Conference on India as a Global Power: Contending Views from India
The Rising Powers Initiative, in partnership with the Center for New American Security (CNAS) hosted a conference on January 23 and 24 in Washington, D.C. entitled, “India as a Global Power: Contending Views from India.” The conference featured a panel of prominent Indian guests. The delegation included Mani Shankar Aiyar, Member of Indian Parliament, Rajya Sabha (Council of States); Bharat Karnad, Research Professor in National Security Studies, Centre for Policy Research; Lalit Mansingh, Former Foreign Secretary of India and Ambassador to the United States; and TN Ninan, Chairman and Chief Editor of the Business Standard.
The morning of January 23 included two sessions on Indian Views on National Security and Defense and Indian Views on Economics, International Institutions, and Transnational Issues. The first panel, chaired by co-PI Deepa Ollapally, elicited the Indians’ diverging views on national security and defense topics. Specifically, panelists debated Indian foreign policy on Pakistan, China, the South China Sea, Afghanistan, and Iran.
Next, Richard Fontaine from our conference partner, CNAS, chaired a second panel which featured a discussion among our four Indian guests on economics, international institutions, and transnational issues. The audience heard vigorous debate about how India should use a potential UN Security Council seat – or even if such a seat should be a goal for India. The panel also discussed at length Indian views on US-led sanctions on Iran. In addition, the panelists debated India’s role in addressing climate change.
We were delighted to host Nirupama Rao, Indian Ambassador to the United States as our keynote speaker during lunch. Her address gave an insider’s perspective on the Indo-US relationship and also shed light on her views on US talks with the Taliban, which she termed a “prospect for victory of those dark forces of terrorism and religious extremism.” A full transcript of her speech can be found here.
Following lunch, a panel of four strategic thinkers on U.S.-Indian relations and U.S. foreign policy toward South Asia, who represent four different schools of thought in U.S .foreign relations, took the stage to respond to the morning’s discussion. Co-PI Henry R. Nau moderated the panel which included: Doug Bandow, Cato Institute; Sadanand Dhume, American Enterprise Institute; George Perkovich, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Dan Twining, German Marshall Fund of the United States. As with the Indian panelists, the Americans illustrated key differences among U.S.-based schools of thought on many of the same issues debated by the Indians during the morning.
In our final session, we brought our Indian delegation, back to the podium to share their reactions to the preceding discussion among the US analysts.
The second day of the conference involved a series of meetings with Congressional staffers and senior level experts on India. We escorted the Indian delegation to a meeting convened by the India Senate Caucus in the Office of Senator Mark Warner, who is the co-chair of the Caucus. This hour-long event presented the unique opportunity for legislative aides with portfolios on international relations, defense, and economics to directly pose questions to the Indian guests on these topics.
From Capitol Hill, we drove back to the Elliott School where the delegation held a lunch conversation with a select group of senior experts on India. The group included two deputy assistant secretaries of State, the South Asia director for the National Security Council, experts from GWU and CSIS, and journalists from Global India Newswire, Indian Express, Hindustan Times, Times of India, and Press Trust of India. This session was especially important for the project since it allowed a small group of senior government and media officials – who are far too busy to ever attend a full-day conference – the chance to be exposed to the schools of thought analytical framework developed in the first phase of the Worldviews project and interact with the Indian delegation – which embodied the spectrum of schools of thought in Indian strategic thinking.
Finally, the day ended with the Indians, accompanied by Henry R. Nau (GWU), Deepa Ollapally (GWU), Richard Fontaine (CNAS), and Matt Grieger (GWU) traveling to the House of Representatives.
The delegation had a 40-minute, private meeting with Representative Steve Chabot, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on South Asia and the Middle East. Topics of discussion included: sanctions on Iran, energy security for India and the United States, nuclear proliferation, and trade.
A full conference summary, along with photos, audio, and video will be available shortly.