Ministers to further develop the BRICS partner country model and a list of prospective partner countries and report by the next Summit.
  8. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and BRICS cooperation present opportunities for the continent to transition away from its historic role as a commodity exporter towards higher productivity value addition.

The above pointers make it very clear that the new applications and memberships are going to substantially increase next year. The oversubscription of South African bonds issued by the New Development Bank on 15th August, 2023, the forthcoming issue of Indian Rupee bond in October and the designation of a technical committee to discuss the feasibility of a common currency, all point at replacing the US treasury in its global regulatory role as well as raising loans in local currencies. In the coming months, we could see a massive dumping of US treasury by several nations including China and Japan.

No countries need to join BRICS for doing trade in national currencies like Yuan, Rupee or Ruble; so why are countries applying for membership if a common format is not in the plan?

Large nations like China, Russia and India do not need assistance for dedollarising their bilateral trade, but smaller nations need an established framework to shift their trade out of US dollars as in kind of blanket security. They have seen the fate of leaders like Saddam Hussain and Gaddafi after they went solo in their Dedollarisation endeavours.

The Rupee has some of a reserve currency features, but does not carry enough trade to become a trading currency. THe Yuan has many trading currency features, but does not have the trust and transparency factor to become a Reserve currency). The Ruble has none of two, neither trading nor Reserve currency features, but has massive natural resources to be pegged to for valuations. It is very clear that none of the three – Russia, India and China can bring about a unipolar Reserve currency. All the three nations must compromise to arrive at a multipolar BRICS format of trade.

While the invoicing and payments can be easily transitioned outside the US Dollar or Euro currency, the referencing for putting a price tag for the valuation of products or services is the difficult part. One of the easiest ways to do so could be making Gold the reference point for valuations to move trade. For example, a particular weight of Gold value can be fixed for say, one barrel of crude oil. Gradually the price resetting can be done for each of the commodities and production traded among nations. This will require revamping the commodities and stock exchanges and banking systems as well. The GIFT city of Gujarat which hosts the New Development Bank regional office for BRICS can be offered as a mini–World Bank, a nodal agency handling the transactions. Each country can maintain its national currencies for internal trade and shift its foreign trade to BRICS digital tokens issued by the New Development Bank. The issue of BRICS digital tokens can be based on a net gap adjustment of international trade for each member country, with periodic settlements on Gold value terms. There will be a need for a new trans-national, secured Payments system to operationalise and carry out these transactions.

Bharat’s immediate Sphere of Influence –

Under the BRICS Partner-Country model, Bharat should cover memberships of the Greater Indian subcontinent to include Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The regional trade of Bharat can grow under the BRICS format in the regional neighbourhood. This is necessary to keep out the imposition of political conditions and external interferences mandated indirectly by the debt-issuing international bodies such as the IMF and the World Bank.

What else can Bharat offer to BRICS?

  • Skills-based Curriculum sharing
  • BRICS Media
  • BRICS Defence Capex Sharing as Net Security Provider across the greater Indian Subcontinent
  • Mandir Ecosystem for establishing a Sanatan Economics Model (Sustainable Economics) with seamless connectivity, possibly from Ayodhya as a central node across the greater Indian Subcontinent

When information outlets are non-nationalist and the historical curriculum is not based on Shaashtra (spiritual knowledge) principles, a country needs shashtra (military weapons (for internal security.

Shaashtra is for Internal security & Shashtra is for External security. Bharat has the potential to offer both.


Author Brief Bio: Dr. Ankit Shah is a Fellow Chartered Accountant & a Qualified Company Secretary, Independent Fin-Tech Consultant for MNCs including on Semi-conductors, Advisory Board Member with GNLU Legal Incubation Council and a keen observer of foreign policy & security for the Indian subcontinent. He introduces the Super power concept as a Two Buckets Theory in his book – GEOPOLITICS – DECODING INTENTS, LIES, NARRATIVES AND FUTURE. He has served IIM-Ahmedabad as an Academic Associate in the Finance & Accounting Area and as a Research Associate with the IIMA Case Center.


BRICS: Expansion and Currencies

From the very beginning, BRICS was one of the top priorities for the Russian foreign policy. The Association embodies the vision Russia believes in – BRICS promotes just and equal relationship and multifaceted mutually beneficial cooperation based on legitimate national interests, international law and the UN Charter. In BRICS, there is no place for a dictate, domination, unilateral and confrontational approaches, sanctions, weaponization of economy and currencies,
as well as interference in domestic affairs.

Even in the current geopolitical turbulence, BRICS is not aimed against anyone. It even does not confront the current international economic and financial institutions, rather it is designed to supplement them. In fact, it offers alternative instruments, which are supposed to be safe from politicized Western architecture,
including in the context of the de-dollarization trend.

In this sense, one of the most important achievements of BRICS is the New Development Bank as well as Contingent Currency Arrangement, which were launched in 2014. To date, the NDB’s loan portfolio includes 90 projects amounting to more than USD 30 bn. In order to diversify and expand its potential for the benefit of member-economies, it is going to increase the share of non-sovereign projects and to promote cooperation network with other multilateral and national development and commercial banks. We also welcome the NBD’s new shareholders Bangladesh, UAE, Egypt and Uruguay and expect more countries to come in.

The BRICS members have been taking consistent steps to switch
to settlements in national currencies for quite some time now and working out new payment mechanisms. Against this backdrop, the proposal of the Brazilian President Lula de Silva to think about the creation of a single BRICS currency sounded relevant. At the last year’s summit, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin spoke
about an international reserve currency based on the currency basket of the BRICS countries. These ideas demonstrate new tendencies, however it’s clear that a lot
of aspects around that require in-depth study. For instance, the creation of a single currency suggests the establishment of a single emission center and regulator as well as the synchronization of macroeconomic and monetary policy. On the other hand, a BRICS payment instrument based on the currency basket would help to carry out mutual settlements without any reliance on the US dollar. In any case, the issues
of building an effective independent settlement and payment infrastructure
are among the priorities of BRICS in the financial track. Consultations on that
are going on.

Traditionally, the BRICS agenda closely corresponds to the G20 priorities, including the need to consolidate the efforts and interests of emerging economies and empower the countries of the Global South. Hence, BRICS is a natural source of support of the current Indian Presidency in the G20. The growing potential
of BRICS combined with our likeminded vision for sustainable and predictable multipolarity is by itself a solid reason for us to move ahead towards real democratization of the global governance. That is why it has always been important
to maintain relevant coordination. Russia would favour to resume the pre-pandemic practice of regular meetings of BRICS leaders on the sidelines of the G20 Summits.

BRICS exemplifies a new formation, which can be called a flexible integration based on consensus and being truly comprehensive. More than
70 formats of practical cooperation are structured in the three pillars – policy and security, economy and finance as well as humanitarian ties. All that makes this Association even stronger than any agreement-based supranational Alliance or
a bloc. That means that we eagerly cooperate on those issues, which we have voluntarily agreed upon.

The Big Five partnership includes such critically important areas like counterterrorism, anti-corruption, healthcare, digitalization, science and technology, innovations, energy efficiency, food security, supply chains, customs, e-commerce and even space with the Remote Satellite Constellation Agreement is being implemented since 2022.

BRICS is capable to timely respond to the needs of member-states. During
the COVID-19 pandemic, the NDB launched the USD 10 bn support programme
to help the nations to overcome relevant social and economic consequences.

All the above aspects make BRICS very attractive for other countries, which do share the same values and principles and want to be part of equal and mutually beneficial cooperation. And it’s a high time to respond to such desire of at least more than 20 aspirants. The South African presidency’s endeavors in this regard deserve high appreciation. With over one third of the world’s GDP, a total population
of around 3 billion people and a strong desire of other states to join its activities,
it is safe to say that BRICS becomes an integral element of an evolving multipolar paradigm, and it is our collective responsibility to effectively address its potential. There is a big hope and expectations from the coming Summit in Johannesburg, which will bring together more than 60 countries with a view to consolidate
the global majority in solving common development issues, overcoming acute trade and economic imbalances and multiplying the areas of cooperation.

Russia as the next BRICS chair wholeheartedly supports the priorities set up by the South African presidency focusing on the extension of engagements with Africa, and wishes the Summit to be a historic success reflecting the traditional spirit of mutual respect, equality, solidarity, pragmatism and friendship.

Author Brief Bio: Mr. Roman Babushkin is the Minister-Counsellor, DCM, Embassy of the Russian Federation in India.

Note: This is the transcript of the Speech delivered by Mr. Roman Babushkin, Minister-Counsellor, DCM, Embassy of the Russian Federation in India, at the Roundtable discussion on “BRICS Expansion and Currencies” organised by India Foundation on 11 August 2023.


BRICS: An Interview with H.E. Mr. Kenneth H. da Nobrega, Ambassador of Brazil to India

Shristi Pukhrem: It is indeed a very interesting time for India and as India is about to host the G-20 Summit but India also recently participated in the BRICS summit. So, what are the main takeaway for the Brazilian government from the recently concluded BRICS Summit 2023 in Johannesburg?

Amb. Kenneth H. da Nobrega: The main takeaway is undoubtedly the expansion of the group. We are quite satisfied with the inclusion of important partners of Brazil in the group, and the mere fact that approximately 30 countries are interested in joining the group speaks in and of itself, and perhaps it sends some messages to the world at large. First, I think an urge to concretise inclusiveness and multipolarity in the world. I think also an interest for new spaces of discussion and new spaces for consensus building and so on. And of course, it also signals those multilateral institutions of governance are not delivering, perhaps what they should deliver peace and security, inclusiveness, concrete actions in facing the global challenges of the majority of humanity, meaning food security, access to energy, fighting poverty and also fighting climate change in the sense of not only mitigation of climate change, but also adaptation to climate change. So, I think this very solid interest in becoming a member of BRICS conveys a very strong message to the world.

Shristi Pukhrem: How does Brazil see and analyse the official declaration and the concrete decisions that has been made at the BRICS 2023 Summit?

Amb. Kenneth H. da Nobrega: We are quite satisfied. When the debate was going on in Brazil regarding the siding with the countries within BRICS who wanted to push for an expansion, other countries were not so convinced, President Lula was one of the first to say that the expansion is a good thing and BRICS does not exist to compete. BRICS is there for inclusion not competition.

Shristi Pukhrem: Brazil takes over as the G-20 chairmanship next year. Brazil wishes to increase the Latin Americas role in BRICS, and with the recent expansion of membership, we saw that Argentina’s inclusion is the first step in that direction. So how does Brazil see the inclusion of new members in BRICS, and what effects could this expansion according to you have on the global economic order overtime?

Amb. Kenneth H. da Nobrega: There was a previous discussion among members of BRICS regarding the criteria for meeting new partners and for Brazil geographical diversity was one of the main criteria that should be taken into account. So, for us it’s more than natural that Argentina becomes a member of BRICS. It’s one of our main partners, is a South American country, is a member of G-20, but also when we speak of geographical diversity, we also favoured including countries from the Middle East, from Africa, from Asia. So, we are quite satisfied with the results and of course an expanded BRICS is a group with more economic clout. It represents a large part of the world and of humanity, and it has spread geographically. So, all these factors sum up to having a more influential group.

Shristi Pukhrem: So, does Brazil see the MERCOSUR bloc getting institutionally connected with BRICS. Will it be a natural process that MERCOSUR and BRICS will be naturally connected now that its two largest members, Brazil and Argentina, both are in the BRICS?

Amb. Kenneth H. da Nobrega: Well, MERCOSUR is a formal international organization. BRICS, is a well-established coordination group of countries which are like minded in more than one aspect. So, I do not see how these countries could establish formal relations, institutional relations, but we cannot discard in the future. For example, the establishment of a permanent dialogue mechanism between MERCOSUR and BRICS, not a formal one because these are two different groupings with different agenda.

Shristi Pukhrem: What do you think are the main factors driving interest in BRICS, especially across the Global South?

Amb. Kenneth H. da Nobrega: The factors that are widely spoken and which has attracted so many countries are inclusiveness and multipolarity. The Global South is conveying a message that it needs to be included more in the big clubs with the big countries. So, in BRICS, you will find, and I can say that because I was a former sous-sherpa of BRICS, you find an atmosphere, a dynamism where you can really interact and put forward your priorities and then there is a very solid and consolidated spirit of trying to build consensus. Sometimes the consensus is very complex to build, but the spirit of wanting to reach consensus is an important political dimension of the inside dynamics of BRICS.

Shristi Pukhrem: So, when we are talking about Global South, do you see a contestation occurring in the near future between Global South and Global North?

Amb. Kenneth H. da Nobrega: From the Brazilian point of view, President Lula has made that very crystal clear is that BRICS is there for inclusion, not for competing with G-7 for example. BRICS for us it’s not anti-West. We don’t think that G-7 is anti-South. It’s not in the spirit of our diplomacy, never has been.

Shristi Pukhrem: How will the BRICS financial institutions help further in mobilizing resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects, mainly in emerging markets and in developing countries?

Amb. Kenneth H. da Nobrega: The new BRICS bank or the New Development Bank (NDB), is part of the family of multilateral banks or multilateral institutions. So, it aims at joining forces with other multilateral institutions in order to provide more financing, more financial products, diversified financial products for the developing countries, and we know that this is complex because after the pandemic, after quite an uneven recovery, unbalanced recovery of economies throughout the world after the pandemic. To develop financial products which can preserve the financial solidity of the multilateral banks and at the same time take into account the needs of countries who need financing but have some challenges regarding balancing budget, regarding implementing social policies against hunger, against poverty. So, what I can say about it is, first NDB wants to join forces with other multilateral banks. Second, it wants to really listen to the Global South. BRICS is a locus where you can mainstream this discussion and on the basis of this discussion, we can develop good financial products as per the needs of the developing world. And also, financing is a very important pillar of promoting development. Another important pillar is trade and in the declaration on the occasion of the Johannesburg summit, BRICS has shown concerns with neo-protectionism, which has been introduced on the basis of environmental concerns. Of course, we are not saying that the environmental concerns are not legitimate concerns. The point is how this is going to be implemented, because I would doubt whether when you introduce new barriers and regulations to trade on the basis of environmental concerns, when you do that you have to bring into the discussions also the pillars of climate change law, meaning common and differentiated, the principle of common and differentiated responsibilities, because if you put a barrier against an export of a small country who has historically contributed zero to climate change, but has an industry which has kind of heavier carbon footprint. This country will not be able to export to important markets in the world. So, trade as a channel to induce growth and produce development which is so important for developing countries can be blocked by this kind of neo-protectionism. So, I am not saying that environmental concerns are not important. But let’s do this really with care and understanding that what you are causing or what are the consequences to the Global South when you introduce this kind of barrier.

Shristi Pukhrem: How would Brazil define the role, scope, and potential of the new 11 member BRICS? And we see that there are more than 20 more candidates who are interested to join this grouping.

Amb. Kenneth H. da Nobrega: Diversity is part of the Brazilian DNA, and we favour diversity. The idea that the BRICS is becoming more diverse means that more ideas, more concerns are becoming part of our internal discussion. And also, we can claim more legitimacy in terms of the consensus we will build within this enlarged group. We are not saying that BRICS will be an alternative to the reform of the multilateral international government institutions. We are not saying that it’s an alternative. I think it’s a group which can contribute in the spirit of building blocks.

Shristi Pukhrem: With the new 11-member grouping, do you see BRICS as a non-aligned movement or a block capable for providing a better balance in the G-20 and the UN Security Council, and maybe pushing for the reform of the UNSC?

Amb. Kenneth H. da Nobrega: I am a bit cautious when it comes to establishing these historical analogies. We should try to understand facts and situations which happened in different period of times. Submitting these facts to a same paradigm of thought, can limit our capacity of analysis in the sense of seeing unprecedented things happening. I would say that of course the non-aligned movement was created in a moment of big global challenges and BRICS was created as a response to the need of making more countries heard, having their concerns heard in the multilateral fora and as a groups which tried to chart new courses, offering different alternative solutions to global challenges. So, we could perhaps envisage some points of contact between the two initiatives. But I would be cautious in drawing conclusions based on an analogy.

Shristi Pukhrem: How do you see India and Brazil bilateral relations in the global multilateral order?

Amb. Kenneth H. da Nobrega: Our bilateral relations are 76 years old, started in 1947. Throughout these 7 decades we coordinated consistently, in a very consistent and continuous way in all multilateral forum. I think that all Brazilian diplomats who have been active in the last 40 years in multilateral fora, having engaged in coordination with their Indian colleagues which has built trust and confidence between Brazilian and Indian diplomacy. Both countries are of sheer size together –GDP, population, biodiversity, importance in the climate change debates on negotiations throughout the world. We are the two largest democracies in the Global South. With all these assets we can be mainstays in debating multilateral fora and in many groups in the G-20, within BRICS, within IBSA and G-4 and so on, we can really make a contribution and claim that we are legitimate players because we represent a sizeable part of humanity, and also because India has been traditionally very vocal in multilateral fora in defending and presenting the claims and the plight of the developing world. So, I think that we can make a difference together.

Shristi Pukhrem: India is hosting G-20 in next few days and the next chairmanship of G-20 is with Brazil. So, what are the key expectations or what will be the key takeaways from this summit as we pass on the chairmanship to Brazil next year?

Amb. Kenneth H. da Nobrega: One important takeaway is continuity and I think we will see continuity in the way we see inclusiveness, multipolarity and also mainstreaming the concerns and the challenges faced by the Global South, because, after all, it’s the majority of humanity that lives in the Global South.


Brief Bios:

His Excellency Mr. Kenneth H. da Nobrega is Ambassador of Brazil to India.

Dr. Shristi Pukhrem is Senior Research Fellow, India Foundation.


Spiritual Ethics, Environmental Crises and Remedial Measures


Philosophy, of which ethics is a significant ingredient, is a systematic reflection upon lived experiences, both present and past, in order to be benefited by the same for realization of quality of worldly life and ultimately the summum bonum of life. So, philosophy begins with philosophy of life, lived and to be lived in this cosmos. It is a quest for the ideals of life along with an endeavor to realize the same. It has an essential practical orientation. But this activity is to be undertaken keeping in view the entire wide and variegated Reality. By its very nature it cannot be a piecemeal and compartmentalized thinking even though there can be selective focus on some aspects with some specific objective. The complex Reality can only be understood by integrating multiple, even seemingly contradictory experiences.  It has to be a holistic reflection from varied perspectives and multiple approaches. It has to be done with the objective of being benefited by it in shaping the cosmic and human existence for universal well-being. Naturally therefore the individual human existence, human society, natural environment, scientific and technological enterprises, and social, economic and political organizations become crucial points in a purposeful deliberation. Consideration of deeper issues. concerning these areas provides it practical orientation in the context of human life planning, social engineering, science policy and environmental stewardship.

The present paper is an exercise in a very problematic but highly significant enigma of human life concerning freedom and responsibility and concerning the environmental disruption and pollution and consequent ill effects experienced in our concrete day to day living all over the globe due to misuse of freedom and lack of responsibility. It is enigma in the sense that we are aware of the prevailing disastrous situation and its destructive consequences and yet we do not make serious and sincere efforts to get rid of it. We do raise environmental concerns at different forums but we do not cultivate environmental consciousness which was inculcated in us by our ancient seers. If we are sincere in this endeavour we may derive helpful guidance and redemption from the deep insights and enlightening visions of Indian seers and sages.

Human being as highest emergent

Human being in the worldly existence is the highest emergent in the cosmic process so far. Shaped by genetic endowment, ecological interaction and cultural transformation human existence is multi relational, multi-dimensional and multi-layered. It has individual, social and cosmic aspects in a holistic and organic framework. It is intimately related with Nature, with other human beings and non-human species. Human identity, therefore, cannot be determined by any one of these facets alone in isolation with others; it is constituted by the totality and intricate unity of all of them.

Human being as rational, free and responsible agent

Human being, ideally speaking, is ratiocinative, goal-oriented, free and responsible agent. He/She is a knower, responsible agent and enjoyer through innate competence and overt performance. As a self-conscious and reflective person, he/She has the capacity to understand one’s own self as also others. The term used in Indian culture for such a human being is puruṣa. And his/her planned, purposive and methodical action is termed as puruṣārtha. As ratiocinative knower human being is endowed with the capacity to know, to discriminate and to form judgment. He/She has freedom of will and can make a choice. He/She is also a responsible agent and has to be accountable for his/her actions.  The free will is regulated will. All his/her willful actions should therefore be in the form of puruṣartha. He/She has to perform actions with full knowledge, freedom and responsibility. They should be in the form of “artha” (conducive and leading to well-being) and not “anartha” (detrimental and harmful). Activity is the law of life and every human being must act as puruṣa for survival, sustenance and for enhancement of quality of life. So, there is inclusive alternation between freedom and determinism, free choice and circumstantial limitations. Rationality as discriminative ability implies freedom to choose but being guided by certain norms. It also implies responsibility for the consequences so generated by one’s actions.

Human being responsible for environmental pollution

Unfortunately, under the influence of ignorance human mind is prone to perversion and susceptible to wrong-doing and evil. The perversity-prone human mind more often than not indulges in law-violation rather than law-abidance in this lawful cosmos.  This leads to ecological and environmental disruption and pollutions at the physical, mental and intellectual levels. The pollution is not just physical in earth, water, air, fire and space. It is all-round at the individual level, at the family level, at the community level, at the social organizational level and at the cosmic level. Sometimes this is caused out of ignorance, sometimes by selfishness, sometimes by force of circumstances but more often by weakness of will or perverse habit of mind. It is not unnatural as its seeds are potentially present in human mind because of the past karmas start fructification before one becomes aware of it or makes an attempt to get rid of it. This is one of the facets of the operation of the law of karma. This law has attributive, retributive and distributive facets which need to be understood properly. But it is very difficult to understand this operation and go beyond its labyrinth.

Significance of health and hygiene

Environmental disruption and pollution, imbalance and degradation, are anti-thesis of health and hygiene. Recognition of value of internal and external health and hygiene, both individual and social, is a hall mark of civilized society. Health and hygiene are essential for socio-economic as also for total development. It is a truism to say that only in a healthy body healthy mind resides and when there is psycho-physical health there is spiritual solace. For this apart from cleanliness of body and external surroundings, purity of eatables and drinkables leading to purity of mind is also necessary along with considerations of quality, quantity and modality of their intake. Health is primarily an individual value (though figuratively we do call health of the society or nation) whereas hygiene is both individual and social. Maintenance of both is human responsibility for which purity of thought and conduct are essential prerequisites.

Genesis of the problem

The genesis of all worldly problems is anthropocentric individualistic attitude of humans. He/She thinks that the cosmos is for his/her purpose and he/she is the master of all and everything exists for his/ her sake. He/She is the measure of all and center of the cosmos. This ignorance breeds greed and selfishness. It is this aberration in thought and practice which is responsible for absence of symbiotic life style in a holistic globe. It is this which generates all conflicts, tensions and disorder. As stated earlier, the problem pervades all levels of existence, individual, social and global. It has become deep rooted. We may wish to overcome it yet we do not have the required will and the concerted efforts at all levels. We may only hope that saner sense will prevail upon humanity.

Need for ethics and morality

Since all pollution and perversion is human making there is need to regulate human conduct. There is moral degeneration everywhere. The discipline of ethics is primarily concerned with postulation of norms for good human life and regulation of human conduct in accordance with these norms. On the presumption that human being is a puruṣa ethical considerations, ethical theorizing and ethical judgments are undertaken. As stated earlier, rationality as discriminative ability implies freedom to choose but being guided by certain norms. The determination and choice of alternatives requires norm-prescription but human freedom also implies a scope for both norm-adherence and norm-violation. Values to be pursued and disvalues to be shunned are both equally central to moral considerations. Body, senses, breath and mind are governed by the subtle vibrations. The mind, in turn, leads and shapes the entire cosmic process. If we have kuśala citta (righteous mind shaped by right knowledge) we perform good deeds and virtues spread. But if we have akuśala citta (vicious mind) we indulge in bad deeds and vices spread.  Delusion produces infatuation and dereliction which in turn give rise to passions like greed, hatred and all other vices. Moral degeneration results in pollution within and without. The point to be noted is that no event and no phenomenon, good or bad, is self-existent or eternal.  The implication to be derived is that all ecological pollutions have a causal origin and all these are caused by human mind and resulting harmful actions. Their annihilation also is to be caused by human mind only. As a most evolved species in the cosmic evolution human has acquired the capacity to preserve Nature or harm Nature. Since we have caused the evils and consequent undesirable suffering, it is our responsibility to eliminate them. This is what can be termed as ‘Universal Responsibility’.  We carry a universal responsibility not to create ecological imbalance and to rectify whatever imbalance we have caused because of our folly. As stated earlier our entire actions stem from our consciousness. If we have pure consciousness (kuśala citta) our actions will be good and conducive to well-being. If we have impure consciousness our actions will certainly be bad and they will lead to all miseries and sufferings. Through our actions we help or harm others and ourselves.  All our thoughts, words and deeds are results of our past actions and shape our experiences of the present and the future. What we shall be depends on what we are at present and how we behave in the present. We have therefore to cultivate right attitude towards life and Reality.  We have only to cater to our needs and not to feed our greed.  We have become too much selfish, consumerists and exploitative. We have ceased to respect our authentic existence and also the authentic existence of others. Indian culture advocates a balanced view of life. Mere material prosperity with the development of science and technology or mere moral and spiritual preaching cannot mitigate worldly sufferings. For a meaningful solution a symbiosis of the two is needed. Eradication of egocentricity and cultivation of existential openness and universal sameness based on the principles of interdependent existence and interconnectedness of all phenomena enunciated in the Indian tradition are remarkable and the most distinguishing features of Indian ethics that have great relevance and significance in contemporary times and in the new millennium to bring about universal peace, harmony, prosperity and well -being.

Cosmo-centric Global Eco-ethics

From the doctrine of interdependent existence of all phenomena it follows that Indian approach to Reality and hence to ecology is holistic and integral. It does not entertain at the empirical level dichotomy of human-Nature or Nature-culture or body-mind or heredity-environment or theory-praxis or thought–action.  A holistic approach accommodates differences which may appear to be opposites.  Here there is no exclusive ‘either-or’ but inclusive ‘either-or’. There are no rigid structures, no globalized one-size-fits all approach.

Leading an ecologically responsible life is possible by synchronizing five environments surrounding an individual-family, community, society, nation and cosmos. The guiding principles for this are rightness and mutual support.  It is an ethical path of enlightened knowledge and conduct. The entire cosmos is a network of mutuality of events characterized by universal interdependence, interpenetration, interconnectedness and interrelationships. In this undivided world everything miraculously supports everything else. It exhibits ‘mutual interpenetration and interfusion of all phenomena’.

The point is that there is wholeness of life, self –sameness of all existences and therefore we must cultivate universal love, universal compassion, universal kindness and respect for all lives and all existences.

Further, this approach being spiritualistic and teleological from this we get a vision and an approach to cosmo-centric eco-ethics, a widening of moral sensitivity as it views human actions in a cosmic context. In modern times we need such eco-conduct to solve eco-crises.

All natural objects have a spirit residing in them. They are our co-inhabitants. As we have a right to live, they also have a right to live. It is therefore a sin to harm or pollute or destroy them. This sort of panpsychism is an outcome of spiritual approach to Reality and life. It also reveals the interconnectedness and interpenetration of all phenomena.

Further, in loving all beings and Nature there has to be a life of collectivity, a samgha jīvana. The real meaning of life is to be found in the midst of this network of collectivity, a network of interrelationship we call ‘life’. Life is to be lived meaningfully in the spirit of cooperation, of mutual give and take, with love, compassion and respect for all. Indian ecology is based on conservation ethics of mutual care and share and therefore Love, compassion and concern for others should be as natural and instinctive as it is for our own selves.  It is living with others and living for others and not living on others.   The cardinal principle of Indian eco-ethics is, “In joy and safety let every creature’s heart rejoice”. There are two very catching and apt words for this idea i.e., feeling of sameness with others (parātma samatā) and identification of oneself with other selves (parātma parivartana)2. This feeling of oneness is not physical or geographical but mental and psychological. The root cause of suffering is delusion (avidyā) and mental afflictions (rāga-dveṣa). The consequence of it is feeling of separateness, fragmentation, a sense of separate and independent existence, separated from each other, separated from the environment that sustains us and separate from the things we are inextricably related with. The ecological crises we witness today are the result of this delusion which gives rise to greed, hatred and stupidity.

From Indian teachings we learn another lesson that ecology is not a mere matter of theorizing or sermonizing but something to be practiced. So, all of us have to be ‘engaged persons’ irrespective of our religious affiliation. Instead of crying hoarse over environmental pollutions it is time to act and not to be occupied in discussions and debates or throwing the ball in one another’s court. This is important and relevant for us to save this planet from disaster. In this sense message of Indian culture is perennial and eternal. This is enlightenment.

Indian view of surface and deep ecology

The western ecology is utilitarian, materialistic and mechanical but Indian ecology is spiritual and teleological. In Indian teachings we have both surface and deep ecological thinking but their meanings are different than the ones understood by the western thinkers. By deep ecology the Indian mind would mean that we have to attend to the functioning of our mind.  All good and evil proceed from the mind. Mind occasions our conduct and makes it good or bad. So, we should educate our mind first. This is the foundation of all ecology. This is the real deep ecology that pertains to inner environment. The surface ecology pertains to our actions that constitute outer environment. We feel affected by our actions. They alone are visible and tangible.  But they are not basic. They only result from our thinking. Their roots are in our thinking. Knowledge and conduct are two sides of the same coin, but knowledge is more basic. The point is that ecological consciousness is fundamental to ecological conduct. Consciousness operates at the deeper level and actions are its outward expression at the surface level. Although internal and external aspects can be distinguished, they cannot be separated. They are mutually interdependent. There is another dimension of deep ecology. Because of its spiritual orientation it talks of essential unity of all existences. All entities exist in the same form. All existences have mutuality and participatory being. Actually, there is no ‘other’ in ecological considerations. This interconnectedness may not be experienced by deluded empirical mind and this requires spiritual vision for true understanding of Reality.

Remedial measures

Having viewed the Indian approach to ecology we may now discuss the remedial measures. It is to be noted that the problem of environmental pollution is not individual but collective and cosmic and therefore the remedial measures also have to be collective and global.

Respect for Nature ingrained in Indian mind

It is to be highlighted that Nature has its intrinsic value as well as instrumental worth. We have forgotten the intrinsic value of Nature and have taken it as merely instrumental. We forget that we are products of Nature since we are embodied self and we are sustained by Nature. Instead, we try to conquer Nature and have mastery over it. This is our ignorance, our mithyā dṛṣṭi (wrong view). Indian sages and seers always respected and loved Nature and wanted to be in the lap of Nature. If we care for Nature, Nature will care for us. If we destroy Nature, Nature will destroy us. This is the simple principle of interdependence. So, it is saner to preserve and protect Nature, rather worship Nature as a spiritual entity. Nature is beautiful and bountiful. It is full of joy and it gives joy to us. It is joyful and joy-yielding. Let us appreciate and preserve this quality of Nature. Nature is to be approached with respect and gratitude. A life in the lap of Nature is a mark of spiritual freedom. It is freedom from all restraints, physical and mental. It is widening, deepening and heightening of spirit. It is a life of purity, internal and external. Life in Nature is natural life. We should ideally lead a life of a ‘green monk or nun’ caring for Nature and sharing the bounties of Nature. To repeat, if we care for Nature, Nature will care for us. If we pollute Nature, it adversely affects our existence. Nature is an ‘Embodied Love’ and ‘Embodied Benevolence’. For example, trees do not exist for themselves, they stand in the sun and provide shadow not to themselves, and they yield fruits and other benefits not for themselves. They do so for the sake of others. The same is the case with rivers, mountains and other objects of Nature. In this respect Nature is a great master and a teacher practicing and teaching maitrī (loving kindness), karuṇā (compassion), muditā (sympathetic joy) and upekṣa (equanimity), kṣamā (forgiveness), sahiṣnutā (tolerance) and samatva (selfsameness).

Doctrine of Ahimsā as a guide to ecology

As stated earlier, the physical and external pollution is due to mental and internal pollution. it is due to akuśala citta. This moral degradation affects the individual as well as his or her surroundings. The remedy lies in recovering the lost vision of wholeness and practicing Ahimsā . The need is to establish a vratisamāja (Value-based society).

The doctrine of Ahimsā provides a foundation to an environmental perspective to be offered to humanity to meet the present-day crises that are endangering and threatening all existences human as well as non-human. It also deals with the cardinal Indian teachings that can help in bringing about an ecological lifestyle. Ecological thinking and ecological living go hand in hand and a symbiosis of the two has been the keynote of the Indian view and way of life. Concern for the well-being of the living beings and the physical world has been an important element throughout the history of India. Human existence and destiny are inextricably linked with environments. Recognition that human beings are essentially dependent upon and interconnected with their environments has given rise to instinctive respect and care for all living beings and Nature. Every existence from elementary particles to plants, animals, birds and human are participatory members of the planetary community having personal dignity, inherent worth and inviolable rights to exist and grow.

Ahimsā is not just non-killing but a positive action in the form of unselfish friendliness and compassion for all existences based on the spirit that all existence is as sacred as our own existence. It therefore preserves life and ensures durable peace. Ahimsā further implies giving due opportunities to all existences for self-preservation and self-development. There should be no deprivation or exploitation. Ahimsā also means removal of suffering of others, offering joy to them, service to all needy and active involvement for good of all. Apart from loving Nature the Indian culture has always advocated love and respect for all beings. All living beings are creatures of Nature. Nature provides them physical form and sustains them. Nature environs them and provides them nourishment. So, the principle of Ahimsā tells us that one which you want to kill is your own self as your existence depends on that thing. So, earth, water, air, fire and space all have life to be respected and preserved.  and insistence in the lap of Nature is highlighted.

There is another reason for respecting the life of all living beings. Indian culture has advocated the doctrine of cycle of birth and rebirth. This implies kinship with all creatures. We may take rebirth as any of such creatures depending upon our karmas. These creatures could have been our parents or sons or daughters in their previous births. So, to kill some being is to kill one’s own relative. Therefore, vegetarianism is the safest practice to escape from this eventuality. Vegetarianism is good for healthy living also.

Doctrines of Aparigraha and Samyam as guiding principles of eco-ethics

Indian tradition emphasise the doctrine of  śama. It means samyam which means limitations of wants, desires and possessions (parigrahaparimāṇa and icchāparimāṇa), curb on unlimited cravings, unlimited accumulation and unlimited consumption. Acquisition of wealth is not bad, only attachment to it or its misuse is to be avoided. The guiding principle is, “Use that which is needful and give the surplus for charity”. The doctrine of aparigraha advocates limited use of natural resources, non-violence and vegetarianism (āhārasuddhehsattvaśuddhi)

There has to be sustainable production and fair distribution. Everyone has equal right to share the natural resources and therefore there should be no deprivation. This implies intra-generational justice and fair play and also inter-general justice and fair play.

Thus, aparigraha stands for non-consumerist attitude where in the policy is, there should be production only if needed and not first production and then arousal of needs as is the practice these days. The present-day policy of advertisement and seduction should be stopped. True renunciation is a state of mind of a human being. It is not only renunciation of unnecessary material goods or consumerist mindset but also evil thoughts and feelings (kaṣāyas), rigid attitudes and wrong beliefs. Carelessness, selfishness, obstinacy and greed are the causes of violence. Their eradication requires cultivation of pious mind by dhyāna and practice of virtuous conduct by observation of vows, particularly of giving up something as self -restraint.

New Paradigm of Economic Order- economics of non-violence and peace

Apart from individual and social moral disciplines referred to above we have to attend to world economic order which is closely related to and dependent upon the environment. The ignorance or failure of modern economic theory to acknowledge this fact has resulted in multiple ills and evils in the world. It has become a threat to the very system which has created it. The growth attained under this model is unsustainable. This apart it has made human self-centered, greedy, insensitive and violent. What is needed is a radical paradigm shift in economic planning and execution in the form of “Relative Economics”, “Regenerative Economics” and “Compassionate Economics”.

Need for cosmic vision

The vision of self-sameness of all existences and zealous longing for eradication of sufferings of others as one’s own cross all barriers of race, creed, country and even humanity. The benevolent teachings of universal compassion and cosmic goodwill, living and working for totality, all these have a significant message for the present-day distracted humankind suffering from exhaustion of spirit and languishing in the narrow and rigid confinements of ego-centrism, parochialism and disastrous materialistic consumerism. There is a dire need for a total transformation of our values, ideals, beliefs and attitudes. A time has come for the beginning of a cultural renaissance for which the Indian teachings can play a vital and pivotal role. Indian culture has come into existence as a problem-solving exercise both in terms of prevention and of cure. Indian teachings are of great relevance and significance in contemporary times and in the new millennium to bring about universal peace, prosperity and well-being. These should be our guiding lights for our ecological thinking and doings. On account of lack of restraints, selfishness and proneness to feed greed rather than catering to the needs there has been all round pollution of environment at all levels—physical, mental, emotional and intellectual. In modern times we are voicing concerns only for physical environment without paying due attention to other types with the result that not much headway is made even in protecting the physical. There cannot be divisive and lopsided approach to environment. Even at the physical level all the pañcabhūtas are to be taken care of. Environmental stewardship implies a sense of mutual care to be spearheaded by human being only.

These and related issues may be taken up for threadbare analysis. But apart from theorizing practical concerns must be paramount.  Knowledge without action is futile. In the Indian tradition it has been emphasized that right knowledge (samyak jñāna) has to fructify in right conduct (samyak charitra). In Indian culture great emphasis is laid on proper knowledge (samyak jñāna ). Knowledge is the only and surest way to spiritual perfection. The Indian scriptures therefore emphasize that we must draw a clear distinction between samyak jñāna and mithyā jñāna. Mithyā jñāna entangles us in the vicissitudes of worldly life. It is bewitching and bewildering and it springs from avidyā or ignorance. In order to have right knowledge right attitude or right mental make-up is necessary. This is samyak dṛṣṭi. Opposed to this is mithyā dṛṣṭi with which we generally suffer. Samyak dṛṣṭi leads to samyak jñāna, and the latter alone is the path way to mokṣa. Mithyā dṛṣṭi and mithyā jñāna do not serve any genuine purpose and hence they must be discarded. For an aspirant of mokṣa/mukti only samyak dṛṣṭi and jñāna are helpful. This is the main theme of the teachings of the scriptures, sages and saints. Samyak jñāna always leads to samyak caritra. The value and purpose of knowledge is not theoretical but necessarily practical. Right conduct ensues only from right knowledge. Conduct without knowledge is blind and knowledge without conduct is lame. The two are complimentary to each other. And therefore, knowledge has to lead to the corresponding conduct. Without right conduct deliverance from worldly miseries, trials and tribulations is impossible and without complete deliverance from these, no permanent happiness can be achieved. As said earlier, these are the three jewels of life which every human being must wear. But this wearing is not decoration but actual practice and concrete realization. However, this is not easy to achieve. It requires tapas and sādhanā, a rigorous control of body, will and mind. So, knowledge without conduct is useless. Merely listening to the discourses is wastage of time and futile. It does not help us in any way. What is needed is the ensuing conduct. But unfortunately, most of us forget this. We listen to the sermons of the spiritual persons but do not practice them. We take it as a past time or a matter of routine of life. Our knowledge remains mere information at the mental level. The Daśavaikālika sūtra (IV) compares a person having knowledge without practice to a donkey who carries burden of sandal wood without knowing its value or utility. As the donkey bears the burden of sandal wood but has no share in the wealth of his load, similarly a person without practice merely bears the burden of his knowledge. He cannot enjoy spiritual progress which is the real fruit of knowledge. Instead, he indulges in evanescent and fleeting worldly pleasures which invariably end up in pain and suffering or mental unhappiness or a feeling of vanity of life. Knowledge is useless without conduct and conduct is useless without knowledge. In Indian culture, philosophy and religion, view and way, theory and practice, are not divorced and segregated. Darśana is not mere reflection upon the nature of Reality but also a quest for and a realization of values. Basically, it is a mokṣa śāstra. There is a definite purpose in life and Reality if we care to know and a definite goal to achieve if we have a will to do so. Our existence is not meaningless. It has a value and significance. But we must first of all know what we are, what is the nature and purpose of life, what we should be in our life and how we can be so etc. The aim of human existence should be spiritual perfection through material progress. But material progress is only a means and not an end. The end is self-realization which is achieved through the removal of karmic matter and liberation from samsāra. There is potential divinity in human being and there must be effort for divinization. This is the ultimate teaching of all Indian scriptures (Āgamas).

What is role of education?

Education is a conscious, deliberate and planned process of modification in the natural growth and development of human being and the surroundings. If proper and adequate it ensures accelerated processes of development in human life in right rhythm. It is therefore a means for betterment and enhancement of quality of life. It is useful for personality development, character building, and for livelihood. It is a hall mark of civil society. But all this becomes utopia if it is not properly conceived and implemented.  If we have to draw eco-syllabus for eco-education it has to be on Indian foundation to be meaningful, efficacious and practical.


While concluding it should be reminded that human being is at the climax of evolutionary process. He/She possesses vast potentials for betterment or devastation. He/She can be a super-being or super-malignancy. He/She has a choice and also the capacity of judicious discrimination. Since he/she is the most evolved he/she should be the most responsible. He/She has not only to voice environmental concern but also to cultivate environmental consciousness. Mere sermons and seminars will not help. Unless the overall physical and social environment is congenial and symbiotic nothing will improve substantially.  For this we need environment friendly value system and a suitable code of conduct. There has to be inner moral conviction and a moral attitude.  We have to induce ecological age and ecological mind. Through proper education alone this is possible.


Author Brief Bio: Prof. S. R. Bhatt is Chairman, Indian Philosophy Congress; Chairman, Asian-African Philosophy Congress; Former Chairman, Indian Council of Philosophical Research, and Former Professor & Head, Department of Philosophy, University of Delhi.


A Comparative Analysis of Upanishadic and Einsteinian Philosophy


The Vedic and Upanishadic texts describe “Dharma” as a cosmic force transcending space and time. Following the path of virtue aligns one with Dharma, leading to ethical behavior. Such individuals perceive the universe as a unified entity, not limited by race, religion, species, or group. Rishis and Avatars are periodically born to uphold the spirit of Dharma. Despite diverse origins, these enlightened beings embody non-violence (ahimsa), kindness (daya), compassion (karuna), cosmic friendship (maitri), and equanimity (upeksha) in their pursuit of the ultimate truth.

One notable genius, Prof. Albert Einstein, born on March 14, 1879,[1] in South West Germany, received the Nobel Prize in 1921 for his discovery of the Photoelectric effect.[2] Einstein is revered not only as the “Father of Modern Physics” but also as a profound philosopher. Regardless of his numerous discoveries, he regarded all beings in the cosmos as manifestations of the Supreme Spirit, displaying compassion and friendship towards humans, animals, and other sentient beings. This notion of cosmic divinity and non-dual vision align with the foundation of the Upanishads.

Reading Albert Einstein’s letters reveals a striking resemblance of his thought with the verses of the Upanishads. This research paper aims to explore the parallels between Upanishadic and Einsteinian Philosophy, emphasising that the attainment of wisdom leads to a realisation of universal unity, non-violence, and a shared comradeship despite cultural differences.

Einstein’s Paradigm Shift: Embracing Spinoza’s Supreme over Abrahamic God

Baruch Spinoza, a 17th-century philosopher, faced exile from the Jewish community at the age of 23 due to his controversial views on God. He challenged the prevailing notions of a dominant, commanding, and personal God embraced by both Jews and Christians. Spinoza argued that the entire cosmos emerges from God, making it impossible for God to exercise control over His own manifested Self. According to Spinoza, God is solitary, impersonal, and impartial towards all creatures. He considered God as the ultimate cause of the cosmos, which operates according to a cosmic order known as “Substance.” In addition, Spinoza rejected the idea of a pluralistic God and instead embraced the concept of a singular force that manifests itself as the cosmos.[3] Spinoza’s concept of God is relevant to this discussion because it is referenced by Albert Einstein when he was questioned about his belief in God by Rabbi Herbert, a Jewish leader in New York,

I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the creation. He is not concerned about the fate and doing of mankind. To me all is in God; all lives and moves in God.[4] A God who rewards and punishes his creatures is unthinkable because all beings act as prompted by natural law, which is God itself. Thus, I reject the idea of a personal God that judges the acts of his creation.[5] I am fascinated by Spinoza’s pantheism. He is the first philosopher to see the soul and body as one and not as two distinct entities.[6] I am not an atheist but I cannot accept God as an authority established by the church. I do not believe in fear of life, death and blind faith. I have no faith in the God of theology. ”[7]

Similar to Spinoza, Einstein also rejected the traditional notion of the Jewish and Christian God. He believed that God was non-dual, existing inseparably from His creation, and revealed Himself through the objects and phenomena of the universe. Einstein further expressed the view that God is the origin of both good and bad, yet remains indifferent to individual acts of right and wrong. He asserted that the structure of the universe could not have been different from what it is currently.[8] Einstein later renounced his Jewish faith and German citizenship, ultimately becoming an American citizen in 1940.[9] Einstein expressed his great fascination in Upanishadic philosophy, despite never having visited India. The Bhagvadgita was highly revered by Einstein as he stated,

“When I read the Bhagvadgita and its theory of creation, everything else seemed superfluous.”[10]

He nurtured close connections with Indian leaders and intellectuals, such as Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Rabindranath Tagore. During his time in the United States, he had the opportunity to engage in discussions on profound philosophical concepts with Rabindranath Tagore. Remarkably, Einstein did not consider himself an atheist but rather described himself as a “Religious Non-believer.” Therefore, he did believe in a cosmic power or universal order that expressed itself in its creation. He further propounded that the universe is a manifestation of the Cosmic Spirit, everything within it is inherently divine.

The Philosophical Nexus: Schopenhauer, Upanishads, and Einstein

Arthur Schopenhauer, a prominent German philosopher of the 19th century, held great influence during his time. He was deeply influenced by the Upanishads, and their profound impact is evident in his writings. Albert Einstein, in turn, drew inspiration from Schopenhauer’s ideas. As a result, Einstein himself became a determinist, influenced indirectly by the Upanishads through the philosophical lineage that passed from Schopenhauer to him.

Consequently, through Schopenhauer, the Upanishadic teachings reached Albert Einstein, influencing his beliefs. The idea of a Supreme Will governing the cosmic drama became the cornerstone of Einstein’s life, philosophy, and scientific breakthroughs. This concept shaped his worldview and guided his exploration of the universe. The following statement by Einstein demonstrates the influence of Schopenhauer’s ideas,

“Schopenhauer’s words “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.” have accompanied me throughout my life. His thoughts have consoled me while dealing with others, even with those who have caused pain. This recognition of the lack of freedom of will have helped me in avoiding taking myself and others too seriously and have protected me from losing my sense of humor.”[11]

Determinism in Upanishadic and Einsteinian Philosophy

The Upanishads encompass discussions on both determinism and free will. Notably, the Rigveda stands as the world’s first text to address determinism through the concept of “Rta,”[12] which denotes a mystical cosmic order that intricately governs the functioning of everything. It lays the foundation for the development of the Vedic concepts of “Dharma”[13] and “Satya. “[14] The Shrimad Bhagavad Gita reflects determinism in its teachings. It emphasises that individuals, under the influence of Avidya (ignorance), mistakenly perceive themselves as the sole doers of their actions. However, the Gita reveals that they are unaware that it is the Supreme, operating through them, orchestrating the intricate functioning of the cosmos. This highlights the underlying concept of determinism in the Bhagavad Gita’s philosophy.[15] Further, when we refer to the Upanishads, we find thousands of verses that speak of determinism, i.e,


(I am one and I become many).

In the above said, Chandogyaopnishad speaks about the predetermined divinity of all life forms.

yasmin sarvani bhutani atmaivabhud vijanatah|

 tatra ko mohah kah shloka ekatvamanupashyatah|| [17]

(When all beings have been realised as the ‘Self’, there remains no delusion and no sadness.)

The verse from the Ishavasya Upanishad suggests that the elimination of delusion and sorrow happens spontaneously when one strives to achieve a state of non-duality (Ekatmavada). Similarly, the Shvetashvatara Upanishad proclaims that everything is divine, implying that all beings are essentially the Supreme in disguise. These teachings imply a sense of pre-determination, as the Upanishads convey that the true nature of all beings is rooted in the Supreme. It further eradicates the difference between the cause and the effect,

purusha evedam sarvam yadbhūtam yacca bhavyam |

utamritatvasyeshano yadannenatirohati||[18]

(All this is nothing but the Supreme Being, the One that was. The One that is, and the One that will be. He manifests as the world of material and remains the immortal one behind the mortal. )

Einsteinian philosophy is deeply rooted in the fundamental concept of determinism. It is worth highlighting that both Spinoza and Schopenhauer, who greatly influenced Einstein, were proponents of determinism themselves. Furthermore, Schopenhauer’s own views were heavily shaped by the teachings of the Upanishads. These interconnected influences demonstrate the profound impact of determinism and the Upanishads on Einstein’s philosophical framework. Einstine’s determinism can be comprehended from the following,

“God Himself could not have arranged the cosmic connection in any other way than that as it exists.”[19]

“I do not believe in free will. Jews believe in free will. They believe that man can shape his own life. I reject this theory completely and in this respect, I am not a Jew. I am a determinist. Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect, stars, humans, vegetables, and cosmic dust. We all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player.”[20]

Einstein held the belief that the functioning of everything in the cosmos is governed by a Supreme will. He considered the idea of individuals creating their own destiny as an egotistical folly. In this perspective, a clear parallel can be observed between the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and Einsteinian Philosophy. These philosophical frameworks all emphasise the existence of a higher power or cosmic order that influences the events and workings of the universe, challenging the notion of individual control over destiny.

The Moral Conundrum: Determinism and Einstein’s Ethical Framework

It is widely believed that determinists like Einstein lack ethics. This misunderstanding is the result of a superficial comprehension of his perspective. Einstein has been criticized for being A-ethical. He however made it clear that, philosophically, a person may not be accountable for his actions. However, at a worldly level, he must observe social customs, rules and laws. Einstein, thus states,

I am compelled to act as if free will existed because if I wish to live in a civilized society, I must act responsibly. I may consider a murderer as not responsible for his acts on a philosophical level but at a mundane sphere I will prefer not to take tea with him[21]

Despite his belief in determinism, Einstein emphasizes the significance of ethics for maintaining social harmony. His view of determinism primarily pertains to larger cosmic phenomena, such as the predictable movements of the sun, the flow of water, or the nature of fire. However, he also acknowledges that ethics do not derive their authority from a Supreme power but are essential in the material world. This ethical perspective is evident in a suggestion Einstein gave to his daughters during his visit to Japan in 1922, wherein he stated,

“If you wish for a happy life, use for yourself little, but give to others much”[22]

He further states at various occasions,

“Only morality in our actions can give dignity to our life”[23]

“Academic chairs are many but wise and noble teachers are few, lecture-rooms are large but the number of young people who thirst for truth and justice are small.”[24]

“I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.[25]

While Einstein held a belief in determinism, he also recognized the importance of ethics in society. He emphasized that individuals must adhere to social customs, rules, and laws, even though he philosophically considered personal accountability to be influenced by determinism. Einstein’s ethical stance highlights the significance of responsible behavior and the pursuit of morality for a civilised society. Therefore, it is incorrect to assume that determinism and ethics are incompatible in Einstein’s perspective.

Reflections of Guilt: Einstein and the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Tragedy

Einstein, one of the key scientists involved in creating the atomic bomb, carried the weight of regret for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. He deeply lamented the immense devastation caused by these bombings, which remained a source of pain throughout his life. The development of the bomb was motivated by concerns over Germany’s potential creation of a dangerous weapon, and Einstein’s famous “energy-mass equation (E=mc2).” played a role in its construction. However, the bomb was not deployed against Germany as the country had already surrendered to the Allies on May 7, 1945.[26] Following the bombing of Japan, Einstein expressed deep remorse and sorrow. In response to the tragedy, he uttered the words, “Woe is me.” While advocating for peace, Einstein had written a letter along with other scientists to President Harry S. Truman on July 17, 1945, urging him not to proceed with the bombing. Despite their plea, the advice was disregarded, and the devastating event unfolded on August 6, 1945. Einstein’s poignant statement reflects his anguish and the profound impact the bombings had on him. He further stated,

 “If I knew that the Germans would not succeed at making an atom-bomb, I would’ve done nothing.[27]

Einstein’s Plate of Compassion: The Moral Imperative of Vegetarianism

It is true that Albert Einstein transitioned to a vegetarian lifestyle later in his life and expressed ethical reasons for his choice. While his digestive problems played a role in his decision, Einstein’s words and beliefs suggest a broader perspective on the ethical implications of consuming animal products. He recognized the interconnectedness of all beings and the moral dilemma of deriving pleasure from causing pain to other creatures. In light of this understanding, Einstein’s remarks indicate that if given the opportunity, he would have willingly embraced vegetarianism as a conscious ethical choice. Therefore, he states,

“I have always eaten animal flesh with a somewhat guilty conscience.”[28]

“I am living without fats, without meat, without fish, but am feeling quite well this way. It always seems to me that man was not born to be a carnivore.”[29]

“Besides agreeing with the aims of vegetarianism for aesthetic and moral reasons, it is my view that a vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.”[30]

“What is the meaning of human life, or, for that matter, of the life of any creature? To know an answer to this question means to be religious. You ask: Does it make any sense, then, to pose this question? I answer: The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life.”[31]

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.[32]

The concept of non-dualism, as emphasized in Upanishadic thought, provides a foundation for the importance of vegetarianism. The notion that everything is interconnected and divine leads to the recognition that there is no inherent distinction between beings. In this perspective, the act of causing harm or inflicting pain upon any living creature becomes contradictory and goes against the understanding of the inherent unity of all existence. It further becomes important to take note of the lives of enlightened individuals. Those who realised the self in all and all in the self often reflect a profound connection to vegetarianism. Figures such as Mahavira, Buddha, Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Mahatma Gandhi, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plotinus, Rumi, Nicola Tesla, Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, and many others recognized the fundamental sameness and interconnectedness of all living beings. They understood that suffering is universal and does not discriminate based on size, name, or form.

The message of organic wholesomeness, cosmic divinity, compassion, kindness, and universal friendship, which finds mention in various Upanishadic texts, resonates with the ethical foundations of vegetarianism. It reflects the understanding that embracing a vegetarian lifestyle aligns with the principles of interconnectedness, compassion, and non-violence towards all living beings. This message of organic wholesomeness, cosmic divinity, compassion, kindness and universal friendship finds mention in various Upanishadic texts,

yacca kincit jagat sarvam drshyate shrooyate apivaa |

antar bahishca tatsarvam vyaapya naaraayanah sthithah ||[33]

(Whatever in the universe is known through perception is pervaded and indwelled by Narayana)

aham atma gudakesha sarva-bhutaśhaya-sthitah|
aham adish cha madhyam cha bhutanam anta eva cha||[34]

samoham sarvabhutesh na me dveshyosti na priyah|

ye bhajanti tu mam bhaktaya mayi te teshuchapyaham[35]

(I exist as the atman in the hearts of all living creatures and I am the beginning, middle and end of all beings. I am the indwelling essence of all creatures and I have no likes or aversions.)

vo namo namo mrigyubhyash shvanibhyash cha|
vo namo namah shvabhyash shvapatibhyash cha vo namah||[36]

(I bow to Rudra, the One who controls dogs, the one who Himself is the dog and the One who protects dogs)

abhayam nah pashubhyah[37]

(animals must live without any fear)

tadaikshata bahu syam [38]

(I am one and I become many)

Accepting the Inevitable: Einstein’s Philosophy on Death

Like many yogis, Einstein did not view death as a tragedy but rather as a natural and predetermined occurrence. During a conversation with a friend while out for a stroll, the topic of “death” arose. When his friend stated that death is both a fact and a mystery, Einstein added, “..and a relief too.” This remark highlights Einstein’s perspective that death is not something to be feared or mourned but rather a release from the burdens and limitations of life. It reflects his acceptance of death as a part of the cosmic order and a potential liberation from earthly existence.[39] Therefore, it can be inferred that Einstein had a positive outlook on death. As he grew older, he experienced various health issues and for the last 20 years of his life (1935–1955),[40] he resided in Princeton, New Jersey. When faced with a ruptured blood vessel near his heart, doctors offered him the option of surgery. However, Einstein declined, saying,

“I want to go when I want to go. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share and it is time to go.”[41]

Einstein’s words illuminate the Upanishadic concept of doing one’s tasks in the mode of renunciation (“I have done my share”) and not clinging to things, people, situations, or life (“it is time to go”). Additionally, the Shrimad Bhagvadgita declares,

jatasya hi dhruvo mrityur dhruvam janma mritasya cha
tasmad apariharyeˊrthe na tvam shochitum arhasi

(Death is certain for the one born, and rebirth is destined for the one who died. Therefore, you shouldn’t mourn over the inevitable.)

Albert Einstein’s profound understanding of life and death stemmed from his journey from action to wisdom, body to self, material to the immaterial, and physical to the metaphysical. On April 18, 1955, at the age of seventy-six, Einstein departed from his material body. While he did not have faith in the concept of rebirth, he also did not see death as an end. His thoughts on the matter become clear from the following statements,

I do not believe in immortality of the individual.[43] Our death is not an end if we have lived on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us; our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.”[44]


In conclusion, the parallels between the Upanishadic philosophy and Albert Einstein’s worldview are indeed profound and striking. Both embrace the idea of a cosmic force or Supreme Spirit that transcends space and time, emphasising the interconnectedness and inherent divinity of all beings. Einstein’s rejection of a personal, commanding God aligns with the non-dual, pantheistic views found in the Upanishads and Spinoza’s philosophy. Moreover, Einstein’s recognition of a cosmic order and determinism in the universe reflects influences from Schopenhauer and the Upanishadic teachings. While he believed in determinism, Einstein also acknowledged the importance of ethics and responsible behavior, echoing the concept of Dharma found in the Vedic and Upanishadic texts. Einstein’s commitment to peace and deep sense of regret in the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, further highlight his ethical concerns and his profound understanding of the interconnectedness of all life. His transition to vegetarianism demonstrates his recognition of the moral implications of causing harm to other creatures and the positive impact of compassionate choices. Ultimately, the exploration of the philosophical nexus between the Upanishads, Einsteinian Philosophy, and the influences of thinkers like Spinoza and Schopenhauer invites us to embrace compassion, non-violence, and a sense of shared comradeship. These perspectives transcend cultural differences and provide a deeper understanding of the cosmos, encouraging us to lead ethical lives and cultivate a harmonious relationship with the interconnected universe of which we are but fragments.


Author Brief Bio: Dr. Vandana Sharma ‘Diya’ is National Fellow at Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla; Principal Researcher, Kedarnath Dham, Ministry of Education and Former Post Doctoral Fellow-Indian Council of Social Sciences Research, Delhi.


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  • Schopenhaur, R.B.Haldane (Tr), The World as Will and Idea, Parimal Publications, Delhi,1999
  • Swami Gambhirananda, Eight Upanishads Shankarabhashya, Vol.2, Advaita Ashrama, Himalyas,1957
  • Sharma Manohar Lal, Yajurveda, Laxmi Prakashan, Delhi, 2021.



  • Newsweek, The Man Who Started It All, Online, 1947


  • Wikipedia, 2018, Albert_Einstein_House, Online,




[1]The Nobel Foundation, Nobel Prize in Physics 1921, Sweden https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1921/einstein/biographical/

[2] Ibid.

[3]This thought is similar to the Vedantic thought where Brahman (Supreme) manifests as the entire Jagat (World) and can be seen in verses i.e.,  eko vashi sarvabhutantaratma ekam rupam  bahudha yah karoti (He indwells all beings as the very Self and He alone becomes manifold)  -Kathaopnishad Sankarabhashya, v.2.2.12;  Brahmopnishad, v.17; sarvam khalu idam brahma (All is the Brahman) -Chandogyaopnishad, 3.4.1; mahad brahma yena prananti virudhah (Brahman is the source of plants, herbs and all beings.)  -Atharvaveda, 1.32.1.

[4] Isaacson Walter, Einstein: His Life and Universe, Simon and Schuster Ltd., London, 2008, pp.388-89

[5] Ibid, p.387

[6] Jammer Max, Einstein and Religion, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1999, p.36

[7] Isaacson Walter, pp.388-89

[8] Ibid., p.392

[9]Liberary of Congress, Declaration of Intention by Albert Einstein,1936, United States, https://www.loc.gov/resource/gdcwdl.wdl_02745/?r=-1.31,-0.058,3.62,1.446,0

[10] Isaacson Walter, p.157

[11]Albert Einstein, Mein Glaubensbekenntnis, Audio Records, Online Yeshiva University Libraries, 1932, https://library.yu.edu/c.php?g=1073982&p=7880252 (Accessd on, April 22, 2023; 13:02)

[12] Unchanging truth, unalterable codes of conduct, constant cosmic law, unweaving universal order, and cyclical natural occurrences like birth, death, ageing, and seasons etc.


[13] Dharma encompasses various meanings and dimensions within its essence: 1. Svabhava: It refers to the inherent nature or characteristics of an entity, be it an object, animal, tree, or human. 2. Cosmic Order: Dharma represents the fixed and harmonious cosmic order (Rta) that governs the functioning of the universe. It signifies the consistent patterns and laws that ensure the sun rises and sets, and other cosmic phenomena occur predictably. 3. Duty and Responsibility: Dharma encompasses the idea of fulfilling one’s duties and responsibilities in various contexts, such as manavdharma (duties as a human), patidharma (duties as a spouse), rashtradharma (duties as a citizen), and more. 4. Social Norms: Dharma includes adhering to social norms and codes of conduct, such as loyalty to one’s partner, respecting authority figures like kings or leaders, and showing reverence for nature. 5. Purushartha: Dharma plays a role in the pursuit of Purushartha, the four-fold goals of life, which are Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (desires), and Moksha (liberation). 6. Religion: Dharma can be understood as a religious path centered around ethical codes that promote the well-being of all beings, transcending solely human concerns. Hindu Dharma, Jaina Dharma, and Bauddha Dharma can be considered Dharmic religions in this sense, while Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are not typically classified under Dharma. 7. Virtue: Dharma also encompasses virtuous actions and behaviors, such as watering plants, feeding animals, and providing care for the sick and ailing, extending compassion and kindness to all sentient beings.

[14] Satya represents the concept of truth in various aspects: 1. Acceptance: Satya entails accepting everything and every being in their natural form without attempting to forcefully alter or modify them. Forcing changes upon creatures mentally, physically, or genetically for personal pleasure is considered untruthful or Asatya. 2. Respect for Mother Nature: Satya involves refraining from taking away the resources of Mother Nature with the intention of accumulating them for personal gain. Taking fruits from a tree to satisfy one’s natural hunger is an act of truthfulness (Satya), whereas doing so out of greed is considered untruthful (Asatya). 3. Expressions and Virtues: The concept of Satya manifests as honesty, truthfulness, loyalty, calmness, acceptance, appreciation for everything and every being, compassion, kindness, and having an equanimous vision towards the entire cosmos. 4. Integration into Life: Satya is to be practiced in words, thoughts, actions, and as the foundational principle of life. Engaging in acts such as killing, altering someone or something, destruction, and causing harm for sensory pleasure or other reasons falls under the umbrella of Asatya or untruthfulness. In essence, Satya encompasses embracing truthfulness, honesty, and a deep respect for the natural order of the cosmos, fostering compassion and kindness towards all beings, and adhering to a life guided by these principles in all aspects.

[15] Shrimad Bhagvadgita, v.18.16 (tatraivam sati kartaramatmanam kevalam tu yah| pashyatyakitabuddhitvanna sa pashyati durmatih||)

[16] Chandogyaopnishad, v.6.2.3

[17] Ishavasyaopnishad, v.6

[18] Shevetashvataraopnishad, v.3.14

[19] Isaacson Walter, Einstein: His Life and Universe, Simon and Schuster Ltd., London, 2008, p.392

[20] Ibid.,pp.387; 392

[21] Ibid.,pp.392; 393

[22] Ibid.,p.393

[23] Isaacson Walter, Einstein: His Life and Universe, Simon and Schuster Ltd., London, 2008, p.353

[24] Einstein Albert, The World as I see it, Filiqualian Publishing, Minnesota, 2005, p.8

[25] Einstein Albert, The Human Side, Princeton University Press, New Jerssy, 1981, p.40

[26] National Archives, Surrender of Germany 1945, United States, https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/surrender-of-germany

[27] Newsweek, The Man Who Started It All, Online, 1947, https://time.com/5641891/einstein-szilard-letter.

[28] Einstein Albert, The Quotable Einstein on Death, Princeton University Press, 1910, Letter to Max Kariel, August 3, 1953

[29]Ibid., Letter to Hans Muehsam, March 30, 1954

[30] Ibid, Letter to Hermann Huth, December 27, 1930.

[31] Einstein Albert,  Mein Weltbild, Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, First ed, 1934

[32] New York Post, 28 November 1972

[33] Yajurveda, Narayanasuktam, v10.13.5

[34] Shrimad Bhagvadgita, 10.20

[35] Ibid, 9.29

[36] Yajurveda, Rudramsukta, 4.5.4

[37] Yajurveda, 36.22

[38] Chandogyopnishad, 6.2.3

[39] Ghatak Ajoy, Albert Einstein: Glimpse of Life, Philosophy and Science, Viva Books, New Delhi, 1911, p.133.

[40] Wikipedia, 2018, Albert_Einstein_House, Online, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein_House

[41] Ghatak Ajoy, p.160

[42] Shirmad Bhagvadgita,v.2.27.

[43] Dukas Helen & Hoffmann Banesh, Albert Einstein: The Human Side (New Glimpses From His Archives), Princeton University Press, 1981, p.39

[44] Einstein Albert, The Quotable Einstein on Death, Princeton University Press, 1910, p.91


Niger leads fight for African assertion

The war for uranium and oil now looms over Niger. An invasion by the France- and US-backed Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is only a matter of time, possibly as early as the conclusion of the 15th BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, from August 22-24, 2023. The new military government urged citizens to stand up and defend the Motherland, and in response, thousands registered as Niger Volunteers in Niamey (August 19, 2023).

Timofey Bordachev, Program Director, Valdai Discussion Club, suspects that Paris and Washington may indirectly support the ECOWAS nations as French and American contingents have a sizeable presence in the country.[1] ECOWAS countries have been reluctant to get into the fray, arguing that the military regime in Niger enjoys considerable public support, but their acute dependence on the West has overruled their qualms.

The NATO aggression against Libya and brutalisation of Col. Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 has had a sobering effect in Africa, hence the West wants the cover of its regional partners in the military action. Gaddafi created Africa’s best welfare state with Libya’s oil wealth, with huge gold (140 tonnes) and foreign exchange (US$ 150 billion) reserves, zero debt and one of the world’s strongest currencies. His advocacy of the gold-backed African dinar proved his undoing.

Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno attempted to mediate the crisis at the behest of ECOWAS (July 30, 2023).[2] The organisation gave the military regime a week to restore the ousted Prime Minister Mohamed Bazoum, a deadline that expired on August 6, 2023. The West African regional bloc also sent a delegation led by former Nigerian military leader Abdulsalami Abubakar to Niger on August 2, 2023 to negotiate with the military coup leaders. Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, then said, “The military option is the very last option on the table, the last resort, but we have to prepare for the eventuality.”[3]

Niger’s coup leaders have maintained that the civilian government was overthrown because of poor governance and public unhappiness over its inability to tackle security threats from groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS (ISIL). The citizens of Niger are not enthused at the prospect of restoring the pro-Western president Bazoum, an ethnic Arab from the migrant Ouled Slimane tribe that aligns with France in the Sahel region and is embroiled in a long conflict with the ancient Tuareg tribes, Berbers who dwell in the Sahara from Libya to Algeria, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and northern Nigeria.[4]

The coup leaders immediately banned the export of uranium to France. Niger holds the world’s seventh-largest uranium deposits, and has hitherto supplied France 15% of her total imports and one-fifth of the European Union’s imports. Uranium is a critical element for powering nuclear reactors.[5] In 2019 alone, two mines operating in Niger extracted nearly 2,982 tonnes of uranium. Unlike Germany, France did not accept rapid deindustrialisation on account of US-imposed sanctions on Russian oil and gas, and instead scaled up its nuclear power plants. Its other suppliers, like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, rely on the Russian state nuclear power company Rosatom to transport uranium to Europe, putting France in an awkward position.

Political scientist Bertrand Badie of the French Institute of Political Studies, observed that France has failed to “get rid of all its colonial history.” France, he said, “doesn’t know how to turn the page, … France, since independence by the African states, has pursued a schoolteacher diplomacy based on the temptation to give lessons and distribute punishments.” This approach is out of sync with the evolution of African societies.

Diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar observes that Western powers do not understand that the African people have a highly politicized mindset on account of their violent and bitterly fought national liberation movements. This history explains why Africa quickly gravitated towards the emerging multipolar world, in order to negotiate with the ex-colonial masters from a position of strength.

The present crisis escalated when Niger’s new president General Abdurrahman Tchiani banned the export of gold and uranium to Paris, on July 30, 2023, in response to France’s decision to suspend aid to Niamey after its military coup. As various West African nations took sides, the now popular military regime appears to have triggered the Dark Continent’s fight for self-respect and agency, by asserting control over the rich resources that have powered the wealth of the Western industrial nations.

The toppled President M. Bazoum, deposed on July 26, 2023, invited France to attack Niger and restore his government, and warned the West against Russia gaining a foothold in the Sahel region via its private military vehicle, Wagner.

Loss of resources

Angered by the loss of natural resources that secured its international status as a leading economic power, France nudged the ECOWAS to intervene in Niger. After a meeting of the Chiefs of the General Staffs of the Armed Forces of the ECOWAS in Accra, Ghana, on August 17-18, 2023, Abdel-Fatau Musah, Commissioner for Peace and Security, said the date has been set but ECOWAS will not announce it.[6]

Musah said, “Let no one be in doubt that if everything else fails the valiant forces of West Africa, both the military and the civilian components, are ready to answer the call of duty.” He added, “Meanwhile, we are still giving diplomacy a chance and the ball is in the court of the junta.” Ivory Coast, Benin and Nigeria are expected to contribute troops to the force mandated to invade Niger.

ECOWAS has already applied trade and financial sanctions on Niger while France, Germany and the United States have suspended aid programmes. Germany is pressing for EU sanctions on the coup leaders. The European Union has announced its willingness to support a military operation against Niger if requested by the pro-Western governments in ECOWAS.

Despite misgivings in some member nations, only Cape Verde and countries led by military governments resisted the proposed military action against Niger. The remaining countries in the 15-member bloc agreed to contribute to the regional force, namely, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

The pressure to act is largely due to the fact that Niger is the fourth West African nation since 2020 in which a coup has taken place, following Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea. The Sahel region is also plagued by armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) and this violence partly contributed to the military takeovers.

An important reason for the secrecy involved in the proposed military action includes possible repercussions for Nigeria that is struggling to control the activities of several armed groups in the country. There are fears that armed groups in Niger could spill into Nigeria in the event of a military intervention.

Burkina Faso and Mali have deployed combat aircraft to “respond to any form of aggression against Niger” and threatened to withdraw from the ECOWAS if it invades Niger.[7] The Burkinabe and Malian authorities also rejected ECOWAS’ “illegal, illegitimate and inhumane sanctions against the people and authorities of Niger”. The sanctions include a halt in all financial transactions and a national assets freeze. Algeria and Libya joined them, denouncing the sanctions as “inhumane and immoral.”

The office of Guinea’s President Mamady Doumbouya, in a social media post on August 14, 2023, said the sanctions “would not be a solution to the current problem but would lead to a humanitarian disaster whose consequences could extend beyond the borders of Niger”. It urged

ECOWAS to “reconsider its position”.

Gearing up for the conflict, however, Niger has arrested senior officials of the toppled government, including the interior minister, transport minister, a former defence minister, mines minister, oil minister and the head of the (formerly) ruling party.

Trans-Saharan gas pipeline

Besides uranium, the future of a Trans-Saharan gas pipeline from Nigeria to Morocco to Europe is now at stake. Niger is on the transit route and has refused to host the pipeline (30 billion m³ of gas per annum) which Europe needs to make up for the loss of Russian gas.

Burkina Faso has launched a new state enterprise to sell domestically produced raw materials like gold. It has resumed diplomatic ties with North Korea and terminated the Tax Treaty for Non-Double Taxation between Ouagadougou and Paris, which denied Burkina Faso tax for wealth earned in the country.

Moreover, in Guinea, that is rich in gold, diamonds, iron, bauxite (used to produce aluminium for the motor vehicle and goods industries), President Col. Mamady Doumbouya in October 2022 ordered foreign mining companies to refine resources locally and share the revenue fairly with the country. At a meeting with stakeholders in Conakry, he asked all foreign companies to submit proposals and a timetable for the construction of bauxite refineries by the end of May 2023.[8] A ban on unprocessed raw materials is now on the anvil as Guinea begins cracking down on defaulting companies.

Doumbouya said, “Despite the mining boom in the bauxite sector, we have to admit that the expected revenues are below expectations, and you and we cannot continue this game of fools that perpetuates great inequality in our relations.” Guinea has the world’s largest reserves of bauxite (7.4 billion tonnes), and is also the second largest producer. China imports nearly half of its bauxite needs from Guinea. Tanzania banned the export of minerals in raw form in 2017.

ECOWAS announced the closure of the region’s borders with Niger. Nigeria disconnected the high-voltage line transporting electricity to Niger, which relies on Nigeria for 70 percent of its power. As the World Bank, France, the European Union, the US and the ECOWAS regional central bank controlled by France suspend aid to Niger, its internal situation is unclear, though the popular reaction favours the coupists, with protesters chanting outside the French embassy in Niamey, “Long live Russia”, “Long live Putin” and “Down with France”. They set fire to the walls of the embassy compound.

A number of countries felt uneasy over military action in Niger, and public protests broke out in Senegal. The Military Council in Niger withdrew its ambassadors from France, Nigeria, Togo, and the United States and announced the closure of the country’s airspace until further notice.


Russia has said that military intervention by ECOWAS against a sovereign state would be unhelpful.[9] The Russian diplomatic spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said Moscow considers it essential to “prevent a new degradation” of the situation in the country.

At the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg in July 2023, President Vladimir Putin had stated that Russia has signed agreements for military cooperation with over 40 African countries, for “bolstering the defence capability of the continent’s countries.”[10] The agreements cover military-technical cooperation and supply of a wide range of armaments and hardware. Soon after tensions escalated with France, Russian cargo planes were seen landing at Niamey Airport in Niger.

Moreover, after terminating the wheat export deal through Ukraine, Putin assured the continent that Russia would remain a reliable supplier of grain. He promised to provide Zimbabwe, Mali, Burkina Faso, Somalia, Eritrea and the Central African Republic with 25,000 to 50,000 tons of grain for free, without any conditions and with free delivery, in the next three to four months. The Russian embassy in Burkina Faso was reopened after 31 years.

At the United Nations on August 4, 2023, Russian diplomat Dmitry Polyanskiy said,[11] “Russia has never considered Africa, Asia, or Latin America as a space for the extraction of profit… we have and will build factories, schools, hospitals and universities so that you can use your natural resources to manufacture finished goods with added value, instead of exporting raw materials.”

The rebellious African nations are not without friends. Iran has an long standing anti-imperialist agenda. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan endorsed Niger’s suspension of gold and uranium exports to France, calling it the result of ‘years of oppression’ by Paris.[12] “What France did in Algeria in the past, what it did in Rwanda, what it did in Mali, all these are in all the archives of the world. And especially Africans know this very well.” Erdoğan said Turkey would assist in securing grain exports from Russia to Africa and ‘underdeveloped countries.’


Niger’s General Salifu Modi requested help from the Russian mercenary group Wagner, during a visit to Bamako, Mali, on August 4, 2023, where he discussed the situation with leaders of Mali and Burkina Faso.[13] Wagner representatives reportedly arrived on August 5, 2023.

Giving his views about Niger’s problems, the late Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said, “I will answer what is the basis for the change of power in Niger. The basis is the economy. The population of Niger has been driven into poverty for a long time. For example, a French company that extracted uranium sold it on the market for $218, while paying Niger only $11 for it. You can work with investors on a 50-50 or 30-70 (%) basis, but it’s impossible to give back to the indigenous people of the country, who were born in this country, who live in this country, and who expect that the natural resources of this country belong to them, and according to the Constitution, they belong to them, only 5% of the wealth you receive.”

Pointing a finger at the Western powers, Prigozhin said Niger was flooded with terrorists “to cover up these economic crimes.” The ousted president served the old colonial powers, facilitating the extraction of Niger’s natural wealth, hence the military coup was “a liberation movement for the independence of this country, and God grant them success.” Prigozhin endorsed the coup and said the situation had been brewing for a while. “The former colonisers are trying to keep the people of African countries in check,” he added in his audio message on the Telegram app.[14]


The US Deputy Secretary of State and veteran colour revolution instigator, Victoria Nuland, rushed to Niger on August 7, 2023, the day after the deadline to reinstate the ousted president expired (August 6). She told CNN that she held “extremely frank and at times quite difficult” talks with General Moussa Salaou Barmou, the new chief of defense, and three colonels. Her request to meet the former president Bazoum was denied.[15] In fact, the coup leaders threatened that they would physically eliminate Bazoum if she pushed the envelope.

CFA Franc

Regardless of the outcome of the impending war, it is only a matter of time before the West African nations abandon the CFA franc (France of the Financial Community of Africa) imposed by France on its former colonies, which are also forced to hold their foreign-exchange reserves in the French Treasury and the Bank of France.[16]

In fact, Paris decides on what and how they spend their money. French companies have the first right of refusal on any major projects. The Bank of France prints their CFA currency and largely determines the broad framework of economic and monetary policy. The commanding heights of most African Francophone economies are controlled by France. French mining interests call the shots with regard to their natural resources.

Military bases

France and the US both have military bases in Niger. The US has an 1,100-strong military presence in the country and a drone base (airbase 201) near Agadez in central Niger, built at a cost of more than $100 million. Since 2018 it has been used for operations in the Sahel. Cameron Hudson, a former US official and Africa specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC, believes that Washington will try to retain this facility irrespective of who is in charge in Niger.

A showdown between the regional states seems inevitable, in view of the rising opposition to the French hegemony in Sahelian Africa.


Author Brief Bio: Sandhya Jain is a political analyst, independent researcher, and author of multiple books. She is also editor of the platform Vijayvaani.



[1] The West’s attempt to create a Ukrainian scenario in Niger is faltering, Timofey Bordachev, August 19, 2023.


[2] Niger coup: Ousted President Mohamed Bazoum meets Chad’s leader, BBC News, July 31, 2023.


[3] Supporters of Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum gather to show their support for him in Niamey on July 26, Aljazeera, August 2, 2023.


[4] How the US and France created a Niger mess for themselves, M.K. Bhadrakumar, August 19, 2023.


[5] France loses its uranium meal ticket in Niger, Rachel Marsden, RT, 1 Aug, 2023


[6] ECOWAS defence chiefs continue talks on possible Niger intervention, Aljazeera, August 18, 2023.


[7] Burkina Faso, Mali warn against military intervention in Niger, August 1, 2023.


[8] Guinea: Foreign Mining companies ordered to process bauxite on site, AFP, October 26, 2022.


[9] ‘It’ll not help’ — Russia advises ECOWAS against military intervention in Niger, The Cable, August 2, 2023.


[10] Putin Claims Russia Has Signed Military Deals With 40 African Countries, Daily Trust, July 29, Jul 2023


[11] https://twitter.com/upholdreality/status/1687202185682059264

[12] Turkey: Niger’s suspension of gold, uranium exports to France result of years of oppression by Paris – Erdogan, August 5, 2023. https://www.ruptly.tv/en/videos/20230805-002-turkey-niger-s-suspension-of-gold-uranium-exports-to-france-result-of-years-of-oppression-by-paris-erdogan

[13] Niger’s junta asks for help from Russian group Wagner as it faces military intervention threat, AP, August 6, 2023.


[14] Burkina Faso, Mali warn against military intervention in Niger, Aljazeera, August 1, 2023.


[15] Niger’s junta rejects a diplomatic visit by regional and UN officials over ‘atmosphere of menace’, AP, August 9, 2023.


[16] How France Underdeveloped Africa, Obadiah Mailafia, February 5, 2019.



Report on Roundtable Discussion on “BRICS Expansion and Currencies”

India Foundation organised a roundtable discussion on “BRICS Expansion and Currencies” at India Foundation Office on 11 August 2023. The discussion was Chaired by Shri Ram Madhav, President, India Foundation and the session was addressed by Mr. Roman Babushkin, Minister-Counsellor, DCM, Embassy of the Russian Federation in India, Amb. Rajiv Bhatia, Former Ambassador & Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Studies Programme, Gateway House and Dr. Zorawar Daulet Singh, Adjunct fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi. 45 people participated in the discussion.


The discussion focused on BRICS expansion and also on the possibility of adoption of a new currency system to facilitate trade and financial settlements among member countries. Given the existing financial institutions run by the BRICS, the discussion tried to cover important aspects like how should the proposed system rely on direct payment in the respective national currencies, establish a ‘common basket’ or will a new denomination needs to be created? Speakers also highlighted that in the evolving global scenario, BRICS plays an increasingly important role and it should be analysed from the respective standpoints of its member states and their civil societies.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Roman Babushkin, Minister-Counsellor, DCM, Embassy of the Russian Federation in India, said that “In BRICS, there is no place for a dictate, domination, unilateral and confrontational approaches, sanctions, weaponization of economy and currencies, as well as interference in domestic affairs”. Mr Babushkin also said that “BRICS exemplifies a new formation, which can be called a flexible integration based on consensus and being truly comprehensive. More than 70 formats of practical cooperation are structured in the three pillars – policy and security, economy and finance as well as humanitarian ties. All that makes this Association even stronger than any agreement-based supranational Alliance or a bloc”.

Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia in his address said that the core agenda of BRICS is to present a non-western view of the world and not an anti-West view. Amb Bhatia also explained the Intra-BRICS dynamics that needs to be taken into account in assessing the present and future trajectory of BRICS. Dr. Zorawar Daulet Singh in his address highlighted that by creating BRICS and showing that it could work, the five nations are projecting an alternative to the current West-led global order.


The initial remarks at the roundtable discussion were followed by an engaging Q&A session where participants also raised and highlighted important issues related to theme of the discussion.


Roundtable Discussion on “Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity”

India Foundation organised a roundtable discussion on “Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity in Indian Cinema” on 21 August, 2023. The discussion was addressed by Dr Vikrant Kishore, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham; Member, RAC, Victorian Multicultural Commission, Australia. The session was chaired by Shri Guru Prakash Paswan, Visiting Fellow, India Foundation; National Spokesperson, BJP; and State Secretary, BJP Bihar. Dr Vikrant Kishore mainly emphasised on the importance of more inclusivity in Indian Cinema for the equal representation of all the groups of people from varying backgrounds.


BRICS: Prospects for the 15th Summit


Among the world’s most important and influential multilateral groupings, BRICS is invariably noticed as a club of emerging economies – three from Asia (China, India, Russia) and one each from Africa (South Africa) and Latin America (Brazil). It is perceived as a counterweight to G7, the grouping of the developed nations. Notably, a BRICS member (China) has become the world’s second-largest economy and another member (India) is the fifth-largest economy.[1] BRICS and G7 are key pillars of G20, the premier international economic forum, with India holding the latter’s presidency in 2023, which will move to two other BRICS members (Brazil and South Africa) in 2024 and 2025 respectively.

As a grouping of five nations, BRICS represents 27% of the world’s land area, 42% of the population,  16% of international trade, 27% of global GDP in nominal terms, and 32.5% in PPP terms. Heading to its 15th summit to be held in Johannesburg on 22-24 August 2023, it draws international attention not only for its past record of achievements and failings but also for its internal dynamics and new challenges. These include the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and Ukraine conflict, proposed expansion and other aspects of institutional development, and its management of economic cooperation among its members as well as in relation to the Global South. A comprehensive assessment of the relevant facets of BRICS as an institution, during its journey from September 2006 to July 2023, is offered below as a means to explain what is at stake at the forthcoming summit.

That the BRICS’ journey has been a fascinating one is beyond doubt. But the question of whether BRICS, in its second decade, will achieve its optimal potential remains intensely debatable. The acronym ‘BRIC’ was coined by Jim O’Neil of Goldman Sachs in 2001, predicting that the four fast-growing economies (of Brazil, Russia, India and China) would collectively dominate the world economy by 2050. However, the BRICS of today has evolved quite differently. Three milestones in its initial trajectory are particularly noteworthy: September 2006 when the foreign ministers of Brazil, Russia, India and China met in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA session to launch a new grouping; June 2009 when the first BRIC summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia; and April 2011 when South Africa attended the summit for the first time, giving to the group its current name – BRICS.

BRICS will turn into an adult at 18, next year. When its top leaders[2] meet at the Sandton Convention Center, Johannesburg in August 2023, they will tackle the principal challenge of retaining its basic cohesion and internal solidarity while increasing its impact and influence in the world today. They will do so against the backdrop of the ongoing overarching US-China strategic contestation and the impact of other geopolitical developments.

Goals, driving impulses

The early formative years of BRICS witnessed the decline of the US-led G7 dominance and the imperative compulsion of the industrialized West to engage emerging economies, especially China, for helping resolve the 2008 global financial crisis. The BRIC foreign ministers in 2006 foresaw the need for greater multipolarity. The elevation of G20 to the highest political level in 2008 was a step in that direction. The first BRICS summit in 2009, therefore, called for “a more democratic and just multi-polar world order” and advocated peaceful resolution of “disputes in international relations.” It also articulated its commitment to “advance the reform of international financial institutions, to reflect changes in the global economy.” Above all, it stressed “the central role of G20 summits in dealing with the financial crisis.”[3]

Besides, BRICS covered other important issues such as improvements in multilateral trade systems, implementation of the concept of sustainable development, the pressing needs of developing countries (e.g., increasing development assistance, debt relief, etc.), counter-terrorism, and commitment to multilateral diplomacy.[4] All these themes became integral elements of subsequent summits and of their outcome documents.

As the following decade unfolded, the annual summits, held with remarkable regularity, explored many other dimensions of international economic and political questions, articulating the shared perspectives of the five member states and pushing for a coordinated approach. They also created multiple platforms for internal cooperation on a wide range of issues stretching from macroeconomics, trade and investment to health, agriculture, crime and corruption. The BRICS agenda has continuously expanded. As John Kirton, director of the BRICS Research Group at the University of Toronto, noted, “The summit communiqués; have grown in length from just under 2,000 words in 2009 to a peak of 22,000 in 2014, then declined to 8,400 in 2018.”[5] He also pointed out that between 2009 and 2021, BRICS leaders made “844 commitments” pertaining to international cooperation, development, regional security, trade, digital economy, and other issues.

Achievements, disappointments

BRICS had a fairly decent record of progress to show in its first decade (2006–16). It crafted and projected a non-Western view of the world; strengthened multipolarity by serving as a bridge between the Global North and the Global South; helped in improving emerging economies’  quotas in IMF and World Bank; and created the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA). It also focused on its broad ambition to deploy “all policy tools” and adopt “innovation-driven development strategies” to enhance the resilience and potential of BRICS economies and contribute to the global economy.[6]

Yet BRICS has disappointed its supporters on several counts. A clear majority of its members (Brazil, South Africa and India) has been dismayed by the minority view (of Russia and China) on the reform of the UN Security Council. The minority group failed to support the case for permanent membership of the IBSA nations and refused to move beyond a frozen formulation.[7] Countless meetings of BRICS leaders, ministers and others and endless reams of documents produced have not been backed by adequate tangible action. BRICS summits executed ‘outreach’ by convening meetings of leaders of the host country’s neighbours (such as BIMSTEC in 2016) or even of a larger international group such as the one convened by China in 2018. Yet BRICS provided little concrete assistance to these guest countries, except probably giving them the satisfaction of being associated with an important multilateral forum. From this arose the momentum for the expansion of BRICS.

Internal dynamics

Intra-BRICS dynamics need to be taken into account in assessing its present and future trajectory. In theory, all five members are equal, guided by mutual respect and shared interests that bind them together in the quest for common goals. In reality, an obvious asymmetry marks their relationship: China’s contribution to the world GDP is bigger than the GDP of the other four combined.[8] Besides being the world’s second-largest economy, China nurtures ambition and displays an aggressive drive to become the No.1 power, displacing the U.S. This has created complications in Asia, especially for India. After the bloody clash between Chinese and Indian troops in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 and the failure of bilateral diplomacy in the past three years to resolve contentious issues, China-India relations remain seriously strained.[9] The resultant trends in India’s foreign policy to strengthen relations with the West, especially the U.S. and France, and to consolidate the Quad in the Indo-Pacific have caused much annoyance to Beijing. To think that BRICS can be insulated from these geopolitical developments is to expose one’s naivety.

The war between Russia and Ukraine which broke out in February 2022 proved to be another source of tensions within the BRICS. Despite its close strategic partnership with Moscow, New Delhi chose to adopt a calibrated position – one favouring diplomacy and dialogue rather than siding openly with one or the other party to the conflict. China swore by respect for territorial integrity and national sovereignty and postured to serve as a mediator, though it has in fact supported Russia, given its “no limits” partnership with it. Brazil and South Africa too have been adversely affected by the conflict, coming under heavy Western pressure to condemn Russia. With Moscow’s failure to decisively win the war so far, compounded by internal problems exposed by the Wagner Group’s alleged ‘mutiny’, Russia stands as a beleaguered power today. A comparatively weaker Russia, increasingly dependent on China, is a recipe for increased imbalance within the BRICS. Insiders point out that the two nations often act as a sub-group within the grouping.

The other three nations – India, South Africa and Brazil – are linked through a common allegiance to the IBSA Dialogue Forum. As leading democracies of three continents, which clearly belong to the Global South, they have more in common among them than the authoritarian governance system of Russia and China’s one party regime. However seasoned observers note that the IBSA members are far from pulling their weight together in order to ensure a better equilibrium within the BRICS.

In short, the five BRICS members need to first improve their internal dynamics and consolidate their inner cohesion, while seeking to address regional and global challenges. Otherwise, their hyped-up rhetoric and verbosity may prove ineffective in the real world.

Johannesburg – key issues

In the foregoing context, the 15th summit at Johannesburg assumes considerable significance. Its signature theme is “BRICS and Africa Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism.” How it handles certain key issues will be watched with widespread interest.[10]  These are analyzed below.

Expansion of the membership of BRICS is perhaps the No. 1 issue. The Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Cape Town in June, and the Sherpas’ meeting in Durban in July accorded primacy to it. They attempted to develop consensus on “the guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures for this expansion process,” as directed by the leaders at the 14th  summit.[11]  At the end of the Sherpas’ Durban meeting, Ambassador Anil Sooklal, the South African sherpa, announced that the five sherpas were “highly satisfied that we have produced a good report and outcome document.”[12] This was interpreted to mean that a broad agreement was reached among the officials, though it was subject to collective approval by the top political leaders.

What are the likely contours of this agreement? Two facts are clear: first, at least 19 countries (later increased to 22) have expressed interest in one form or another in joining the BRICS[13]; and second, disagreement among BRICS members existed, with China and Russia perceived as pushing for rapid expansion, while Brazil and India advocate a cautious, go-slow approach. South Africa found itself somewhere in the middle but was generally inclined to accept several new members. In reality, it was learned later that China was, after all, not in a tearing hurry to widely open the gates of membership; that Brazil, in particular, strongly favoured a restrictive approach; and, that Russia reportedly preferred expansion “but without any huge enthusiasm.”[14] As a result, gradualism and caution may be adopted as the way forward so that existing inner cohesion and geographical balance are not disturbed.

What the summit decides on this issue will be known on 24 August 2023. It is likely to announce the agreed criteria for new membership, which paves the way for the entry of a small number of new countires from Latin America and Africa. Those chosen from Asia would especially require the concurrence of all three Asian powers – China, Russia and India. Another point of agreement could be that new entrants are not given full membership at the outset. They may first be ‘socialised’ into the BRICS philosophy and political culture as ‘dialogue partners’. A few years later, they may be allowed to join the forum as members. In other words, the SCO model may be followed by BRICS as far as expansion is concerned. A South African scholar observed that the expansion was “ultimately unavoidable” but its value lay in its “deep symbolism, complementarity and agency.”[15]

The G20 summit, to be hosted by India in September 2023, may figure prominently in discussions at Johannesburg. BRICS has been a steady and strong supporter of devising global solutions through the instrumentality of G20. However, during the Indian presidency, it has been extremely difficult to produce the consensus documents at preparatory Ministerial meetings, mainly due to the insistence by Russia and China to exclude the two paragraphs on the Ukraine conflict, which they had accepted at the G20 Bali summit in November 2022. On the other hand, the other three BRICS members have had no difficulty in agreeing to the said paras. Thus, the split in BRICS ranks on this score is complete. Johannesburg will almost be the last opportunity to craft an agreed formula that creates a pathway for a consensus-based Delhi Declaration of G20, a fortnight later.

Ukraine per se and the conflict’s adverse effects on the economies of the Global South will receive pointed attention in Johannesburg. The African Leaders’ Peace Initiative, which took South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and others to Moscow and Kyiv in June 2023 and its outcome will no doubt be discussed. But it will not be easy to devise unanimous formulation on Ukraine, given the internal divergences. It is noteworthy that the 14th BRICS summit adopted a fairly general formulation.[16]

The New Development Bank (NDB), gradually emerging as a success of BRICS, may come under the Leaders’ lens. The grouping is proud of the NDB’s record, but the latter is thinly capitalized at $100 billion and is known to be facing financial constraints. This is important to correct, as BRICS leaders eye with concern the burden of rising expectations from a large number of developing countries that need funds for development. The bank, therefore, needs to expand its capital base.

A common BRICS currency has received intense media attention, in the buildup to the Johannesburg summit. It may almost be viewed as a media creation, reinforced by some remarks made by Brazilian and Russian officials. A common currency such as the Euro is the end product of a high level of financial integration attained by the European Union (EU) over a long period. BRICS is nowhere near that kind of achievement.  Anil Sooklal, South African sherpa, observed, “There’s never been talk of a BRICS currency, it is not on the agenda.”[17] In June 2023, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar stated that currencies would remain “very much a national issue for a long time to come.”[18] What BRICS officials have been striving is to create a system for settling trade transactions in their national currencies, probably in separate bilateral formats. Further, efforts to encourage the ‘BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism’ will continue to play an important role in facilitating economic and trade cooperation. Some progress can be expected, but it is clear that the enthusiasm of the Russians, Chinese and Brazilians to move towards de-dollarization is neither shared by the other members nor do objective conditions exist for a common BRICS currency at present.  “Pressure from Russia, looking to escape sanctions, and perhaps China looking for a larger global role, not to mention Brazil’s Lula, could drive a push for a BRICS currency,” noted Peter Fabricius, a consultant with Institute for Security Studies Africa. He added, “But it’s too soon to put the greenback on the endangered list.”[19]

Among other issues, deliberations at Johannesburg may push for positive movement on several ideas that figured in the BRICS’ Beijing Declaration of June 2022 such as the participation of Emerging Markets and Developing Countries (EMDCs) in the international economic decision-making and norm-setting processes; support for the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and Africa’s efforts towards integration through the development of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA); there may also be renewed focus on the grouping’s endeavours to extend cooperation to other EMDCs through the BRICS Outreach and BRICS Plus Cooperation. A deep discussion on the post-coup situation in Niger and its international ramifications, as well as optimal support for the AU’s likely admission into G20 are also expected.

The matter of participation in the 15th summit is another interesting issue to watch. With President Putin’s physical participation ruled out, some uncertainty prevailed about whether the other three leaders (Xi Jinping, Modi and Lula) would personally join President Ramaphosa in a summit in which South Africa has invested considerable political capital by inviting 60 leaders, including 49 leaders of African states and 11 heads of multilateral groupings. The latest reports confirm that the other three BRICS leaders will participate in the summit in person. The 15th summit, therefore, promises to witness one of the largest gatherings of African and international leaders in South Africa. It is worth remembering that the last three summits – Beijing (2022), New Delhi (2021) and Moscow (2020) – were all held in virtual format.

India’s policy

As a co-founder of and a steady player in BRICS, India has consistently tried to make it more effective and consequential. From Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second mandate, continuity has been ensured on this score. BRICS has been viewed as a potent instrument to secure diversity and multipolarity in global politics. As S. Jaishankar, the external affairs minister, aptly put it, “Counter-dominance and principled commitment to multipolarity in all forms – political and economic, academic and institutional, social and cultural – is written into the DNA of BRICS.” He added, “BRICS is a statement of global rebalancing that underlines its essential diversity and pluralism.”[20]

The last time India served as the president of BRICS was in 2021. Then, it laid special emphasis on four goals: reform of the multilateral system; counter-terrorism cooperation; technological and digital solutions for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and enhancing People-to-People exchanges. These goals have been achieved only in part but India has been a full party to all decisions taken by the previous summits, including those on the grouping’s institutional development. At the opening session of the 2021 summit, PM Modi observed that BRICS was “an influential voice for emerging economies,” noted that it has many achievements to its credit in the past 15 years, and added, “We need to ensure that BRICS is more productive in the next 15 years.”[21]

There are, of course, those who judge the BRICS negatively particularly against the backdrop of strained India-China relations since 2020 and India’s growing cooperation with the US and France in 2023. Some academics openly call the membership of BRICS a liability for India. This is not the case. Viewing the grouping in positive terms, New Delhi considers BRICS a guarantee for an independent foreign policy and strategic autonomy, a means to ensure multipolarity and a valuable device through which its leadership role in the Global South can be buttressed. Above all, groupings such as G20, BRICS and SCO give opportunities to members to communicate and cooperate with each other even when their bilateral relations face tensions – as in the case of India-China ties at present.


BRICS will continue to be a significant pillar of the post-Cold War architecture for global governance. The polarising geopolitics of the present decade will, however, act as a serious constraint. So will the lack of optimal internal coherence and mutual trust. As these challenges are addressed, the grouping may have a larger role to play. Optimists have hailed 2023 as the year of ‘new opportunities’ for the Global South and ‘the most impactful year’ in the geopolitical landscape. The Johannesburg summit will provide some pointers for the future directions of BRICS, and of the world that surrounds it.

Author Brief Bio: Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia is Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Studies Programme at Gateway House. He is a member of CII’s International Advisory Council, Trade Policy Council and Africa Committee. He is the Chair of FICCI’s Task Force on Blue Economy, and served as Chair of Core Group of Experts on BIMSTEC. He is a founding member of the Kalinga International Foundation and a member of the governing council of Asian Confluence.  As Director General of the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) from 2012-15, he played a key role in strengthening India’s Track-II research and outreach activities. During a 37-year innings in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), he served as Ambassador to Myanmar and Mexico and as High Commissioner to Kenya, South Africa and Lesotho. He dealt with a part of South Asia, while posted as Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs. 



[1] Statista, World Economic Forum, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/09/india-uk-fifth-largest-economy-world

[2] Given the arrest warrant issued in March 2023  by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Vladimir Putin for alleged responsibility for war crimes in Ukraine, the Russian and South African governments have mutually agreed that the Russian president would attend the summit digitally. For details, see ‘Situation in Ukraine: ICC judges issue arrest warrants against Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova’, International Criminal Court, 17 March 2023, https://www.icc-cpi.int/news/situation-ukraine-icc-judges-issue-arrest-warrants-against-vladimir-vladimirovich-putin-and

[3]‘Joint Statement of the BRIC Countries’ Leaders’, Yekaterinburg, Russia, June 16, 2009. BRICS Information Centre, University of Toronto, http://www.brics.utoronto.ca/docs/090616-leaders.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] John Kirton, ‘The Evolving BRICS’, BRICS Information Centre, University of Toronto, http://www.brics.utoronto.ca/biblio/kirton-evolving-brics-230705.html

[6] ‘BRICS Leaders Xiamen Declaration’, September 4, 2017, Xiamen, China, BRICS Information Centre, University of Toronto, http://www.brics.utoronto.ca/docs/170904-xiamen.html

[7] ‘XIV BRICS Summit Beijing Declaration, June 23, 2022, para 7,  BRICS Information Centre, University of Toronto.  The text of the formulation in question, repeated at the conclusion of every summit reads, “China and Russia reiterated the importance they attach to the status and role of Brazil, India and South Africa in international affairs and supported their aspiration to play a greater role in the UN” http://www.brics.utoronto.ca/docs/220623-declaration.html

[8] ‘GDP by Country’, https://www.worldometers.info/gdp/gdp-by-country/

[9] ‘Meeting of National Security Advisor with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the BRICS NSAs’ Meeting July 25, 2023, Ministry of External Affairs.  On the sidelines of the BRICS NSAs’ meeting in Johannesburg on 24 July 2023, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval conveyed to Wang Yi, his Chinese counterpart that the prevailing situation in the border region “had eroded strategic trust and the public and political facets of the India-China relationship.” He added that peace and tranquility in the border areas was essential for normal bilateral relations. The Chinese side reiterated its known position on this matter. All that the two dignitaries could agree was that “India-China bilateral relationship is significant not only for the two countries but also for the region and the world.” https://www.mea.gov.in/press-releases.htm?dtl%2F36876%2FMeeting_of_National_Security_Advisor_with_his_Chinese_counterpart_on_the_sidelines_of_the_BRICS_NSAs_Meeting=null&s=03

[10] For a preview, it is worth perusing the joint statement of foreign ministers issued in June 2023.  https://mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/1873948/?TSPD_101_R0=08765fb817ab20004a6c4f0a5602ad93f1f7072e4e227d883d8ed94f4c2f1288720e1240d935b18c085af9b5071430005670bb41a2280b69b655f922f955544a4d971bf533c8e686d4928dba99c00af8e633db7fc5d8139c489c3e9f2adc5c00#:~:text=The%20Ministers%20welcomed%20the%20Friends,Development%2C%20and%20Inclusive%20Multilateralism

[11] ‘XIV BRICS Summit Beijing Declaration’. June 23, 2022, para 73, BRICS Information Centre, University of Toronto, http://www.brics.utoronto.ca/docs/220623-declaration.html

[12] Lindsay  Dentlinger, ‘BRICS Sherpas Confident They Have Suitable Criteria For Admitting New Members’, Eyewitness News, 7 July 2023. https://ewn.co.za/2023/07/07/brics-sherpas-confident-they-have-suitable-criteria-for-admitting-new-members

[13] Rajiv Bhatia, ‘The paradox of BRICS’, Gateway House, 25 May 2023, https://www.gatewayhouse.in/the-paradox-of-brics/

[14] ‘China’s bid to enlarge BRICS membership hits roadblocks’, Bloomberg, 28 July 2023. https://www.livemint.com/news/world/chinas-bid-to-enlarge-brics-membership-hits-roadblocks-11690522625404.html

[15] Ronak Gopaldas, ‘More BRICS in the wall?’  Institute for Security Studies, 8 August 2022, https://issafrica.org/iss-today/more-brics-in-the-wall

[16] ‘XIV BRICS Summit Beijing Declaration’, June 23, 2022, para 22, BRICS Information Centre, University of Toronto, It stated, “We have discussed the situation in Ukraine and recall our national positions as expressed at the appropriate fora, namely the UNSC and UNGA. We support talks between Russia and Ukraine.” It also reflects their “concerns” over the humanitarian situation. http://www.brics.utoronto.ca/docs/220623-declaration.html

[17] Rachel Savage and Carien du Plessis, ‘BRICS currency not on August summit agenda, South African official says’, Reuters, 20 July 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/brics-currency-not-august-summit-agenda-south-african-official-2023-07-20/

[18] Ibid.

[19] Peter Fabricius, ‘The mighty dollar is rhetorically endangered but safe, for now,’, Institute for Security Studies, 24 July 2023, https://issafrica.org/iss-today/the-mighty-dollar-is-rhetorically-endangered-but-safe-for-now

[20] ‘Dr. S. Jaishankar’s Inaugural Address at BRICS Academic Forum 2021’, ORF, 4 August 2021, https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/jaishankar-inaugural-address-brics-academic-forum-2021/

[21] ‘PM Modi chairs 13th BRICS summit’, Times of India, 9 September 2021.


12th Young Thinkers’ Meet (YTM) 2023

18-19 August 2023

Guwahati, Assam

India Foundation organised the 12th Young Thinkers Meet on 18-19 August, 2023 in Guwahati, Assam. Young Thinkers Meet (YTM) is one such initiative of the India Foundation that began its journey in 2012 at Coorg, Karnataka. The annually held event acts as a confluence of young nationalistic minds hailing from varied walks of life across India.

To give some context, YTM is an annual get-together organised by India Foundation, a New Delhi based think tank, for individuals (mostly under 35 years) who are driven by the idea of a New India. YTM today has an alumni base of over three hundred individuals who belong to different parts of India and come with unique life experiences and skill sets. There are social activists, political activists, NGO workers, academics, journalists, scientists, corporate professionals and students from reputed international universities. Participants in the YTM come from all parts of the country and indulge themselves in deliberations and debates on issues of contemporary national importance. The format of the meet is immersive and experiential rather than a lecture-based classroom format. The number of delegates at any YTM has varied from seventy-five to eighty-five and involves freewheeling discussion over two to three days. Each year YTM moves to a new location and helps the young delegates explore the incredible diversity of the country. The meet has previously happened in Coorg, Karnataka; Manesar, Haryana; Pune, Maharashtra; Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh; Patnitop, Jammu & Kashmir; Vadodara, Gujarat; Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh; Chilika, Odisha; Pahalgam and Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir and Annavaram, Andhra Pradesh. Due to the national lockdown, YTM happened virtually in 2020.

The 12th YTM in Guwahati, Assam, aimed to bring together motivated youth leaders, emerging scholars, and potential pioneers from various sections of the Indian society to engage in challenges to our contemporary discourse and deliberate on their significance, impact and legitimacy. The engagement over two days gave a glimpse into such debates and helped our young scholars to further think over and articulate their views. The objective of the Young Thinkers’ Meet was twofold. One was to understand the global orientation of wokeness in its current weaponized form and how it proliferates Indian discourse, thereby triggering cultural wars, and who are its actors in political ideologies, corporate organizations, or other actors such as in social media. Two, consequently, the aim was to debate, discuss and understand how our youth can individually and collectively respond, and equip themselves to think anchored in Indian thought.

This YTM also included a special feature- “Border Expeditions Programme”. A group of 14 delegates selected by India Foundation were sent to the border areas of Arunachal Pradesh from 13-16 August, 2023.

The 12th Young Thinkers Meet 2023 at Guwahati, Assam was attended by 84 delegates from 22 states. Most of the delegates arrived at the venue by the evening of 17 August 2023. Followed by Dinner, an informal Introductory Session took place in which the delegates introduced themselves. The session was conducted by Shri Mukunda CR, Sah-Sarkaryavah, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and Dr Ram Madhav, President, India Foundation.

On 18 August 2023, the 12th Young Thinkers Meet started with the Inaugural session on “What is Woke Narrative?” featuring a distinguished panel including Shri Biswajit Daimary, Speaker-Assam Legislative Assembly; Swamini Vimalananda ji, Acharya, Chinmaya Mission, Coimbatore; Shri B. L. Santhosh, National General Secretary, BJP and it was chaired by Dr Ram Madhav, President, India Foundation. The session aimed to shed light on the contemporary relevance of the “Woke” narratives. The focus was on how wokeism has set the stage for cultural wars and has initiated a struggle for hegemony over the control of narratives, gaining momentum in Western academic institutions and challenging established social constructs.

The session commenced with Dr Ram Madhav speaking about the emergence of wokeism as a critical juncture in the ongoing cultural strife, notably visible within Western academic institutions. With an emphasis on wokeism’s disruptive nature, Dr Madhav expounded how this ideology disrupts societal norms, challenging conventional orders.

Shri Biswajit Daimary offered a deep exploration of India’s cultural diversity. He celebrated the nation’s mosaic of cultures, advocating for their acceptance and integration. Daimary ji’s exposition included references to folklore, such as the tales from Mahabharata, exemplifying how these narratives contribute to India’s cultural mosaic.

Swamini Vimalananda brought a distinct perspective by dissecting the contrasting realms of wokeism and dharma. She charted the journey of wokeism, originating as a response to marginalized groups, but ultimately morphing into a path for a specific version of justice and empowerment that suits the western narrative. Expressing concern over the dominance of Western narratives, Swamini ji urged India to forge its narrative, fostering proactive engagement instead of reactive defensiveness.

Shri B. L. Santhosh provided an illuminating account of the implications of wokeism on society. He underscored the delicate balance between cultural preservation and necessary evolution. He examined how woke culture’s propagation is often driven by market forces, leveraging digital platforms and social media to further its narrative.

The Inaugural session was followed by the first Panel Discussion on “Political Correctness, Cancel Culture and Challenges to Freedom of Expression/Wokeism on Campuses”.

The discussants of the session were Shri Ujjwal Deepak, Former OSD to Chattisgarh Chief Minister; Ms Mahamedhaa Nagar, Spokesperson, Uttar Pradesh BJP; Shri Karan Kataria, LLM, London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); Shri Pratik Suthar, National Convener, Think India and Ms Mangla Tekam, Member, Student Wing, ABVP.

The broad themes covered in this session included the significance of our traditions and how wokeism and the wish for being politically correct has affected our own culture. The channelisation of the process of political correctness has been ingrained in our political history and it has turned toxic for our own society. The effect of postmodernism as the product of the theory of cultural marxism is being used as a tool by the woke intellectuals in universities and social institutions. The session also covered the aspect of growth of cancel culture and the medium through which the concept of wokeism spreads in the mindset of the individuals.

The second Panel Discussion was on “The Role of Media in Shaping Cultural Narratives (Media, Social Media, OTT, Television, Cinemas)”.

The panelists of the session were Dr Swadesh Singh, Assistant Professor, Satyawati College, University of Delhi; Shri Sudarshan Ramabadran, Visiting Fellow, India Foundation; Shri Apurv Mishra, Consultant, Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council; Ms Shruti Pandey, Research Scholar, University of Hyderabad and Shri Nishant Kumar Azad, Senior Correspondent, Organiser.

The session mainly covered several topics of shaping the cultural narratives and their building through our own way of storytelling. The issue of representation of distorted narratives of our culture and traditions by the use of mainstream media platforms and its consequences on young minds of the country was included. It also covered the aspects of how Indian Cinema has been used as a medium to spread wokeism and Hollywood movies being used as a platform to propagate biased stances on woke issues. Another thing that was highlighted was how Indian Cinema could be used as a medium to set the narrative and also how narrative building involves three steps of representation, selective reporting and setting the agenda.

After two panel discussions, a presentation session took place on “Understanding our Northeast India”. The session was chaired by Dr Shristi Pukhrem, Senior Research Fellow, India Foundation. The session was judged by Shri Mukunda CR,  Sah-Sarkaryavah, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh; Dr Ram Madhav, President, India Foundation and Ms Rami N. Desai, Distinguished Fellow, India Foundation. All the delegates were divided into eight groups, each group representing the north-eastern states of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura respectively. The main aim of this session was to engage participants in a group discussion and to gain some insights about the states.

Followed by group presentations, there was an open house session with Shri Mukunda CR, Sah-Sarkaryavah, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh where young delegates had a fair and frank discussion about the theme of 12th Young Thinkers’ Meet.

After Dinner, the delegates involved themselves in a “Mock Parliament” session. All the delegates were divided into two groups, one being the Ruling Government and the other was the Opposition.

On 19 August, 2023, the day started with a visit to the auspicious Kamakhya Devi Mandir which is an Adi Shakti Peetha.

The third panel discussion was on “Gender Identity and Inclusion: Policy Challenges”. The discussants of the session were Ms Rami N. Desai, Distinguished Fellow, India Foundation; Shri Gopi Shankar Madurai, South Representative of the National Council for Transgender Persons with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India; Shri Ankit Bhuptani, Founder, Queer Hindu Alliance; Shri Shubhendu Anand, Advocate, Supreme Court of India and Ms Anmol Mahajan, Research Fellow, India Foundation.

The session covered the changing aspects and facets of gender and identity and a brief explanation on gender identity and womanhood. It also included the issue of the constitutionality of identification of sex of a person and also about the living reality of the LGBTQIA community and how the community is dealing with the contemporary socio, political and woke narratives. One other aspect covered was about the LGBTQIA community and their struggles with legislative process and also non-sensitisation of the masses towards them.

After the third panel discussion, there was an interaction session with Shri Gyanendra Pratap Singh, IPS, Director General of Police, Assam. He gave a very insightful presentation on “Assam’s Journey to Peace and Prosperity” in which he discussed various aspects including public order and major issues in Assam. The presentation was followed by an interactive Q&A session.

The interaction was followed by Presentations on Border Expedition. A total of 14 people selected by India Foundation were divided into two groups for the “Border Expeditions Programme” from 13-16 August, 2023. One group was sent to Tawang and the other one to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh. Both the teams gave a group presentation, sharing their experiences about visiting the border areas of Arunachal Pradesh to try and understand the topography of their land and have a first hand experience of the socio-cultural livelihood of the locals. The presentations were chaired by Shri Aaditya Tiwari, Visiting Fellow, India Foundation.

The 12th Young Thinkers Meet ended with the Valedictory Session on “Constructing an Agenda for the Future”. The speakers were Dr Ram Madhav, President, India Foundation and Shri PVSLN Murty, Member, Governing Council, India Foundation..

The session ended with a collective aim of constructing our own narratives through building academic discourses and acknowledging the importance of knowledge and love that our culture infuses in our way of life. We should work on solutions and move one step forward from just discussing our issues.


Roundtable Discussion on “Conservatism, Nationalism and Democracy”

Under the aegis of India Foundation, Conservatives’ Collective organised a roundtable discussion on “Conservatism, Nationalism and Democracy” on July 26, 2023. The keynote lecture was delivered by Dr Yoram Hazony, Chairman, Edmund Burke Foundation and President, Herzl Institute, Jerusalem. The session was chaired by Dr Ram Madhav, President, India Foundation, and moderated by Prof Shri Prakash Singh, Director, South Campus, University of Delhi. Dr Yoram Hazony traced the origins of the idea of nationalism to the Jewish traditions, and delved upon some crucial distinctions between the modern concept of nationalism and the former. He also emphasised on the immense potential of the Indian academic community to contribute positively to the global dialogues on Conservatism.


Roundtable Discussion on “Conservatism, Nationalism and Democracy”

Under the aegis of India Foundation, Conservatives’ Collective organised a roundtable discussion on “Conservatism, Nationalism and Democracy” on 26 July, 2023. The keynote lecture was delivered by Dr Yoram Hazony, Chairman, Edmund Burke Foundation and President, Herzl Institute, Jerusalem. The session was chaired by Dr Ram Madhav, President, India Foundation and moderated by Prof Shri Prakash Singh, Director, South Campus, University of Delhi.

Conceptually ‘conservatism’, ‘nationalism’ and ‘democracy’, are different yet an inextricable linkage between the three have become earnest discourse in contemporary times. More often, this stem from a spurious drive to deceptively misplace the connections between the three. In the wake of mainstream discourse which hinges around incongruent relation between nationalism and democracy, how conservatism is appropriately placed with them has generated great deal of fervour among academicians, policy analysts and journos. Hitherto conservatism is seen through a combined prism of nationalism and democracy. In this context, the “Conservative Collectives” has endeavoured to investigate various discourses pertaining to the relationship between ‘conservatism’, ‘nationalism’ and ‘democracy’ and expose the erroneous understanding and interpretation by developing deep insight with conceptual objectivity and theoretical underpinning.

The foundational notion stands on the premise that the concept of traditions and customs are at the core of traditional nationalistic conservative thought. Edmund Burke describes conservatism as an “approach to human affairs which mistrusts both a priori reasoning and revolution, preferring to put its trust in experience and in the gradual improvement of tried and tested arrangements.” Against this backdrop, a modest beginning of the “Conservative Collectives” on the platform of India Foundation took place with enlightening presentation on the subject by Dr Hazony, who, as a core supporter of ‘conservative nationalism’, talked about the historical basis of development of the ‘hegemony of enlightenment liberalism’. Discussing contemporary times, he mainly focused on the timeline of 2016 to 2020, when competing political visions were given space to come forward against the dominating ideology of liberalism and marxism. He has been hoping that national conservatism would provide restoration of political stability and freedom of thought in all the nation-states.

Dr Yoram Hazony initiated his lecture by speaking about his career, which has revolved around the study of the philosophy of Jewish Bible, the history of the state of Israel and similar subjects. In 2016, his Jewish professor from the United States encouraged him to publish on the concept of nationalism. He published his book titled “The Virtue of Nationalism” in 2018 and his second book on “Conservatism: A Rediscovery” in 2022. He also spoke about the “National Conservatism Conference”, an initiative of the Edmund Burke Foundation since 2019 to strengthen the principles of national conservatism in Western countries. Dr Hazony spoke about ‘enlightenment liberalism’ that has been dominating the western ideology since the second World War, and also pointed out that since 2016, ‘national conservatism’ has been a new and powerful force in the West. Though the conservative approach has been gaining strength in intellectual, academic and political circles, there is a need to further concretise and replenish its academic and political base.

Dr Hazony spoke about the Hebrew Bible and Judaism to bring forth an understanding of the origins of nationalism and the Jewish traditions associated with its conceptualisation. He explained about the Christian Bible which consists of the Old Testament constituting 80% of the Bible and the rest is covered by the New Testament which is basically the gospel and doctrine of Jesus. Jews do not believe in the New Testament, nor in the traditions relating to it. The Jewish Bible (basically the Old Testament) describes the origin of the nation, which begins with the creation of the world. The majoritarian ideology of the West of personal salvation of the individual soul, which has been the mainstream Christian ideology, is completely absent from the Jewish Bible.  According to Dr Hazony, the basic pillar of mankind is the idea of one nation which could provide blessings for other nations, and it does not necessarily have to be achieved through warfare and hatred.

Dr Hazony explained that the cornerstone of the Jewish political understanding is the unification of diversified tribes, the formation of a collective. He pointed out that all nations form as a collection of tribes. The western political theory has shifted the focus of this political understanding towards the concept of homogeneity, thus un-familiarising the present world with the traditions through which the nation state has emerged.

According to Dr Hazony, the traditional form of nationalism in Judaism consisted of, firstly, a structuring of diversified tribes which came together through their recognition of a unifying heritage that could be different things in different nations in the form of religion, language, shared ancestry and law. Secondly, this shared history provided the force for struggle towards common enemy and commemorating the memories of the collective triumphs and also solidarity against common disasters. These two factors, according to Dr Hazony, constituted a traditional Jewish understanding of the nation. This interpretation of traditional nationalism and nation in the Jewish Bible is entirely opposite to the enlightenment liberal series of Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau,  whose theories have propagated that state builds up the nation.

Dr Hazony said that the nation is innate even with all the internal struggles. He compared this understanding with the Christian Bible which states that the state is unified for a period of greatness, but then it splits as the brothers go to war against one another and in the end the kingdom is destroyed. The course of the western history went through the conquest of the Mediterranean by the Roman empire and then the Christians taking over the Roman Empire. After almost 2000 years, said Dr Hazony, that what we have been calling ‘West’ has been shaped by the Christians. All of great empires – the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Syrians, the Persians, and the Romans, the origin of each one has been unique but they all functioned with the same core ideology that God provided visions to the king for conquering the four corners of the Earth to bring peace and prosperity to the mankind. The Jewish Bible has been completely against this political theory of conquering the world to bring peace, and the dream of a global empire and world government is completely evil. The Jewish prophets have the opinion that these empires, considering themselves responsible for bringing peace and prosperity to the world, are actually murderous entities. The wars fought for the formation of such empires destroy the heritage and traditions of the land they conquer.

Thus, Dr Hazony said that looking at these 2000 years of Christian history, it has been a ‘see-saw’ struggle within Christianity. There has been a constant struggle between the Holy Christian Roman Empire, which sought to take over the whole world and bring peace and salvation to all mankind by imposing Christian imperialism. On the other hand, Christian nationalism, inspired by the Jewish Bible, supported the nations to free themselves from the universal empire. The examples of nations connecting themselves with the idea of national freedom were Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, France, England, Netherlands and later even in Italy.

The Conservatives believed in living according to their own traditions and the understanding of God in an independent way. The ‘see-saw’ struggle came to a conclusion in the 1500s when many Protestants came out in support of Jewish nationalism. This vision developed in the 1500s, the nations’ drive to live independently to pursue their own form of independence continued till the 20th century when the western empires started tilting towards the direction of recognizing national independence.

Dr Hazony stated that the idea of nationalism before the second World War had a generous approach, the idea of independence was progressive and the viewpoint was towards a gracious and free nation. The world changed post Second World War. The Marxist and Liberal academics in the universities posited Hitler and the genocide of Jews as an example of national independence and how that led to destruction of the world. It was an aggressive move by the universities against nationalism. This revived theory of ‘international liberalism’ led to the formation of the European Union (EU), a single law for the whole world and new world order and globalism. Amongst the academic institutions at that period of time, 95% of the academic establishments and universities were either liberal, universalist or marxist globalists. These views and ideas took over the universities and increased exponentially.

With the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, it was the end of struggle between the western liberal nations and the communist nations and the liberal nations had emerged triumphant. In 1990, George Bush came to power in America, declaring a global ‘new world order’. The ‘new world order’ would replace the law of the jungle into a universal rule of law, that is, one law around the globe. Dr Hazony explained how shocking it was that the fight for independent nations changed into a collection of the whole world under a single law, which in today’s world is called as globalism or liberal internationalism.

Dr Hazony mentioned that until Brexit and the introduction of Donald Trump to the world, the West was overtaken by the fantasy and utopian vision that it had defeated all its enemies and under a single umbrella of law, it could bring peace and prosperity to the entire world. This worldview ended the Jewish Biblical vision of independent nations and the world had circled back to the Roman Empire. When the EU was created in 1992, people were caught up in euphoria, the goal was changed to eliminating all borders and no warfare in Europe, which was a utopian vision. The decision of having one currency affected the economic independence of European countries.

2016 was the year of debate between the liberal internationalists (or the utopians) and conservative nationalists (or realistic people) to be able to maintain their independent national approach and pursue their own interests and philosophy. But in 2020, there were major changes that took place in the liberal institutional structure in Europe and America as they were going under a ‘cultural revolution’. The change was visible in western media like the New York Times and in universities like Princeton.

Dr Hazony ended his lecture by saying that there is a long way to go and we cannot keep on believing in the existence of the same liberal ideology that was formed after the second World War, the ideology has evolved into a new woke narrative of Marxism and it is much different from the original liberal ideology, and the resistance is national conservatism.

Prof Shri Prakash Singh commented on the lecture by citing the example of C Rajagopalachari and stated that he was the first openly declared conservative of the country and greatest opponent of Marxism. He initiated reforms against casteism in 1917 in colonial India and in 1960s against the license permit quota system.

Concluding remarks of the lecture were given by Dr Ram Madhav, President, India Foundation. He said that Dr Hazony was one of the key authorities on core conservative thought. He said nations are not just ‘imagined communities’ but are ‘organically evolved communities’. He spoke about evolving an Indian conservative thought presenting our own ideas and thoughts of nations. A coherent conservative school of ideological thought has been lost and we should develop our own discourse and create literature that could match the idiom that today’s generation would understand. He said that the idea of Nationalism has been turned into a pejorative after the second World War, thus there is a need to develop a new school of thought with a contemporary outlook.


Indic Curriculum on Political Science

India Foundation, in collaboration with Rishihood University, organized a roundtable discussion on “Indic Curriculum on Political Science” at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, on July 25, 2023. The session was chaired and moderated by Shri Shobhit Mathur, Vice Chancellor, Rishihood University. The initial and closing remarks were delivered by Dr. Ram Madhav, President, India Foundation. A special address was delivered by Dr. Mahesh Chandra Sharma, Former Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha. The discussion touched upon various dimensions of the current status of political science curricula in higher education, and explored the possibilities of constructing an academic pedagogy which would revolve around Pt. Deendayal Upadhyay’s idea of ‘Integral Humanism’. The discussants also laid emphasis on tailoring such curriculum to the needs and employability of students opting for it, so as to ensure that they are able to build a strong foundation in the domain of political science and can lay claim to good academic credentials.


Public Lecture on “The Virtue of Nationalism”

The Hyderabad Chapter of Forum for Nationalist Thinkers, in association with India Foundation organized a public lecture on “The Virtue of Nationalism” on July 25, 2023, at Taj Deccan, Hyderabad. The lecture was delivered by Dr. Yoram Hazony, Israeli philosopher and Chairman, Edmund Burke Foundation. The theme of the lecture was based on Dr. Hazony’s book on nationalism published in 2018. The session was presided by Shri N. Ramchander Rao, Former Member of Legislative Council, Telangana. The Guest of Honour for the session was Dr. K. Aravinda Rao, IPS (Retd.), former Director-General of Police, Andhra Pradesh. The public lecture was attended by senior scholars, social leaders, public intellectuals, and other eminent dignitaries of Hyderabad.


Symposium on India’s Nationalist Traditions

India Foundation organized a Symposium on ‘India’s Nationalist Traditions’ on July 22-23, 2023, in Udaipur, Rajasthan. The Keynote Address for the symposium was delivered by Hon’ble Minister of External Affairs of India, Dr. S. Jaishankar. The Hon’ble Minister highlighted the global appeal of Indian traditions of cultural nationalism and pluralism. The Introductory and Closing Remarks were delivered by Mananiya Dattatreya Hosabale, Sarkaryavah, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Ma. Dattatreya Ji also presided over all the sessions of the symposium, and contributed significantly through his deep insights and valuable interventions. The symposium was chaired by Shri Swapan Dasgupta, Former Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, and Member, Governing Council, India Foundation. The sessions were also moderated by Dr. Ram Madhav, President, India Foundation. The Symposium witnessed an active dialogue among 27 eminent personalities, including academicians, thinkers, ideologues, and young scholars.  The symposium served as a crucial platform to brainstorm over the evolution and trajectory of Indian nationalism, and to deliberate on the futuristic visions that it can provide for both the Indian nation and the world. As a part of the initiative to positively engage with the global intellectual frameworks of nationalism, the symposium also had the active participation of Dr. Yoram Hazony, Israeli philosopher and Chairman, Edmund Burke Foundation, and Mr. Walter Russell Mead, Ravenel B. Curry III Distinguished Fellow in Strategy and Statesmanship, Hudson Institute.


Round Table on Global Trade and Investment


A closed door round table discussion was organised on July 18, 2023 (Tuesday) at the India Foundation Office. The primary focus of discussion was on global trade and investment, current trends and future possibilities. The round table was addressed by Mr. Didier Darcet, Co-founder, Gavekal Intelligence Software and was moderated by Mr. Shaurya Doval, Member, Governing Council India Foundation. Eminent economy and policy aficionados working within the field participated in the event and deliberated on the feasibility of numerous strategies that can be applied for the benefit of Indian markets on the global stage.


Lunch Interaction with H.E Dr. Mohammad Bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa

India Foundation organized a Lunch Interaction with H.E Dr. Mohammad bin-Abdulkarim Al-Issa, Hon. Secretary General, Muslim World League on Sunday, July 16, 2023 at The Leela Palace, New Delhi. Dr. Ram Madhav, President, India Foundation and Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, Chairman, Board of Trustees, India Foundation were present at the gathering. The lunch was attended by an eminent group of dignitaries.







In his remarks, H. E. Dr. Al Issa expressed his delight at the completion of a successful visit to India and his deep appreciation for the political, religious, and cultural meetings he held during the course of his visit. He spoke about the need of diverse nations and cultures to co-exist while maintaining a peaceful and healthy competition that serves the needs of all parties involved. He highlighted that there is both good and evil in the world but it is important that we bring the positives to light.

Dr. Al Issa emphasised on peace, importance and understanding of the constitution. He unequivocally rejected terrorism and extremism. His sentiment of a global brotherhood resonates well with the current G20 motto of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’

E. Dr. Al Issa interacted with the audience informally and shared his thoughts over lunch.


Indo-Japan Business Development Dialogue 2022-2023

India Foundation and the Kajima Institute of International Peace (KIIP), Tokyo, Japan jointly organised the Indo-Japan Business Development Dialogue, a year-long initiative between India Foundation, New Delhi, and the Kajima Institute of International Peace (KIIP), Tokyo, on the theme “The Future of India- Japan Business Development/ Strengthening of Trade Ties”. Eminent businessmen, academicians, and former diplomats from Japan & India participated in all 12 editions. From India, the dialogue was addressed by Ms Deepa Gopalan Wadhwa, Indian Foreign Service (Retired) Former Ambassador to Sweden, Latvia, Qatar, Japan and the Marshall Islands. Mr Ritesh Sharma, an MBA graduate from IIM Lucknow, Mr Manoj Kohli, Country Head, SoftBank, India, Mr Ajay Sethi, Managing Partner of ASA & Associates LLP (ASA), India, Mr Bharat Joshi, Co-chair CII Japan, Mr Bharat Kaushal, Managing Director, Hitachi India Pvt. Ltd, and Dr Srabani Roy Choudhary, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, India.

From Japan, the dialogue was addressed by Mr Naotaka Nishiyama, President of Tech Japan, Dr Katsuo Matsumoto, Head, of Infrastructure Engineering Department, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Dr Mai Fujita, Director, Southeast Asia Studies Group II, Area Studies Center, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization, Dr Harukata Takenaka, Professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, and Mr Hiroki Sekine of JBIC, a Government-sponsored export credit agency.

In a year-long series of discussions, experts from both India and Japan have discussed and deliberated on how India-Japan relationship should look like, what the potential is, where we are missing the mark and what is the way ahead. Here’s an overview.

India and Japan have a prominent shared history. The exports from India to Japan have ranged from 3.8 billion USD to 4.9 billion since 2016 and were not heavily impacted during the COVID-19 crisis. Similarly, the imports to India from Japan weren’t much affected and have ranged between 9.8 billion USD to over 12.8 billion dollars.

Japan has contributed through FDIs to India for a long time, since 2014 Japanese FDI has gone up to 4.3 billion USD in Indian markets. This includes companies like Nippon Steel, Fuji Electric, and Uniqlo in the manufacturing and retail sector, names like SMBC, Jera, NEC, and NTT

Communications in Services and Soft Bank, GMO, ORIX, Toyota Tshusho in the investment sector. It is paramount to mention that the total outbound FDI from Japan has been USD 2.4 Trillion between 1995 and 2021. North America and Europe have accounted for about 2/3rd of it with approximately USD 700 billion each.

It has been suggested that India continues offering on-the-ground structural support to emerge as a long-term preferred investment destination for Japanese capital. Companies in Japan also need to continue with prudent investing philosophy and market-driven post-investment strategies. In the future, the proactive resolution and anticipation of likely challenges in capital incentive sectors are very important. The mandatory listings in infrastructure and NBFCs could be a prevention mechanism.

Japan is facing challenges, especially in terms of the usage of funds in development, marketing, recruitment, and overseas expansion, and the shortage of IT manpower. To engage highly skilled Indian talents in Japan, Tech Japan is in collaboration with IIT Madras, IIT Bombay, IIT Kharagpur, Kanpur, IIT Roorkee, IIT Hyderabad, IIM Bangalore, IIM Ahmedabad, and IISC Bangalore. The language barrier between India and Japan came out as a major concern.

Japan is the 12th largest trade partner for India and India is the 18th largest trade partner for Japan. This shows despite all friendships, partnerships, and good relationships, our trade ties are not up to the mark.

India is at a bright spot in the world, as it is growing at 6- 7%, and is expected to grow by another 6-7% next year, where the entire world is in recession. So, this is the right time for Japan to also look at India for a higher degree of trade and investment, especially in sectors like infrastructure, manufacturing, software, start-ups, pharmacy, healthcare, defence, & tourism.

In the past decade, the relationship between India and Japan has deepened the diplomatic, military, economic, and cultural ties. The scope of cooperation has expanded. India has started spending more on transportation, communication, health care and other areas, which shows that the size of the wallet has dramatically increased in a manner that the generations are able to spend much more on interesting things than just necessary living. This proves that consumption is high in India. Japan has an ageing population and the childbirth rate is controlled. So, Japan’s biggest challenge today is to balance the population. Older people are one challenge, but the bigger challenge is much of the products are directed at children or other consuming markets.

India’s new foreign trade policy which has been unveiled in 2023 would be organic in nature and would continue to look towards enhancing India’s position as a country where business would come.

We see huge engagement projects initiated by Japan especially with respect to the Bay of Bengal initiative and linkages between the northeast India & Bangladesh. There has been a lot of focus on infrastructure development especially after 2018, in which JICA is predominantly working. We also have the Bamboo initiative that has happened, which is a new kind of initiative. India & Japan are keen on the technology transfer and infrastructure development.  Both the countries should further scale up the existing economic ties, enhance the economic development projects, upgrade Hi-tech verticals, boost manufacturing sector, automobile and electronic industry.


Syama Prasad Mookerjee Lecture

India Foundation organized Syama Prasad Mookerjee Lecture on July 06, 2023, to commemorate the 122nd birth anniversary of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee. The lecture was held on the theme “Hindutva’s Tryst with Politics: Legacy of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee”. Ma. Dattatreya Hosabale, Sarkaryavah, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), delivered the keynote address in the session, which was attended by senior scholars, politicians, academicians, journalists, former bureaucrats and other dignitaries based in New Delhi. In his keynote address, Ma. Dattatreya Ji highlighted how Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee gave shape to the political dimension of the Hindutva worldview and emerged as a formidable leader of Hindutva politics. He also discussed the need for a studied approach to understand Dr. Mookerjee’s important contributions as an educationist.

(Glimpses of the lecture are available here.)


Peace, Prosperity and Partnership for a Resilient Future in the Indian Ocean Region

The Indian Ocean, home to nearly 3 billion people, has regained its historical prominence. It now constitutes the main axle of gravity in this emerging multi-polar world. It is essential for countries around the Indian Ocean Region, all of us, irrespective of our varying sizes, to partner, work together, and combine our efforts, strive to foster peace, and lead the world into a new era of stability and prosperity.

In this post-covid era and on-going Russia-Ukraine war, all long-held assumptions have been disturbed. The international context is furthermore compounded by the furtherance of national interests and the emergence of new alliances. All of us have this common responsibility to design ways and means to overcome those challenges, develop resilience and create new opportunities.

Mauritius very early realised that to expand its political and economic space, it should embrace a high dose of pragmatism. True to our multi-ethnic and deep respect for diversity, we espouse a high degree of openness in terms of our attitude and culture, our national and foreign policy; and our economic strategy and development model. Our belonging to the Commonwealth and to the Francophone Organisation also helped Mauritius to establish close relations with newly independent Anglophone and Francophone States. In the Cold War divide, we fully supported the concept of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace.

Mauritius also stepped into the realm of international relations as a small a Developing States (SIDS) to voice our specificities on social, economic and environmental challenges particularly climate change. Yet, being a small country, we cannot write history and are resigned to accept the world as it is. At the dawn of its Independence, Mauritius had its territory dismembered. The Chagos Archipelago was detached by the then colonial power in clear violation of international law and the UN General Assembly Declaration.

We have persistently maintained that in so doing our decolonisation remained incomplete and we have been fighting for full sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago.

We have had the unflinching support of a large majority of states, including the African Continent, Bangladesh and India among others all throughout. Starting from the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice in 2019. To the recent judgments delivered by the Special Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in April. We pray for continued support from all of you so that at the earliest Mauritius can have full and effective sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago.

At a very early stage, Mauritius also expressed its commitment in furthering regional cooperation as an instrument for peace, progress and prosperity. We developed special relations with countries of the region. India given our shared People-to-People history ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations, as early as 1948, and up till now, has remained a strategic partner accompanying Mauritius in its development process.

The creation of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) in 1982, bringing together five Member States of the South West Indian Ocean Namely: 1. the Comoros, 2. France on behalf of Reunion Island 3. Madagascar, 4. Mauritius and 5. Seychelles, bears testimony to this endeavour.

This commission is the only regional organization in Africa composed exclusively of islands. It defends the specificities of its Member States on the continental and international scenes, while also cooperating in projects covering a wide range of sectors namely: 1. preservation of ecosystems, 2. sustainable management of natural resources, 3. renewable energy and 4. maritime safety.

The Indian Ocean Commission has strengthened and diversified its partnerships since 2016 and welcomed observer members including: 1. China, 2. India 3. Japan 4. the European Union, 5. The “Organisation Internationale de Iq Francophonie”, and 6. the United Nations.

This has paved the way for the development of a mutually beneficial relationship in the sphere of regional cooperation and relating particularly to maritime security. In parallel, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) was created in 1997 to strengthen the ties between Member States whose shores are washed by the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean. Bringing together countries from contours of Asia to the shores of Africa and the Middle East, and stretching from its multitude of Islands to Australia.

It may be recalled that the vision for countries linked to the Indian Ocean to become a single platform originated during a visit by late President Nelson Mandela to India in 1995, where he said: “The natural urge of the facts of history and geography…should broaden itself to include the concept of an Indian Ocean Rim for socio-economic cooperation and other peaceful endeavours.

Today, the IORA is a dynamic organisation of 23 Member States and 10 Dialogue Partners, with an ever-growing momentum for mutually beneficial regional cooperation through a: (i). consensus-based, (ii). Evolutionary and (iii). non-intrusive approach.

Security is at the core of peace and prosperity. Piracy, territorial disputes, terrorism and illicit arms; drugs and human trafficking; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; oil spills and marine pollution…. just to mention a few…represent a major threat to maritime security and pose significant governance challenges for policymakers of the region. It is, therefore, essential that we deepen our mutual cooperation and strengthen our ability and ensure safety and stability in the India Ocean. In that regard, the enhancement of Maritime Domain Awareness is an important aspect. The initiative by India in 2018 to set up the Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region should also be applauded.

We also welcome the recent signing of the MoU between the Centre and the Indian Ocean Commission led Architecture for Maritime Security and its Regional Coordination Operation Centre in Seychelles. These are concrete examples which we need to emulate given that individually we cannot effectively address such threats in a sustainable manner.

The global economy remains continuously threatened by uncertainties compounded by the present ongoing war. We have been witnessing significant disruptions in trade and food supplies; and surge in fuel price. These are contributing to greater financial stress, increased debt levels, high inflation and significant tightening in global financing. We all apprehend prolonged and intensified hostilities. These are real and legitimate cause of concern. It is thus imperative that we explore alternative solutions which would facilitate smoother movement of goods and people, boost tourism, develop better infrastructure, protect the environment and improve disaster response, develop the Blue Economy among others.

To improve maritime connectivity, reflections are being undertaken by Mauritius on how to set up feeder maritime services. However, the costs are prohibitive. We should strive to maintain a peaceful environment within the Indian ocean region and beyond. Peace is essential. Without peace, there is no prosperity. But prosperity also demands that we look beyond our diverse national ambitions. No country, big or small, has the ability to build a resilient future on its own. Thus, we should all partner. We need collective actions among regional organizations, governments, the private sector and civil society. We should all endeavour to build trust, identify our common objectives and collectively move towards our set goals with the aim of boosting prosperity. Let us start by working on regional projects which have the potential to yield positive outcomes for the betterment of our people.

Author Brief Bio: His Excellency Mr. Prithvirajsing ROOPUN, G.C.S.K., is the Hon’ble President of the Mauritius.

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered by H.E. Mr. Prithvirajsing ROOPUN, G.C.S.K., the Hon’ble President of the Mauritius, in the Inaugural Session at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 12 May 2023


Collaborate for a Future of Enduring Peace and Shared Prosperity in the Indian Ocean Region

A resilient and sustainable future is a choice that requires proactive measures that promotes transformation. It involves adaptive management, learning, innovation, and the leadership to manage risks and uncertainty.

We must increase our engagements and unify our collective efforts to ensure peace in the region. A single nation cannot ensure the security and resilience of the region surrounding the vast Indian Ocean. We must accept the collective responsibility for ensuring regional stability by strengthening our regional alliances.

We must leverage cooperation to generate sustained economic development in order to assure the security and prosperity of our region’s citizens and beyond.

The Indian Ocean Region is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing civilizations. It serves as a hub for trade with the Middle East, Africa, East Asia, Europe, and the Americas. It is the responsibility, therefore, of all the nations to ensure peace, economic prosperity, environmental protection, and international rules in the region.

Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has made the security of the Indian Ocean a top priority. We are mindful of obstacles that threaten stable socioeconomic progress in the Indian Ocean, including non-traditional security threats such as terrorism, human trafficking, irregular migration, drug smuggling, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

Degradation of ocean health, illegal exploitation of marine resources, and climate change are additional concerns in the region of the Indian Ocean. Small, low-lying island nations, such as the Maldives, are particularly vulnerable to climate pressures. The nations of the Indian Ocean are the most vulnerable, as a number of their populations reside in low-lying coastal settlements.

We must establish partnerships based on mutual respect and trust. This is essential for resolving outstanding issues and promoting prosperity, sustainability, and stability in the Indian Ocean region through a rules-based approach.

We should focus on development, actively engage in practical cooperation in business and trade, energy, science, and technology and exert considerable effort to better the lives of the populace.

Our societies are becoming increasingly interconnected and inter-dependent, evolving as a community with a common future. The economic turmoil created by the COVID-19 pandemic for instance has revealed numerous vulnerabilities in the global supply chain and starkly reminded us of the important need to build and harmonize our international partnerships to guarantee undisrupted supply chains.

As a country totally reliant on imports from food to fuel, the Maldives faced several challenges with the closure of borders during the pandemic. We had the good fortune of enjoying close relations with all our bilateral partners, especially with our close neighbours in the Indian Ocean and our challenges were met with their prompt assistance.

Numerous solutions to the problems confronting the planet and humanity are already known. In reality, we cannot effectively address any of these challenges if we lack effective institutions that can regulate and monitor progress in all these domains. We must be mindful to recognize our deficiencies in this regard.

The Maldives is committed to ensuring sustainable fishing practices and has joined the Indian Ocean Rim Association in 2019. IORA has been successful in uniting nations with a shared vision for the Indian Ocean, and the Maldives will stand firm in promoting the region’s sustained growth and balanced development as a member of IORA.

The Maldives is also an active member of the Colombo Security Conclave. With its focus on ensuring maritime safety and security in the Indian Ocean, terrorism and radicalisation, cyber security and humanitarian aid and disaster relief, the conclave has established frameworks for cooperation, while also strengthening cooperation within the countries.

Faced with these global challenges, Maldives will uphold the spirit of partnership, inclusiveness, openness, and intensify dialogue to increase mutual trust and coordination and work together to establish a prosperous and peaceful future for the region.

To ensure a healthy and prosperous future for all, we must increase our engagements and unify our collective efforts through greater leadership. Let us remain steadfast in our commitments to regional peace and prosperity, uphold the spirit of partnership, inclusiveness, and transparency, and collaborate for a future of enduring peace and shared prosperity.

Author Brief Bio: His Excellency Faisal Naseem is the Vice President of the Republic of Maldives.

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered by H.E. Faisal Naseem, Vice President of the Republic of Maldives, in the Inaugural Session at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 12 May 2023.


Fostering Partnerships and Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region

Our oceans and seas account for 90% of world trade and 60% of oil transportation. The real value of global maritime trade has remarkably tripled in the past 15 years. Oceans offer excellent opportunities in supporting sustainable development in countries the world over. Yet much of the potential still remains untapped.

The Indian Ocean Region has significant economic, political, and strategic implications in the Asia-Pacific and African regions. It shares 64% of global population and 60% of global GDP.

Despite its potential, the region faces many challenges. The countries in the Indian Ocean region, therefore, need to foster partnerships and cooperation for ensuring peace, and prosperity for all.

Our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman underscored optimum utilization of Bangladesh’s maritime resources for its development, growth and stability. A visionary leader, he enacted the “Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act, 1974”, to set the limit of Bangladesh’s ‘Maritime Zones’; to enable conduct of different activities within the limit; and also, to facilitate exploration of sea resources.

Notably, this Act came into force eight years prior to the “United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982”, at a time, when the global community had limited understanding of the matter.

The theme of the Conference – “Peace, Partnership and Prosperity: Towards a resilient future” – is very appropriate and timely. There is an intricate relation among the three to ensure a resilient future.

The discussion on Peace, Prosperity and Partnership for a Resilient Future in the Indian Ocean Region becomes all the more relevant in light of the recent Covid-19 pandemic, and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, and consequent sanctions and counter-sanctions. These have posed unprecedented challenges for all nations world over.

Global recession, food, energy, and fertilizer crises have resulted in unbearable living conditions for all people of the world. The Indian Ocean region has also been facing challenges such as climate change, maritime security, terrorism, and natural disasters. To overcome them, the countries in the region must come together to build partnership, and put collective efforts to promote peace and prosperity, for a brighter region.

In the context of the post-Covid world and the Russia-Ukraine war, a resolution titled “International Year of Dialogue as a Guarantee of Peace, 2023” was adopted unanimously at the UNGA in December 2022.

In that resolution, the historic quote of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from his 1974 UN speech, which is also the foreign policy dictum of Bangladesh, was inserted in the 14th paragraph of the resolution. It reads: “Recognizing the importance of combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, and unemployment, and emphasizing that friendship to all and malice towards none, in the spirit of constructive cooperation, dialogue, and mutual understanding, will help to achieve these objectives.”

It is so relevant for us in the Indian Ocean region as we endeavor to formulate actions for a resilient future. In line with the quote of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib, we need effective ‘partnership’ in the form of meaningful cooperation, dialogue and mutual understanding to achieve our shared objectives of ensuring peace and prosperity in the region.

Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his historic speech also said, “Peace is an imperative for the survival of mankind; it represents the deepest aspirations of men and women throughout the world.” In that speech, he particularly emphasized on keeping the Indian Ocean as a peaceful area.

In his pursuit of world peace and human rights, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was awarded the Joliot-Curie Medal of Peace on 23 May, 1973. Following Bangabandhu’s philosophy, Bangladesh became an ardent advocate for world peace. In 1997 at the United Nations General Assembly, Bangladesh tabled a resolution on “Culture of Peace” which was unanimously adopted.

Subsequently, the United Nations declared the year 2000 as the “International Year of Culture of Peace,” and designated the years 2001-2010 as the “Culture of Peace and the Decade of Non-violence.”

Bangladesh views the “Culture of Peace” as an essential element that will reinforce all aspects of peace. It is why Bangladesh is committed to UN’s global peacekeeping and peace-building endeavors. Currently Bangladeshi troops’ contribution to United Nations Peacekeeping is among the highest in the world.

Despite many challenges, Bangladesh provided temporary shelter to more than 1.1 million Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals. This gesture avoided a major humanitarian catastrophe in the region. Now, we seek active support of the global community to repatriate the Rohingya people to their homeland in a safe and sustainable manner.

Bangladesh believes in the challenges, traditional and non-traditional, that the Indian Ocean region is facing. Bangladesh remains committed to playing our role for peace in the region, and expect all other countries to do the same to ensure a resilient future.

Bangladesh, as a littoral state, has been a hub of maritime activities for centuries. It is active in many regional platforms. Bangladesh is the current Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association. It is also the current President of the Council of the International Seabed Authority.

Over the last decade, Bangladesh made significant strides in socio-economic growth and social justice. Bangladesh is now the 35th largest economy in the world. Extreme poverty rate has gone down to 5.6% in recent years, and our per capita income has tripled to 2824 USD within a decade. Bangladesh has met all of the necessary criteria for graduating from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category to a developing country in 2026.

We aspire to build ‘Smart Bangladesh” with robust physical infrastructure to support a thriving economy. Last year, we inaugurated the self-funded ‘Padma Multi-purpose Bridge”. Recently we inaugurated the first-ever Metro Rail service in our capital. We shall soon complete the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel, a 3.2-kilometer under-river tunnel in Chattogram, the first of its kind in South Asia.

Our aspiration is to transform Bangladesh into a knowledge-based, modern, developed country, the ‘Sonar Bangla’ by 2041, and to build a prosperous and climate-resilient delta by 2100. Our strategy for achieving these goals involves promoting sustainable economic growth and generating opportunities for all.

Given its geographical position, the Indian Ocean holds significant importance for not only Bangladesh, but for all the countries in the region. We have recently formulated our Indo-Pacific Outlook.

In similar spirit, I would like to underscore six priority areas as follows:


  1. Countries in the Indian Ocean Region should foster “Maritime Diplomacy” for their development, thereby ensuring a prosperous future.
  2. Climate vulnerability of many countries in the region calls for the need to enhance cooperation to reduce the impact of natural disasters.
  3. Strengthen mutual trust and respect among the countries for building strong partnerships to ensure stability for a resilient future in the Indian Ocean.
  4. Strengthen existing mechanisms on maritime safety and security in the Indian Ocean, including response to emergencies at sea, conduct of search and rescue, uphold the exercise of freedom of navigation and over flight, in accordance with international law.
  5. Promote ‘culture of peace’ and people centric development in the region. Women, half of the global population, should get due attention, for building peaceful, just and inclusive societies in the region.
  6. Need to promote open, transparent, rules-based multilateral systems that facilitate equitable and sustainable development in the region and beyond through inclusive economic growth.

Author Brief Bio: Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina is the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered by H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh, in the Inaugural Session at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 12 May 2023.


Addressing the needs of the Indian Ocean Region

Bangladesh released its Indo-Pacific Outlook on 24 April 2023. By doing so, Bangladesh joined a number of countries ranging from ASEAN and East Asia to Europe and North America in articulating its thinking on this important subject. Indo-Pacific is a reality and becoming more so with each passing day. It is a statement of our contemporary globalization and an underlining that we are getting past the framework of 1945. There are obviously nations who have a vested interest in perpetuating the past. As indeed they have in larger international relations, including the structure of the United Nations. But time does not stand still for anyone; change has to be recognized. And I am truly glad that Bangladesh has joined the company of those who have done so.

The four Guiding Principles and the fifteen Objectives of Bangladesh’s outlook and its respect for the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) needs to be highlighted. It is essential for the credibility of the global order that such foundational regimes are respected and scrupulously observed by all signatories. The views of Bangladesh are particularly noteworthy because of its standing as a progressive and successful developing economy that is making its fullest contribution to regional growth and prosperity.

Because the world is understandably seized of the larger domain of the Indo-Pacific, we should not underplay the issues and challenges of one of its core constituents – the nations of the Indian Ocean. Our historical experience is somewhat different than those of the Pacific, even if we are joined at the hip. There are distinct issues that arise from regional identities, colonial experiences and geo-political relationships. Many nations of the Indian Ocean still address developmental challenges that may no longer be relevant in the Pacific. So, even while impressing the essential coherence of the Indo-Pacific, I would urge that we also focus determinedly on the Indian Ocean nations and their challenges.

Within the Indian Ocean, we must recognize that there are distinct regions and ecosystems. The Bay of Bengal is a very good example. The countries in this geography have their particular aspirations and agenda, as well as their respective pathways towards progress. We are members of the BIMSTEC, an organization that is increasingly coming into its own. Amongst ourselves, we are very cognizant of the challenges, we face in governance, modernization and security. And we are confident of dealing with them through deeper cooperation and shared efforts. It is by nurturing such building blocks that we will make the Indian Ocean – indeed the Indo-Pacific – stronger and more resilient.

The requirement of simultaneously addressing the needs of the Indo-Pacific, the Indian Ocean and its constituent regions is today the task before us. These are not alternatives but actually self-supporting activities. Naturally, there are aspects of specificity; but equally, there are broad principles that apply to all. For example, the importance of adhering to law, observing norms and respecting rules is a natural convergence point. It is not possible to build a stable international order without these pre-requisites. This is especially so in a continent that has seen so much growth and so much change. When nations disregard their legal obligations or violate long-standing agreements, as we have seen, the damage to trust and confidence is immense. It is therefore essential that all of us take the long view of our cooperation, rather than a tactical one of our interests.

A significant shared concern through the Indian Ocean is that of unsustainable debt generated by unviable projects. There are lessons from the last two decades that we ignore at our peril. If we encourage opaque lending practices, exorbitant ventures and price points that are unrelated to the market, these are bound to bite us back, sooner rather than later. Especially so when sovereign guarantees have been proffered, not always with due diligence. Many of us in the region are today confronting the consequences of our past choices. This is time to reflect and reform, not one to repeat and reiterate.

Connectivity is a particularly crucial issue for all of us. This is because the era of imperialism disrupted the natural linkages of the continent and created regional silos to serve its own ends. In many cases, the hinterland was disadvantaged to the benefit of the coastal areas. Building back in the post-colonial era is a long, painful and arduous task. It is still very much work in progress. How to restore, indeed enhance flows between distinct regions is today of the utmost priority. For a nation like India, this means a land-connect to South East Asia. And a multi-modal one to the Gulf and beyond. Central Asia offers its own distinct challenges due to obstacles in between. Collectively, the more we work on facilitating smooth and effective connectivity, the better off we all are. And obviously, we need to respect sovereignty and territorial integrity while doing so. Let me therefore underline that from India’s perspective, efficient and effective connectivity to ASEAN in particular will be a game-changer. We accord this the utmost priority.

As nations of the Indian Ocean, we are united in our interest in the maritime sphere. Here too, there is much that we who inhabit this ocean must reflect on. The era where maritime spaces would be secured by others is now behind us. With each passing day, this is increasingly our shared responsibility. We must discharge that, sharply aware that global good should not be sacrificed at the altar of any national dominance. To do so, we must put in place the bilateral, plurilateral and regional tools and mechanisms to achieve our ends. It would mean exchanging information on white shipping, cooperating on coastal surveillance or collaborating on maritime domain awareness. Diplomacy cannot rest content merely by articulating positions; it equally needs practical action to back it up.

There are some global challenges that also merit regional considerations. Chief among them are climate action and counter-terrorism. The universality of these concerns is by now well recognized. It is essential that our conversations aim to encourage common positions. We must also be conscious of the threats to social fabric posed by extremism and fundamentalism taking advantage of democratic openness. The costs of not doing so are also starkly apparent to all of us today.

Nations of the Indian Ocean are among those who lead the rise of Asia and the re-emergence of Africa. They have the responsibility today of shaping the narrative, shaping it about values, practices and correctness. It is essential that their culture, history and traditions are presented to the world. If we are to compare the relative weight of littorals, that of the Indian Ocean still has to play catch-up. Our challenge, indeed our responsibility, is to hasten that process.

India is committed to the well-being and progress of all nations of the Indian Ocean. We have dedicated bodies like the Indian Ocean Rim Association or the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, with their specific mandates. We expand on that belief through the Neighbourhood First policy, the SAGAR outlook and our approach to the extended neighbourhood. Beyond that, we believe that a seamless transition into an Indo-Pacific is to our collective advantage.

Author Brief Bio: Dr. S. Jaishankar is the External Affairs Minister, Government of India.

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered by Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister, Government of India, in the Inaugural Session at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 12 May 2023.


Singapore’s interest in the Indian Ocean

Over the last three thousand years, the Indian Ocean has been an essential conduit for trade, culture, religion, knowledge, language, and geostrategic influence. In particular, South Asian influences in heritage, language, and religion, borne across the waves of the Indian Ocean, are evident in Southeast Asia. Even today, Sanskrit remains a legacy in our languages, and influences of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam remain in our belief systems.

The Indian Ocean region holds tremendous geopolitical, economic, and strategic importance. Extending from the eastern coast of Africa to the western coast of Australia, the Indian Ocean accounts for one-fifth of the water on the Earth’s surface. A significant portion of global maritime traffic flows through the Indian Ocean from Asia’s industrialised nations to the rest of the world. More than 70% of the world’s oil shipments pass through the Indian Ocean, as does 50% of container traffic. There is no question that the Indian Ocean is of strategic importance for all of us.

Global challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted countries around the world, including those in the Indian Ocean region. We all faced disruptions to our economies, supply chains, connectivity networks, border management, regional security, critical health infrastructure and tourism, just to name a few. We saw how international connectivity is a double-edged sword – while it enhanced international trade, it can also disable trade links. But the crisis also provided an opportunity for countries to work together in both traditional and non-traditional areas, relook existing institutions and regional mechanisms, and revamp them in order to better serve today’s needs. It reminds us even more how important it is to work together, uphold multilateral trading systems and resist protectionist policies.

Amidst the background of other international crises such as the Russia-Ukraine war, there have been major disruptions to trade and critical supply chains, and deep uncertainty has arisen about the future of multilateral institutions. As the world’s major powers become increasingly assertive of their own interests, the hitherto hard-won consensus on international rules and norms is breaking down before our very eyes.

Impact of Climate Change

The countries in the Indian Ocean region are also grappling with the existential challenge of climate change. The Sixth Assessment Report or AR6 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently concluded “with very high confidence” that the Indian Ocean’s surface has warmed faster than the global average. This presents a host of challenges for the Indian Ocean states, including the intensification of monsoon rains, marine biodiversity loss and sea-level rise.

In particular, rising sea-levels have serious cascading effects on many other areas, such as the economy, livelihoods, health and well-being, as well as food and water security. As a low-lying state, with more than 50% of our population living within 3.5 kilometres off the coast, Singapore feels this as acutely as other small island states in the Indian Ocean. Given that AR6 has concluded that it is “virtually certain” that global mean sea levels will continue to rise until at least 2100, we will have to grapple with this problem. Countries in the Indian Ocean region must work together urgently to support the full implementation of the Paris Agreement and strengthen our collective resilience against rising sea levels. From November to December 2023, the UNFCCC COP-28 in Dubai will aim to make progress on raising mitigation ambition and implementation, scaling up adaptation efforts, operationalising the new funding arrangements, as well as boosting climate finance, technology, and capacity building support for developing countries.

Bangladesh and Its Role

Bangladesh’s early history, culture and legacy are closely intertwined with the ebb and flow of its 700 rivers into the Bay of Bengal at the mouth of the Indian Ocean. The silt-rich waters from the Himalayas flowing through Bangladesh made it one of the most fertile lands in the sub-continent famed for its agricultural resources. Ancient Bengal achieved remarkable influence through a web of riverine and maritime lanes extending through the Bay of Bengal and to points further east. Today, modern Bangladesh is a strategic maritime nation promoting sustainable and equitable utilisation of oceanic resources.

As one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, Bangladesh plays an increasingly significant role in the Indian Ocean. Major projects are underway in Bangladesh which will improve the overall connectivity in the Indian Ocean region. Among them are the development of the Matarbari deep seaport in Cox’s Bazar, and upgrades to Chittagong Port as the principal seaport handling 92% of the country’s trade. This will put Bangladesh in good stead to provide maritime trade routes and facilities to the land-locked Northeast of India, as well as to Nepal and Bhutan. At the same time, we appreciate Bangladesh’s contributions to regional and subregional cooperation. It played a pivotal role in the formation of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation or BIMSTEC and the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

Singapore’s interest in the Indian Ocean

As a small island state situated at the crossroads of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Singapore’s survival and prosperity have always been inextricably linked to the oceans. Sea-freight accounts for a large proportion of our imports, including of essential supplies. With trade more than thrice our GDP, ensuring the safety and security of key trade routes such as the Straits of Malacca and Singapore is of vital importance to Singapore.

Singapore is therefore firmly committed to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.  UNCLOS is fundamental for upholding the right of all States to freedom of navigation and overflight, maintaining open trade routes and sea lines of communication, and promoting the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and their resources. Singapore is strongly committed to working with like-minded partners to ensure that all maritime activities in the Indian Ocean are carried out in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS.

UNCLOS has also proven to be dynamic and highly adaptable in responding to emerging issues. On 4 March 2023, the Intergovernmental Conference presided over by Singapore’s Ambassador for Oceans and Law of the Sea Issues Rena Lee successfully concluded negotiations on a new international agreement under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, or BBNJ. The BBNJ Agreement is a landmark achievement in oceans law and will provide a critical boost to global efforts to protect the marine environment.

Southeast Asia lies in the center of the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean, and serves as a very important conduit and portal to the two regions. We have consistently advocated for an open and inclusive regional architecture and engaging external partners, to give everyone a greater stake in the region’s peace, stability, and development. As the international order increasingly comes under strain, it is even more important that all of us redouble efforts to engage constructively, and uphold the ASEAN-led open, inclusive, and rules-based regional architecture. In 2019, ASEAN Leaders agreed on an ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which outlines ASEAN’s perspectives on how external partners should engage the region on its own merits.


We are all in agreement that we want an Indian Ocean built on peace, stability, and prosperity. We owe it to our people and the future generation to ensure we succeed in doing so. We have remained committed to enhancing dialogue, building trust, and upholding a rules-based international order. We must also continue to engage our counterparts from other regions.


Author Brief Bio: Dr Maliki Bin Osman is the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Foreign Affairs and Second Minister for Education, Government of Singapore.

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered by Dr Maliki Bin Osman, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Foreign Affairs and Second Minister for Education, Government of Singapore at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 13 May 2023.


Indian Ocean Regionalism: A Sri Lankan Perspective

As we all know, the Indian Ocean is distinct to define the future of the world and Sri Lanka located in the center of the Indian Ocean is well poised to play a significant role of cooperation. Peace, prosperity and partnership in the Indian Ocean is in our mutual interest. This region has enormous economic potential and is the lifeline of global trade. The Indian Ocean region has always been a significant place of interest for all the countries. And today in the emerging multipolar world where Asia has become a major economic power, managing competition and strengthening cooperation is essential to the peaceful development of the region.

The countries in the Indian Ocean region have historically played a significant role in the global trade and commerce and having given rise to some of the great civilizations of the world. Sri Lanka has reiterated time and again that it is time for the Indian Ocean countries to take role determining their own future. Sri Lanka will be taking over the Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association later this year which gives us an opportunity to protect our common interest.

The Indian Ocean is a vital conduit for international trade and it is home to vast reserves of natural resources. It is imperative to ensure that the Indian Ocean sustain its status as a peaceful and prosperous region where all nations can equitably benefit from its abundant resources in a sustainable manner. Therefore, we must commit ourselves to ensure the rights and responsibilities of all states for sustainable use of the ocean. Many countries remain independent on energy supplies and traded goods that are carried across the region.

Those who are geographically located in the region have a primary interest in the security of the ocean which is more often than not linked to their economies and livelihood of their people. It is worth noting that the countries located along the shores of this great ocean, are among the most densely populated region on Earth. The nations of the region have emerged as some of the world’s fastest growing nations and continue to make remarkable progress in various sectors. Sri Lanka notes the recent entry into the force of the ASEAN led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership RCEP and considers that this could serve as a catalyst for economic integration in Asia. Furthermore, the ongoing discussions between ADB, AIIB and BRICS on building synergies for growth is an important development.

Business in the region must grow for the region to develop its economic strength. Business require capital for expansion, this is why Sri Lanka has consistently urged for the incorporation of an Indian Ocean Development Fund for the development of the region and in particular establishing a strong humanitarian assistance and disaster management mechanism to deal with the natural and man-made disasters. Sri Lanka also believes that there is a significant need for enhanced Indian Ocean regionalism and focuses on augmenting cooperation across the maritime domain. Such regionalism should strive to create a closer linkage between ASEAN, IORA and BIMSTEC.

The Indian Ocean plays a pivotal role in the world economy and global growth. Our collaborative efforts will fully harness the immense potential of the region and further strengthen the bonds of cooperation and friendship among us. Sri Lanka’s historical and cultural significance as a central hub for the connectivity in the Indian Ocean cannot be overstated. Our strong partnership with the Indian Ocean Rim countries has enabled us to play an important role in the region’s multilateral engagements. Sri Lanka is committed to further strengthening these partnerships and engaging with regional community to promote peace, prosperity, and development in the region, particularly as we take up the chair of the IORA later this year. It is important to note the need for vigilance regarding the security of the Indian Ocean.

As littoral nations, we have a shared responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the Indian Ocean. The maintenance of peace and harmony in the region is of paramount importance to all the countries around the ocean. As per recent report from the World Bank, the Economic outlook for South Asia is shaped by the combination of positive and negative factors. The lower commodity prices, robust recovery in the service sector and improved supply chain stability are aiding the region’s growth. Rising interest rates and financial market uncertainties are exerting downward pressure on the region’s economy.

Sri Lanka is keen to engage with all littoral states and foster trade with all our partners to further enhance the economic activity in the Indian Ocean region. The emergence of blue and green economy offers a unique opportunity to address complex and interconnected economic challenges, perhaps climate resilient green economic policies could bring economic growth and prosperity to the Indian Ocean region with sustainable growth which is the new focus of the global policy discourse. Countries have embarked upon the development of more integrated ocean governance framework which will help avoid or at least limit intersectoral conflicts. At the outset and to highlight any trans boundary implications of coastal ocean development, countries seeking to develop their blue economies, acknowledge the need for the policies that better align future economic growth in their seats with maintaining or even restoring ocean health.

Sri Lanka already made significant progress in terms of the development of a national blue green economy initiative. Being a climate vulnerable country, Sri Lanka has seized the opportunity for sustainable economic growth through climate resilience. With the vision of the change and development, despite the climate insecure environment we are facing, we have focused on climate smart development through renewables. Therefore, it is vital to shift the renewable energy sector to address the current critical economic crisis, to alleviate poverty with the view to bring about prosperity in the nation and the world. As we are aware, climate change contributes to have profound impact on the Indian Ocean region, with adverse consequences for our environment communities and economies.

In order to address the challenges posed by climate change, it is imperative that we build appropriate capacity in the region. During COP-27, His Excellency Ranil Wickremesinghe, the President of Sri Lanka, announced his intention to establish an international climate change university in Sri Lanka. The innovative initiative will support green and blue studies and serve as a platform for research and policy advocacy related to climate change in the region. We believe that establishment of this university will be a valuable contribution to the regional and global effort to combat climate change. And we call upon support and cooperation of our regional partners in making this vision a reality. We look forward to working together to build a more sustainable and resilient future for the Indian Ocean region. We firmly believe that the working together towards these common goals, we can achieve sustainable peace and prosperity in our region. We are optimistic that through collaborative efforts we can create an environment conducive to economic growth, innovation, and progress for all the nations in the Indian Ocean region.

We all should look together, work together with other major maritime nations beyond the region and with the multilateral institutions to promote the economic prosperity and harmony in the Indian Ocean. Therefore, I urge all of us to come together and build and share vision of cooperation and promote economic growth, security, and stability in the Indian Ocean. By working towards these common goals, we can create a brighter future for ourselves and for generations to come. Let us continue to engage in productive and collaborative discussions and explore new avenues for cooperation and partnership. Together we can build a strong and more prosperous Indian Ocean region.

Author Brief Bio: Mr. Nimal Siripala de Silva is the Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation, Government of Sri Lanka.

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered by Mr. Nimal Siripala de Silva, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation, Government of Sri Lanka, at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 13 May 2023.


Indian Ocean: The Gateway to the International Market for Landlocked Nepal

The last three years were full of turbulence and turmoil. The COVID-19 pandemic controlled our lives in one way or the other. Millions of lives were lost, livelihoods were disrupted, and societies and economies were distressed. Now, we are moving ahead in the phase of post-pandemic recovery and revival. But the road to recovery is not uniform.  The developed countries have largely returned to pre-pandemic growth paths. However, the developing countries are struggling hard to catch up with the pace of recovery. However, the crisis has also provided us with a window of opportunity to reset our priorities and rebuild better. There is an opportunity to build a sustainable and resilient future.

The third-largest body of water in the world, the Indian Ocean is a vast geographical space.  It is not only rich in diverse marine resources but is also the route to one-third of the global trade.  It is therefore significant in strategic, economic, and ecological terms.

As the ‘natural superhighway’ of trade routes, the Indian Ocean is also a gateway to the international market for a landlocked country like Nepal. Therefore, our aspirations of prosperity are contingent upon peace and stability in the region. Yet, marine terrorism, climate change, human trafficking and trafficking of weapons and drugs threaten peace and security.

We cannot have a prosperous and resilient future in the absence of peace. No one country can safeguard peace and security alone. We need to work together on the principles of mutual respect, justice, and equality of all nations. This is critical because the Ocean is not just about the abundance of marine resources, list of trade routes, and graph of economic growth. It is also about our cultures and connections. It is also about our lives and livelihoods.

When we talk about the link and ecological interdependence, we must also consider the ‘organic link’ between mountains- the water towers- and the Ocean- the water reservoir. When we talk about protecting marine ecosystems, we must consider the health and wellbeing of mountains. This is key to realizing the prospects of ‘blue economy’ while preserving and conserving mountain economy. Sadly, the climate crisis has upset this natural link. The melting of mountain glaciers and sea-level rise have endangered lives and livelihoods both in the coastal and hinterland states. Both mountainous and low-land countries have been bearing the brunt of climate change. International commitments and promises abound, Commitment to halt warming at 1.5 degrees, to establish a fund of $100 billion, to double adaptation finance, to accelerate the green energy solutions, to establish a loss and damage fund as recently committed at Sharm El-Sheikh — and the list goes on! But, actions on the ground do not match these promises. Therefore, we need bold climate action. We need to work faster and go further.

On Nepal’s part, we plan to reach net-zero emission scenario by 2045. We remain committed to this goal. Given our hydropower potential, we stand ready to contribute to the clean energy solutions in South Asia. Our aspiration to a resilient, peaceful, and prosperous Indian Ocean region must go beyond economic and strategic considerations. This means ensuring smart and sustainable use of marine resources, ensuring the rights of all to explore, navigate, and utilize these resources, and ensuring transformative actions to restore the Ocean’s health. We must rescue it from pollution, plastics, and chemicals.

Nepal believes that connectivity is the key to regional integration. Our vision of a prosperous and resilient future cannot be materialized without enhanced connectivity through land, air, and water. We must connect our mountains with oceans. We must connect our products with markets. The international community must provide support to help the land-locked developing countries overcome their geographical constraints.

All this warrants that we better frame the future of collaborative partnership, with our peoples, our countries, and our region at the core. Our partnership must be anchored around the ideals of international law, inclusiveness, and cooperation. Nepal remains committed to engaging constructively in this regard.

We cannot overemphasize the glory, magnificence, and importance of the Indian Ocean. Let us work together to ensure the real, robust, and responsible actions for a peaceful, prosperous, and resilient future of the region. Let us ensure that we pass a healthy Indian Ocean to our children and grandchildren.

Author Brief Bio: Hon. Narayan Prakash Saud is the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal.

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered by Hon. Narayan Prakash Saud, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 13 May 2023.


Peace and Prosperity in Indian Ocean Region: A Seychelles Perspective

In these turbulent times, when the world grapples with unprecedented challenges and non-traditional security threats, Indian Ocean region stands as a beacon of hope amidst the storm. Peace, prosperity and partnership for resilient future resonates very deeply with us, guiding our deliberations towards practical solutions that will shape the destiny of the region. Today we have a rare opportunity if you wish a clarion call to champion peace and stability in the Indian Ocean and beyond. We must confront the harsh realities of conflict and instability because they are the fertile breeding grounds that nurture nefarious activities and perpetuates a sense of insecurity.

We cannot afford to remain passive and to be passive spectators, as the consequences of instability spill over into our lives, tarnishing the fabric of our societies. Take for instance the insidious trafficking of narcotics that plagues the Indian Ocean. Just within a decade, our once pristine waters have transformed into this highway for trade in illicit goods, a conduit of destruction that ravages our nations and compromises our very foundations. Let me illuminate the gravity of this situation. In a small nation of Seychelles, a small island state with its modest population of 100000, we find ourselves shackled by the devastating grip of heroin addiction. Astonishingly, a staggering 10% of our population now bear the heavy burden of this affliction. The implications of such calamity extend far beyond the individual itself impacting the security, stability and the well-being of the entire region.

Our workforce, our economic prowess and the promise of prosperous future all hang in the balance. We cannot allow this scourge to continue. Seychelles went out with limited resources and has shown unwavering determination in the face of adversity. Through joint patrols with our regional partners, we have bolstered our maritime domain awareness. Fortifying our ability to counter these criminal activities, we have strived to strengthen the pillars of law enforcement and judicial cooperation. Yet my esteemed colleagues, let us be resolute in our understanding that these measures alone are simply not enough. We demand the united front, a symphony of coordinated efforts with information sharing as its harmonious refrain. Together as a region in unison with international partners and organizations and agencies, we must pre-empt and dismantle these nefarious drug trafficking networks. But let us not only focus solely on the perils of narcotics.

The challenge of combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing looms large over our heads, casting a shadow upon the sustainable management of our marine resources and the livelihoods of our coastal community. In this regard, Seychelles acknowledges the pivotal role played by existing regional and international frameworks and agreements on fisheries management, such as the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, IOTC and the Port State Measures Agreement, the PSMA. We have embarked upon a national plan of action, bolstering our monitoring, control, and surveillance capabilities. We have engaged civil society and the private sector, recognizing the significance of their involvement in combating IUU fishing.

Furthermore, we have joined the Fisheries Transparency International, which is FITI, to uphold the principles of transparency and accountability. However, the need for further cooperation is indispensable. We must elevate our collective capacity and awareness in the realm of IUU, and we must also recognize that the success of our efforts to address the challenges facing our region requires a strong and unwavering commitment from all of us. Additionally, it is imperative that we acknowledge another critical issue that plagues our region and that is human trafficking. This heinous crime preys on the most vulnerable among us, robbing individuals of their dignity and humanity. It is an affront to our shared values and freedom of justice, and we cannot turn the blind eye to this existence.

The Indian Ocean Region, with its vast and porous borders is a prime target for human traffickers. Trafficking victims are often smuggled across borders, exploited for labour or sex, and subjected to unspeakable horrors. This is a challenge that must be addressed through collaborative efforts among all our nations. We need to strengthen our border control measures, improve law enforcement capabilities, and enhance cooperation among our countries to combat this issue effectively. My dear colleagues, to achieve our shared goals, we need to focus on building trust, enhancing dialogue, promoting cooperation among our countries. We must work towards a more integrated and connected region where trade and investment can flourish and where people can move freely, whether for business or for leisure. Let us continue to work together with the shared vision and purpose so that we can create a more stable, prosperous, peaceful Indian Ocean for ourselves and for future generations.

Author Brief Bio: Mr. Charles E. Fonseka is the Minister of the Interior, Government of Seychelles.

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered by Mr. Charles E. Fonseka, Minister of the Interior, Government of Seychelles, at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 13 May 2023.


Multi-Stakeholder Approach for Peace and Prosperity in the Indian Ocean region

Bhutan recognises the infinite potential of the Indian Ocean region as well as the challenge that we face in securing peace and prosperity for our people. Bhutan as a landlocked country in the eastern Himalayas may seem far remote from the Indian Ocean. But we recognize the vital role this region plays in global affairs. The Indian Ocean is home to some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and is critical to global trade and commerce. It is also home to a rich diversity of cultures and people, and it is a shared responsibility to ensure that this region remains peaceful and prosperous for generations to come.

As much as the Indian Ocean region is critical for global trade and commerce, it is also vulnerable to not just traditional challenges of security, but emerging threats of biohazard, cyber warfare, maritime piracy etc. These threats not only endanger our economic interests, but also the security and well-being of our people. We must work together to tackle these challenges, leveraging our collective strengths and resources to build a more secure and peaceful region based on the principles of rules-based order. As a proud member of the United Nations, Bhutan also actively contributes to peace building efforts around the world.

In terms of prosperity, the Indian Ocean region has immense potential to become the most economically prosperous region of the century. The region has the economies of scale, immense consumer market and the technical prowess which can propel the world into an era of global affluence based on the ethos of sustainable development. The region is home to 64% of the global population and 60% of the global GDP. It also accounts for around 40% of the world’s oil supply and 64% of oil trade. We must seize this opportunity to drive inclusive growth and create a brighter future for the people of this region.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how susceptible and interdependent the world is. As we look to the future, we must recognize the challenges that lies ahead. Climate change, natural disasters and pandemics are just some of the threats that we face. We need to work together to build resilience and prepare for the future. In this regard, Bhutan has taken several steps to address these challenges, including our commitment to remain carbon neutral and our efforts to promote sustainable tourism.

It is of no surprise that the Indian Ocean region is no longer based on the arithmetic of contemporary power equations, but the natural construct based on the principles of inclusivity, camaraderie and multi-stakeholderism. We recognize that Bangladesh and India as responsible nations are committed towards ensuring the rise of a free, open, inclusive and rules based Indian Ocean region. We must continue to work together to promote dialogue, cooperation and understanding among all stakeholders, respecting each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence. While the Indian Ocean region has immense potential for peace and prosperity, it can only be realized if we work together in partnership to overcome the challenges that we all collectively face. Bhutan remains fully committed to work with our neighbours to promote peace, prosperity, and partnership. Let us seize this opportunity to build a more secure, stable, and sustainable future for our region and the world at large.

Author Brief Bio: Dr. Tandi Dorji is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bhutan.

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered by Dr. Tandi Dorji, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bhutan, at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 13 May 2023.


Work collectively to preserve peace, enhance progress and fortify stability in Indian Ocean Region

The Sultanate of Oman is fortunate to be situated along historic maritime routes. Trade and cultural exchange therefore form the basis of Oman’s history. As a seafaring nation, Omanis have always engaged with neighbours far and near, and this has enabled us to support peace and prosperity through partnership.

In all our endeavours, we foster harmonious relations and collaborative multilateral efforts to ensure a resilient future for our neighbourhood: for our shared maritime domain. The Indian Ocean region holds immense strategic significance, serving as a vital link connecting the East with the West. Its waters not only facilitate global trade and commerce, but also act as a gateway for cultural exchange and intercontinental cooperation.

We embrace the concept of working collectively to preserve peace, enhance progress and fortify stability in our region. It is Oman’s view that peace can be best achieved by fostering an environment of mutual respect. We overcome differences through open communication and hence forge lasting partnerships.

Through our longstanding policy of quiet diplomacy, we sustain stable and balanced relations with all our neighbours. We do not risk sudden shifts in the political environment of the kind that can undermine business confidence. This is Oman’s mantra. Dialogue gives us the best chance of peace. Peace brings prosperity and stability. And this is in the interests of all.

In the realm of maritime security, a shared concern for all states of the Indian Ocean region, no navy has the strength and knowledge to secure the seas alone. We rely on high level collaboration: partners must respect the rule of law and together ensure that transit routes remain peaceful and secure for all. Oman is committed to such collaboration to enable trade and investment. This will drive growth and uplift the livelihoods of all the people of the Indian Ocean.

Oman’s Vision 2040 development plan, focusses on this and pays particular attention to port development. In our region, ports are forecast substantially to reduce transit times and costs, and lead to a massive overall increase in the volume of trade. This will benefit us all. The Indian Ocean region, with all its economic and resource diversity, is brimming with immense potential. This potential can be unlocked by fostering economic integration, promoting sustainable development, and facilitating innovation. And our ports support this. Through Oman’s three major ports and freezones, Salalah, Sohar, and Duqm, we are leveraging our strategic location to boost regional trade and connectivity. But our ports cannot be successful without regional and international collaboration.

Partnership is the bedrock upon which nations can flourish. Enhancing cooperation in maritime security, economic opportunities, and information sharing is essential to enabling the free flow of goods, services and ideas. This will ensure a peaceful, prosperous and resilient future. The world has seen some positive shifts recently, in terms of pragmatism, dialogue, and inclusion. By welcoming all parties to the international arena, we gain a greater understanding of what transpires in our region, and thereby guarantee a safer environment for all.

We are proud to be part of this network of dedicated and pragmatic states, and we look forward to strengthening our cooperation further with cohesiveness and transparency, for the benefit of the people of the Indian Ocean and the world.

Author Brief Bio: Mr. Sayyid Badr Albusaidi is the Foreign Minister of Oman.

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered (Virtually) by Mr. Sayyid Badr Albusaidi, Foreign Minister of Oman, at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 13 May 2023.


A Collaborative Approach in the Indian Ocean Region: The US Perspective

The United States is committed to elevating its engagement in the Indian Ocean region (IOR). The future of the world will be determined in large part by what happens in the IOR. The Indian Ocean region is home to 2.7 billion people—more than a third of the world’s population—and with an average age of 30 years, that percentage will only grow.

It is difficult to overstate the economic significance of this region. The Indian Ocean accounts for one-fifth of the world’s ocean surface, and it connects people and economies around the globe. Its vast coastline includes some of the world’s most important shipping lanes—from the Strait of Hormuz to the Malacca Strait. Eighty percent of the world’s maritime oil shipments traverse Indian Ocean waters. Some of the planet’s most vital fisheries are here, and they play a critical role in employing people in the region and feeding people around the world.

So, it makes sense that all of us have an interest in a peaceful and prosperous future for the Indian Ocean region. As President Biden has said, the United States is “committed for the long haul, ready to champion our vision for a positive future for the region together with friends and partners.”

At the same time, IOR does face serious challenges. The climate crisis touches us all, but it has a disproportionate impact on Indian Ocean countries. For some, particularly island states, climate change represents an existential threat. Meanwhile, piracy, armed robbery at sea, and trafficking degrade maritime security. And illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing threaten blue economies, which need to be sustainable for future generations to prosper.

All of these challenges require a concerted and collaborative approach—Among all of us, countries, multilateral bodies like IORA, civil society, and people. And the United States is committed to doing our part. That’s why USA has announced plans to provide $165 million for programs across the Indian Ocean region that address climate change adaptation and mitigation, including the transition to a clean energy future.

It’s also why we are seeking to provide $6 million, working with the U.S. Congress, for regional maritime security initiatives, partnering with Bangladesh, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. This funding will bolster interdiction and law enforcement capacity in the Indian Ocean’s South Asian sub-region. Partnership is critical to maritime security, and I want to acknowledge India’s leadership in this space, specifically in the fields of anti-piracy, EEZ monitoring, and disaster response.

Investment in sustainable blue economies is a force multiplier, spurring economic development and demonstrating how environmental protection and economic growth are mutually reinforcing. Through USAID, the United States invests more than $33 million in 15 countries each year to promote sustainable fisheries and conserve marine biodiversity. And in this region, we are working to identify development assistance, including to Bangladesh, focused on growing sustainable blue economies.

We are doing this because the promise of the Indian Ocean region is limitless. We are doing this because unlocking its full potential requires all of us to come together. In the coming months, we will continue to advance our shared vision so we can build a more peaceful, prosperous, and resilient Indian Ocean region together.

Author Brief Bio: Wendy R. Sherman is the Deputy Secretary of State, USA

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered (Virtually) by Wendy R. Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State, USA, at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 13 May 2023.


Building Partnerships across the Indo-Pacific

Australia’s prosperity and security is intimately tied to the Indian Ocean. Indian Ocean shipping lanes are crucial to the energy security and economies of many countries around the world, including Australia and global trade depends on stability and security here, in particular, the security of crucial chokepoints that are so fundamental to an open, stable and prosperous region.

Looking beyond trade, the Indian Ocean is also one of the key points of confluence for global strategic competition today and in an age in which we rightly obsess about the health of our global environment, the Indian Ocean is an area where the impacts of global warming and other environmental challenges will be felt most.

As the home of unique First Nations cultures, Australia is intensely proud to be the inheritor of the oldest continuous cultures on Earth and we have also benefited immensely from migrant communities from all around the world, that have made and continue to make invaluable contributions to our nation, not least the diaspora communities of South Asia and the Indian Ocean rim.

Australia is part of the Indian Ocean Region – part of its economy, part of its environment, part of its culture, part of its people. So, we believe strongly in building the institutions of and engagement with our region, particularly in the northeast Indian Ocean.

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, has spoken a lot about this recently, about how we want to live in an Indo-Pacific that is peaceful and stable, one that is not characterised by conflict, but one whose character is marked by “rules and norms that underpin our security and prosperity”.

Australia wants the region to be open and inclusive, to be based on agreed rules, to support countries of all sizes choosing their own destiny and we want our region to be prosperous and connected.

To share a measure of just how important the Indian Ocean is to Australia economically – we share the region’s longest Indian Ocean coastline as well as its largest search and rescue zone. So, we are heavily invested in the future of the Indian Ocean Region. But we acknowledge that the Indo-Pacific faces significant challenges: shifting geopolitics; climate change; maintaining the health of the blue economy, the source of millions of jobs across fishing, tourism, mining and transport and a grinding economic recovery post-COVID.

An important part of our work has to be building stronger regional architecture, to support our ability to work together and to build the regional economy. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has had rippling economic impacts across the region. Apart from the terrible suffering of the Ukrainian people, Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine has been intensely disruptive to the global rules-based order, and has exacerbated global food supply insecurity. Food prices, energy and fertiliser costs have all spiralled up, impacting people across the Indian Ocean.

As the only Ministerial-level organisation spanning the Indian Ocean, we see IORA as an important forum to address regional challenges. Under Bangladesh’s strong leadership last November, I worked with counterparts in the IORA Ministerial Meeting to agree IORA’s Outlook of the Indo-Pacific. This document marks the first time this region, as a region, has established a common view of an Indo-Pacific built on the international rules-based order, adhering to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the rights and obligations UNCLOS contains in relation to the establishment of maritime zones, the freedoms of navigation and overflight, and the protection and preservation of the marine environment.

Australia is a strong supporter of initiatives that address the impacts of climate change in our region, including the Australian-funded IORA Blue Carbon Hub, and India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI).

No matter which side of the Indian Ocean we are on, we all want to live in a region that is peaceful, and predictable. Together, we can respond to issues because no single country can fix on its own. We are very confident that with greater cooperation and partnership, we can create a region that meets our aspirations for being open, inclusive and secure. We have also been working hard in recent years to build that notion of partnership across the Indo-Pacific through working with regional partners, such as India, France and Indonesia, to combat shared challenges, through forums like the Quad, which we see working alongside regional institutions, including the Pacific Islands Forum, ASEAN, and of course IORA, to strengthen our shared interests and build capacity to pursue them and also through Australia’s AUKUS defence capability collaboration with the United Kingdom and United States – one element of our approach to maintaining regional stability and security in a more challenging strategic environment.

These are challenging times in global history, but one in which we can also see the immense opportunity across the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific more broadly. We recognise the urgency of the issues we face right across our region, not least climate change and the health of global oceans and turning inwards is not the answer. The answer is the very opposite. It is redoubling our efforts to work together, in an open, collaborative, sustainable way, through regional and global institutions and systems that promote cooperation, through a strong, supported multilateral rules-based system, through open and non-distorting markets, through science and evidence-based decision making, even as we work together to decarbonise our economies.

Author Brief Bio: The Hon Tim Watts MP is the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Government of Australia.

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered by The Hon Tim Watts MP, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Government of Australia, at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 13 May 2023.


Role of BIMSTEC in the Indian Ocean Region

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation – BIMSTEC– consists of countries around the Bay of Bengal, which is an integral part of the Indian Ocean. Five of our Member States are from South Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka; and two are from Southeast Asia: Myanmar, and Thailand. BIMSTEC is therefore often perceived as an organisation that forms a bridge between South and Southeast Asia.

Formed in 1997, BIMSTEC has gained new vigour with the adoption of its Charter last year – during the 5th BIMSTEC Summit held in Colombo.The Charter which confers legal personality on BIMSTEC – identifies among its purposes – the maintenance of peace and stability in the Bay of Bengal region – through close collaboration in combating international terrorism, transnational organized crime – as well as natural disasters, climate change, and communicable diseases.

The Charter, among others, also lists as BIMSTEC’s purposes: -The maintenance of close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes; -Creating an enabling environment for rapid economic development; accelerating economic growth and social progress; providing assistance to each other; and cooperating more effectively in joint efforts that are supportive of – and complementary to national development plans of the Member States – which result in tangible benefits to the people in raising their living standards.

To ensure that the Indian Ocean Region is peaceful, prosperous, and resilient, the countries in the region need to strengthen existing partnerships between themselves; with Indian Ocean Users; as well as others – both Organisations and States. BIMSTEC in this connection, can serve as an important and central tool for its Member States and like-minded partners – to work towards maintaining peace and achieving prosperity for a resilient Indian Ocean Region.

Making use of the BIMSTEC Charter provisions, that enable BIMSTEC to cooperate with international and regional organisations; admit States, regional organisations & international organisations as Observers; and also admit new Members – are important aspects in this regard.

The Bay of Bengal region that makes up BIMSTEC is a home to about 1.8 billion people. This is a substantial percentage of the population of the Indian Ocean Region which is considered to be around 2.7 billion. The combined GDP of the BIMSTEC countries is considered to be over 3.6 trillion US dollars. Considering the geographic location of the Member States that make up the Organisation, BIMSTEC can be considered central as an Indian Ocean Hub – in both security and economic terms; and for achieving sustainable development – consistent with the BIMSTEC Charter.

Evolving BIMSTEC to play such a central role requires commitment, creativity, innovation, sustained political will, openness, and vision among the BIMSTEC Member States. It also requires consistent hard work to forge ties – with like-minded partner nations and organisations – across the Indian Ocean Region & beyond.

We all are committed to a shared vision of an Indian Ocean – built on peace, security, stability & prosperity. As a state-led and government-driven Organisation, the BIMSTEC Member States – set the Agenda for BIMSTEC. And we hope that the BIMSTEC Member States will ensure that BIMSTEC evolves and grows in a manner in which it can play a central role in achieving this shared vision.

Author Brief Bio: Mr. Tenzin Lekphell is the Secretary-General of BIMSTEC.

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered by Mr. Tenzin Lekphell, Secretary-General of BIMSTEC, at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 13 May 2023


Indian Ocean Region and Role of SAARC

The Member States of SAARC are stakeholder countries of the Indian Ocean Rim. It is more so given that four Member States of SAARC are in the category of the Least Developed Countries, three of which are in the process of graduation. Peace, progress, and prosperity remain the key components of sustainable socio-economic development in today’s interconnected and interdependent global order. Cooperation, collaboration, and partnership at national, regional and international levels strongly contribute towards addressing the traditional and non-traditional problems and challenges, being faced by humanity around the globe, and thereby contributing towards enhancing peace, stability, and development, and establishing a prosperous, sustainable and resilient future for all.

The Indian Ocean region possesses a compelling degree of convergence of interests for the countries in the region and beyond. Endowed with abundant natural resources and being a centre for hydrological cycle, the Indian Ocean offers enormous opportunities for development. There is a closer link in terms of ecological and weather patterns of the Indian Ocean and mountainous regions, especially the Hindukush Himalayan range. The region also assumes special significance as the countries share historic civilizational and cultural linkages.

As one of the busiest trade routes in the world, the Indian Ocean provides important sea lanes that serve as arteries of the international economy. Having routes for more than three fourth of the world’s sea-borne oil and one third of global trade, the Indian Ocean assumes considerable significance in the global economy. Even for the land-locked countries in this region, which are members of SAARC, the Indian Ocean is a lifeline for their external trade.

Attaining peace and prosperity in the Indian Ocean region, through partnership, is, therefore, crucially important and conducive to promoting peace and prosperity in other sub-regions and the globe at large. Likewise, preserving the ecological balance in every geographical region, including the high Himalayas, low-lying lands, and the ocean would be a key for sustainable development by addressing the adverse effects of climate change and environmental challenges.

SAARC represents the manifestation of the determination of its Member States to promote peace, stability, amity, and progress in the region. It is based on the premise that the objectives of peace, freedom, social justice, and economic prosperity are best achieved in South Asia by fostering mutual understanding, good neighbourly relations, and meaningful cooperation among the Member States.

The Eighteenth SAARC Summit expressed firm determination to deepen regional integration for peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia. The SAARC Leaders acknowledged that the Member States, particularly the Least Developed and Landlocked ones, face structural constraints and challenges that result in their weak productive capacity, affecting their competitiveness in external trade due to, among others, high trade and transit cost. SAARC fully recognizes the common challenges, interests, and aspirations of the peoples of South Asia and beyond. It also recognizes that regional cooperation among the countries is mutually beneficial, desirable and necessary not only for attaining national and collective self-reliance, but also for promoting the welfare of its peoples and improving their quality of life.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by the public health crisis, has complicated the developmental scenario and reversed the hard-earned development gains of the past several years. The COVID-19 pandemic created economic and social instability and the biggest sufferers were LDCs. They suffered severely on the economic front, witnessing many job losses and a sharp rise in new poor and poverty, and are most vulnerable to Climate Change. The graduation also poses serious challenges to them on their path to economic prosperity.

We need to devise innovative and transformative means towards the implementation of the 2030 Development Agenda, including, among others, through evolving new partnerships and mechanisms; facilitating technology transfer, capacity building, information access, and monitoring and reporting for accountability.

It is imperative that we pay due attention to the threats posed by climate change and degrading environment and work in tandem to ensure responsible growth and sustainable development, while living in harmony with Nature. The time is now ripe for all of us to focus on attaining sustainable peace and prosperity across the region through strengthened partnerships.

Any initiative meant for attaining a more secure, open, inclusive, and prosperous Indian Ocean region would greatly contribute towards fostering peace, stability, and development in the region and beyond. In essence, the Indian Ocean should prevail as an ocean of prosperity and not an ocean of conflict.

Author Brief Bio: Mr. Esala Ruwan Weerakoon is the Secretary General of SAARC.

Note: This article is based on the Text of the Speech delivered by Mr. Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, Secretary General, SAARC, at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023 in Dhaka on 13 May 2023.


Forging the path towards peace, prosperity, and partnerships in the Indian Ocean Region by making economies climate-smart


The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is home to a diverse population with unique socio-economic and physical characteristics. This region is particularly vulnerable to climate change, and addressing its multi-dimensional impacts across the pillars of peace and prosperity is imperative. Recently, the region experienced natural calamities such as Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth that struck Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, resulting in the loss of over 1,000 lives, widespread infrastructure damage, and crop destruction. Similarly, India suffered from one of the worst heatwaves in its history in 20XX, resulting in several hundred deaths and significant damage to crops and the agricultural economy. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as the Maldives, Seychelles, and Mauritius are particularly vulnerable to climate change because of their low-lying coastal areas and heavy reliance on climate-sensitive sectors like tourism and fishing.

There is an urgent need for investments in climate-resilient infrastructure and sustainable land-use initiatives facilitated through multi-sector collaborations to build resilience. Additionally, there is a need to think more holistically about economy-wide climate transitions in the face of increasing transitional risks. For instance, global responses to climate change commitments on trade and commerce on a global level, such as Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism introduced by the EU in December 2022, are set to impact IOR economies such as India, Maldives, and Bangladesh, whose exports heavily rely on industries that highly carbon-dependent for their input processes.

A climate-ready financial sector is crucial to these efforts; the annual cost of adaptation will likely range between USD 140-300 bn by 20301. Investing in adaptation efforts that have mitigation co-benefits can help improve the efficacy of climate finance, most of which will be directed through the financial sector. As a crucial intermediary, the sector is well-placed to address the needs of various stakeholder groups vulnerable to the impacts of climate change to foster a collective transition to a climate-smart economy. Furthermore, governments of the IOR need to introduce climate-focused policies and regulations to enable this transition. They can also encourage innovation and climate-focused start-ups to support this transition, allowing the financial sector to invest in sustainable projects.

Impacts of Climate Change on the Indian Ocean Region

Climate change has accelerated in the region. The global mean temperature in 2022 was 1.15 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial average, and the eight years from 2015-22 were the warmest ever recorded.2 The Indian Ocean has warmed by ~ 1°C since pre-industrial times and is projected to continue warming resulting in coral bleaching, ocean acidification, and changes in marine ecosystems. This is accompanied by rising sea levels in the Indian Ocean (an average of 3.3 mm per year since 1950), an increase in the intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones (which could increase by 10 times in some IOR countries by 2100), and an increase in the risk of droughts and water scarcity, perturbated by changing monsoon patterns.

These pose significant challenges to the region’s economies and human well-being by damaging property and infrastructure, worsening food insecurity, increasing inequality and poverty, and reducing labour productivity. For instance, the rising sea levels could display up to 13 million people in the IOR by 2100 and could cause economic losses of up to USD 1.7 trillion.3 Under such circumstances, climate-stress-induced mass migration and conflicts arising from competition in accessing the dwindling natural resource base are projected to increase further.

These vulnerabilities are not evenly distributed but are differential based on geography and socioeconomic conditions. For instance, island nations and poor economies are more vulnerable due to a lack of effective means to mitigate the effects. These vulnerabilities are enhanced for indigenous communities in the IOR as their livelihoods and cultural practices are closely tied to the health of natural resources. Furthermore, across these groups, the social impacts of climate change disproportionately affect women and girls, who often have limited access to resources and agency to adapt to changing conditions. Hence, it is crucial to take a nuanced understanding of how climate change impacts differ across regions and populations to develop inclusive and equitable adaptation pathways.


In regions where the dependence on natural ecosystems to meet livelihood needs is high, changing climate and weather extremes have implications for peace and security. Decreasing crop yields that threaten famine, or the anticipated loss of landmass in coastal areas, introduce competition in existing patterns of resource consumption across communities, economic sectors, and geopolitical boundaries, sometimes leading to violence and political instability. IPCC AR6 has asserted with high confidence that climate extremes increasingly drive displacement in all regions, with SIDS disproportionately affected.4 Climate change has generated and perpetuated existing vulnerabilities through displacement and involuntary migration. At progressive levels of warming, involuntary migration from regions with high exposure and low adaptive capacity is set to occur more frequently. In response, the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) has made responding to climate-related security risks one of its strategic priorities for 2020-22, with this agenda gaining broader recognition in global narratives and diplomatic dialogues. Regional dialogues and country-level responses to the impacts of climate-induced resource competition and migration on national/regional peace and security need to build on collaborative governance and participatory sustainable resource management practices, emphasizing cross-collaborations across the regional actors and key sectoral players.


Economic growth rate and pattern are critical elements in raising prosperity levels and reducing societal inequalities, and climate change has a decisive bearing on both. The impact of climate change in the IOR is expected to have significant costs to the economy. A study by the Asian Development Bank suggests that the costs in South Asian countries will reach up to USD 215 billion per year by 2050.5 For some countries, this would result in a ~12% loss in their per capita GDP by the end of this century.6 Climate change also impacts human health, including increased incidence of heat stress, water-borne diseases, and vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever and malaria, in addition to food security. The effects of this are notably worse for the disadvantaged groups, whose needs are traditionally underserved and whose perspectives are often underrepresented in climate negotiation spaces. These groups get caught up in a vicious cycle of being increasingly affected by future climate extreme events. Their increasing inability to cope with the rising risks increases their exposure further (Figure 1). Lifting vulnerable communities out of this vicious cycle while meeting the countries’ climate commitments would require transformations in the economic sector, with coordinated efforts by stakeholders across the ecosystem. This would set us on the path of becoming a decarbonized economy that supports people’s financial well-being while promoting climate resilience.

Figure 1. Viscous cycle affecting the prosperity of vulnerable populations

Source: Adapted from Islam and Winkel, 2017. Climate Change and Social Inequality. Department of Economic and Social Affairs Working Paper No. 152.

Towards a decarbonized economy

Addressing the impacts of climate change on peace and prosperity would require a radical shift in how the economies of the region function. While meeting NDCs is a crucial first step in addressing its impacts (Table 1), a more significant shift at a systems level is needed to ensure that the economic sector is better equipped to deal with the physical and transitional risks that come with moving toward a decarbonized economy. Physical risks in this context refer to the direct impacts of climate change, such as natural disasters, extreme weather events, and sea-level rise in the IOR region. These can have immediate and direct effects on economic activities, including damage to infrastructure and property, disruptions to supply chains and markets, and increased insurance and financing costs for resilience. Transitional risks refer to the indirect impacts of climate change on the economy, such as policy changes, technological innovations, and shifting consumer behaviours and purchase patterns. These can have long-term implications for economic activities, including changes in market demand, regulatory policies, and investor preferences. Additionally, regulatory guidelines such as carbon pricing or trade regulations can have implications for industries’ competitiveness and profitability. Hence, this radical shift needs to be reflected in how the financial and broader economic sectors internalize climate change’s impacts across their value chains.

S.No Country NDC Target Estimated CO2e reduction (million tonnes) Additional Information
1 Australia Reduce emissions by 26-28% below BAU by 2030 245-260
2 Bangladesh Reduce emissions intensity by 5% from 2010 levels by 2030 90
3 Comoros Reduce emissions by 29.4% below BAU by 2030 0.5
4 France Reduce emissions by 40% below BAU by 2030 63
5 India Reduce emissions intensity by 33-35% from 2005 levels by 2030 3,042
6 Indonesia Reduce emissions by 29% below BAU by 2030 2,107 Includes conditional target of up to 41% emissions reduction with international assistance
7 Iran Reduce emissions intensity by 4% from 2010 levels by 2030 109 Conditional target subject to international support
8 Kenya Reduce emissions by 30% below BAU by 2030 138
9 Madagascar Reduce emissions by 14% below BAU by 2030 3.3
10 Malaysia Reduce emissions intensity of GDP by 45% from 2005 levels by 2030 297
11 Maldives Reduce emissions by 10% below BAU by 2030 0.1
12 Mauritius Reduce emissions by 30% below BAU by 2030 0.8
13 Mozambique Reduce emissions by 30% below BAU by 2030 47
14 Oman Reduce emissions intensity by 2% from 2016 levels by 2030 26 Conditional target subject to international support
15 Seychelles Reduce emissions by 29% below BAU by 2030 0.1
16 Singapore Reduce emissions by 36% below BAU by 2030 19
17 Somalia Reduce emissions by 7% below BAU by 2030 1.1 Conditional target subject to international support
18 South Africa Reduce emissions by 28% by 2030 and by 42% by 2025, relative to BAU 427 South Africa’s NDC includes both unconditional and conditional targets subject to international support
19 Sri Lanka Reduce emissions by 4% below BAU by 2030 5.5
20 Tanzania Reduce emissions by 10-20% below BAU by 2030 62
21 Thailand Reduce emissions by 20-25% below BAU by 2030 308
22 United Arab Emirates Reduce emissions intensity by 23.5% from 2016 levels by 2030 196

Table 1. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of IOR countries


Efforts to mitigate the physical risks that come with climate change need to double down on actions that focus on building the adaptive capacity of systems to respond to its impacts, including building resilient infrastructure, taking disaster risk-reduction measures, increasing sustainable practices across industrial supply chains, etc. This, among other societal benefits, would also result in reduced economic costs of recovery in the face of future extreme events. There is a growing recognition that climate financing in the global south needs to go beyond the energy sector’s green transition and catalyze funding for adaptation efforts with mitigation co-benefits. According to UNEP, the annual costs of adapting to climate change by 2030 might require thrice the quantum of existing funding levels, a significant share of which comes from the state. To address this gap, there is a need for scaling private sector participation through innovative, blended financing models. These models would ensure that various actual and perceived financial risks that come with climate adaptation finance are appropriately distributed among diverse economic actors based on their capabilities and appetite for risks. Increased funding levels in this regard should focus on land-use transitions that emphasize improving the services provided by natural capital while ensuring that the adaptive capacity of human-nature systems is enhanced in the process. There is an opportunity to build on the momentum enabled by global efforts to scale finance and action toward adaptation to focus on transitional changes at a systems level versus incremental steps that are uncoordinated and planned to increase short- and mid-term gains, often resulting in maladaptation.


In June 2019, the IMF endorsed investing in resilience building by disaster-prone nations, citing improved economic performance over the mid and long term. OECF estimates that the global investment requirements for addressing climate change will be to the tune of trillions of USD, with investments in resilient infrastructure alone requiring USD 6 trillion annually up until 2030. Most of these flows will be mediated through financial institutions. They are essential in complementing and potentially amplifying climate policy action by accelerating investments toward a low-carbon economy. Setting the right stage for the financial sector to play a crucial role in this capacity would require introducing mechanisms and processes to lower the transitional costs of becoming climate smart. While financial institutions already provide insurance and other risk-sharing instruments, they can play an even more fundamental role by supporting reforms across three key areas: governance, risk identification management, and disclosures of climate risks. Some leading central banks, such as the European Central Bank and the Bank of England, are already implementing these changes. For instance, the Bank of England was the first central bank to set supervisory expectations in 2021. In addition to setting up a climate financial risk forum, it has published risk management guidelines and conducted stress rest on its portfolio. In 2022, they published an online scenario analysis tool that any FI can use to evaluate its portfolio against climate risks.

While the central banks of countries in IOR are progressing in their thinking in enabling such a transition, implementation of the same remains nascent. For instance, the Reserve Bank of India, ranked 12th among G20 central banks for green policies and initiatives, created a sustainable finance group in 2021 and announced its scenario analysis and disclosure framework in 2023. It is presently engaged in developing implementation mechanisms to underpin the transition. There is a need for channels of learning and collaborations across the IOR regions that can leverage existing efforts and best practices to advance action on this agenda, thereby improving the economies’ resilience to climate change. However, this transition as a stand-alone effort would not be effective if the rest of the economic sector is not ready to absorb the implications of these changes on their functioning. Preparing the financial sector for such a transition is particularly crucial for SIDS in IOR, whose major contributing industries stand to lose the most owing to their dependence on and vulnerability to changes in the natural capital.


In December 2022, the European Union unveiled its Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms to advance its vision of achieving carbon neutrality in the European industrial sector by 2050. Several countries in the IOR, such as India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh (refer to case study), rely heavily on carbon-based industries for their global trade and commerce. Not responding to these policy shifts would increase increased costs of international trade, thereby affecting their economies. Therefore, there is a need for industries contributing to major exports to explore ways of reducing their carbon footprint and becoming more climate-competitive in the global markets. Efforts to decarbonize the significant contributing sectors are an opportunity to make the economies climate-

competitive and meaningfully contribute to resilience-building in the region. These efforts must be coordinated through a systemic approach to address the various factors, namely, political and regulatory, economic, technological, and socio-cultural, that influence the sectors’ functions and responsibilities. Having a framework that could aid in evaluating countries’ readiness and evolving appropriate interventions across the four factors could help inform targets and pathways of change needed to make the economic sector climate-competitive (Figure 2). This needs to be underlined by solid cooperation and strategic partnerships across various stakeholders, both affecting and affected by the economic sector, nationally and regionally.

Figure 2. Framework to inform country-level climate competitiveness of the economic sector

Progressing Partnerships toward climate resilience in Indian Ocean Region

Climate change affects everyone, everywhere, all at once. Hence, the wide range of stakeholders involved in climate action must come together in negotiating for climate-resilient pathways for the future. Multi-sectoral cross-collaborations involving decision-makers and communities affected through highly participatory forums are needed to bring about an equitable and just transition toward an IOR that promotes peace and prosperity in the process of becoming climate smart. Collaborations across regions need to go beyond the conventional North-South partnerships to include more associations and collectives led by countries of the global south. This would mean inter-regional cooperation across the length and breadth of the ecosystem actors in IOR for financial support, technology development and transfer, infrastructure development, institutional building, and collaborative learning. The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) recognizes the importance of Southern partnerships on climate change issues as valuable means of sharing their experiences and learning from each other based on mutual trust, collaboration, and understanding based on local contexts and consciously avoiding the traditional donor-recipient relationships.7 The existence of several partnerships in the IOR context, including the Indian Ocean Rim Association, Indian Ocean Commission, Partnerships for Resilience, and Indian Ocean Dialogue, needs to be leveraged to progress climate partnerships in the region. Ensuring that the recommendations from these partnerships accommodate the needs of downstream actors across the ecosystem is crucial to building just future pathways of impact. Apart from proactively facilitating and participating in these partnerships, the state has an important role to play in setting ambitious targets, providing policy support and guidance, introducing effective regulatory mechanisms, and encouraging innovation through accelerators and incubators that will set the stage for IOR’s transition into a cluster of decarbonized economies. This needs to be complemented by efforts of the private sector to catalyze more funding, advocate for increased uptake of sustainable practices across the economic sector’s value chains, and seed innovations in climate technologies.


India has been instrumental in developing key partnerships to advance climate action on a global scale.

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is an international organization launched by India and France during COP21 in 2015 with the primary objective of promoting the use of solar energy worldwide by driving market adoption for solar technologies in developing countries. At present, 110 countries are signatories to the ISA Framework Agreement. In 2020, it launched ISA Affordability Solar Project to provide 1000 MW of solar energy to the least developed and small island developing states by 2030. It has also established the ISA Innovation and Investment Cell to mobilize more than USD 1 trillion in solar investments by 2030. As the host country of ISA, India has committed to providing a grant of USD 27 million. It has established a dedicated ISA cell at the Ministry of External Affairs to coordinate India’s efforts.

The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) is a global partnership of countries, organizations, and other stakeholders committed to promoting infrastructure resilience to climate change’s impacts. It was launched at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019 to bring together knowledge, expertise, and financial resources to support the development of sustainable infrastructure worldwide. CDRI has launched a project on ‘Mainstreaming Disaster Resilience in Infrastructure Investments’ in partnership with the Global Infrastructure Basel (GIV) Foundation with the aim of developing a framework for integrating disaster risk management into infrastructure investments. Since its inception, it has collaborated with multilateral development banks, such as World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the European Investment Bank, to mobilize financial resources for disaster-resilience infrastructure in the CDRI member countries. India has committed to providing USD 10 million to CDRI’s corpus fund and has established a CDRI secretariat in New Delhi to coordinate its efforts.

These partnerships reflect the country’s commitment to promoting global climate action towards resilience-building and fostering international cooperation in addressing the impacts of climate change at scale.


The vulnerability of countries of IOR to climate change is multi-dimensional, and their impacts on their socio-economic security are inherently complex owing to their diversity. Its high reliance on natural ecosystem processes to meet its social and economic needs has crucial implications for the region’s peace and prosperity in the face of climate change. Climate action in IOR needs to prioritize climate adaptation efforts that have mitigation co-benefits while also focusing on building the capacity of social-economic systems to adapt to the anticipated changes.

The financial sector has a key role to play in this transition as most of the regional, national, and international climate finance needed to bridge the huge funding gap will be mediated through it. A climate-smart financial sector is hence crucial in amplifying climate action. It also has a direct implication for how natural capital is valued, managed, and governed. Making the financial sector climate-smart would require developing policies and regulatory policies that can effectively mitigate the physical and transitional risks that come with the transition. Further, the global shift towards becoming decarbonized economies has led to the introduction of several climate policies and regulations, such as EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism. These instruments have a bearing on the economies of IOR countries that are highly reliant on carbon-intensive industries for their exports as they reduce their climate competitiveness. Hence the financial sector’s transition into becoming climate-smart must be complemented by efforts to decarbonize the economic sector overall, thereby contributing to climate-smart social-economic growth while making the economies climate-competitive.

As climate change affects all, multi-sectoral cross-collaborative partnerships across the region, among various stakeholder groups, in key areas, including financial support, technology transfer, climate-smart innovations, capacity building, and collaborative learning, are key to charting a common vision and shared pathways for a resilient future. With strategic partnerships, IOR economies can become climate-smart and support a prosperous, harmonious, and climate-resilient future.

Authors Brief Bio: Anirudh Kishore is Associate Consultant, Dalberg Advisors and Jagjeet Singh Sareen is Principal, Dalberg Advisors.

Note: This article was published by India Foundation in the Indian Ocean Conference 2023 Theme Paper Booklet.


  1. Asian Development Bank. “Assessing the Costs of Climate Change and Adaptation in South Asia”, Asian Development Bank, 2017.
  2. Auffhammer, M. “The (Economic) Impacts of Climate Change: Some Implications for Asian Economies”. ADBI Working Paper 1051, 2019.
  3. IPCC, 2022. Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  4. United Nations Development Programme, 2021. Addressing the Climate Crisis in the Indian Ocean Region.
  5. United Nations Environment Programme, 2021. Adaptation Gap Report 2020.
  6. United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, 2017. Climate Partnerships for a Sustainable Future Report: An overview of South-South cooperation on Climate Change in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.
  7. World Meteorological Organization, 2022. WMO Provisional State of the Global Climate.

Connection between Environmental Security and Geostrategy: Major Power Competition and Climate Change Vulnerability in the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean is becoming a much more complex, congested and contested strategic space. This presents challenges (and sometimes also opportunities) for everyone in the region. In recent years we have seen some major powers try to build influence and even coerce Indian Ocean states through imperatives for economic development. Increasingly environmental security, and the narrative around climate change, will form part of the battleground for influence in the region. This paper proposes that Indian Ocean states should work together to develop regional structures and arrangements to facilitate them working together to improve resilience to environmental security and mitigate any attempts to take advantage of the vulnerabilities of regional states.

Key conclusions of this paper are:

  • After several decades of US predominance, the Indian Ocean is now becoming a much more complex, congested and contested strategic space.
  • At the same time, environmental challenges may represent an even greater set of security threats for the region.
  • Environmental threats cannot be seen in isolation from other threats. These threats will interact with conventional geopolitical threats.
  • There are currently no effective region-wide structures or groupings that are well adjusted to help regional states address these threats.

This paper will first discuss major power competition. Second, it will talk about the interaction of geo-environmental and geo-strategic challenges. Third, it will discuss the imperative for Indian Ocean countries to take an active role in addressing vulnerabilities through building regional responses to environmental threats, and what some of those collective responses could look like.

The Indian Ocean as a Contested Strategic Space

The United States has been the predominant power in the Indian Ocean for more than four decades and most likely will remain the strongest power for years to come, even as its relative lead diminishes. But there are many uncertainties about the future US role in the region.

The main US focus in the region has long been on the Persian Gulf. But there are important strategic changes occurring there. At the same time there is a significant reduction in the US dependence on energy sourced from the Persian Gulf which will only accelerate as the world transitions away from fossil fuels. This could fundamentally alter the shape of the US presence in this region.

The second major change in regional dynamics comes from the emergence of India as the largest economy and biggest military power among Indian Ocean states. India has long harboured ambitions to be recognised as the leading Indian Ocean power, with special security responsibilities in the region. India’s concerns about its position in the region is now very much focused on China meaning that strategic competition between India and China is likely to become a key factor in the dynamics of the region.

Another big change in the region comes from China’s growing presence. Beijing has important strategic interests in the Indian Ocean that are likely to drive an ever-greater military presence in coming years. It is widely understood that China’s most crucial interest is the protection of its trading routes over the Indian Ocean, over which a large majority of its imported oil needs are transported from the Middle East and Africa. But China also has other important strategic interests in the region, including a growing number of Chinese nationals and investments.

China’s flagship initiative in the region, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), involves building new pathways across the Indian Ocean region, both on land and at sea, may entrench China’s economic power in the region. The adverse financial consequences of the BRI for some Indian Ocean states are also becoming apparent. China has come under increasing criticism for engaging in so-called ‘debt trap’ diplomacy in some circumstances with some economically vulnerable countries. Pakistan is already seeing unsustainable indebtedness incurred in some projects. Sri Lanka has also experienced some of the consequences of entering into financially unfeasible BRI projects which in several ways contributed to its recent economic crisis.

Although there are many connections between strategic competition in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the dynamics of the Indian Ocean are somewhat different. In the Pacific, the United States and China are the main strategic competitors, but the dynamics are somewhat different in the Indian Ocean, where competition is at its sharpest between India and China.   Regional states need to take this into account in trying to mitigate the potential impact of strategic competition.

Major Power Competition and Economic and Environmental Vulnerabilities of Indian Ocean states

Major power competition has the potential to significantly destabilise the region, as we see major powers increasingly jostling for influence among smaller countries.

Much of the focus over the last few years has been on economic development and economic competition. China has used the banner of the BRI to enter the region through a range of development projects.  Many of these may be intended to provide projects to benefit Chinese companies, but they have also been used to build economic and political influence among smaller countries.

A number of these projects have been economically unsustainable and debt burdens as well as competition for influence have been a significant contributor to economic and political instability in some Indian Ocean states. We saw that in Maldives in 2018 and Sri Lanka in 2022. In coming months, we will likely see indebtedness related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor initiative become a significant factor in the stability of Pakistan. We will likely see major economic disruptions there, including from an unsustainable debt burden, that will likely contribute to significant economic instability.

These developments provide important lessons to all Indian Ocean states about reducing their economic vulnerabilities. Australia has recently experienced a three-year campaign of economic coercion where a major economic partner sought to use trade as a weapon against it. The program of coercion was not successful, but it certainly taught Australia many lessons about the importance of reducing economic vulnerabilities.

Major power competition will not only occur in the economic sphere. There is a significant risk that some major powers will also seek to exploit vulnerabilities in the environmental space.

The Indo-Pacific and particularly the Indian Ocean is an epicentre of threats to our environment arising from climate change and other human activities – including severe weather events, sea level rise, failure of monsoon, salinification of ground water, oil spills, loss of fish stocks. These environmental challenges will increasingly make many Indian Ocean states more vulnerable to external shocks and external influence, including as part of geopolitical competition.

To be clear, competition among major power can potentially be used by Indian Ocean states to their benefit. To the extent that major powers have an interest in helping smaller countries build resilience and respond to climate change then this could be a good thing for us all. But there is also the potential for some major powers to try to take advantage of the vulnerabilities of smaller states, to their own benefit.

This means that the environment and environmental challenges could increasingly become a battleground for major power competition. We need to be addressing environmental challenges for their own sake, but we can’t also be blind to the potential strategic implications of how these challenges may cause regional states to become much more vulnerable to external influence and coercion.

The Interaction of Geo-environmental and Geo-strategic Challenges

There is often a tendency to look at environmental challenges as being separate and distinct from geostrategy and major power competition, but there are deep links that we need to be aware of.

In practice major environmental disruptions, particularly from climate change, have the potential to go far beyond what is normally understood as discrete environmental challenges. Climate change and other environmental impacts, particularly when combined with ethnic or other social problems, can contribute to increased migration, internal instability, or intra-state insurgencies, and may foster terrorism or even cross-border conflict. Climate-induced resource competition can also increase tensions within and between states.

In addition, environmental disruptions also often do not occur as isolated events, but instead can occur in combination or as a cascading or compounding series of events. One environmental disruption can contribute to or exacerbate the occurrence of another. One event might significantly reduce a country’s resilience or its ability to respond to subsequent, unrelated, events. This potential for magnification or cascading influences can make it difficult to predict the consequences of what may individually appear to be moderate or manageable threats.

There are several recent examples of how environmental disruptions have exacerbated strategic instability, sometimes in unexpected ways. One example is the contribution of illegal fishing off the coast of Somalia to the rise of Somali-based piracy and the build-up of naval forces off the Horn of Africa. Another example is the diverse and often unexpected security impacts of the 2004 Tsunami in countries such as Indonesia (where the disaster led to the end of civil conflict) and Sri Lanka (where the disaster rekindled a civil conflict).

These examples are reminders of how what might initially appear to be a single disruption to the natural environment could have significant, and widespread, strategic consequences for the region in often unexpected ways. This is why we should understand them as ‘geo-environmental’ challenges, on par with geopolitical challenges in terms of their potential to become a significant disruption to the strategic order.

Regional Responses to Environmental Security Challenges

So, what are Indian Ocean states to do about this era of growing geo-political and geo-environmental challenges? What can Indian Ocean states do to collectively mitigate these disruptions, as well as mitigating external attempts to take advantage of regional vulnerabilities?

Importantly, resilience not only has to be developed at a national level, but also through regional cooperation that provides coordinated responses and a regional voice about developments. Cooperation not only helps states be more resilient in the face of environmental threats but can also help provide resilience and stability in the face of major power competition. Regional solidarity can be an important way of reducing vulnerabilities of states to physical challenges and major power competition.

Some would argue that the Indian Ocean is currently poorly served in cooperative arrangements relating to environmental security that could facilitate cooperation among countries. There are certainly significant deficiencies in regional cooperation on environmental security. Groupings such as IORA or BIMSTEC have only begun to discuss these issues, and currently there is little or no meaningful regional coordination on policies and responses to climate change. There are no political declarations, regular meetings among environment ministers or senior officials, few regional response mechanisms, and no regional institutions for research or training in this area.

There are many things that Indian Ocean states can learn from other comparable regions. The Pacific Island countries, for example, have in many instances taken the lead in developing effective regional initiatives to address a wide range of environmental security challenges, whether it be in sustaining fish stocks and biodiversity, addressing the challenge of marine plastics or working together to build resilience to climate change. The experience of the Pacific and other comparable regions in the world could provide important lessons for what Indian Ocean states should be doing.

This could include the following regional initiatives, among many others:

  • Regional declaration on environmental security: The 2018 Boe Declaration where Pacific Island Countries declared climate change to be their highest priority security threat.
  • Indian Ocean Environmental Security Forum: Consideration should be given to establishing an Indian Ocean Environmental Security Forum.

An Indian Ocean forum would bring together representatives from military and civilian agencies and non-governmental organisation across the Indian Ocean region to create shared understandings on environmental security threats and help establish habits of dialogue in the field of environmental security and potentially coordinate strategic policy in this area.

  • Disaster Risk Reduction: There is considerable scope for developing framework disaster management arrangements among key Indian Ocean states. Such an arrangement should focus on developing pre-existing coordination mechanisms for responding to disasters among the most capable states.

This could draw from the successful experiences of ASEAN and the FRANZ arrangements among Australia, France, and New Zealand in the South Pacific. Such arrangements do not necessarily need to depend on every country in the region. Rather, the starting point is the coordination of key states with capabilities to respond, working in cooperation with interested regional states.


The Indian Ocean region will face some major environmental challenges in coming years that may impact regional stability and make countries much more vulnerable to external factors. In thinking about responses to climate change and other environmental challenges we need to understand the potential connections between environmental issues and broader geo-strategic issues. The Indian Ocean region needs to work together to reduce vulnerability and build a regional voice on these issues. Other regions can sometimes give us useful lessons about what can be achieved.

Author’s Brief Bio: Dr. David Brewster is Senior Research Fellow, National Security College, Australian National University

Note: This article was published by India Foundation in the Indian Ocean Conference 2023 Theme Paper Booklet.


The Blue Economy in the Indian Ocean: Framing Policy Challenges and Choices


The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is often identified as a strategic region subject to increasing geopolitical contestation while serving as a potentially dynamic economic region. This paper will examine the prospects and challenges for increased co-operation within the IOR in the context of both these observations. It will specifically examine the ‘Blue Economy’ and how it impacts patterns of both competition and co-operation in the IOR.

This paper will make three main points. It will firstly examine the Blue Economy as a policy goal within broader public policy debates in the IOR. The second point is outlining traditional and non-traditional security threats in the IOR and how they possibly impact the pursuit of Blue Economy goals. The third point lies in identifying the overlap between geopolitical concerns and geo-economic imperatives in the IOR.

The Blue Economy in the IOR: Pursuing a Public Policy Goal  

The Blue Economy (sometimes also referred to as the ‘oceans economy’) concept originates from the United Nation Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. Following on from this conference, in 2014, the United Nations published the Blue Economy Concept Paper, wherein it clearly defines the public policy goal ‘of the Blue Economy concept is the de-coupling of socioeconomic development from environmental degradation’. The World Bank, in 2017, viewed the Blue Economy as ‘the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem’. The Blue Economy, as a public policy goal, involves negotiating the tension between the opportunities the ocean economy provides and the threats such activities pose.

States in the IOR have consistently declared their intentions to achieve Blue Economy goals. The Jakarta Declaration on Blue Economy of 2017 committed the member states of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) to twenty-three principles in pursuit of Blue Economy goals in the IOR. These range from building stronger legal and regulatory regimes, developing more robust public-private partnerships as well as leveraging various sources of finance in pursuit of Blue Economy goals, including collaboration with partner states outside the IOR (some of which are Dialogue Partners of the IORA).

These Blue Economy goals have been fiercely debated by various groups in the IOR, comprising academics, economists, and conservationists, amongst others. The tension between conservation and growth is a key policy quandary for leaders in the IOR, specifically for Small Island Developing States (SIDs) as well as for local leaders in coastal communities in these states. For leaders in many IOR states, there is a strong political imperative to tolerate the long-term (and not easily discernible) effects of climate and environmental change in return for economic growth. This, of course, is a broader global public issue related to the principle of ‘Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities’, first established at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The key issues to emerge from this tension are over-fishing, marine pollution and ocean governance and they relate to the nature of traditional and non-traditional security threats faced by states in the IOR.

Blue Economy in the IOR: Dealing with Traditional / Non-Traditional Security Concerns

The key difference between traditional and non-traditional security threats are the targets of the threat and the source of the threats. Direct military threats towards a state from another state is the most obvious example of a traditional security threat. Non-traditional security threats comprise of threats that don’t target specific states but are transnational in nature and don’t emerge completely or directly from a specific state. The effects of climate change, natural disasters, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and maritime pollution are just some examples of non-traditional security threats in the maritime domain. However, the distinction between the two types of threats is not always clear and there is some overlap in specific contexts. For many states, energy, food, and water security, consisting of the ability to access both renewable and non-renewable energy sources as well as food and water sources is increasingly a traditional security issue. In other cases, responses to non-traditional security threats becomes a site of inter-state competition and rivalry, driven by broader, pre-existing inter-state rivalries.

The IOR, for much of the Cold War, was not a key site of strategic competition, with Southeast Asia the main arena of strategic rivalry. In the early post-Cold War era, the broader East Asian region was the focus of strategic rivalry, with several maritime ‘hotspots’, especially the South China Sea, becoming sites of strategic rivalry between China, the US and countries within East Asia. The IOR, meanwhile began to garner increasing attention from the early 2000s, leading to Robert Kaplan’s much discussed 2009 commentary in Foreign Affairs, where he described the IOR as the ‘center-stage’ for ‘power plays’ between leading states in the twenty first century and his book in 2011 described the IOR as the key site for the US’s global strategic outlook. China’s ‘Westwards Strategy’, accompanied by its increasing economic and military presence in the IOR, has been a key driver for the growing interest in the IOR. The nature of China’s growing presence in the IOR, both militarily and economically, has increasingly shaped responses to non-traditional security threats in the IOR. China’s growing presence in the IOR is viewed as an obstacle in trying to achieve Blue Economy goals, specifically in dealing with non-traditional security threats in the IOR. This is because of the perception that China’s actions in the non-traditional sphere increases the potential traditional security threat it poses for some states in the region.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major non-traditional security threat for littoral states of the IOR. Sustainable fishing is a crucial Blue Economy goal contained within both the Jakarta Declaration as well as the earlier Mauritian Declaration, acknowledging the threat that IUU fishing poses both for the livelihoods of coastal fishing communities as well as to ocean wildlife ecosystems. In the IOR, there are several littoral states with large expanses of both territorial seas and EEZs which they do not have the capacity to closely govern and monitor illegal fishing. In these situations, states require jointly setting up regimes and processes to govern and monitor their adjoining EEZs and territorial seas.  In certain cases, they may require assistance from outside the region or sub-region from international organisations, regional organisations or individual countries outside the region/sub-region. A good example of this model is the Extended Regional Coordination Unit (ERCU) of the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Plan, an initiative amongst eight countries in the South-West Indian Ocean (comprising Comoros, France/La Reunion, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Tanzania and Seychelles). With funding from the European Union, this set of countries have accomplished certain significant Blue Economy goals since 2007, specifically by reducing IUU fishing incidents by significantly improving the region’s monitoring and surveillance capacity.

However, in other sub-regions of the IOR, such mechanisms for states for joint monitoring and surveillance capacity are under-developed. Besides monitoring the contiguous EEZs and territorial seas of littoral states, there is also the issue of over-fishing and illegal fishing of protected and endangered species in the high seas or international waters. Within the specific context of pursuing Blue Economy goals, the over-lap between traditional and non-traditional security threats, is particularly apparent vis-à-vis such IUU activities. In the South China Sea, there is an increasing overlap between traditional threats, associated with maritime disputes and issues of sovereignty, and alleged intrusion by foreign fishing fleets in areas deemed to the EEZs and territorial seas of certain littoral states.  The case of the Philippines publicly claiming that Chinese fishing fleets acting as a de facto Chinese maritime militia in disputed areas of the South China Sea is a case in point. In such cases, states begin to define solutions to non-traditional security threats as zero-sum in nature, involving the use of military force and diplomatic pressure, rather than jointly crafting, and pursuing Blue Economy goals to resolve non-traditional security threats that affect various states.

In the IOR, there have been increasing overlaps in perceptions of non-traditional and traditional security threats, specifically in relation to IUU fishing in the high seas. Chinese flagged fishing vessels have reportedly been involved in unregulated fishing of squid within the high seas of the IOR, putting further strain on sustainable seafood stocks in the IOR. In addition, Chinese vessels have also reportedly been illegally catching tuna in parts of the IOR which already exhibit dangerous levels of over-fishing. These reported incidents of IUU fishing in the IOR by Chinese flagged fishing vessels are increasingly viewed as part of a wider range of traditional security threats emanating from China. There are two key reasons for these perceptions.

Firstly, there is a growing view that IUU fishing by Chinese flagged vessels in the IOR is part of a broader response by China to the notion of a global rules-based order. In this view, China perceives rules and norms governing the maritime domain as illegitimate and thus not binding on it. Several observers have drawn parallels between China’s maritime claims and actions in the South and East China Sea, which are viewed to be in contravention with China’s obligations under UNCLOS and Chinese flagged fishing vessels involved in IUU fishing in contravention of its obligations via-a-vis various statutes related to IUU fishing. This leads to a growing view that joint Blue Economy Goals would be difficult to pursue within the context of China’s approach towards its own obligations in relation to protecting marine ecosystems and seafood stocks within the IOR. As a result, a non-traditional security issue such as IUU fishing is increasingly viewed as part of the broader range of traditional threats which China poses to states within the IOR and beyond. Seemingly driven by increased domestic seafood demand within China, there is a perception that Chinese flagged vessels are trying to satisfy domestic demand to the detriment of littoral states in the IOR.

Secondly, certain littoral states in the IOR view the specific activities of Chinese fishing vessels with a great deal of suspicion. There are concerns that the crew on certain Chinese flagged fishing vessels comprise of People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) personnel and these vessels are used for ocean reconnaissance for military intelligence purposes. These concerns again view Chinese flagged vessels as instruments of broader Chinese military goals in the IOR. In such a context, it is clear to see how and why IUU fishing increasingly ceases to be a non-traditional security issue and instead a clear national security threat to certain states in the IOR.

 Blue Economy Goals in the IOR: Geo-politics and Geo-Economics

Geo-politics is the impact of geography on the conduct of relations amongst states, while geo-economics as a concept has largely been used in relation to geo-politics. Geo-economics is the “use of economic instruments to promote and defend national interests, and to produce beneficial geopolitical results.” Proponents of geoeconomics often point to two benefits it enjoys over geopolitics as a strategy. Firstly, from the perspective of individual states, economic instruments lend themselves to greater flexibility and lower longer-term costs, both financial as well as social. Secondly, the use of economic instruments provides greater possibilities for ‘win-win’ outcomes for states, especially when such instruments lead to net economic growth and development of all states concerned. Geopolitics, in comparison, with the use of military options which leverage on specific geographical advantages, are less likely to result in ‘win-win’ outcomes amongst states, according to this view.  More broadly, as a driver of relations between states, geoeconomics creates greater possibilities for co-operation as compared to geo-politics driving relations between states.

In recent years, China has been perceived to increasingly use economic instruments to safeguard and advance its national interests. China is ready, in this view, to use the threat of superior military power as well as diplomatic pressure especially in the South China Sea, but in the IOR, economic instruments seem to be preferred over demonstrations of military power or diplomatic pressure. China is perceived to increasingly prefer geoeconomics over geopolitics as a means of furthering and advancing its interests. A key aspect of China’s geoeconomics strategy is its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In the IOR, the BRI has been linked to accomplishing Blue Economy Goals, specifically the sea-based Maritime Silk Road (MSR).

In 2017, China announced its blueprint ‘Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative’, with an emphasis on developing a Blue Economy with sustainable development a key element of this vision.  China envisions three global ‘blue economy passages’, and one of them is the China-Indian Ocean-Africa-Mediterranean Sea Blue Economic Passage.  In addition, China has also stated its commitment to assist littoral states in the IOR towards the economic development of its coastal communities and the wider national economy. In essence, this blueprint aims to fulfil the two key, sometimes competing, imperatives of the Blue economy – helping littoral states harness their maritime locations for economic development while ensuring environmental and sustainability concerns are addressed.

China’s building of commercial ports in the IOR as part of the MSR has been justified in terms of helping the economic development of states in the IOR in three ways. Firstly, certain coastal communities in IOR littoral states have not economically benefitted from their geographical location and building new ports away from earlier established and busy ports would benefit these communities. The case of Hambantota port was a case in point, where a new commercial port would help raise economic activity and development, which was earlier largely concentrated in Sri Lanka’s busiest port in Colombo, and thus benefit the communities in that area of Sri Lanka. Secondly, it would raise the overall economic development of that country, as it leverages the strategic geographical location of these countries to increase economic activity within the whole national economy. Thirdly, it would benefit other states as well, as new ports and the increased economic activity that stemmed from it would increase economic activity in the region and with it, development across the region. This ‘win-win’ logic also included economic gains for China as it seeks to utilise excess capital and human resources within China for such projects abroad.

The MSR was touted as an example of geoeconomics driving relations between states, with ‘win-win’ outcomes for all states involved, rather than the zero-sum outcomes often attributed to geopolitical drivers. In addition, China made commitments towards meeting the sustainable development benchmarks of the Blue Economy goals that were set as part of the MSR. However, there is a growing sense amongst certain states that China’s MSR aims to establish geopolitical control over littoral states in the IOR rather than helping their economic development. In addition, there have been an emerging view that China’s sustainable development commitments are largely lip-service and that its perceived record domestically on environmental protection and on IUU fishing in ‘distant waters’ are mirrored in its approach to MSR projects.

There is an emerging view that China’s MSR is driven as much by geopolitics as it is by geoeconomics and the perceived overlap between geopolitics and geoeconomics in China’s MSR has significantly hindered the accomplishment of Blue Economy Goals in the IOR.  The construction of new ports by China in the IOR is increasingly not economically viable (at least in the short to medium run) and the takeover of these economically distressed projects by China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) has raised concerns about China’s ability to translate such ownership into constraining the geopolitical choices of recipient states. This has led to countries such as India increasingly viewing port development projects not as part of larger Blue Economy development goals for communities within the IOR but instead as part of a wider geopolitical contest with China.

Author Brief Bio: Dr. Sinderpal Singh is Senior Fellow and Assistant Director, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies.

Note: This article was published by India Foundation in the Indian Ocean Conference 2023 Theme Paper Booklet.


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Peace, Prosperity, and Partnership for a Resilient Future: The India Factor

“For thousands of years, Indians have turned to the East. ot just to see the Sun rise, but also to pray for its light to spread over the entire world. The humankind now looks to the Rising East, with the hope to see the promise that this 21st century beholds for the whole world, because the destiny of the world will be deeply influenced by the course of developments in the Indo-Pacific region.”

  • Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, at his Keynote Address, Shangrila Dialogue, Singapore, June 2018

The Indo-Pacific region is home to the most dynamic economies in the world. It holds promise to a world recovering from the devastations of the Covid pandemic, the debilitating impact of the continuing war in Europe and the looming threat of a global recession. The geopolitics of the region, however, remains complex and generates deep anxieties over China’s unprecedented rise and growing US-China rivalry. There is a deep mistrust of Chinese policies and motivations which is no longer prepared to “bide its time and hide its capabilities”. This threatens regional peace and stability and impedes the region from realising its full potential.

A rising China poses major challenges, even as it offers economic opportunities. China has used its economic heft, its political influence, and its military strength to rewrite the existing regional order with strong Chinese characteristics. It has used threat and use of force to subjugate the region. Its belligerence in handling territorial disputes with its neighbours, its militarisation of disputed islands in the South China Sea (SCS), its intense military exercises and aggressive posturing towards Taiwan, its territorial claims in the East Sea and on the India-China border, all are fraught with the grave risk of a military conflict. China has successfully divided Southeast Asia and enmeshed them into an endless cycle of meaningless negotiations on their territorial claims in SCS, while pursuing regional expansion.

Chinese enhancement of its defence systems, including its nuclear and missile capability, both in size and sophistication, have become a credible regional threat, including to a US that has prioritised its problems with Russia over impending threats from China. The positions articulated by the leaders of Germany and France on their recent visits to China weakens Western solidarity and is expected to further shrink strategic space in dealing with Chinese aggression. Chinese dam building activities in the Brahmaputra and Mekong rivers, with its adverse impact upon environment, water availability and agricultural production in the lower riparian countries is also of serious concern. It reflects Chinese indifference to any rules-based order in resolving trans-border issues.

Growing economic dependence of smaller countries upon China and increasing financial burden of Chinese debt weighs heavily upon those countries that allowed such unviable financing arrangements. The ambitious Belt Road Initiative (BRI) has had a deleterious effect on the local economy and environment of recipient countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, while serving Chinese interests. Notwithstanding all the recent rhetoric to “de-couple” from China, an over dependence upon the Chinese market, its finances and its supply and manufacturing chains prevents the rest of the world from reining in China’s errant behaviour, as it replaces the balance of power in its favour.

Whether China will be cooperative or allowed to become the overall dominant power will depend upon the countries in the region, especially those that enabled China’s rise in the first place and wilfully ceded space to a Chinese dominated order. Much will also depend upon how successfully other players in the region work together to create a multi-polar alternative to balance the power equations in the Indo-Pacific.

India is an important stakeholder for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. India would also like to have good relations with China. China is one of India’s largest trading partners, and there is immense potential for working together in international fora on multilateral trading system, on climate change, on the international governance system to make it more equitable and fairer. However, China’s aggressive behaviour on the Indian border in the last one year has vitiated the atmosphere, with public opinion in India turning against China. China’s complete disregard of bilateral agreements and efforts to change facts on the ground on India’s border, have adversely impacted bilateral relationship. Chinese encirclement of the Indian periphery also undermines India’s security in the region. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a BRI project in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, completely disregards India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Its latest, renaming places in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh with Chinese names, is downright provocative.

For Asia to claim its rightful place as the continent of the future, no single power can dominate. Such hegemony is detrimental to regional peace and security. Along with USA, Japan, Australia, Russia, the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European countries, all stakeholders in a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific, India can play an important role in creating a viable, rules-based, multi-polar world order for a resilient future in the Indo-Pacific.

This year, India will host two major multilateral summits -the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in July and the G20 in September. India’s Presidency of both SCO and G20 offers immense opportunities for setting a positive agenda for peace and security.

The SCO membership contributes 30% of world GDP and 40% of population. Greater cooperation among SCO member countries can enhance regional security, counter the scourge of terrorism, and lead to balanced and equitable growth. The SCO as a forum can also share best practices on technological advancement, environment conservation and cooperation in optimum utilisation of resources. Other areas of potential cooperation include reliable, diversified, and resilient supply chains for growth and development.

Similarly, the G20 represents 85% of global GDP, 75% of international trade, and 2/3rd of the world’s population. Its membership consists of the most influential countries in the world. In a world fragmented by polarising conflicts and decline of global institutions, the G20 can play an important role in finding solutions to these issues.

Under its Presidency of G20, India will try to build consensus on foremost issues for global growth. As pointed out by Shri Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, India will focus on issues that unite instead of those that divide, to find “the right balance between growth and efficiency on the one hand and resilience on the other”. India’s agenda will be inclusive, ambitious, action-oriented, decisive, and aimed to promote the spirit of “oneness”, inspired by the traditional Indian theme of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “One Earth, One Family, One Future”. This is important in the face of evolving global challenges, including the geopolitical crisis, food and energy insecurity, slow progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), mounting debt burden and challenges to climate action and climate justice.

India will also provide a stronger voice to issues of concern to the Global South. These include reform of international institutions, including the United Nations, the multilateral banking system as well as restructuring of unsustainable loans. During the Voice of the South Summit held in January earlier this year, Prime Minister Modi pointed out that most of the challenges confronting the developing countries, including climate change, were not created by the South, and necessitated common but differentiated responsibilities in dealing with these problems. Moreover, for the countries of the South to prosper, it would be important to identify simple, scalable, and sustainable solutions that can transform societies and economies.

India’s recent growth story offers several positive lessons. These include India’s digital delivery, public health response to the Covid pandemic, green growth, clean energy, sustainable lifestyles and development as well as the empowerment of all sections of society, including women-led development. Some of these initiatives merit attention.

India recently launched the ‘LiFE’ initiative – Lifestyle For Environment, where the responsibility for sustainable development rests with every individual. The concept of Pro-Planet-People and the focus on individual behaviours is derived from India’s ethos of living close to nature.

India’s Millet initiative, which has resulted in the UN declaration of the year 2023 as International Year of Millets, has been lauded for addressing food security and in fulfilling the SDGs.

India has also taken the lead in the global sphere to spearhead the transition towards cleaner sources of energy. India’s global initiatives such as the One Sun One World One Grid and the International Solar Alliance have been complemented by its domestic commitment for achieving 50% installed electricity capacity through non-fossil sources.

India’s evolving experience in bridging the domestic digital divide provides useful lessons to the international community in bridging the global digital divide. The Unified Payment Interface (UPI), pioneered by India, is an example of how Indian solutions have the potential to come to the aid of the world. In 2021, over 40% of the world’s real-time payment transactions took place through UPI. The UPI transaction value has been more than $800 billion indicating a growth rate of 97% for 2021 compared to 2020. Similarly, 460 million new bank accounts were opened on the basis of digital identity.

The vibrant start-up eco-system in India is largely driven by its young population. India is currently ranked third globally in its Fintech strength after USA and China. As of October 2022, India had more than 80,000 recognized start-ups spread across 236 districts. India has the third largest start-up ecosystem in the world and with 107 unicorns, India has the 3rd largest number of unicorns. These point to the entrepreneurial capacities of India, especially its youth.

India’s National Education Policy 2020 is a holistic and futuristic policy based on the foundational principles of access, equality, quality, affordability and accountability. It aims to build the creative potential of every student in keeping with the requirements of the 21st century.

The Indian Government has initiated a number of people-centric reforms, intended to support the people under the banner “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”, which means “Collective Efforts, Inclusive Growth”. Whether it is reforms aimed at skilling, reskilling and upskilling its people, or reaching clean fuel to people under the Ujjwala scheme, or providing health support under Ayushman Bharat; Mudra Yojana for funding small entrepreneurship; or Vaccine Maitri to reach the Covid-19 vaccines not only to the last person in the country, through the highly innovative digital platform “CoWIN”, but also to millions in other countries in need, the intention is to reach the benefits to the last person.

These initiatives can be replicated in other countries. India can lend its support through information sharing, training and capacity building.  Already, what differentiates India’s international development cooperation activities, undertaken in more than 78 countries, is that it is transparent, consultative, and demand driven, based entirely upon the requirements of the partner countries. It is never imposed with unsustainable conditionalities, unlike some other reprehensible, predatory assistance programmes.

As the largest democracy in the world, representing one-sixth of humanity, India’s biggest priority is to provide decent standards of living to its very young, aspirational population that is peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, and plural.  India’s foreign policy initiatives are aimed at supporting these core Indian civilisational values, simultaneously with its developmental goals and objectives.

Towards this end, India has built a web of partnerships both within its immediate neighbourhood and beyond. It has strengthened its bilateral and multilateral strategic partnerships with the key players in the region, for collectively building a resilient future.

Except for Pakistan, which continues to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy that has curtailed all meaningful interaction, India’s relations with all its other neighbours in the Indian subcontinent have improved exponentially in the last decade. Its “Neighbourhood First Policy” has reset bilateral relations and built bridges of friendship, connectivity, and understanding thorough mutually beneficial cooperation. A greater regional and sub-regional integration is also taking place in trade and investment, as well as infrastructure and energy connectivity, including through groupings like the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) cooperation.

India’s further outreach to its extended neighbourhood is summed up in its “Act East” and “Look West” policies, reinvigorating its relations with countries spanning the entire Indo-Pacific. A concerted effort has also been made to enhance cooperation with the Central Asian republics, with whom India shares deep civilisational links and common security challenges.

There is a convergence of interest in economic, political, and strategic outlook with several of India’s key partners. India’s strategic partnership with the US has strengthened and become stronger in the last decade. Today, the US is India’s largest trade and technology partner. India has also expanded its relations with Japan, Australia, and South Korea, injecting new dynamism through recent high-level visits. Europe too is a major strategic partner and economic relations are expected to expand further with the imminent finalisation of the India-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA). India has transformed its relations with the Gulf countries while simultaneously maintaining high-level dialogue with Iran on vital connectivity projects that are being implemented. India’s strategic partnership with Russia has withstood international pressures from western countries to condemn Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. In fact, economic ties have expanded, with Russia today as India’s largest supplier of oil.

India has retained its strategic autonomy and avoided taking sides in any great power rivalry. India has also remained honest in its relationships with its strategic partners, with a free and frank assessment of each other’s concerns and priorities.

India’s active participation in regional groupings like the BIMSTEC, the ASEAN-related mechanisms such as the ASEAN-India strategic partnership, the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation, development cooperation with the CLMV countries in ASEAN, the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and other arrangements like the QUAD, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, I2U2, BRICS, RIC, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation and the India-Africa Forum Summits- all contribute towards creating a robust multipolar world.

Since the tsunami in 2004, India has been the first responder in its neighbourhood during natural disasters, like the earthquake in Nepal, the water crisis in Maldives or the cyclone in Sri Lanka. In the face of climate change induced natural disasters, the India initiated Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), has emerged as an important area for international cooperation. India’s world view is encapsulated in the acronym SAGAR, which means Ocean, and represents Security and Growth for all in the Region.

The 30 million strong Indian diasporas, with a large section residing within the Indo-Pacific region, has contributed positively to building bridges between India and the host countries. As law-abiding, hardworking, highly skilled, and high-achieving citizens, the Indian diaspora has also played a very important part in contributing to peace and prosperity, while adhering to inherent Indian cultural values of tolerance, peace, and pluralism. They are welcomed everywhere as a force for good.

Today, India is one of the fastest growing larger economies in the world and expected to be an engine of growth for others. Its 1.4 billion population offers a big market for diversification and building alternative supply chains for international trade and investment. India’s potential and core Indian values are the “India Factor” in securing peace and prosperity for a resilient future. India will continue to play its positive role.

Author Brief Bio: Amb. Preeti Saran is former Secretary (East), MEA, Govt. of India. She is also a member in Governing Council of India Foundation.

Note: This article was published by India Foundation in the Indian Ocean Conference 2023 Theme Paper Booklet.


Australia’s role in a resilient Indian Ocean Region

The region in which Australia is located – the Indo-Pacific – is facing the greatest strategic uncertainty since the end of the Second World War.  That same region is also engine of the global economy – two thirds of global growth to 2030 will come from the Indo-Pacific.1

Much of this economic growth will have an Indian Ocean dimension. Within the next decade, the world’s top five economies (in purchasing power parity terms) will include two major Indian Ocean states – India and Indonesia.2 The Indian Ocean itself hosts more than half the world’s container traffic, as well as critical infrastructure such as ports and undersea cables, and sea lines of communication vital to global energy trade.3

In other words, a resilient Indian Ocean region matters enormously to the world and it matters to Australia. As a nation that sits astride both the Pacific and the Indian Oceans, and whose western shores cover nearly the entire Eastern boundary of the Indian Ocean, Australia has a major stake in the peace, prosperity, and resilience of the Indian Ocean region.

This paper highlights four areas of strength and strategic interest where Australia can help contribute to the resilience of the Indian Ocean region:

  1. Advocating for strong regional identity and collaboration
  2. Promoting economic integration for regional benefit
  3. Leading future energy partnerships
  4. Securing regional peace and prosperity
  5. Stepping up in future challenges and opportunities

A Region that Matters – Building an Indo-Pacific Identity

With just 25 million inhabitants and located far from many of its markets, regional partnerships and collaboration have always been part of Australia’s world view. Australia has played an especially important role in building global understanding of the importance of the Indian Ocean region. This work started with advocacy, first for the idea of an Asia-Pacific, and then subsequently the concept of an Indo-Pacific.

Neither of these concepts – or the collaboration that has emerged from them – were guaranteed.  As recently as the 1980s, Australia was considered part of a vaguely defined Oceania.  But as both North and Southeast Asian economies grew, bringing more foreign direct investment, Australia and others like Japan and Korea recognised the need for better ways to describe the region, and better ways to collaborate within it.

Australia was at the forefront of efforts to institutionalise the concept of the Asia-Pacific, including through establishment of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Organisation (APEC – an Australian initiative proposed by former prime minister Bob Hawke in Seoul in 1989), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) security dialogue in 1994 and the East Asia Summit (EAS) in 2005.

But in recent years, it became clear that the Asia-Pacific concept was missing something important – India, and South Asia more broadly. Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first world leader to articulate an Indo-Pacific strategy. He debuted the concept in his landmark speech – ‘The Confluence of the Two Seas’ – made to the Indian Parliament in 2007.4 Subsequently his government released a “Free and Open Indo- Pacific” Strategy in 2016.

Australia was an early adopter of this idea – using it in the 2013 Defence White Paper, as the organizing construct in its 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, and most recently in its 2023 Defence Strategic Review. We were also a founding member of the only regional organisation that seeks to promote a specifically Indian Ocean identity – the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

There is increasingly no question that for Australia, the Indian Ocean looms large. Just as importantly, the Indian Ocean looms large for other partners as well.  The US changed the name of its Pacific Command to the “Indo-Pacific Command” (INDOPACOM) in 2018 and released Indo-Pacific Strategies under both the Trump and Biden administrations. The EU announced in 2021 its own Indo-Pacific Strategy, as did the UK (termed a “tilt” to the Indo-Pacific). India, Indonesia, Vietnam, ASEAN, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, and many others all have some version of an Indo-Pacific strategy, vision, or construct embedded in their thinking.

Encouraging Economic Integration for a Prosperous Indian Ocean

The idea of the Indo-Pacific has helped encourage a sense of common objectives and interests across the region.  But reaching those objectives requires collaboration, including through economic integration. This is something that’s still missing from the Indian Ocean region.

Australia has experience to share, with a solid track record of advocating for “mega-regional” trade agreements within Asia. Two examples of such “mega-regional” trade agreements stand out.

The first example is the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP – traversing the entire Pacific Rim). Originally conceived as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the US’ withdrawal threatened the agreement’s survival.  But in 2017, Australia – together with Japan – revived negotiations, with the CPTPP signed by all eleven remaining members only a year later.

The second example is that of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), for which Australia was the driving force. Taking in the region from Australia northward to Japan, RCEP is the world’s largest trading bloc, accounting for almost half the world’ population, over 30 percent of global GDP, and over a quarter of global exports.  It could have been bigger – but India withdrew from negotiations in 2019.

These two agreements provide some salutary lessons.

First, not only does Australia have a strong commitment to economic integration as a way of building Indo-Pacific prosperity, but it can also step into regional leadership roles when the US falters.

Second, India’s absence from Indo-Pacific economic architecture has limited the potential of these regional trade agreements.

With India set to be the world’s third biggest economy, any efforts to promote Indian Ocean economic integration must include India.  While there’s still much work to do, India’s partial participation in the new US Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (alongside participation from other regional countries including Australia, Japan and ASEAN) holds the potential to closer bind the Indian Ocean with the Pacific.

Australia’s Role in a Resilient Indian Ocean Energy Future

Along with greater economic integration, the Indian Ocean needs its own energy security and is pivotal to the energy security of others.

The Indian Ocean’s importance to traditional global energy security is well established.  It is home to 40 per cent of the world’s offshore oil production (which includes significant reserves of liquified natural gas off the coast of Western Australia),5 as well as about 80 per cent of the world’s maritime oil trade traverses the Indian Ocean.6 It’s especially important for China, which relies on shipping lanes through the Indian Ocean and the Malacca Straits chokepoint for a majority of its imports.7

As the world transitions to clean energy, Australia – and therefore the Indian Ocean – will remain important. The visit of Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio to Perth Western Australia in October of 2022 included a focus on Australia’s role as a source of rare earth elements, lithium, other critical materials, as well as hydrogen, making it clear that the road to future energy for the Indo-Pacific runs through Australia.

The largest opportunity is likely to be in ‘critical minerals’, and associated value chains such as batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and grid storage. The International Energy Agency estimates critical minerals production for clean energy must at least quadruple to 28 million tonnes per annum by 2040.8 The challenge is that just a few countries dominate extraction of key minerals. China controls most processing and manufacturing activity – for example it produces more than 90 per cent of the rare earths used in semiconductors and magnets.

As the supply chain disruptions of COVID showed so clearly, reducing market concentration – in any sector – is a good thing.  It’s even more important in such a critical sector as clean energy. Australia of course will be a key partner – it already produces about half the world’s lithium. It’s also a leading supplier of other minerals needed for the energy transition, including bauxite, cobalt, rare earths, vanadium, graphite, and nickel.9

But the challenges of these complex energy supply chains can’t be solved by one country alone.  Australia might have world-leading natural resources, but it will need to work with countries – including in the Indian Ocean – to develop new processing pipelines and off take agreements.

India for example is seeking to become a major rival to China in clean energy manufacturing. The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement of 2022 eliminated tariffs on most Australian critical minerals.10 The India-Australia Critical Minerals Investment Partnership was also unveiled in 2023.11

Indonesia is also looking to Australia as a potential source of lithium, to complement its own vast nickel reserves and support its aspirations to become a major EV manufacturer.12

Australia and other Indian Ocean countries can work more closely together to build up trusted and resilient critical minerals value chains and deliver an equitable share of the economic returns. Work through regional institutions could complement bilateral partnerships. The Quad has a dedicated critical minerals stream.13 So too does the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity.14

Indian Ocean Security Partner

Australia’s national Defence Strategic Review, published in late April, identified the Indian Ocean as a key strategic area, with the Northeast Indian Ocean part of the primary area of military interest for Australia’s National Defence. It acknowledged that Australia’s Defence Cooperation Program needs to expand into the Indian Ocean, its relationship and cooperation with India and Japan needs to grow, and the importance of investment in regional architecture for security outcomes.

Australia has had a longstanding role in the security of the Indian Ocean. Its dedication to regional stability has taken shape through various security avenues, including:

  • The considerable projection capability of its military, expected to grow under the trilateral Australia-U.K.-U.S. AUKUS agreement.
  • The Australian Defence Force’s maritime surveillance patrols in the Northern Indian Ocean.
  • Its treaty alliance with the United States, which has helped to uphold global commons as well as secure shipping and sea lanes of communication, and which will certainly be enhanced by the AUKUS agreement.
  • The ambitious agenda of the Quad grouping of Australia, India, Japan and the United States, which will be further highlighted in late May when the leaders of these four countries meet again in Sydney.

The various initiatives of both AUKUS and the Quad are directly related to the resilient future envision by the annual Indian Ocean conference and highlight Australia’s commitment to both traditional and non-traditional areas of security.

Facing Future Challenges Together

The global challenges with which the world is now grappling traverse the Indian and Pacific Oceans – challenges like climate change, maritime insecurity, the rise of China and its use of economic coercion against Australia and other partners, great power rivalry, terrorism, natural disasters and environmental insecurity. The Asia-Pacific construct no longer captures these interlinked issues, countries, or Australia’s interests. That is in part how the concept of the Indo- Pacific started to gain currency.

As political leaders throughout the Indian Ocean gather to discuss the myriad challenges facing the region including climate change, security, infrastructure and more, it will become increasingly apparent that the technological and industrial responses to many of these challenges will require a cooperative approach to ensure that we have the necessary materials to enable such responses.

Australia will continue to take its place in the Indian Ocean Region tackling the substantial shared existing challenges and emerging threats facing the region.  We know that regional identity matters, and the considerable progress to date means there is a firm foundation for future collaboration.

Authors’ Brief Bio: Prof. Gordon Flake is the Director; Chief Executive Officer, Perth USAsia Centre, The University of Western Australia, Dr. Lisa Cluett, External Relations Director, Perth USAsia Centre and Dr. Kate O’Shaughnessy, Research Director, Perth USAsia Centre

Note: This article was published by India Foundation in the Indian Ocean Conference 2023 Theme Paper Booklet.


  1. “The Indo-Pacific will create opportunity”, Chapter two: A Contested World, 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, https://www.dfat.gov.au/sites/default/files/minisite/static/4ca0813c-585e-4fe1-86eb-de665e65001a/fpwhitepaper/foreign-policy-white-paper/chapter-two-contested-world/indo-pacific-will-create-opportunity.html.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Australia and the Indian Ocean Region”, Australian Government: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, https://www.dfat.gov.au/international-relations/regional-architecture/indian-ocean/Pages/indian-ocean-region.
  4. “Confluence of the Two Seas”, Speech by E. Mr Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan at the Parliament of the Republic of India, https://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/pmv0708/speech-2.html.
  1. “Australia and the Indian Ocean Region”, Australian Government: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, https://www.dfat.gov.au/international-relations/regional-architecture/indian-ocean/Pages/indian-ocean-region.
  2. “The Indian Ocean Region May Soon Play a Lead Role in World Affairs”, The Wire, January 16, 2019, https://thewire.in/world/the-indian-ocean-region-may-soon-play-a-lead-role-in-world-affairs.
  3. Giulio Gubert. “Myanmar and the Belt and Road Initiative. A solution to China’s Malacca Dilemma?”, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, June 04, 2019, https://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/gia/article/myanmar-and-the-belt-and-road-initiative.-a-solution-to-china’s-malacca-dilemma; Paweł Paszak. “China and the ‘Malacca Dilemma’”, China Monitor, February 28, 2021, https://warsawinstitute.org/china-malacca-dilemma/.
  4. “The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions”, International Energy Agency, May 2021, https://www.iea.org/reports/the-role-of-critical-minerals-in-clean-energy-transitions.
  5. “World Rankings”, Australian Government: Geoscience Australia, https://www.ga.gov.au/digital-publication/aimr2022/world-rankings.
  6. “Australia-India ECTA benefits for the Australian critical minerals and resources sectors”, Australian Government: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, https://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/in-force/australia-india-ecta/outcomes/australia-india-ecta-benefits-australian-critical-minerals-and-resources-sectors.
  7. “Milestone in India and Australia critical minerals investment partnership”, Australian Government: Department of Industry, Science and Resources, https://www.minister.industry.gov.au/ministers/king/media-releases/milestone-india-and-australia-critical-minerals-investment-partnership.
  8. Emma Connors. “Indonesia lures EV makers in race to secure nickel supplies”, Australian Financial Review, April 23, 2023, https://www.afr.com/world/asia/indonesia-lures-ev-carmakers-in-race-to-secure-nickel-supplies-20230421-p5d2f4.
  9. Tom McIlroy, “Australia rallies Quad on critical minerals security”, Australian Financial Review, July 13, 2022, https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/australia-rallies-quad-on-critical-minerals-security-20220713-p5b17r.
  10. “Speech to the Future Facing Commodities Conference, Singapore”, Australian Government: Department of Industry, Science and Resources, April 05, 2023, https://www.minister.industry.gov.au/ministers/king/speeches/speech-future-facing-commodities-conference-singapore.




Building a resilient regional architecture in the Indian Ocean Region

Post the pandemic and with the on-going war in Ukraine, a new world order is emerging. The US dominance as the sole superpower is under challenge and the future is likely to see a multi-polar world. Today, with the world in flux, partnerships would be necessary, both for peace and prosperity as well as for a resilient future.

The Indian Ocean littorals and its island territories are home to over 2.6 billion people, which is roughly about 40 percent of the global population. Spread over 33 million square kilometers of land area, the region consists of 50 states which are least integrated, are generally poor and are still developing. In terms of energy resources, while 40 percent of the world’s offshore oil production comes from the Indian Ocean, about 80 percent of the world’s oil shipment passes through its waters.

Natural disasters such as cyclones and tsunamis occur frequently in this region, impacting all the littoral countries. The effects of climate change and environmental threats such as pollution are also a cause of concern. Addressing these issues would require a collective effort on the part of all countries. If the region is to become prosperous, it would have to knit a collective architecture, in the economic, financial and security domains. This would be necessary if we are to usher in an era of peace and stability and overcome environmental challenges.

The Indian Ocean region (IOR) has its own distinct history and geography, cultural linkages, and religious beliefs. It is today, central to world’s geopolitics, and thus has to be viewed through the lens of its own distinct identity, rather than as an adjunct to the larger Indo-Pacific. Historically, India’s west coast has been connected for millennia with the East Coast of Africa, the Gulf and with all the island nations in the western Indian Ocean. On similar lines, India’s east coast has such a connectivity with countries in Southeast Asia. Archeological and genetic findings point to the presence of extensive trade and commerce being carried out across the sea lanes of communication, large scale migrations and to the intermixing of communities. This led to the interflow of religion, art, culture architecture and societal practices. Sanjeev Sanyal’s brilliantly researched book, “The Churn of Oceans” supports the argument that the IOR is a distinct entity for economic and security partnership.

Robert Kaplan, in his popular authentic work, “Monsoon”, writes: “The Indian Ocean Region is more than just a stimulating geography. It is an idea because it provides an insightful visual impression of Islam and combines the centrality of Islam with global energy politics and the importance of world navies, in order to show us a multi-layered, multipolar world above beyond the headlines in Iraq and Afghanistan; it is also an idea because it allows us to see the world whole, within a very new and yet old framework, complete with its own traditions and characteristics, without having to drift into bland nostrums about globalization. He subsequently writes, “it is the intermingling of challenges in each place—religious, economic, political, environmental—rather than each challenge in isolation, that creates such drama.”

During British rule, the Indian Ocean, especially for the period 1858-1947, was thought of as a ‘British lake,’ with Britain managing the administration of this vast area. The British centralized their control over the littorals through telegraph cables across the ocean. The ports of Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras enabled British shipping transiting between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans and consequently, by the middle of the 19th century, the Indian Ocean was deeply connected to international shipping routes and global trade. This continued, despite the disruptions caused by two world wars, through the middle of the 20th century. Thereafter, two transformational events—decolonization and the start of the Cold War, brought change to the Indian Ocean. The Cold War split the world into two camps. Decolonization led to independence from European control and development of new trade routes and economic networks. The Straits of Malacca and the Straits of Hormuz became nodes in global shipping network in IOR along with the development of new ports. Today, partnerships among the littorals and island nations can provide great potential for prosperity and peace to flourish in the IOR.

While peace is a desirable outcome, it can only come about through adherence to the rule of law by all countries and stakeholders. However, the vastness of the ocean does give rise to the emergence of traditional and non-traditional threats. With trade increasing at a phenomenal pace, lax ocean governance can be a disruptor, with negative consequences to the littoral nations. Security partnerships amongst the IOR resident nations can protect the region from the fallout of these threats, both natural and manmade. Institutionalised structures, embedded with modern technology, could mitigate to a large extent, the impact of these threats.

A matter of deep concern is the great power rivalry that is unfolding in the larger Indo-Pacific. This contestation will only increase in the coming years. The littoral countries will be hard-pressed to maintain neutrality, but even so, the unfolding situation will likely lead to increased tensions, which in turn would come at a cost, adversely impacting both the security as well as the prosperity and growth agenda of the littoral countries. In addition, some countries have taken huge loans from China. The financial transactions which have been undertaken are opaque and the term and conditions of the loans are such that the debtor country is hard-pressed to repay the loan. Consequently, debts have mounted to the extent that repayment has been negotiated by leasing of strategic assets, practically losing some degree of sovereignty. This also impacts on regional security and needs to be addressed through cooperative or partnership mechanisms.

Significant non-traditional threats also exist in the IOR. More often than not, Navies and Coast Guards become the first responders and are called upon to rescue the people so affected. What has been experienced frequently over the last few years is the spate of instances related to terrorism, piracy, human migration, drug and narcotics smuggling as also environmental issues such as tsunamis and cyclones. In case of natural disasters, people need immediate assistance in terms of shelter, food and medical aid, before resettlement is considered by local governments.

As majority of countries in the IOR littorals are poor and developing, poverty remains an important issue. Consequently, the need of the hour is a structured organization which can respond quickly to mitigate suffering. Therefore, what we need is to build a resilient architecture for mitigating/preventing damage by environmental/climate change.

The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute, based in Sri Lanka, has estimated that the Indian Ocean economy would account for 20% of global GDP by 2025. Growth of trade in the region has outperformed the world economy since 2000. For the period 2000-2008, trade grew at an annual rate of 9.4 percent. Thereafter it slowed down to 4.8 percent for the period 2011-2017, due to the impact of the global financial crisis. This compares favorably with the world trade volume growth, which stood at 6.9 percent and 3.9 percent respectively, for the above periods. This reflects the increasing openness of the region’s economies, demonstrates the importance of trade to the region and highlights the fact that Indian Ocean economies are more closely integrated into global trade flows than the world at large.

The pandemic brought to the fore supply chain disruptions in the world due to manufacturing hubs becoming non-functional on account of workers being forced to stay at home, even if fit to work. As most of these hubs were located in China, it forced major industrial houses to consider shifting some of their manufacturing units to different IOR countries. This process has started, though several challenges remain, chief among them being the limited capacity of many ports in the IOR, such as port infrastructure in Tanzania, Yemen, Myanmar, to handle the growth of maritime traffic. There are also issues related to border clearance excise and custom duties checks which delay the clearance and onward movement of goods.

Usage of new technologies, especially of artificial intelligence (AI) will need to be employed to overcome these bottlenecks. Governments in the IOR littorals need to precisely identify challenges they may encounter and consider remedial measures that need to be taken. Transparent financiers are available and so are partner countries. This is where partnership becomes key to resilient prosperity. India, Japan, and several African countries have launched Asia-Africa growth corridor to invest in a transparent manner to the countries needing assistance. This will prevent them falling prey to high interest rate and unacceptable terms and condition loans. The debt trap is very evident in the IOR.

High tariffs are another issue which could become a barrier to trade growth. Partnerships amongst IOR countries, could help alleviate such problems, by concluding agreements on Free Trade or on Standard Tariff. This will essentially guide the future of growth of economic activities in the IOR. But more challenges remain. As per Wignaraja, Collins and Kannangara, strengthening regional economic governance and narrowing development gaps are also central to ensuring that the region realizes its economic potential. This is essential for the prosperity and sustenance of the IOR.

In an attempt to invite business in the form of merchant ship support for transiting traffic countries, we must exhibit due care to prevent falling in the trap of business models which can subsequently throw up security challenges for the countries in the region, and also lead to the mortgaging of their sovereign assets. We need to integrate the region in priority areas such as health & Pharmaceuticals, agriculture & agro-processing, disaster management and skill enhancement. All these would boost people to people relations across the region, which in turn would form the basis for better understanding and smooth operations.

Connectivity between ports, such as Jamnagar in Gujarat with Djibouti in the Gulf of Aden, Mombasa and Zanzibar with ports connected to Madurai, and Kolkata with Sitwe in Myanmar indicate, that in the maritime world, development and prosperity are intertwined. This calls for partnerships amongst regional nations. The IOR needs better connectivity with a greater spread as also better infrastructural development in their hinterland.

Author Brief Bio: Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha is the Chairman of Board of Trustees, India Foundation

Note: This article was published by India Foundation in the Indian Ocean Conference 2023 Theme Paper Booklet.


  1. Alexander E Davis & Jonathan N Balls. “The Indian Ocean Region in the 21st Century: geopolitical, economic, and environmental ties” (Australia India Institute).
  2. Robert D. Kaplan. “The Indian Ocean and the Future of U.S. Power,” The Globalist, October 30, 2010, https://www.theglobalist.com/the-indian-ocean-and-the-future-of-u-s-power/.
  3. Robert D. Kaplan. Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power (Random House Trade Paperbacks, September 2011)
  4. Sanjeev Sanyal. The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History (India: Penguin Random House, August 2016)

Vietnam – India Strategic Engagements: From the East Sea to the Indian Ocean in the Context of Indo-Pacific Era


As a result of the Indo-Pacific region’s growing geopolitical importance, Asia will eventually emerge, with significant Asian economies like China, India, and the ASEAN countries playing strategic roles. Geostrategic and geoeconomic factors both play a role in maritime diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific. In terms of population, resources, transit routes, growing markets, megacities, and enormous market potential, the Indo-Pacific has become a “blue-eyed region” of the world.

The Indian Ocean plays a significant geopolitical role in the Indo-Pacific regional order. It is a vital trade route connecting the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, making it a critical global shipping lane. As such, it has become a hotbed for competition among major powers, including the United States, China, India, Australia, and Japan.

The Indian Ocean also holds a significant strategic location, serving as a gateway to key regions such as the Persian Gulf, East Africa, and Southeast Asia. This makes it an essential area for military and naval operations, as well as for projecting power and influence in the region. Moreover, the Indian Ocean is home to several small island nations, including the Maldives, Mauritius, and Seychelles, which have become important players in the region’s geopolitics. These countries have unique maritime and economic interests that have drawn the attention of major powers seeking to expand their influence in the region.

In the Indo-Pacific era, Vietnam and India have intensified their strategic partnerships with an emphasis on growing their economic relations, security cooperation, and cultural exchanges. Both nations have stated their shared commitment to preserving the region’s peace, stability, and development.

The changes in the strategic position of the Indian Ocean under the background of the Indo-Pacific era

The strategic position of the Indian Ocean is increasingly important in the current Indo-Pacific era. This is due to a number of factors, including the rise of China as a regional power, the increasing importance of India as a major player in the region, and the growing importance of energy resources and sea trade routes that pass through the Indian Ocean.

One of the key changes in the strategic position of the Indian Ocean is the increasing focus on naval power projection. Countries such as China and India are investing heavily in their naval capabilities in order to secure their interests in the Indian Ocean region. This has led to an increase in naval patrols and exercises, as well as a rise in the number of naval bases and port facilities being built along the Indian Ocean coast.

Another important change is the growing importance of energy resources in the Indian Ocean. The region is home to some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves, and many countries are looking to secure their access to these resources. This has led to increased competition among countries for control of key sea lanes and maritime chokepoints, such as the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

In addition to these factors, the Indian Ocean is also playing an increasingly important role in global trade. The Indian Ocean is a vital conduit for international trade, as it is home to many of the busiest shipping routes in the world. It is a vital link between the eastern and western hemispheres, connecting three continents: Asia, Africa, and Australia. As a result, many nations are trying to protect their maritime interests in the area and secure their access to these sea lanes. With so many strategic ports and naval bases, the Indian Ocean is a significant area for military activity and geopolitical interests.

Generally, in the Indo-Pacific age, the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean is growing. The region is likely to continue to be a focal point of geopolitical competition and strategic relevance for years to come as countries continue to invest in their naval capabilities and compete for control of vital resources and sea passages.

The driving factors for the development of the comprehensive strategic partnership between Vietnam and India

Driving factors for the development of the India-Vietnam comprehensive strategic partnership After Modi implemented the “Act East Policy,” along with India’s shift to the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam’s importance to India has become increasingly prominent, and Vietnam also needs strategic support from India. On April 15, 2022, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a telephonic conversation with General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong. During the call, Modi stated that Vietnam is one of the important pillars of India’s “Action East Policy” while Nguyen Phu Trong expressed his hope to strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership with India. Judging from reality, India and Vietnam are further deepening their cooperation, driven by interest factors such as geopolitics, economic and trade cooperation, and the South China Sea issue.


As important countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia, respectively, India and Vietnam have strong political ambitions. From India’s perspective, Vietnam can serve as an important starting point for India to strengthen its relationship with ASEAN and integrate into the Asia-Pacific region. Since Vietnam joined ASEAN in 1995, it has increasingly become a pivotal force in the ASEAN region. In order to strengthen its influence in the ASEAN region and expand its strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region, India is trying to use Vietnam to strengthen its relations with ASEAN countries. From the perspective of actual development, Vietnam has played an important role in India’s closer relationship with ASEAN. When serving as the coordinator of ASEAN-India relations from 2015 to 2018, Vietnam actively promoted cooperation between India and ASEAN countries. It not only invited India to participate in exchanges and dialogues in various fields within ASEAN but also actively participated in and organized meetings on ASEAN-India relations. It can be said that Vietnam has promoted exchanges and cooperation between India and ASEAN countries in political, economic, social, and cultural fields during its tenure as the coordinator of ASEAN-India relations and the rotating chair of ASEAN. On this basis, Vietnam can also become an important partner for India’s integration into the Asia-Pacific region. Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar emphasized at the fifth anniversary ceremony of the establishment of the Vietnam-India comprehensive strategic partnership that India has always regarded Vietnam as an important cooperative partner and hoped that the two countries would continue to fully tap their existing potential and contribute to the economic development of their respective countries. Therefore, India intends to strengthen cooperation with ASEAN through Vietnam and increase India’s influence in ASEAN.

Judging from Vietnam’s strategic demands, India is an important helper for it to implement the “major powers balance strategy” and seek the status of regional power. Since the implementation of the “international integration” strategy, Vietnam’s comprehensive national strength has improved significantly, and with the improvement of national strength, Vietnam has also begun to pursue the “dream of a regional power.” From the perspective of diplomatic strategy, Vietnam has two strategic demands. The first is to pursue a foreign policy of “balance among major powers.” By maintaining a strategic balance among major powers and good bilateral relations with major powers outside the region, Vietnam’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity are maintained. The second is to continuously improve its comprehensive national strength by strengthening cooperation with major countries, thereby enhancing Vietnam’s international status and influence. Since the reform and opening up, Vietnam has gradually matured its foreign policy of “Great Powers Priority, Neighboring Countries Priority, and Traditional Friendly Countries Priority.”

As an important country in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, India has important strategic value for the realization of Vietnam’s diplomatic goals. One is that Vietnam can use India’s power to hedge against China’s influence in Southeast Asia; the other is that Vietnam can use its strategic relationship with India to promote the rapid development of its economy, trade, military, science, and education, thereby enhancing its comprehensive national strength.


Economic cooperation has always been the core area of India-Vietnam cooperation, and as both countries have entered a period of rapid economic development, economic and trade cooperation have also become an important basis for promoting the development of a comprehensive strategic partnership between India and Vietnam. Since Modi came to power, he has always emphasized the importance of the economy, insisting that the country’s diplomacy must be subordinate to its own economic interests and serve the country’s development strategy needs. For Vietnam, which is in a period of rapid industrialization, strengthening economic and trade cooperation with other countries is also an important part of its foreign relations. Therefore, India and Vietnam have common interests and needs in promoting economic and trade cooperation.

In recent years, trade between India and Vietnam has developed rapidly. When Modi came to power in 2014, the bilateral trade volume between India and Vietnam was only more than 5 billion US dollars, but by 2019, the bilateral trade volume between India and Vietnam had reached nearly 11.2 billion US dollars, more than double that of 2014. In 2020, due to the impact of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, the bilateral trade volume between India and Vietnam was only US$9.6 billion. However, as the epidemic levelled off, trade relations between the two countries gradually resumed. According to Indian data for the financial year April 2021-March 2022, bilateral trade posted a growth of 27% and reached US$ 14.14 billion Embassy of India Hanoi, Vietnam, 2023. It can be seen that the trade between the two countries still maintains a strong development trend.

In addition, the industrial structure of India and Vietnam is being gradually optimized, and the complementarity of commodities is being enhanced, which gives the economic cooperation between the two countries a lot of room for development. At present, India, which is in a period of industrial expansion, has a greater demand for raw materials and other products from ASEAN countries, including Vietnam. After Vietnam undertook the industrial transfer of Western developed countries, its products gradually entered the Indian market. At the same time, India has taken a fancy to Vietnam’s advantages in the fields of market, resources, and manpower, while Vietnam hopes to receive financial and technical support from India in fields such as information technology, automobiles, and steel.

According to data from the General Administration of Vietnam Customs, in 2021, India’s exports to Vietnam will reach US$6.95 billion, an increase of 56% over 2020, and Vietnam’s exports to India will reach US$6.25 billion, an increase of 20% over 2020. Among them, Vietnam’s major exports to India include common metals, computers, electronic products and parts, various communication equipment and parts, mechanical equipment, tools, and spare parts. Compared with 2020, the main products with the higher growth rate of Vietnam’s exports to India in 2021 include plastic raw materials (up 231%), chemicals (up 162%), rubber (up 138%) and coal (up 128%). The main products that India exports to Vietnam account for a large proportion of steel and steel products, metals, cotton, machinery and equipment, etc.

Among India’s exports to Vietnam in 2021, iron and steel exports will be the highest at nearly US$1.4 billion, accounting for 20% of India’s total exports to Vietnam; machinery and equipment, tools, and other spare parts exports will be US$428 million, accounting for India’s exports to Vietnam. 6.2% of the total; exports of other common metals amounted to $405 million, accounting for 5.8% of India’s total exports to Vietnam. Therefore, judging from the bilateral trade volume between India and Vietnam and the types and growth rates of import and export products, the economic complementarity between the two countries is constantly improving, which is of great significance for promoting the import and export trade between India and Vietnam.

Indian Ocean’s Role in Vietnam – India Strategic Engagement

The Indian Ocean plays a significant geopolitical and geoeconomic role in the relationship between India and Vietnam. The ocean is a major trade route that connects the two countries and facilitates the exchange of goods and services. India and Vietnam have a long history of economic and cultural ties dating back to the Champa kingdom in Vietnam and the Indianized kingdoms of Southeast Asia.

Strong historical ties, high-level visits, and solid institutional frameworks characterize the bilateral relationship between India and Vietnam. This is demonstrated by changing trade and investment patterns between the two nations, the creation of bilateral institutional frameworks, and a rise in the focus on “specialized” areas of cooperation, such as those involving the purchase of defence equipment. India and Vietnam upgraded their strategic partnership (2007–2017) into a comprehensive strategic partnership just one year earlier, in 2016, marking the end of their 45-year diplomatic relationship.

Both countries share a strategic interest in maintaining the security and stability of the Indian Ocean region. They have been working together to promote maritime security and counter piracy in the region.

The relationship between India and Vietnam can help promote peace and stability in the Indian Ocean region and Indo-Pacific region in various ways:

  • Shared strategic interest: Both India and Vietnam share a strategic interest in maintaining peace and stability in the region. They have common concerns over China’s expansionist policies and maritime assertiveness in the South China Sea. Thus, by collaborating together, they can create a balance of power in the region and counter any potential threat to their security.
  • Economic ties: India and Vietnam have strong economic ties, with bilateral trade reaching over $14 billion. By enhancing their economic cooperation and trade, they can foster economic growth and development in the region, which can contribute to stability.
  • Defense cooperation: India and Vietnam have been cooperating in the field of defense, including training, joint exercises, and defense equipment procurement. By collaborating in this area, they can enhance their defense capabilities and create a more secure environment in the region.
  • Cultural and people-to-people ties: India and Vietnam also share cultural and people-to-people ties, which can help deepen their understanding and trust. This can lead to stronger cooperation in various areas, including security, economic development, and cultural exchange.

Overall, by working together, India and Vietnam can promote peace and stability in the Indian Ocean region and Indo-Pacific region, which can benefit not only themselves but the entire region.

There are several reasons why Vietnam should consider India as a reliable partner for stability and peace in the East Sea and the Indo-Pacific region:

  • Strategic location: India is strategically located in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), which is a critical region linking the East and West. Vietnam, on the other hand, is located in Southeast Asia and has a long coastline that shares borders with the East Sea. India’s strategic location can help in ensuring the safety and security of sea-lanes in the Indo-Pacific region, including the East Sea.
  • Shared commitment to regional stability and peace: India and Vietnam share a commitment to regional stability and peace. Both countries are members of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and have been working together to promote peace and stability in the region.
  • Defense cooperation: India and Vietnam have been strengthening their defense cooperation in recent years. India has been providing naval ships to Vietnam, and the two countries have been conducting joint naval exercises. This cooperation can help in enhancing maritime security in the East Sea and the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Economic ties: India and Vietnam have been strengthening their economic ties. India is one of Vietnam’s top ten trading partners, and the two countries have set a target of $15 billion in bilateral trade. This economic cooperation can lead to greater stability and peace in the region.
  • Cultural ties: India and Vietnam share cultural ties that date back centuries. These ties can help in enhancing people-to-people contacts and promoting greater understanding between the two countries.

In conclusion, India can be a reliable partner for Vietnam in promoting stability and peace in the East Sea and the Indo-Pacific region due to its strategic location, shared commitment to regional stability and peace, defense cooperation, economic ties, and cultural ties.

Trends in Vietnam-India Relations

In the future, in order to achieve their respective national strategic goals, Vietnam and India will further strengthen bilateral cooperation on the one hand and seek their own strategic autonomy on the other.

First, economic, trade, security, and defense cooperation are still important pillars for the development of bilateral relations. Since there are many consensuses on the economic level of the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” between Vietnam and India, bilateral and multilateral economic cooperation between the two countries will continue to deepen in the future. In the field of security and defense, both India and Vietnam will focus on strengthening their own national defense and security construction in order to pursue national strategic security.

Second, Vietnam and India bilateral relations will become more balanced and comprehensive. Since India and Vietnam established a comprehensive strategic partnership, in addition to high-frequency interactions in the fields of politics, economy, trade, security, and defense, the two countries are also actively promoting exchanges and cooperation in other fields. As two rising countries in Asia, India and Vietnam not only have great potential for economic development but also have great room for cooperation in some emerging fields. Therefore, future bilateral relations between the two countries will be more comprehensive and balanced.

Third, Vietnam and India will seek their own strategic autonomy and avoid getting involved in the vortex of strategic struggles among major powers. In the future, the cooperation between India and Vietnam will be more based on their own strategic interests, adhere to the independence of foreign strategy, and not be too tied to the strategic track of a certain country, so as to avoid being involved in the political vortex of power struggles among major powers.

Authors Brief Bio: Vu The Cuong is the Deputy Director, Centre for Indian Studies, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, Vietnam and Dr. Do Khuong Manh Linh is a Researcher at Centre for Indian Studies, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, Vietnam

Note: This article was published by India Foundation in the Indian Ocean Conference 2023 Theme Paper Booklet.


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Roundtable Discussion on the Situation in Manipur

Two round table discussions were hosted by India Foundation on 28 and 29 June, 2023 with representatives from Meitei and Kuki groups from Manipur. The purpose of the discussions was to understand the perspectives of both the Meiteis and the Kukis in order to come up with potential short term and long term plans to restore and maintain peace in Manipur. The discussants included representatives from the Meitei and Kuki communities coming from diverse backgrounds such as government officials, academicians, senior journalists and young leaders as well as former bureaucrats and former armed forces officials who served in the north east.


6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023

The 6th Indian Ocean Conference – IOC 2023 was hosted by India Foundation in association with the Ministry of External Affairs of India ; Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Singapore on May 12-13, 2023 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The theme for this edition of the conference was “Peace, Prosperity, Partnership for a Resilient Future”. 

Over a span of 2 days, the Conference was addressed by a President, a Vice President, a Prime Minister, 13 Ministers, 2 Foreign Secretaries and Heads of 3 multilateral organisations. Continuing with its efforts of bringing together diverse voices under a common roof, the conference was attended by over 300 social and corporate leaders, policy practitioners, scholars, professionals and media personnel from over 40 countries.  

Day 1 of the Conference on May 12, 2023 started with focusses discussions across four thematic sessions addressed by subject experts and practitioners. 


Thematic Session 1


The first thematic session of the day brought together a panel of Amb Aly Houssam El-Din El-Hefny, Secretary General, Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, Egypt ; Ms Lujaina Mohsin Haider Darwish, Chairperson for Infrastructure Technology, Industrial and Consumer Solutions (ITICS), Oman; Shri Prasad Kariyawasam, Former Foreign Secretary, Sri Lanka and Mr Farooq Hassan, President, BGMEA, Bangladesh. The session was chaired by Shri Shaurya Doval, Member, Governing Council, India Foundation. Discussions at the first thematic session were focussed on charting a Roadmap for an economically sustainable future in the Indo-Pacific. 


Thematic Session 2 

The second thematic session of the day focussed on  the theme “Forging partnerships in the Indo-Pacific for peace and prosperity”. It was chaired by Amb Tariq Karim, Former Ambassador, Bangladesh and had H.E. Ahmed Ali Dahir, Ambassador of Somalia to India, Somalia; Dr. Mehmet Seyfettin EROL, President, ANKASAM, Turkey; Shri Nitin Gokhale, Founder, Bharatshakti, India and Dr. Muhammadzoda Parviz Abdurahmon, Deputy Director, Center for Strategic Research under The President of The Republic of Tajikistan. 


Thematic Session 3

The third thematic session of the day moved the discussions from strategy and economy to deliberating on the future of Indo-Pacific. The conversation focussed on the theme of “Rise of a peaceful Indo-Pacific for a resilient global future” and was steered by Amb Pankaj Saran, Former Deputy National Security Advisor, India. 

The panel comprised of Mr David Brewster, Senior Research Fellow, National Security College, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Australia; Mr Sinderpal Singh, Senior Fellow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore; Mr Hossein Ebrahim Khani, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Political and International Studies, Iran and Mr Shamsher Mobin Choudhary, Former Foreign Secretary, Bangladesh. 


Thematic Session 4

The final thematic session of IOC 2023 brought together a panel to converge diverse views on “Dealing with non-traditional security challenges for a peaceful and sustainable Indo-Pacific”. The session was chaired by Amb Vijay Thakur Singh, Director General, Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), India and was addressed by H.E J S Ndebele, High Commissioner of South Africa to India, South Africa; Dr Alexey Kupriyanov, Head, Center for the Indo-Pacific Region, IMEMO, Russia; Mr Jagjeet Sareen, Principal and Co-lead, Global Climate Practice, Dalberg Advisors, India and Ms Waseqa Ayesha Khan, Member of Parliament, Bangladesh.

Inaugural Session 

The Inaugural Session of the 6th Indian Ocean Conference started with the Curtain Raiser Address by Dr Ram Madhav, President, India Foundation. In his address, Dr Madhav spoke of the geo-economic, and geo-political importance of the region. He spoke of the cultural and civilizational history that connects the region from Indonesia to Iran and from East Africa to ASEAN thus also highlighting the distinct character, identity and challenges that the region possesses. 

Speaking about the evolution of the Conference since its inception its 2016, Dr Madhav elaborated on IOC not being an exclusive alliance but a forum led by Foreign Ministers of India, Singapore, Bangladesh and Oman. He called this as an “Indian Ocean Parliament” where stakeholders from different countries come together to make this a free, prosperous and peaceful region. 

Delivering the welcome address of the evening  H.E Dr A K Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh spoke about the Indian Ocean Conference being of immense significance in bringing all equal partner stakeholders with mutual interests on a common platform to collaborate and exchange ideas with collective concerns in the field of governance. Speaking about the theme of the conference, Dr Momen expressed his optimism on deliberations over the two days being able to address the challenges being faced by the region. He expressed his gratitude to Bangabandhu, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman for his acumen and prudence for highlighting the significance of Bay of Bengal right after Bangladesh’s independence and also initiated  negotiations on issues of maritime boundaries and delimitation, exploring and exploiting marine resources sustainably to promote socio- economic growth of his people. He spoke about the importance of the Indian Ocean being a crucial source of trade and transport, ocean based industries, fisheries and shipping and that the value of maritime trade has tripled over the last 15 years. He said that the various challenges the Indian Ocean Region faces due to its geo-strategic location and geo-morphological conditions require fostering partnerships and unity to maintain peace and prosperity in the region. 

The Keynote address at the conference was given by Hon. External Affairs Minister of India, Dr. S. Jaishankar. In his address, Dr Jaishankar spoke of ‘Indo Pacific being a reality’ and that it has become ‘a statement of our contemporary globalization and an underlining that we are getting past the framework of 1945.’ He referred to the 4 Guiding Principles and 15 Objectives of Bangladesh’s outlook and its respect for the 1982 UN Convention on the Laws of Seas (UNCLOS) and appreciated Bangladesh’s views for its contribution for the growth and development of the region. 

He spoke about the significance of the Indian Ocean nations having distinct issues arising from colonial experiences and geo-political relationships and their presence in the larger domain of Indo-Pacific and called for a more focussed approach towards these nations’ challenges. He further spoke about the importance of connectivity and re-building linkages in the post colonial era and talked about the efficient and effective connectivity with ASEAN.  

Concluding his remarks for the evening, Dr Jaishankar appreciated organisations such as Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) which are working with specific mandate towards well being of Indian Ocean. 

H.E Faisal Naseem, Vice President of Maldives delivered a special address at the IOC 2023. Speaking on the relevance of the theme of the conference Vice President Naseem called for unified and collective efforts to promote proactive measures involving adaptive management and innovation in leadership for a resilient and sustainable future and managing uncertainties and risks to ensure peace in the region. He spoke about the Indian Ocean Region being home to the fastest growing civilizations and a hub for trade with the Middle East, Africa, East Asia, Europe and America and that the responsibility to ensure peace, economic prosperity, environment protection and international rules in the region is a collaborative effort of all the countries. 

He highlighted the current major concerns of the Indian Ocean, that is, the exploitation of marine resources, climate change and the vulnerable conditions of most of the population residing in the low lying coastal settlements of the region. He spoke about living in a more interconnected society and evolving as a unified community in the post-pandemic world as the pandemic revealed numerous economic vulnerabilities in the global supply chain and starkly reminded us the importance of building harmonious relations to guarantee an undisrupted supply chain. Concluding his address, the Hon’ble Vice President called for enhanced cooperation in upholding the spirit of partnership, inclusiveness, openness and intensive dialogue to ensure a prosperous future for the Indian Ocean Region. 

H.E. Prithvirajsing ROOPUN G.C.S.K., Hon’ble President of Mauritius delivered the Inaugural Address of the 6th Indian Ocean Conference 2023. In his remarks, he paid tribute to the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Expressing the complete endorsement of Mauritius for the theme of 6th IOC 2023, he appreciated its positive underpinnings and futuristic orientation. He went on to describe the pivotal role of initiatives taken up by Mauritius, such as the Indian Ocean Commission, which has extensively worked on critical issues such as preservation of ecosystems, sustainable management of national resources, renewable energy and maritime safety. 

In his concluding note, he stated that, “We should strive to maintain a peaceful environment within the Indian Ocean region and beyond. Peace is essential, without peace there is no prosperity. But prosperity also demands that we look beyond our diverse national ambitions. No country, big or small, has the ability to build a resilient future on its own. Thus, we should all partner. We need collective actions among regional organizations, governments, the private sector, and civil society.”   

Delivering the Chief Guest of the conference, H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh spoke about the economic and strategic significance of the Indian Ocean Region along with the challenges it faces and thus, the need to foster partnerships and cooperation for ensuring peace and prosperity for all. She spoke about Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman enacting the ‘Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act, 1974’ to set the limit of Bangladesh’s ‘Maritime Zones’ and facilitate exploration of sea resources and this particular act coming into force eight years prior to ‘United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982’. 

She elaborated on Bangladesh’s views on ‘Culture of Peace’ as an essential element that would reinforce all aspects of peace and that Bangladesh is committed to UN’s global peacekeeping and peace-building endeavors. She said that Bangladesh has been a hub of maritime activities and has been active in many regional arenas and also Bangladesh is the current Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the current President of the Council of the International Seabed Authority. 

She underlined six priority areas of engagement; firstly, countries in the Indian Ocean Region should foster ‘Maritime Diplomacy’; secondly, enhanced cooperation to reduce the impact of natural disasters; thirdly, strengthening mutual trust and respect to build stronger partnerships to ensure stability for a resilient future; fourthly, strengthening existing mechanisms on maritime safety and security in the Indian Ocean and upholding exercise of freedom of navigation in accordance with international law; fifthly, promoting ‘Culture of Peace’ and focusing on people centric development; sixthly, promoting transparent and rules-based multilateral systems that would facilitate equitable and sustainable development in the region and beyond through inclusive growth. 

Day 2 – May 13, 2023

Plenary Session 1

The first plenary session of day 2 was hosted by Shri Suresh Prabhu, Chairman, Governing Council, India Foundation; Former Union Minister, Government of India. The panel for the session included, Hon. Dr Maliki Osman, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister of Foreign Affairs, Singapore; Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation, Sri Lanka and Hon. Josoa Rakotoarijaona, Minister of National Defence, Madagascar. 

Shri Suresh Prabu started the session by highlighting how at a time when the world may seem fragmented to some, ministers from various countries across the world are coming together to discuss a strategy for unity and cooperation. He said, “At such times, when everything is getting fragmented, we are meeting here to actually ascertain what we can do together to make, through us, our societies feel secure, better and over a time more prosperous”.   

Hon. Maliki Osman highlighted the importance of the Indian Ocean region from an economic,  trade and environmental perspective. He spoke on the importance of upholding  multilateral trading systems and resisting protectionist policies by emphasising on how these very multilateral trading systems are playing a key role in the recovery of economies of various countries post covid and provided opportunities to explore new avenues for economies to receive a much required boost and relief post pandemic and lockdowns. 

He said that,  “We saw how international connectivity is a double edged sword, while it enhances international trade, it can also disable trade links. However, the crisis (COVID 19) also provided an opportunity for countries to work together in both traditional and non-traditional areas, relook existing institutions  and regional mechanisms and revamp them in order to better serve today’s needs.” The minister also urged countries in the Indian Ocean Region to work together to support the full implementation of the Paris Agreement and strengthen collective resilience against rising sea levels which is increasingly becoming a major concern for all the countries in the region. 

Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva took to the stage providing the Sri Lankan perspective on peace, prosperity and partnership in the Indian Ocean. He said that countries of the region have historically played a significant role in global trade and commerce and even today, the region remains a lifeline for global trade. He said, “In the emerging multipolar world, where Asia has become a major economic power, Managing competition and strengthening cooperation is essential to the peaceful development of the region” He emphasised that it is time for the Indian Ocean Countries to take a role in determining their own future and ensure that the Indian Ocean sustains its status as a peaceful and prosperous region where all nations can equitably  benefit from its abundant resources in a sustainable manner.

Hon. Josoa Rakotoarijaona in his address elaborated on Madagascar’s vision for the development of the region and the role played by island nations. He spoke of the need to ensure mechanisms to address maritime zone violations as well as to establish a functional and effective framework to manage natural disasters such as hurricanes, cyclones and their often overarching cause i.e., global warming. He said, “We have 13 goals instored by the Madagascar President and Peace and security is the very first goal and it is also the priority of our country”. 

Plenary session 2

The second plenary session of the day was chaired by Mr. M J Akbar, Member, Governing Council, India Foundation and Former Minister, Government of India. The panel comprised of Hon. Charles E. Fonseka, Minister of the Interior, Seychelles; Hon. Tandi Dorji, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bhutan; Hon. Narayan Prakash Saud, Foreign Minister, Nepal; Hon. Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood Albusaidi, Foreign Minister, Oman; and Hon. Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State, United States of America.

Addressing the panel, Hon. Charles E. Fonseka, Minister of the Interior, Seychelles termed the Indian Ocean Region to be a “beacon of hope” for a strong collective towards peace and stability. He also spoke of the the challenges and instability that plague the region int he form of the insidious trafficking of narcotics and illicit drugs trading. The implications of such calamities impact the security, stability and well being of the entire region and affect the workforce and economic balance of the country. 

Apart from nefarious drug trade, the minister also spoke about illegal and unregulated fishing casting a shadow over sustainable management of marine resources and the livelihood of coastal communities, in regard of which he acknowledged the pivotal role played by existing regions and international frameworks and agreements on fisheries management such as IOTC (Indian Ocean Tuna Commission) and PSMA (Port States Measures Agreement). He spoke of Seychelles’ unwavering determination for collective security and bolstering of joint patrol with regional partners in the maritime domain avoiding criminal activities and strengthening the pillars of law enforcement and judicial awareness. He concluded by highlighting the importance of the need for future cooperation and for strong and unwavering support to enhance cooperation among the countries by enhancing dialogue. 

Hon. Tandi Dorji, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bhutan spoke about the infinite potential of the Indian Ocean region for establishing peace and prosperity in the region along with the challenges the region faces for ensuring the same. Speaking about the Indian Ocean region being home to some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and critical for world trade and commerce and consisting of rich diversity and culture, he said that the region is also vulnerable to “traditional challenges of security, emerging threats of bio hazards, cyber warfare and maritime piracy” endangering the economic interests, security and well being of people. 

He asked for a collective efforts to tackle these challenges by “leveraging our collective strength and resources to build a more secure and peaceful region based on principles of rules based order” and stated that Bhutan actively contributes to the peace building of the region. Speaking about prosperity of the region, he stated that the Indian Ocean region has “economies of  scale, immense consumer market and the technical prowess which can propel the world into an era of global affluence based on the ethos of sustainable development.” He called for collective efforts of the countries to reach for an inclusive growth and brighter future for the people of the region. He also recognized the endeavors of India and Bangladesh for taking climate conscious decisions while implementing developmental imperatives. With regard to partnerships, the minister asked to collectively recognize the challenges of climate change, natural disaster and pandemics and to work towards building  resilience and preparing for the future in respect of which Bhutan has taken steps to remain carbon neutral and promote sustainable tourism. He stated that “the Indian Ocean region is no longer based on the arithmetic of contemporary power equations  but a natural construct based on the principles of inclusivity, camaraderie and multi stakeholderism.” 

Hon. Narayan Prakash Saud, Foreign Minister, Nepal pointed out the economic and strategic significance of the Indian Ocean region and its importance as a gateway for international markets for landlocked countries like Nepal. He also spoke about the countries in the Indian Ocean Region working together on the grounds of mutual respect and justice for all nations. He talked about the climate crisis that has endangered the coastal and hinterland states and asked about true international commitment to accelerate the green energy solutions and more actions on ground towards climate change. He shared the commitment of Nepal towards achieving the goal of Net Zero Emissions by 2045 and also working in the field of hydropower energy for clean energy solutions. He said that the interconnectedness among the countries of the Indian Ocean region  must go beyond the reason of economic and strategic importance and work towards sustainable and maritime well being and look out for more transformative actions against pollution and chemicals. He called out for assistance for landlocked countries to overcome their geographical constraints through better collaborative partnerships, conclusiveness and cooperation and that Nepal is committed towards engaging constructively and responsibly for a peaceful and resilient future.  

Addressing the conference virtually, Hon. Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood Albusaidi, Foreign Minister, Oman spoke about the strategic significance of the Indian Ocean region which serves as a “vital link connecting the East with the West” and also a “gateway for cultural exchange and intercontinental cooperation.” The minister stated the significance of Oman’s “quiet diplomacy” and stable and balanced relations of mutual respect with the neighboring countries. He also spoke about the importance of dialogue as the best chance of peace. He spoke about the significance of maritime security and collaborations enabling peaceful trade and investments. He also spoke about Oman’s Vision 2040 development plan which aims particularly for port development which would substantially reduce overall transit times and costs and called for regional and international cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region economic prosperity and sustainable development and through Oman’s three major ports, Salalah, Sohar, and Duqm which would boost regional trade and connectivity. In his concluding remarks, he talked about promoting peaceful partnerships and strengthening cooperation in the international arena with cohesiveness and transparency. 

The last address of the session was given by Ms Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State, United States of America. She stated that the United States is “committed to elevating its engagement in the Indian Ocean region.” She also spoke about the serious challenges of the climate crisis, piracy and armed robbery at sea, trafficking and illegal and unregulated fishing that is degrading the blue economies across the Indian Ocean region and that these challenges require concerted and collaborative efforts. She said that the United States is working towards providing developmental assistance focused on the growth of sustainable blue economies.  

Plenary Session 3

The third plenary session was chaired by Hon. Md Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. The panel comprised of Hon. Tim Watts, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia; Hon. Do Hung Viet, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vietnam; Hon. Takagi Kei, Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan; Hon. Saeed Mubarak Al Hajeri, Assistant Minister for Economic and Trade Affairs, United Arab Emirates (UAE); Hon. Dr. Soeung Rathchavy, Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Cambodia; and Hon. Seyed Rasoul Mousavi, Advisor for Minister of Foreign Affairs, Iran. 

In his introductory remarks, Hon. Tim Watts, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia, noted that Australia’s prosperity and security were intimately tied to the Indian Ocean. He stated, “The Indian Ocean’s shipping lines are crucial to the energy security and to the economies of many countries around the world including our own, and global trade depends on stability and security here, particularly the security of crucial checkpoints that are so fundamental to an open, stable and prosperous region. And looking beyond trade, the Indian Ocean is also one of the key points of confluence for global strategic competition today. In an age in which we rightly obsess about the health of our global environment, the Indian Ocean is an area where the impacts of global warming and other environmental challenges will be felt the most. Hence, the salience of the theme of this year’s conference.” 

He elaborated on Australia’s deep commitment to the betterment of the region “We recognize the urgency of the issues that we face right across the region, not least, climate change and health of global oceans. Turning inwards is not the answer. The answer is the very opposite. It is redoubling our efforts to work together in an open, collaborative and sustainable way through regional and global institutions and systems that promote cooperation through a strong, supported, multilateral, rules-based system, through open, non-distorting markets even as we work together to decarbonise our economies, through science and evidence-based decision making. Australia commits to this work, Australia would play its part, and a measure of our commitment working together and to the Indo-Pacific is that Australia is honored to be able to host the next iteration of this conference in 2024.”  

Hon. Do Hung Viet, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vietnam, touched upon the various traditional and non-traditional security challenges posed across the globe, further fuelled by increasing tensions between various countries, he discussed the potential future of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as the “most populous, most prosperous and most developed region” in the coming decades. The geostrategic, geoeconomic and geopolitical significance of the “Indo-Asia-Pacific centric” region could lead to situations of conflict if not managed beforehand. Sharing his thoughts on the crucial steps required to achieve a peaceful, prosperous and resilient IOR, he emphasized on the need to build “an open and inclusive regional architecture that adheres to the fundamental principles of international law”, with ASEAN playing a central role in facilitating dialogue and cooperation in the region. 

Hon. Takagi Kei, Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan

In her address, Hon. Dr. Soeung Rathchavy, Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Cambodia laid out Cambodia’s commitment to the IOR. She highlighted ensuring peace for the overall development of the IOR as Cambodia’s top priority. Advocating a ‘spirit of openness’ for the region, she noted that the reduction of trade barriers and promotion of international trade, particularly with respect to crucial commodities like food and energy, would help in enhancing the “resilience of regional and global chains”. 

She stated, “We should devote special attention to strengthening cooperation and promote robust partnerships in the areas of capacity building, capacity development, acceleration of digital transformation and development of the digital economy, which is a new source of growth for the least developed countries. In this context, as digital technology has been rapidly advanced and has become a catalyst for economic growth, the Royal Government of Cambodia focuses on the effective implementation of the Cambodia digital economy and society policy framework 2021-2035, and also Cambodia Digital Government Policy 2022-2035, and other related policies.”  

Hon. Seyed Rasoul Mousavi, Advisor for Minister of Foreign Affairs, Iranbegan his remarks by noting the shifting paradigms of theories about international relations and politics. He stated that there has been a shift from focus on globalization to intellectual deliberations on regionalization, along with the change “from unipolarity to multilateralism” and an “increasing importance of geography, geopolitics and geoeconomics”. This would imply a rise in the need for regional cooperation amongst countries. In his speech, he emphasized the need for thinking about new gateways to the Indian Ocean region which could facilitate crucial junctions for global trade. In this regard, he noted that the Iranian port of Chabahar is emerging as a central gateway to the Indian ocean as it connects the IOR countries to Eurasia, Central Asia, Caucasus and the Black Sea.    

Session 4

The fourth session was hosted by Hon. Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, India. The panel consisted of, Hon. Ahmed Latheef, Foreign Secretary, Maldives; Hon. Tenzin Lekhpell, Secretary General, BIMSTEC; Hon. Esala Weerakoon, Secretary General, SAARC; Hon. Isiaka Abdulqadir Imam, Secretary General, D8; Hon. Paul Vincent Uy, Assistant Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippines and Hon. Afreen Akhter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, USA.

Hon. Tenzin Lekhpell spoke of the significance of BIMSTEC as a  bridge between South and South-East Asia. He noted that the evolving central role of BISTEC requires commitment, creativity, innovation, sustained political will, openness and vision among the BIMSTEC member states. He said, “I believe that all of us at this conference, representing different member states and organisations, are here because of our commitment to have a shared vision of the Indian Ocean built on peace, security, stability and prosperity. As a state led and government driven organisation the BIMSTEC member states set the agenda for BIMSTEC and I hope that the BIMSTEC member states will ensure that BIMSTEC evolves and grows in a manner in which it can play a central role in achieving this shared vision. 

Hon. Isiaka Abdulqadir Imam highlighted the fact that the D8 is a unique organisation with member states across 3 continents: Asia, Africa and Europe and 5 member nations, namely, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia and Pakistan in the Indian Ocean Region. He said, “One key element through which D8 has contributed to creating peace and prosperity among it’s member states and in the Indian ocean region is through collaboration or partnership”. He further emphasised the importance of cooperation for stability such that a business friendly environment can be created across the region. 

Hon. Paul Vincent Uy elaborated on Phillippines’ approach towards the Indian Ocean Region with a primary focus on ASEAN centrality in the Indo-Pacific. He said, “Philippines joins the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific or AOIP and recognizes ASEAN centrality which is the main principle that promotes cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.” He emphasised on the importance of countries to adhere to established international maritime laws and follow a peaceful path of resolution.

Hon. Esala Weerakoon spoke of the fact that members of the SAARC are also stakeholders in the Indian Ocean Region. He said, “Peace, progress and prosperity remain the key components of sustainable socio-economic development in today’s interconnected and interdependent global order” He emphasised the importance of preserving the ecological balance of the region, the mountains, the low lying lands and the ocean. 

Hon. Afreen Akhter highlighted efforts by the United States to help the countries of the region to deal with the negative impacts of climate change. She also discussed the role of the US in pushing investment into the region. She said, “Geopolitics does not drive our  relationship with the region. We work bilaterally and multilaterally in order to bring security, prosperity and collective unity in this region. So we are very focused on the Indian Ocean Region as I outlined. We have a number of Investments and we are really looking to build our partnerships where those partnerships make sense.” 

Summing up the proceedings of the conference over two days, Amb Kumar spoke of the important role being played by regional and multilateral bodies in shaping the global agenda of the future. He spoke of the role being played by such organisations in ensuring peace, prosperity and partnership in not just the region but the world while commending their leadership for building global institutions with such commitments. 


Civic Reception in Honour of the President of Mauritius H.E Prithvirajsing Roopun

14th May 2023, Taj Bengal, Kolkata

A Civic Reception was hosted in honour of the President of Mauritius, His Excellency

Prithvirajsing Roopun, jointly by India Foundation, New Delhi and Khola Hawa on 14th May 2023 at Taj Bengal, Kolkata. Other dignitaries who graced the event were Dr CV Ananda Bose, Hon Governor of West Bengal, Shri Harivansh Narayan Singh, Member of Parliament and Dy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Shri Sushil Modi, Member of Parliament and former Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Dr Swapan Dasgupta, former Member of Rajya Sabha and  Member, Governing Council, India Foundation, New Delhi.

The event started with the felicitation of guests on stage by Smt. Mallika Banerjee, Joint Secretary of Khola Hawa was followed by Mr N.G. Khaitan, President of Bharat Chamber of Commerce reaching out to felicitate guest of honour His Excellency Prithvirajsing Roopun.

Dr. Swapan Dasgupta in his welcome note expressed profound gratitude to His Excellency Prithvirajsing Roopun ji for coming to Kolkata and gracing the event. He enlightened the audience over an obvious curiosity of why he chose Kolkata for his visit; quoting an observation of a historian from Mauritius that Kolkata was the last sight for the labourers of their motherland who went to countries like Fiji, Mauritius etc. He highlighted the emotional significance that Kolkata held for people of Indian origin in places like Mauritius. Dr Dasgupta expressed his hope that a plaque commemorating the travel of labourers to Mauritius and other countries will be installed in Kolkata. This would help raise  knowledge about the importance of linkages and our historical connections through our very successful diaspora in these countries.

Shri Harivansh Narayan Singh recalled his trip to Mauritius in 2011 where he had the

opportunity to visit Apravasi Ghat dedicated to Indian labourers whose 1st lot reached there by ship in 1834 which is why Mauritius celebrates 2nd November as Apravasi Bharatiya Diwas. He also talked about the significance of Baithakasstarted by migrants in Mauritius. He highlighted the significance of these Baithakas in community building as marriages happened there and several women’s groups were organised through it. He mentioned that the number of Baithakas rose to 400 in the year 1950 itself. He concluded by expressing the importance of the India-Mauritius relationship on the note that 68% population of Mauritius can trace their origin back to India.

Dr CV Ananda Bose conferred salutations on behalf of 10 crore Bengalis to people of

Mauritius. Quoting Mark Twain he said  Mauritius was made first, then heaven and heaven was copied after Mauritius. He also talked about various projects that India is doing in Mauritius like the metro express project, and social housing project amongst many others. He noted a similarity that both His Excellency Mr Roopun and Mahatma Gandhi studied law in the UK. He applauded the fact that Mauritius celebrates their national day to commemorate Mahatma  Gandhi’s famous  Dandi march. On behalf of Bengalis, he expressed how proud they feel to know that there are Tagore Museum and Tagore Institute in Mauritius honouring one of the greatest Bengali philosophers and poet Shri Rabindranath Tagore.

His Excellency Prithvirajsing Roopun thanked India Foundation, New Delhi and Indian authorities for their hospitality. He opened up on his visit to Kolkata which he said was like a pilgrimage. He shared the history of how labourers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were convinced by the British on the false premises of finding gold and were brought to Mauritius to work in sugar plantation fields from 1850 onwards. Talking about the cultural similarity between India and Mauritius, H.E Mr Roopun shared how Ganesh Chaturthi, Mahashivratri and Durga puja is celebrated in Mauritius and the existence of Hindi, Tamil, Bhojpuri and Sanskrit-speaking unions in Mauritius. He sang two lines of a Bhojpuri song to let people know that it is common in Mauritius to sing Bhojpuri songs. He made an interesting observation that along with India celebrating its 75 years of independence, it is also the celebration of 75 years of bilateral relations between India and Mauritius. H. E Mr Roopun asserted the importance of working together with India in various fields as a win-win situation amidst the rapidly changing world order. Members from the Bengal Business Council which consisted of Bengali businessmen felicitated all the dignitaries on stage.

Shri Sushil Modi thanked and welcomed H. E Mr Roopun, his wife and his delegation on behalf of India Foundation. He pointed out how labourers of Indian origin there underwent the plight of the British and yet kept their faith alive by chanting Hanuman Chalisa and reading Ramayana. Shri Sushil Modi appealed to people to visit Mauritius to realise the Indian culture which exists there. He pointed out a pleasant sight one could witness by roaming around in the localities of Mauritius many Hindus have Hanuman idols and Mahaveer flags displayed outside their houses. He shared with joy that Mahashivratri in Mauritius is celebrated for 10 days including the Kanwar yatra as it happens in India. He expressed pride in having leaders like Kamala Harris, Rishi Sunak, President of Suriname and Seychelles among many other leaders of Indian origin in different countries. He also thanked all guests for gracing the event with their presence.

The civic reception in honour of His Excellency Prithvirajsing Roopun gave the opportunity to strengthen the relationship between India and Mauritius. Mauritius holds a unique position for India as no other country possesses such a high percentage of population of Indian origin. Additionally, the robust practice and preservation of Hindu traditions prevalent in Mauritius also bring the two countries closer to each other. Sharing anecdotes by the esteemed dignitaries made the event very interesting. The speeches were followed by dinner. In attendance at this event were industrialists, media personalities and other important people from the civil society.




The last few years have been a period of great stress for most nations across the globe. The pandemic of 2019 which originated from China, caused immense economic hardship and physical suffering for most of the world’s populace. It took about three years to contain the pandemic, but even today, it has not been fully controlled. The war in Ukraine, which began in March 2022 is still ongoing and while the conflict remains confined to Ukraine, the economic costs are being felt in many regions outside the war zone. With NATO aligned behind Ukraine, providing it with weapons, finances and political support, the war can only prolong. As China and Iran have extended support to Russia, we are witnessing the emergence of a new Cold War, with the world once again being split into two camps.

In the Indo-Pacific region, tension has been brewing now for some years between China and Taiwan, which has the potential of blowing up into a full-fledged cross-Straits crisis. China’s aggressive polices in the South and East seas is also a source of concern, especially as China has created a number of artificial islands and has laid extravagant claims to some islands.

Closer home, in West Asia, there has been a resumption of diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia which had been severed in 2016. This is a positive development and holds out a promise for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Yemen, but the larger ideological sectarian divide between the two countries, based on schisms between the Sunnis and Shias is unlikely to be bridged any time soon. Hostilities between these two Muslim countries has the potential to spill over into a wider conflict which could have an adverse impact on the supply and availability of energy resources from the Gulf.

In India’s immediate neighbourhood, the Taliban, which reneged on all its promises after coming to power in August 2021, remains a centre of instability. Pakistan is also going through a particularly difficult patch with severe economic challenges and with multiple internal security concerns across most parts of the country. This, in conjunction with the volatile political developments in Pakistan has made the entire Af-Pak region a veritable tinder box. The prevailing instability could spill over into neighbouring countries, including India.

In Nepal, the polity remains fractured. While the seven-party ruling coalition has elected Pushpa Kamal Dahal or ‘Prachanda’ as the Prime Minister, his own party, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) has only 32 seats. Nepal has had eight different governments in the last ten years and it remains to be seen if the present government can complete its full term. In the recent Presidential elections, Ram Chandra Poudel, a senior leader of the opposition Nepali Congress party, was declared the winner in March 2023. He won with the support of Prachanda, which triggered a feud among the coalition partners. This portends renewed political churning in Nepal along with political instability.

Elections are due in Bangladesh in January 2024. While the Sheikh Hasina led Awami League government has kept the Bangladesh economy reasonably buoyant, the challenges posed by radical Islamist groups such as the Jamaat remain a source of concern. How the politics develop in Bangladesh post the elections remains to be seen, but with the opposition BNP led by Khaled Zia being soft on Islamist groups, the security environment may change for the worse. Further East, Myanmar is once again under military rule and the internal security situation remains both a challenge and an enigma. Myanmar remains critical to India both on account of the security matrix in some of the Northeastern states of India as well as the fact that Myanmar is central to India’s Act East policy.

India has handled the changing dynamics caused by the pandemic as well as by the war in Ukraine and other conflict zones with great dexterity. Today, India is the fastest growing large economy in the world, and is set to become a USD 5 trillion economy earlier than the IMFs forecast of 2026-27. India’s interests in the Indo-Pacific pertain to keeping the sea lanes free and open and hence it is part of the Quad, the four-member grouping of India, Australia, Japan and the US. India is also a member of BRICS and the SCO which serve Indian interests in the economic sphere and in the Eurasian land mass. While to some, India’s membership in these organisations may seem contradictory, India has handled the competing interests with great finesse. Today, India has excellent relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran—the two Gulf powers that are antagonistic to each other. Similarly, India has de-hyphenated its relations with both Israel and Palestine, as also with Russia and the US. The present year is also the year when India is holding the Presidency of both the G-20 as well as the SCO. But multiple challenges still remain, both internal and external.

With India determined to become a developed nation by 2047, a century after achieving Independence, the coming decade will be a time of great expectations and hope. We are indeed living in very exciting and challenging times.


China’s Narrative War: Impact and Challenges for South Asia

It is quite interesting and equally annoying too, to note that with the ever increasing economic and military might of China, the leadership of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is becoming assertive, rather bullying, in forcing its own narratives on the world community. Be it the CCP’s claims over territories of neighbouring countries; or its claims about absolute ownership of South China Sea and East China Sea; or demands from the world to accept its own version of history of China and Asia; or dictating to the international organisations to reframe their rules and to redefine even universally accepted norms on concepts like human rights, colonialism, democracy, freedom of navigation in international seas etc. as per it’s diktats; or forcing its indebted business partner countries to sign on dotted lines of completely opaque contracts and ‘treaties’… China is becoming more assertive and demanding by each passing day. This trend has gained new acceleration since President Xi Jinping has taken over the reins of China as its ‘Paramount Leader’. So much so, that even mighty and influential power centres like the USA and European Union, who had got used to ‘accommodating’, even encouraging China to run around in the way it likes, are now feeling threatened and insecure after the rise of President Xi. They are now finding it difficult to push back Xi who is bent upon enforcing his own version of world order that claims supremacy and command of China on every issue and wants to leave no meaningful space for the Western or any other power group in world affairs. Things are far more worrying and alarming for China’s immediate neighbours like India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Afghanistan who suddenly found themselves facing China as their immediate neighbour following occupation of Tibet and East Turkestan. This paper is mainly focused on the challenges faced by these South Asian countries at the hands of China and the strategy they can adopt to meet these challenges effectively.

It is worth noting that the Chinese rulers have reached the current heights of arrogance by gradually promoting and enforcing a specific set of narratives and myths which they have systematically evolved over years to suit their needs and future goals. Unfortunately, this approach has gained roots over past decades because many governments and major international corporates saw virtue, convenience and fat profits in kowtowing to the diktats of Beijing. But now, in the changed international scenario, these very governments and business corporates are finding themselves trapped in the Chinese ‘Chakravyuh’ (a term borrowed from Indian epic ‘Mahabharata’ which refers to a military formation that leaves the enticed and encircled enemy in an inescapable situation) and find themselves at a total loss over deciding how to pull out of China’s bearhug.

All this calls for a new international consensus and resolve to evolve a united front to take the Chinese challenge head on. It may not be very simple to build up a common military alliance to handle China’s military threats but it should be an easier task to break those Chinese narratives and myths on whose strength this mighty communist empire stands today. On close examination one will find that these Chinese narratives and myths are nothing more than the proverbial feet of clay and can be countered effectively. To demolish these narratives decisively one will have to understand basic facts around these Chinese claims and narratives.

Chinese Narrative and South Asia

The scope of present analysis has been kept limited to China’s aggressive and threatening postures towards India and the rest of South Asia. Since most of the prevailing Chinese narratives and myths, which are handled in this paper, are common to most other countries in the context of their relations and problems with China, it should be easy for other experts to extend this study to their own countries by bringing in those additional Chinese narratives which are specific to those countries.

Before we take up these narratives and myths of China, it would be useful to understand that the world’s troubles with China are neither a sudden phenomenon nor exclusively because of the emergence of President Xi Jinping as the ‘Paramount Leader’ of present-day China. The evolution of present-day aggressive China started since the historic establishment of a free and independent Republic of China in 1912. Since then, the common aim of all later rulers and leaders of PRC has been to fulfil the dream of their Han ancestors who wanted to establish China as the ‘Middle Kingdom’ of the world. On the contrary, the leaders of world governments, business leaders and China experts have been dealing with China mainly to achieve their own immediate profits and political goals. Very rarely have they understood or focused on the common aspirations and dreams of China as a nation. No wonder most of the world governments and corporate leaders of the world are finally realising that in their pursuit of making profits from China, they have been simply helping China to become the Frankenstein that it has become today.

On critical analysis one will discover that the gradual metamorphism of present-day massive ‘Peoples Republic of China’ (PRC) from a petty ‘Republic of China’ (ROC) of 1912 is not the result of an unplanned game or random and accidental historic happenings. Even during the Chinese ‘Xinhai Revolution’ of 1911 against the foreign Manchurian ‘Qing’ rule, the flags and slogans of the revolutionaries called for ‘Five Races Under One Union[i]’ which was aimed at including the Manchurians, Mongols, Hui (Muslims including the Uyghurs) and Tibetans in the new Han (Chinese) nation. In much later years, when Chairman Mao Zedong of the Chinese Communist Party announced his plans to grab Tibet and declared “Tibet is China’s palm and Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and NEFA (now ‘Arunachal Pradesh’) are its fingers”, he had made China’s future plans clear not only about Tibet but also about India and the rest of South Asia. But unfortunately, the leaders of these South Asian countries and their friends failed to understand the seriousness of Mao’s plans.

It is also interesting to note that despite ongoing civil war and power struggle within the newly found Republic of China, the erstwhile rulers occupied Southern Mongolia in 1919 while claiming that it was ‘Inner Mongolia’ and a part of China. In later years occupation of Manchuria into China in 1945; East Turkistan (renamed as ‘Xinjiang’) in 1949; and Tibet in 1951, simply shows that the Han mind has always been clear about its national agenda despite ongoing serious and bloody internal civil wars throughout this period. Following occupation of Tibet and asserting it as an ‘integral part of China’, Beijing started laying claims over lands of India, Nepal and Bhutan by claiming that those areas belonged to Tibet and hence are part of China. With India, Beijing is laying claims over a major part of Arunachal Pradesh by branding it as ‘South Tibet’. After announcing Chinese names for 21 places of Arunachal Pradesh in 2017 and 2021, Beijing has given a Chinese name ‘Zangnan’ to this Indian state besides renaming 11 more of its places. It will not be surprising if China comes up with similar claims over Ladakh by digging out some disputes between old regimes of Ladakh and Tibet in history.

After the establishment of PRC one can clearly see the focus of different leaders and their well-orchestrated and integrated approach towards making China an economic, military and political superpower. Following the blood-bathed birth of PRC, Chairman Mao worked consistently to consolidate the roots of the Chinese Communist Party in the Chinese system. Through an eventful decade of ‘Cultural-Revolution’ he drastically cleansed the CCP and the national system of every such element that could be later dangerous or troublemaker against his leadership or the supremacy of CCP. In his last days he successfully opened the closed doors between the PRC and the rest of world by establishing links with USA and winning acknowledgement and acceptance of the western world for PRC and thus successfully replacing Chiang Kai-shek’s ROC from the United Nations to occupy its top seat in the Security Council. After Mao, it was Deng Xiaoping, yet another ‘Paramount’ leader, who cleverly used the western world’s vast financial resources, its modern technology, production facilities and even its markets to enhance China’s economic, military and political power. In the post-Deng era all following helmsmen of China multiplied and further consolidated the gains attained by Deng.

By the time President Xi Jinping arrived as the latest ‘Paramount’ leader, all grounds were set for him to place China in the top position in every field that mattered to assert China’s supremacy over the world. Interestingly, it is the same money which China made at the cost of western and other leading economies which Xi is now using to execute his ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) as China’s Trojan horse across the world and to buy out votes of smaller nations to occupy the UN and almost every other international institution from within. Under Xi’s leadership, PRC has reached a position from where it can now dictate the UN to implement the Chinese agenda. So much so, that today’s China has got the guts and arrogance to dictate UN bodies to rewrite and redefine their definitions of as sensitive issues as human rights and democracy. Over recent decades, Xi’s China has liberally given massive loans to already failing countries and established China’s naval and other military bases by bribing their corrupt leaders. That is how Xi’s China has today reached a point from where it can now threaten any country in the South China Sea, East China Sea, the Pacific or Indian Ocean and the Gulf. Thanks to its military power and modern technology, China has been able to create artificial islands at places of its choice to lay claim over the entire South China Sea.

How to Fight Chinese Narratives and Myths

With this background it is worth understanding and examining the narratives and myths which the Chinese system has evolved over the years and is now trying to push and implant into the international mindscape, to further consolidate its dominance. Some major narratives and myths which China’s propaganda machinery has evolved and has thrust upon South Asian countries with appreciable success are:

  • PRC is the ‘real’ China and the world must follow ‘one-China’ policy.
  • Today’s China is the result of a ‘seamless succession’ from history.
  • Tibet was an ‘integral part’ of China’ in history.
  • Tibet, Xinjiang, South Mongolia are ‘internal matters’ of China and are of ‘core interest’ to PRC.
  • No one should meddle with China’s ‘core interests’.
  • No Human Rights violations are committed in China and no one should dare to raise this issue.
  • China is a happy family of 56 ‘nationalities’ I.e. ’56 sisters’.
  • Selection of next reincarnation of Dalai Lama is China’s exclusive right.
  • India-China border is a ‘secondary’ issue and should be kept aside for dealing in future at an appropriate time.
  • The South China Sea is China’s Sea whereas the Indian Ocean is not India’s Ocean.

Present analysis will deal with some of these Chinese narratives specifically and singularly, whereas the reality behind other narratives and myths, as propagated by China, can be automatically understood through explanations on one or more of these issues.

The very first issue which appears to be the mother of most of Chinese narratives and myths is China’s loud claims about PRC being the ‘real’ and ‘original’ China. Interestingly, the present communist China’s narrative does not stop here. Its new and rewritten history now claims that the present-day China is a result of ‘seamless succession of Chinese dynasties’. Any student of communication will admire the skills of CCP and the Chinese leaders in rewriting history and using propaganda as a fine art to make the world believe this Chinese narrative in order to achieve China’s immediate as well as long term goals. This fine art was at its best in 2004, when the Chinese government released an ambitious 40-episode long epic TV serial “Genghis Khan” on its national network of television – the CCTV. The main focus of this entire exercise was to appropriate Genghis Khan as a ‘Great son of China,’ and this theme was propagated aggressively through the promos of this TV serial on entire Chinese media. Interestingly, it was the same Genghis Khan who had founded the vast Mongol Empire in the 13th century (1206) and his dynasty (also known as ‘Yuan’) had ruled over China and many other countries of larger Asia and parts of Europe for more than 300 years. It was the Qing dynasty of Manchuria who later replaced the Mongols to subjugate the Ming Empire of the Han China. That makes it over seven centuries long history of subjugation and foreign occupation of China. The immediate goal of this Chinese narrative is to make the world forget that it was not the Mongols and the Manchurians who occupied China and were the rulers of these empires, but it was China who ruled over vast areas of Asia and adjoining regions through these ‘great sons of China’. Beijing tried to persuade other governments to run this epic on their national TV networks but could not succeed beyond its two willing friends namely North Korea KBS network and the Turkish state TRT.

China’s communist historian rewriters are now in their overdrive to establish that in addition to the Song and Ming Empires of Han China, the Mongol Empire and the Manchu Empire too were ‘Chinese’ Empires and hence the present day PRC is a product of ‘seamless succession’ of these ‘Chinese’ dynasties. Once established, this narrative is surely going to give a logical ground to Beijing rulers to not only legitimise their colonial occupation of Tibet, East Turkistan and a part of Mongolia but it will also open doors for fortifying China’s claims over many parts of Russia, Europe and those countries of Central and South-East Asia which were conquered by the Mongols or the Manchus at some stage of history. In case China of future years succeeds in making the world accept this new definition of colonialism and subjugation, then it is surely bound to open doors for many hilarious claims from countries across the world. For example, based on this very Chinese logic, Australia will have reasons to claim that India is a part of Australia or for New Zealand to stake its claim of ownership over Australia simply because all of these three countries were once colonised by Great Britain.

The Lethargic ‘Sinologists’

Until recently the world had got used to study and understanding of Sinology through such Sinologists who relied heavily, rather exclusively on Chinese language and Chinese resources while deliberately and completely ignoring other resources, especially the contemporary Mongol, Tibetan and Manchu worldviews. This has given rise to a large community of ‘Sinologists’ who suffer from the handicap of partial, wrong and biased understanding of China and the victim of its colonialism like the Tibetans, Mongols and the Uyghurs. In turn, this palpable handicap of this section of Sinologists has severely confused the understanding of China and related subjects by many entities like governments, research institutions, think tanks, corporate houses and the world media. It is not therefore surprising that all such groups became willing or inadvertent buyers of the myths and narratives which have been deliberately and systematically built up by China. That explains why a sizeable section of governments and think tanks sincerely believe that today’s PRC is the result of a “seamless succession” from past dynasties; and that present PRC is the ‘Real China’; and that Tibet, Xinjiang (East Turkistan), Southern Mongolia and Manchuria have been always ‘integral parts of China’ in history.

These Chinese myths of ‘Seamless Succession’ or PRC’s ownership of these Chinese colonies has been logically and effectively demolished by famous international lawyer and veteran expert on Tibet and China, Michael Van Walt Van Praag and Miek Boltjes in their long and systematic study of today’s China’s history. This study was published in 2020 as a book titled, “TIBET BRIEF 20/20” (the authors have borrowed the ‘20/20’ terminology from ophthalmology which represents ‘perfect vision’ of the human eyes). Based on a ten-year long research, analysis and active engagement with scholars of Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan and Manchu backgrounds and their respective historical sources, Michael and Miek have minutely examined these claims and the narratives of present Chinese government. In their research they came to the conclusion:

“The PRC’s narrative used to prove historical Chinese ‘ownership’ of or sovereignty over Tibet has a number of fundamental flaws. Firstly, it conflates ‘China’ with the dominant empires of Asia and invokes and interprets the relationships that those empires developed with Tibet as evidence of Chinese or China’s historical sovereignty over Tibet. The PRC does this by deploying the traditional Chinese narrative of the seamless succession of dynasties, all labeled as “Chinese,” thereby obscuring the nature of the Mongol and Manchu empires, both of which were not Chinese. By concealing that China was absorbed by conquest, into these Inner Asian empires and suggesting instead that those empires’ foreign rulers were absorbed into China, the PRC appropriates those same empires to claim for itself rights to territories outside China. The PRC furthermore claims modern territorial sovereignty over those territories on the basis of historical forms of rule and types of relationships that do not at all conform to, nor translate into, modern concepts of sovereignty and territoriality…”[ii]

Interestingly, PRC has been using its manufactured logic of ‘seamless succession of dynasties’ to fortify its claims over Tibet, East Turkistan (Ch: Xinjiang) and Southern Mongolia (Ch: Inner Mongolia). Using this very logic, China not only justifies occupying Tibet and extending its borders right up to the doors of India, Nepal and Bhutan, but it is now laying claims over many bordering areas of these countries by claiming them to be ‘Chinese’ territories. Whereas the truth is that none of them have ever had an inch of common border with China for past thousands of years. That explains why the South Asian countries need to challenge China’s invasion of Tibet to effectively counter this Chinese geographic offensive against their sovereignty and national security. Recent steps by the US government to make new laws like the “Tibet Policy and Support Act of 2020”[iii] and then  yet another bipartisan Tibet Bill, which has been introduced in the US Congress in July last year (2022) talks of ‘illegal occupation of Tibet by China” as it says, “numerous United States declarations since the Chinese invasion have recognised Tibet’s right to self-determination and the illegality of China’s occupation of Tibet.”[iv] This change of heart on the part of USA can surely help in uplifting the morale of these South Asian countries to stand up to Chinese pressures and threats.

This awakening in the Western block is also an emerging push back to China on its obsession with ‘One-China-Policy’. This policy of Beijing has its origin in the communist revolution of Chairman Mao which dethroned the Nationalist government of Kuomintang of President Chiang Kai-shek in 1949. When Chiang fled to nearby island of Formosa (now Taiwan) and claimed his ‘Republic of China’ as the ‘real’ China, his friendly Western block, led by the USA, recognised the ROC as the ‘Real’ China. Chairman Mao and his communist government contested this claim of Chiang vehemently but of no avail until 1970s when USA and its allies saw Mao’s China more profitable than ROC and a useful tool to check the influence of the communist superpower USSR. As a result of this change of heart on the part of USA and its allies across the world, the PRC got the recognition as the ‘real China’. Consequently, the membership of the UN, the permanent seat at the Security Council and its associated powers of veto and other rights, which were being enjoyed by Chiang’s ROC since 1945, got transferred to Mao’s PRC overnight in 1971. This was surely a major victory of Beijing’s ‘One-China-Policy’. However, for its own reasons, USA continued supporting Taiwan as an independent entity and protecting it from China’s military aggression. This US policy has continued till this day despite Beijing consistently aiming at complete control over Taiwan as just another province of China.

It is interesting to note that after getting the formal recognition as the ‘Real China’ the Chinese leadership quietly expanded their definition of ‘One-China Policy’ from Taiwan to Tibet, Xinjiang, Southern Mongolia and Hong Kong. Today Beijing is aggressively demanding that all governments, institutions and organisations must follow its new definition of ‘One-China Policy’. It demands them not to treat or mention these ‘regions’ as separate entities from China. On so many occasions Beijing has warned governments and human rights bodies that any international discussion on the human rights situation inside these regions or objections about the exploitation of vast natural resources of these territories will be treated as an interference in the ‘internal matters’ of China. To further press its stand, China has declared all of these issues as ‘Core Interests’ of China. Chinese leaders throwing tantrums even at the mention of these names in any international forum or media has become a common norm. Beijing leaders have now come to believe religiously that China has every right to treat these peoples as it feels fit and that Beijing needs no permission, consent, advice or approval from these countries or human rights institutions about how it should conduct itself in these ‘integral’ parts of China.

In a commentary published by “South China Morning Post”, a prominent newspaper from Hong Kong in 2021, Chinese commentator Shi Jiangtao underlined this cleverness of Beijing in his article “Decoding the Deliberate Ambiguities of China’s Expanding Core Interests”. He writes:

“Beijing’s decade-old definition of what constitutes its core interests and how they should be ranked hierarchically are studiously vague and seldom updated…When it comes to sovereignty, Beijing has steadily expanded the scope of its ‘core interests’ from Taiwan, which Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described recently as ‘the mother of all core interests,’ to include the restive western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, followed by Hong Kong.”[v]

China has now reached a position from where, on the strength of votes of its client state members in the UN, it can road-roll even international institutions like the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). It can even grab lands and finished projects like ports, naval bases and airports from its own ‘friends’ (like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Djibouti, Uganda etc) simply because they were too poor to pay back China’s loans. This tendency of China has created new dangers of as serious dimensions as the historic ‘Cuban Crisis’ for dozens of countries, and even for super powers like the USA. China’s presence in Hambantota of Sri Lanka, Coco Islands of Myanmar, Gwadar of Pakistan and Djibouti are examples of new dangers for the entire South Asia especially India.

All this makes it pertinent that the democratic world will have to develop a logical answer to this Chinese arrogance. One of many possible approaches towards this goal is to minutely examine the grounds on which Beijing has been resting its claims of ownership over its colonies like Tibet, East Turkistan (Xinjiang), S. Mongolia and Hong Kong which happen to the soft belly of China.

China’s claims over and occupation of Tibet (1950-51) and East Turkistan (Xinjiang) (1949) are two specific cases which have severely impacted the sovereignty and national security of South Asia and Central Asia. These countries, which suddenly found China on their borders after the latter walked over East Turkistan and Tibet are India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia and Mongolia. It is not a coincidence that China has raised border disputes with all of these countries who had otherwise never shared an inch of their borders with China over thousands of years in their past history. Interestingly, all of these claims are based on China’s perceptions about the geography of Tibet and East Turkistan. China’s claims over large parts of India’s Arunachal Pradesh by calling it as ‘South Tibet’ or because one of the Dalai Lamas of Tibet was born there, is a typical example of China’s perceived claims and belligerence.

This surely calls for examining the truth behind China’s claims over Tibet and Xinjiang and challenging the very ground from where it draws its authority and arrogance against its new neighbours. One of these Chinese claims is that “Today’s China is a result of a ‘seamless succession’ from history”. China’s other claim is that “it has historic ‘entitlement’ to Tibet and Xinjiang because they have been ‘integral parts’ of China throughout history”. These two Chinese claims, if found wrong and proven logically fictitious, should be enough for the world community to challenge China’s ‘illegal occupation’ of these two countries. Strategically too, this is quite important for the South Asian countries because once these Chinese claims are demolished, it will not only give enough relief and courage to the new Asian ‘neighbours’ of China to confront Beijing and it’s communist masters, but will also give the world community a logical reason to restore human rights of the occupied peoples of Tibet and Xinjiang in addition to challenging China’s rights to exploit enormous natural resources of these two countries.

To demolish China’s claims over Tibet, Xinjiang and ‘Inner Mongolia’ Beijing leaders need to be reminded that the boundaries of original and historic China were defined by none other than their own Song and Ming dynasties who took 2300 years (7th Century BCE – to – 1644 CE) to build the ‘Great Wall of China’ to protect it from foreign invaders who were none other than the Mongols, Tibetans, Manchus, Uyghurs, Kazakhs etc whom the Chinese people still refer to as ‘barbarians’. This 21,196 km long mammoth wall marked the limits of China in history.

In the case of Tibet, PRC’s only basis of its claim over Tibet as “integral part of China since antiquity” is its own view of history. It is only China’s narrative on the history of China which offers it the legitimacy to its rule over Tibet. Research done by Michael and Meik says, “Our research firmly establishes that contrary to the PRC’s claim, Tibet was historically never a part of China. Though not always ‘independent’ in the modern legal sense of that term and subject to various degrees of Mongol, Manchu and even British authority or influence, it was most certainly never a part of China. The PRC therefore, also could not have ‘inherited it’ from the Republic of China or earlier empires, as it claims. As a matter of fact, Tibet was an independent state de facto and de jure from 1912 to 1950-51 when the PRC invaded it. ”[vi]

Yet another claim of China which raises its ownership of many occupied regions stands in sharp contrast with the facts from its own records. Chinese Communist Party frequently boasts of China as a happy family of “56 Sisters” which are also referred to as ‘nationalities’. But China’s own official census data shows that a large number of these ‘nationalities’ are progressing towards extinction. Thanks to aggressive policies of forced marriages with majority Hans and selective and forced abortions, the populations of many have reached museum levels. Last Chinese census report shows that total non-Han communities account for less than 8 percent as compared to the Hans. For example, the Manchus have already lost the status of an ‘autonomous’ region.

This author has been a first-hand witness to emergence of massive new Han cities and towns in Tibet which have been developed for migrant Han settlers across Tibet where Tibetan cities and towns like Lhasa, Shigatse and Lithang have been dwarfed by Han settlements. New chain of over 600 Chinese ‘prosperous’ villages, established along Indian border on President Xi’s personal initiative have become a cause of concern for the Indian defence establishment. This once again signifies Xi Jinping’s intent of using Tibet as a launch pad against India

In September 2011, China issued a White Paper titled “China’s Peaceful Development”.[vii] While announcing China’s ‘Core Interests’ in the above-mentioned White-Paper CCP takes a high moral ground by announcing that, “China fully respects other countries’ legitimate rights to protect their interests. While developing itself, it fully accommodates other countries’ legitimate concerns and interests and never makes gains at others’ expense or shifts its own troubles onto others.”[viii] But by invoking the ‘Core Interests’ like state sovereignty, national security and territorial integrity from the same White-Paper, China has picked up serious ‘territorial’ disputes with many Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines and Vietnam also. In order to fortify its claims and threaten these countries China is using its most modern technologies and money power to occupy, expand and develop minor rock tips in the South China Sea into expanded islands with facilities like runways to station its airbases.

One of the most dominant narratives, being promoted by Beijing today is about President Xi’s obsession about occupying the institution of Dalai Lama who has been traditionally the supreme spiritual leader of Tibet like the Pope in the Vatican, and executive head of Tibet like a monarch. Since 1959 when Dalai Lama escaped to India to save his life from the Chinese PLA, China did everything under its control to wipe out his personal influence and religious faith from the hearts of Tibetan masses. They religiously believed that a Tibetan minus his faith in Buddhism and Dalai Lama will make a perfect ‘patriotic’ Chinese citizen. For first three decades the CCP masters in Beijing believed reports of their leaders and cadres in Tibet that everything was fine; Tibetans were happy under the communist rule; and were thankful to CCP and Chairman Mao for ‘liberating’ them from the ‘feudal’ clutches of Dalai Lama. But massive Tibetan uprisings of Tibetan masses in 1987 and 1989 calling for Tibet’s independence and return of Dalai Lama forced Beijing to rethink and re-craft their strategy on Tibet. New policy is to grab the Tibetan religion and its institutions from within to ensure final control over Tibet. Starting with officially organizing search committees for the incarnations of Panchen Lama and Karma Pa the CCP finally came out with a new law in 2007 which makes it mandatory for any reincarnate Lama of Tibet, including the Dalai Lama to be searched, certified and installed formally only after written approval of the CCP.

Following emergence of Xi at the helm of China the campaign of controlling every Tibetan Buddhist incarnation and propagating supremacy of CCP over the incarnation system has acquired feverish dimensions. With ageing Dalai Lama’s each passing birthday Xi’s claims over the Dalai Lama’s institution are gaining momentum. This has forced the US government to come out with a counter law “Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2019” in 2020 which stops China from any interference in the reincarnation system of Tibet and obliges the US government of the day to take decisive steps against China. A similar momentum in the European Union too is emerging. But strangely, no interest or even awareness among the South Asian governments on this issue is visible despite the fact that a China holding control over the institution of Dalai Lama and the Tibetan religious institutions is bound to play havoc with the sovereignty and security of India, Nepal and Bhutan. Since entire 4000 km long Himalayan belt of these three countries is predominantly Buddhist and most of root Gurus and monasteries of this belt have their headquarters in Tibet, the future Dalai Lama can be used as a devastating tool by Beijing in causing social, religious and political tsunami all along this region. Especially for India, a Dalai Lama in the hands of China is bound to disintegrate the entire Himalayan region. As Nepal and Bhutan have already exposed their helplessness against China, it is now for New Delhi to decide how it wants to protect its national integrity, sovereignty and international image. Challenging China’s ‘illegal’ occupation of Tibet and taking a clear stand on Dalai Lama’s reincarnation seems a very brave, but an inevitable option.

With the ever-expanding military, political and economic power of China the challenges before the world community, especially China’s new South Asian countries are increasing and making the more vulnerable. That calls for new strategies and new realignments to meet the Chinese challenge effectively. Fighting the Chinese narratives and myths is one ground which offers a larger and effective meeting ground to the world community.

Author Brief Bio: Shri Vijay Kranti is a senior journalist, Tibetologist and Chairman, Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement – CHASE


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1911_Revolution#cite_note-xb1-2

[1] “Tibet Brief 20/20”, Outskirts Press Inc (ISBN: 978-1-9772-3281-6) p-11-12

[1] Text of Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2019 (H.R.4331)    https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/4331  This bill was passed on January 28, 2020 by the US House of Representatives by a vote of 392–22. It got approval of the US Congress on December 21, 2020. On December 27, 2020 President Donald Trump signed into a law.

[1] https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/533/text?s=1&r=70   U.S. Congress bill Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act (H.R. 533)

[1] https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3145326/decoding-deliberate-ambiguity-chinas-expanding-core-interests   Decoding the deliberate ambiguity of China’s expanding core interests .  Published: SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST 4:11pm, 17 Aug, 2021

[1] Text of Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2019 (H.R.4331)    https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/4331  This bill was passed on January 28, 2020 by the US House of Representatives by a vote of 392–22. It got approval of the US Congress on December 21, 2020. On December 27, 2020 President Donald Trump signed into a law

[1]  https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1155/text The US Congress Bill (H.R. 1155) titled “Uyghur forced Labor Prevention Act” passed by Senate on 22 Dec. 2021

[1] https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/533/text?s=1&r=70   U.S. Congress bill Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act (H.R. 533)


Challenges & Threats from a Collusive Pakistan-China Relationship


South Asia is fast emerging as a sub-region of the larger Indo-Pacific theatre where the US-China rivalry is now in full play. Home to about quarter of the world’s population, the region’s geography and resource endowment is unique and critical to global trade and economic integration. South Asian diaspora is creative and diligent, yet these eight nations are amongst the poorest and economically the least integrated region of the world.

The changing structure of geo-politics, ‘geo-economics deep policy paralysis’ and the ‘non-conforming neighbourhood states’, has made India’s difficult neighbourhood even more dangerous with far reaching repercussions for India’s geo-strategic future. Furthermore, the stalemate in India-Pakistan relationship and the hand in glove Pakistan-China collusive relationship, cause an enduring concern for regional instability.

Difficult Neighbourhood

Even after more than ten years, the opening remarks made by the then-Union Home Minister Shri P. Chidambaram during the India-US Homeland Security Dialogue on May 27, 2011, perfectly capture the current situation in India’s neighbourhood.

“it is a truism to say that India lives in perhaps the most difficult neighbourhood in the world. The global epicentre of terrorism is in our immediate western neighbourhood.”

The vast infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan has for long flourished as an instrument of state policy. Today, different terrorist groups, operating from the safe havens in Pakistan, are becoming increasingly fused; the society in Pakistan has become increasingly radicalised; its economy has weakened; and, the state structure in Pakistan has become fragile. Pakistan itself faces a major threat from the same forces. Its people as well as its state institutions are under attack. Terrorist infiltration or fake currency inflow does not only take place through India’s western border, but is often routed through countries that India shares open borders with. India also has to deal with the challenge of large-scale migrations from across our borders. Insurgent groups have sometimes found refuge in India’s neighbouring countries. Internal instability in these countries has a direct bearing on the population in India’s border states”.[i] A stable, peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood is vital for the security of the people of India with a range of other challenges, which include counterfeit currency, narcotics trafficking, threats and risks in the cyber space.

China and Pakistan Collusiveness

Webster dictionary defines the word collusive as a secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose. A collusive behaviour involves secret or illegal co-operation between countries or organisations; hence it is co-operation characterised by secrecy and deceit for e.g., Sino–Pakistan linkage or the China and North Korea relationship. Beijing’s secretive ties with Islamabad have run closer than most formal alliances since decades. This collusive alliance is based on a few shared commonalities—both countries have a shared enmity with India; both opposed the action by India of revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, and China has made it clear that it doesn’t see India’s rise as being in its interests.[ii]

Pakistan’s strategic location is seen by China as critical to its transition from a regional power to a global one and is central to China’s plans for network of ports, pipelines, roads, railways connecting oil & gas fields of West Asia to the mega cities of East Asia. Its coast line serves as a crucial staging post for China’s take off as a naval power, extending its reach from the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. Penetration of Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) into global jihadi networks are vital assets as China’s gateway in the Islamic world. Andrew Small argues that China’s strategic generosity towards Pakistan is an investment in its own geopolitical well-being. In his book, ‘The China Pakistan Axis’, he argues that Pakistan considers its relationship with China to be the cornerstone of its foreign policy; the best possible ticket out of instability and economic weakness.[iii] Pakistan wishes to leverage its unique advantage of being a bridgehead between China, South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia, through enhanced trade and investment that will benefit all the regions.

One can also argue that both countries have deep state systems. The concept of deep state points to a ‘special power configuration within a state’ that has a significant influence on the running of the statecraft, determining national security, conduct of diplomacy and foreign relations. China has been dominated for nearly a century by a single political party, whose leaders ruled with the help of the strong political party system and the military. Under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, China’s ‘centralisation of political and economic life,’ which includes government-run catholic churches, has progressed to the point where top-down social control tactics are being used to bury a society of many millions of people in a mass grave of cultural amnesia.[iv] This type of arbitrary power exercised by deep state actors, President Xi, CCP and Central Military Commission (CMC) is disturbing and reeks of totalitarianism.

In the case of Pakistan, the military, the ISI, Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR), and the corps commanders, form the core of a deep and powerful nexus known as the deep state. When necessary, this collegiate leadership group has been responsible for forging and breaking political coalitions, as well as fostering animosity between civilians and military forces.[v]

The collusive relationship between Pakistan and China can be understood in an euphoric estimation seen in the catchy phrases like their friendship being “higher than the mountains” and “sweeter than honey”. These phrases intend to convey the ‘substanceof the relationship, not mere rhetoric, as no relationship can possibly thrive between two unequal’s, and that too for long, if it is only driven by rhetoric. Still, for most Pakistan and China watchers, this nexus remains an enigma, and, therefore, some references from past are necessary to contextualise.[vi]

Brief Historical Background

Pakistan and China established diplomatic relations in 1951, but their formative years witnessed little interaction. Perceiving its eastern neighbour as a perennial security threat, Pakistan joined the United State (US)-led Western alliance against communism. This move was received with suspicion in Beijing but both countries were careful not to take any step considered inimical to each other’s interests. Pakistan was the first Muslim country to recognise ‘New China’ and the Chinese leadership appreciated this.[vii]

Chairman Mao Zedong instructed his foreign ministry as early as in 1951 to develop relations with Pakistan. Again, in 1956, while designating his second Ambassador, Mao instructed him to pay special attention to Pakistan, which was ‘China’s southwestern gate.’ Prime Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suharwardy was the first leader from Pakistan to visit Beijing in October 1956, followed barely two months later by Premier Zhou En Lai’s visit to Pakistan.[viii] After Pakistan, Zhou visited India but declined the invitation from Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to visit Srinagar, even at a time when India and China enjoyed close relations. This was a clear signal of China showing deference to Pakistan’s position on Kashmir and its desire of forging a substantive relationship with Pakistan, independent of its ties with India. These overtures in the very early days of the relationship helped lay the foundation of “mutual trust”, which forms the core of their partnership today.[ix]

The border treaty of 1963 was a defining moment in Pakistan-China relations, further enhancing mutual trust. In 1964, Pakistan became the first non-communist country to begin its flights to China. In March 1965, Pakistan denounced the “Two China policy” of the US. China now began to regard Pakistan as a trustworthy partner in South Asia. Pakistan had also taken a clear shift in its foreign policy by showing willingness to come closer to China. By mid-1960s, their relations were poised for a major leap.[x] The 1965 India-Pakistan war proved to be a real catalyst in cementing these ties, as China fully supported Pakistan. China’s image improved exponentially after the war and made a positive impact on Pakistani psyche.

Two infrastructural projects of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), have further elevated the relationship to an all-weather status. Pakistan was amongst the first countries to join the BRI. The 1300 km long Karakoram Highway, connecting China’s Xinjiang Province to Pakistan Punjab, and built with Chinese assistance, was opened to the public in 1978. This highway now serves as the main route for CPEC, and extends up to Gwadar in Baluchistan. The Central Asian Republics, which are landlocked, are keen to take advantage of the CPEC to reach the Pakistani ports of Gwadar and Karachi. The CPEC route will also help China to overcome its Malacca Straits dilemma and cut costs and time in transportation of its exports to Africa and the Middle East, besides establishing a connectivity network with Central Asia and Afghanistan.[xi] This special alliance is supported by the principles of shared trust, shared historical baggage, shared interests, and a common worldview i.e., India.

Threats & Challenges facing India

Terrorism, proxy wars and insurgencies have been a part of Pakistan’s strategy and with onset of information warfare, support from China has expanded. It has been the epicentre of terrorism and the repercussions have been felt not only in India, but Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and even Pakistan itself.

Since 1947, Pakistan has been following Fabian strategy with grave consequences for India. It has been able to constrain India by presenting the impression that the proxy war is out of its control and that it is a victim of such terror attacks. It avoids large-scale conflict by varying the intensity from low to high and then lowering it to avoid spiralling out of control. This has resulted in a lengthy struggle and dovetailed into no less than an act of war.

Pakistan-based terror infrastructure is a threat not just to India and South Asia, but also to the US, its allies and quite possibly, in future, even to China. This reality is far bigger than any strategic utility Pakistan might offer to these countries. In the name of promoting geo-strategic interests, it has been providing ‘safe haven spaces for the radical terror outfits as also stated in the US State Department’s Country Report on Terrorism, September 21, 2021. The report states that Pakistan is a base of operations and/ or target for numerous armed, non-state militant groups, some existing since the 1980s. Out of 67 active terrorist groups in the world, Pakistan is home to at least 12 groups, including five of them being India-centric, like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).[xii]

For the deep state, a policy mix of ‘terror and talks’ has been the strategy against India. A resurgence of regional terrorism and militancy after the Taliban’s August 2021 success is clearly visible. Lashkar Chief Hafiz Sayeed, stated “full-scale armed jihad will begin soon in Kashmir after American forces withdraw from Afghanistan.”[xiii] The focus is not on J&K alone, but on the whole of India. Linkages exist amongst Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Indian Mujahideen (IM), with Pakistan continuing to sponsor terrorist groups, and fund, train and arm them in their war of attrition against India. “There are at least 42 terrorist training camps in Pakistani Occupied Kashmir (POK) alone[xiv]. There exists a pool of modules that can be instructed to commit acts of terror just about anywhere in India.

Pakistan Governments Submissions

In a 2012 interview with the BBC, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari confessed that previous governments “deliberately developed and nurtured militants as a policy to achieve some short-term gains”. In an interview to a private TV channel in 2018, Gen Musharraf too, acknowledged that terrorists were trained in Pakistan. “We trained Taliban and sent them to fight against Russia. Taliban, Haqqani, Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri were our heroes then”, he said.  During his official visit to the United States in July 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan admitted the presence of 30,000-40,000 armed terrorists in his country. Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, stated in 2021 that “All key Taliban leaders were born and raised in Pakistan, we trained them as part of our ‘service,’ and many more may be studying”. Pakistan, as hotspot of terrorism & Islamic Radicalism is  spreading  its tentacles to other South Asian countries, like India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar as the ‘military extensions of the Pakistan Army. ISIS terrorist group pays Rs 50,000 to 60,000 per month to every warrior/ unemployed youth.[xv]

Pakistan intelligence agency, a core component of the deep state, has strong nexus with the terrorists and radical rightist organisations. The JeM is headquartered in Bahawalpur, which is also the headquarter of Pakistan Army’s 31 Corps. ISI’s significant covert support to the Taliban, employing it as a proxy force during and after the Afghan war is very well known. Haqqani network, the most powerful of the Taliban’s constituent forces, was in fact the strategic arm of Pakistan’s ISI.

Both Pakistan and China have lent support to the insurgency movement in parts of India. Support to the insurgent groups, like the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), Northeast insurgents’ groups, Maoists, Naxal movement and other separatist organisations continues in some form or other. Their aim is to make insurgency self-sustaining. This remains the biggest challenge with Left Wing Extremism (LWE). After the abrogation of Article 370, the local flavour of terrorists activities is by protecting and raising the Resistance Force (TRF)- an offshoot of Pak- based terror outfit LeT – Resorting to selective killings of non-Kashmiris and the minorities in the Kashmir valley in sheer frustration. Hence a ‘unique patronage’ and ‘support for their political ascension’ and development’ is given by deep state.

An Insecure Environment & Nuclear bogey

Pakistan and China have managed to create an environment of insecurity in India, especially evident during commemoration of national occasions like Republic Day and Independence Day, and on various religious festivals, all of whom remain under the shadow of terror threat. An additional layer of security is added each year which inadvertently means an encroachment on public freedom and their shrinking spaces. Pakistan also raises the nuclear bogey to deter India as a recuse to bridge the conventional asymmetry. China’s crucial support in Islamabad’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programmes continues unabated. The possibility looms of handing over individual weapons to terrorist groups for detonation anywhere in the world, making a new 9/11 incomparably even more deadlier.

Drones from Pakistan flying into India across the Line of Control and International Border have emerged as a huge challenge for India’s Border Security Force. They bring in everything from arms to narcotics to fake currency that give rise to terror and lawlessness in India. The ‘economics of terrorismwhich come up with a terrorist attack may cause short-term and long-term disturbance to the economic system, for instance after the 26/11 Mumbai attack, the financial business of the economic capital of India took a long time to get back on track. The cost of sustained tension with Pakistan is an external check on India’s rise. This will remain for the immediate future, as for its own survival, the Pakistan military will continue to regard India as an existential threat and will continue to stoke tension, in its bid to remain relevant amongst its own people. This would impede to some extent, India’s rise to a super power status.[xvi]

Threat of a Two-front War

The discussions on a two-front military threat for India started around 2006 and were formally articulated in the defence minister’s operational directive in 2009. At the annual press conference in 2020, then Indian Army Chief General M. M. Naravane said that “There is increased cooperation between Pakistan and China, both in military and non-military fields. A two-front situation is something we must be ready to deal with.” The two-front threat has been acknowledged by other top Indian military commanders, although the country’s political leadership has publicly stayed silent on the matter. In September 2020, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat acknowledged, “Chinese economic cooperation with Pakistan, in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, along with continued military, economic and diplomatic support mandate high levels of preparation by us. This also poses the threat of coordinated action along the northern and western fronts, which we have to consider in our defence planning.”

Sushant Singh argues that China remains a long-term strategic competitor and permanent peace with Pakistan is unlikely. A two-front military threat is a possibility, and would be a formidable challenge with no easy answers.[xvii] This ongoing friction and border tensions on two fronts contributes to the spike in military purchases. India is the world’s third-largest military spender in 2020, behind only the US and China. According to the SIPRI report, it must maintain a force of roughly 15 lakh soldiers due to the two active and unresolved borders with China and Pakistan. While India spent 2.9 per cent of its GDP on the military, Pakistan spent 4 per cent of its GDP on defence forces.[xviii]


In the era of new geo-political competition and alignments, Pakistan deep state and China collusive relationship will continue to pose the primary foreign policy and security challenge to India in the coming years. India must be prepared to take on a two-front challenge by suitably strengthening its economic heft and military capability, combined with suitable political and diplomatic measures.

Author Brief Bio:   Dr. Jyoti M. Pathania is a Professor at the Jindal School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University, India and is the founding Editor of Online Indian Journal of Peace & Conflict Resolution, http//oijpcr.org


[1] https://www.indianembassyusa.gov.in/ArchivesDetails?id=1583

[1] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-times/all-that-matters/chinas-rising-support-for-pakistan-and-their-collusion-may-affect-our-interests-says-former-nsa-shiv-shankar-menon/articleshow/82234601.cms

[1] Andrew Small, The Chian Pakistan Axis Asia’s New Geopolitics, Penguin Random House India Books,2015

[1] Babones, Salvatore. “Yes, You can Use the Word T-Word to Describe China”. Foreign Policy, April 10, 2021. https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/04/10/china-xi-jinping- totalitarian-authoritarian-debate/. Accessed on October 7, 2020

[1] Jyoti M.Pathania, Deep State Continuum  in Pakistan and its Implications for India., KW Pvt Ltd, 2022

[1] http://hdl.handle.net/1959.4/55225 in https:// unsworks.unsw.edu.au

[1] https://www.isas.nus.edu.sg/papers/pakistan-china-relations-in-a-changing-geopolitical-environment/

[1] https://www.dawn.com/news/1341523

[1] https://www.isas.nus.edu.sg/papers/pakistan-china-relations-in-a-changing-geopolitical-environment/

[1] https://rclss.com/index.php/pij

[1] https://www.isas.nus.edu.sg/papers/pakistan-china-relations-in-a-changing-geopolitical-environment/

[1] https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/IF11934.html

[1] https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi/pakistan-s-new-game-plan-capture-kabul-cripple-kashmir/story-wHJIwWeTQXl3hXAnOzcjAP.html

[1] https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi/42-terror-camps-active-in-pok-new-ones-added-army-chief/story-Yp8ycluAnV66ZKFKDeMxnM.html

[1]Yunis Khushi “ISIS in Pakistan: A Critical Analysis of Factors and Implications of ISIS Recruitments and Concept of Jihad-Bil-Nikah”, Arts and Social Sciences Journal, https://www.hilarispublisher.com/open-

access/isis-in-pakistan-a-critical- analysis-of-factors-and-implications-of-isisrecruitments-and-concept-of- jihadbilnikah-2151-6200-1000276.pdf.

[1] Analysis drawn from the authors questionnaire submitted to the Strategic community and students

[1] https://www.stimson.org/2021/the-challenge-of-a-two-front-war-indias-china-pakistan-dilemma/

[1] https://www.financialexpress.com/business/defence-india-emerges-as-top-importer-of-arms-sipri-3007649/


India and Central Asia: Navigating the Geo-Political Flux


Changes in the geo-political and geo-economic architecture over the last few years have been cataclysmic. Changes have been taking place globally in the past decades also, for instance, the 9/11 attacks; the 2007-08 international financial and economic crises; the shift of the centre of gravity of the global economy from the Trans-Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific, and many more. But the scale and pace of changes in the last three years starting with the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 followed by the Russian aggression of Ukraine, have been truly unprecedented. Hardly has any country remained unaffected by the economic, health and social impact of the pandemic. But before the world had even learnt to live with the debilitating effects of the pandemic, it was saddled with the deleterious impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Although the physical conflict is confined to a limited part of Central Europe, its geo-economic and geo-strategic tremors have been felt around the world. Beginning with the severe shortages of food, fuel and fertilisers worldwide, the conflict has resulted in back-breaking inflation particularly for the developing countries, huge unsustainable debt levels, again more pronounced for developing countries, regression on the Sustainable Development Goals, a further exacerbation of the climate change challenge, disruption of supply chains, and several more.

Central Asia

The Central Asian region comprising of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan has been largely peaceful and stable since the countries attained independence on the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. There have been a few aberrations like the civil war in Tajikistan in the early 1990s, the Andijan uprising in Uzbekistan in 2005, the Tulip Revolution in 2005 and violent protests in 2010 and 2020 in Kyrgyzstan, but overall, the Central Asian space has remained relatively peaceful and tranquil. Even the Arab Spring was not able to have much of an impact on Central Asia, notwithstanding its geographical and cultural proximity to the region.

This relative calm was broken in January, 2022 with carnage and arson in Kazakhstan when 233 people were killed and several hundreds injured. In Uzbekistan, violent protests broke out in early July, 2022 in the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan against the proposed constitutional changes in which 18 people were killed and hundreds wounded. Violent clashes erupted between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in September, 2022 over a dispute on territory and a water body claimed by both the sides in which more than 100 people were killed.

Increased uncertainty also engulfed the region since the time the Taliban captured power in Afghanistan in August, 2021. Barring Tajikistan, all Central Asian countries, as well as Iran and several others are engaging with the Taliban regime in Kabul in economic, commercial and security areas, although none have accorded full diplomatic recognition to it. These countries have their diplomatic personnel functioning from Kabul. There have been reports of firing rockets and bullets by the Afghan based Islamic State of Khorasan Province into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in recent months. But thus far the situation has not spiralled out of control.

No part of the world has remained unaffected by the challenges thrown up by the pandemic and the Ukraine conflict. The Central Asian region is no exception. In addition to the challenges enumerated above, the Central Asian countries find themselves in an even more vulnerable situation because of their very close partnership and security relations with the Soviet Union, of which they were an integral part till 1991, and later, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, with Russia, and, on account of their robust and expanding economic and commercial partnership with China.

Russia in Central Asia

Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has been viewed as the security provider of the Central Asia region. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a NATO like security bloc established in 1992 under the leadership of the Russian Federation with three Central Asian States viz Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as members, was expected to ensure security and stability of countries in the region. The CSTO did promptly swing into action to dispatch a few thousand troops to provide security to Kazakhstan when it was rocked by violent protests and demonstrations at the beginning of 2022. Their presence on the Kazakh soil was designed to lend support and provide assurance to the Kazakh forces. They did not have to fire a single bullet and left within ten days of their deployment. But the fact that the Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev turned to the Russia-led CSTO to save his government is demonstrative of Russia’s authority and dominance, and the dependence of Central Asian states on Russia, for safeguarding their security.

In this backdrop, the Russia-Ukraine conflict which has been continuing for the last more than thirteen months has resulted in a significant decline in the prestige of Russia in the world and the region. It was initially thought that Russia would be able to effect a quick regime change in Kiev resulting in an early end to the war. This, to the surprise of many, did not happen.

Right from the beginning, Ukrainian President Zelensky maintained that he was fighting to win. No one believed him. They attributed his statements to misplaced bravado.  But Zelensky and his forces as well as the Ukrainian people surprised all observers by staunchly withstanding the onslaught of the mighty Russian army. Russian President Putin declared that the Russian forces would be welcomed as liberators in Ukraine but the tenacity with which the Ukrainian soldiers and people continue to defend their country would have come as a harsh reality check for the over-confident Russian forces.

Ukraine’s unanticipated successes around the end of last year of taking over large swathes of land in the north and south of the country earlier annexed by Russia, as well as strategically situated towns like Lyman took Russia as well as the world by surprise. The wisdom at the start of the war was that Ukraine cannot win because Russia cannot lose. The significant reverses suffered by Russia around the end of last year forced the global strategic community to re-examine their assumptions.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has completely transformed the relative equation between Russia and China in Central Asia. This had started becoming evident even in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The ensuing sanctions by the West resulted in pushing Russia increasingly into the embrace of China with Russia emerging as a subordinate partner to China. The last few months have thrown up many instances which would emphatically suggest that the Central Asian nations are getting increasingly uneasy and uncomfortable with Russia’s actions in Ukraine. The influence of Russia in Central Asia which it characterises as its ‘’near abroad’’ appears to be declining. Several instances to substantiate the above can be cited. Some of these are:

  • Both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan which are the largest countries of Central Asia in land area and population respectively, pursue ‘’multi-vector foreign policies.’’ Leaders of both the countries have stated unequivocally that they will not recognise the independent status of Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics.
  • At the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in June, 2022, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan responding to a question in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Kazakhstan does not acknowledge the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics. He said that if the right of nations to self-determination was recognised, there would be more than 500-600 countries instead of the current 193 members of the UN. For this reason, he said that Kazakhstan inter alia does not recognise the independence of Kosovo, or [the breakaway Georgian regions of] South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And, also quasi-state territories like Luhansk and Donetsk. Kazakh Foreign Ministry stated on 26th September, 2022 that it will not recognise the referenda conducted by Russia in the four provinces of Ukraine through which Russia annexed these territories of Ukraine. It voiced its support for the territorial integrity of States.
  • During the same visit to St Petersburg, Tokayev, in response to a question from the state-run Rossia-24 television station, about the gratitude that Kazakhstan ought to feel for the support rendered by Russia/CSTO to it in its hour of need in January, 2022, stated: “In Russia some people distort this whole situation asserting that Russia supposedly saved Kazakhstan and Kazakhstan should now eternally serve and bow down at the feet of Russia. I believe that these are totally unjustified arguments that are far from reality”.
  • The then Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov stated in the Uzbek Senate on 17th March, 2022: “Uzbekistan historically has traditional all-round ties with both Ukraine and Russia…Uzbekistan recognizes the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We do not recognize the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics”.
  • Senior Kazakh leaders have stated on several occasions that Kazakhstan will not violate the Western sanctions imposed on Russia as it did not wish to be subjected to secondary sanctions of the western nations.
  • Timur Suleimenov, the first deputy chief of staff to president Tokayaev said during his visit to Brussels in March, 2022: “We have not recognised and do not recognise either the situation with Crimea or the situation with Donbass, because the UN does not recognise them. We will only respect decisions made at the level of the United Nations”.
  • Kazakhstan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Roman Vassilenko, in a meeting with the EU in March, 2022, emphasised the importance of minimising or preventing the negative effects of EU’s sanctions against Russia on trade and economic relations between Kazakhstan and EU. He added: “European companies are leaving Russia either due to sanctions or due to pressure from the public, from shareholders and ethical reasons. They want to be somewhere in the neighbourhood, and we would like to be that neighbour.’’ He said in an interview that Kazakhstan did not want to become a collateral victim of politically motivated economic warfare and if ‘’there is a new iron curtain, we do not want to be behind it.”
  • Both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have expressed keen interest to welcome multinational companies which want to leave Russia as a result of the sanctions imposed by Western nations on Russia. According to reports, several companies have relocated to these countries although not in numbers that were originally anticipated.
  • Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have expressly barred their nationals residing in Russia to join the war effort against Ukraine. It appears that at the beginning of the conflict, but particularly after the announcement of mobilisation of 300,000 troops by Russia in September, 2022, Russia offered attractive salaries and also expedited processes to obtain citizenship of the country by migrant workers from Central Asia after having served at the front for one year.

Central Asian countries are feeling nervous both at the arguments advanced by Russia to launch its offensive against Ukraine as also the impunity with which President Putin was able to carry out the attack. Some of them, particularly Kazakhstan, are worried that they could be next. Kazakhstan has the world’s longest land border of more than 7,000 kms with Russia and also has a 18% population of Russian origin and ethnicity. Kazakhstan in particular, but the other Central Asian nations to a lesser extent, are fearful of Russia’s thinking.

Recently there was a tweet by former Russian President and PM Dmitry Medvedev that Kazakhstan is an “Artificial State”. This tweet was however quickly taken down and it was clarified that Medvedev’s account had been hacked. Putin had himself made a similar assertion some years ago. Several right-wing politicians in Russia have made threatening noises after Tokayev’s statement in St Petersburg in June, 2022 warning Kazakhstan that it should watch its steps as it could be the next after Ukraine. Tokayev had quite clearly made his displeasure and objection evident during that visit.

The unimpressive performance by the Russian army in Ukraine over the last thirteen months has forced the Central Asian countries to re-think that if Russia has been found wanting so woefully in Ukraine, how would it be able to provide security to them.

China in Central Asia

China has been rapidly expanding its footprint in Central Asia over the last many years, not only in the trade and economic fields but also in political, military and security affairs. This has been evident in the myriad oil and gas pipelines from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in Central Asia to China over the last two decades as well as the establishment of a military/police post in recent years in Tajikistan. The Belt and Road Initiative launched initially as the One Belt One Road Project in 2013 in Kazakhstan has provided a further impetus to the rapidly expanding China-Central Asia partnership.

The diminishing stature of Russia in the Region has animated China to quickly enhance its influence in the region. This was visible in the recent announcement of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway link which had been lying dormant for the last many years because of Russia’s objections. Also, several far-reaching agreements to further expand economic and commercial partnerships were signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visits to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in September, 2022.

While welcoming the flow of investment from China to their countries, the Central Asian nations, particularly the people, if not the ruling classes and elite, are apprehensive about the unduly growing influence of China in their countries. In the middle of the growing anxieties as well as vacuum created by distraction of Russia from the region, China has been rapidly expanding its foot print in Central Asia. It launched the first China + Central Asia (C+C5) foreign ministers’ meeting in July, 2020 and is taking it forward very pro-actively. Snatching a leaf out of India’s book, China hosted its first Summit with leaders of Central Asia on 25th January, 2022, just days before the India-Central Asia Summit. President Xi Jinping has invited the leaders of Central Asia to visit China in May, 2023 for an in-person Summit. From all accounts, China wishes to make the Summit partnership as the most significant vehicle to take the relationship to newer heights.

Other Countries Also Interested

Several countries in the region and beyond are also sensing this opportunity and are keen to strengthen their partnership with these countries. Turkiye has been working on Central Asian countries for the last many years. It shares historical, cultural, linguistic, religious and civilisational ties with all of them, except with Tajikistan. The last few years have witnessed frequent meetings between the leadership of Central Asia with the President of Turkey. President Erdogan was present in person for the first time at any SCO Summit in Samarkand. Erdogan also travelled to Astana, Kazakhstan for the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in October, 2022.

Iran has also been advancing its partnership with Central Asia. It became the newest member of SCO at the Samarkand Summit in 2022. Iranian President Raisi also attended the CICA Summit in Astana in October, 2022. The US organised a C5+1 meeting with the foreign ministers of all Central Asian states in the margins of the UNGA in New York in 2022. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in late February, 2023.  This was one of the rare visits by a US Secretary of State to Central Asia. Prior to this, the then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in February, 2020. On both these occasions, meetings of C5+1 between foreign ministers of Central Asian states and USA were held in Kazakhstan.

President Charles Michel of the European Union visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in October, 2022. He met the leaders of all the five Central Asian states in Kazakhstan during his visit. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy visited Uzbekistan in November, 2022 and participated in two important meetings in Samarkand: the EU-Central Asia Ministerial meeting and the EU-Central Asia Connectivity conference.

India in Central Asia

The rapidly changing dynamics of Central Asia’s regional and global political, strategic and economic architecture provides a bright opportunity for India to diversify and deepen its partnership with these countries. The Central Asian countries constitute a part of India’s extended neighbourhood. India has millennia old historical and civilisational relations with these countries. India has not been able to leverage its age-old connections with this region because of the absence of geographic contiguity and lack of connectivity with these countries. India has significantly accelerated its engagement with the region over the last nine years starting with the historic visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to all the five countries in July, 2015. Recent months and years have witnessed a significant uptick in the intensity of bilateral ties.

Prime Minister Modi organised a Central Asia+India Summit in a virtual format on 27th January, 2022. It was agreed that such Summits would be organised every two years. PM Modi visited Samarkand, Uzbekistan in September, 2022 and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in June, 2019 for the SCO Summits. India and Central launched the India-Central Asia Dialogue at the level of foreign ministers in Samarkand, Uzbekistan in 2019. The last such Dialogue chaired by Dr S Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister took place in New Delhi in December, 2021. National Security Advisor (NSA) Shri Ajit Doval organised a meeting of regional National Security Advisors to discuss the situation in Afghanistan in November last year. This was attended amongst others by NSAs of all the Central Asian countries. Indian ministers and senior officials from different departments and agencies of the government have inter alia met their counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (who are members of the SCO) frequently in SCO meetings in capitals of countries who have chaired the SCO Summits.

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