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Lecture by Ambassador Harsh Shringla on “Developmental Priorities and India’s Neighbourhood: View from Darjeeling”

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  • May 31, 2024
    Speeches and Lectures

    Under MP-IDSA’s Eminent Persons Lecture Series, Ambassador Harsh Shringla delivered his lecture on “Developmental Priorities and India’s Neighbourhood: Views from Darjeeling” on 31 May 2024. The Session was chaired by Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA. Scholars of the MP-IDSA attended the meeting.

    Executive Summary

    The lecture highlighted the evolving global landscape, characterised by shifting power dynamics and the limitations of existing global institutions in addressing modern challenges effectively. It underscored India's emerging role as an advocate for the Global South, drawing from the Speaker's extensive experience in the Ministry of External Affairs. The discussion emphasised the importance of adopting a comprehensive foreign policy approach that balances regional development with international diplomacy, considering the intricate interplay between local and global factors.

    Detailed Report

    In his opening remarks, the Director General, Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy welcomed Ambassador Harsh Shringla to MP-IDSA. He highlighted Amb. Shringla’s diplomatic career including as the Chief Coordinator for India's G20 Presidency. He invited Amb. Shringla to share his perspectives on regional developmental challenges, the future of India’s neighbourhood and India’s emergence as a voice for the Global South, particularly in the context of India’s G20 Presidency.  

    Amb. Harsh Shringla began by expressing gratitude for being invited to share his insights. He acknowledged the importance of engaging in discussions on foreign policy and developmental challenges. He emphasised that the world is navigating through very uncertain times, which necessitates a thoughtful consideration of significant shifts in global leadership and influence. He added that these shifts contribute to rebalancing of economic growth and manufacturing power, with countries like China rising in prominence and altering the traditional global power dynamics away from the United States and Europe.

    Amb. Shringla also discussed the implications of this rebalancing on global governance, questioning the ability of existing institutions like the United Nations and global financial organisations to effectively address the challenges of the 21st century. He highlighted the lack of effectiveness in global governance, attributing it to a lack of diversity and equity within key institutions. For instance, he noted the deadlock in the United Nations Security Council and the limited capabilities of the World Bank, which lacks the resources and military backing to address issues effectively. He added that the developing countries often find themselves disproportionately affected by these global shifts, facing high prices for essential goods, increasing economic disparity, and severe impacts of climate change.

    Amb. Shringla further highlighted the evolution of India's foreign policy over the past 20-30 years. India has transitioned from primarily responding to global initiatives to leading and devising solutions based on its own ideas and traditions. He emphasised the success of UPI under the Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) initiative, noting that 40 percent of global digital transactions take place in India. Additionally, India administered over 2 billion COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, starting with its neighbours, through both grants (Vaccine Maitri) and commercial schemes.

    The Speaker also touched upon the importance of maintaining peace and stability in global conflicts. He highlighted India's balanced approach, avoiding direct involvement in wars while promoting diplomatic resolutions. He cited Prime Minister Modi's stance on global cooperation, underscoring the principle of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" (the world is one family) as a guiding philosophy for India's foreign policy.  He discussed India's strategic approach during the recent global conflicts and crises. According to Amb. Shringla, India has consistently preferred a multipolar world order, projecting itself as a pole rather than aligning with any so-called bipolar or unipolar order. He underlined that purchasing discounted Russian oil helped stabilise domestic prices and contributed to global market stability. This action demonstrated India's ability to navigate complex international situations while adhering to sanctions and maintaining economic stability, he added.

    While expressing the need to move towards renewable energy, Amb. Shringla stated that India has the potential to meet 80% of its energy requirements through renewable sources. He underscored that this shift would benefit both the economy and environment, positioning India as a leader in global climate mitigation efforts. He stressed the importance of voluntary and individual lifestyle changes to achieve environmental sustainability, advocating policies that promote modest and efficient utilisation of resources. Amb. Shringla highlighted that India's proactive foreign policy has evolved to focus on global initiatives and solutions.

    The discussion highlighted the development challenges in West Bengal due to the contested dynamics between the TMC-led State Government and the BJP-led Central Government. Despite the central government’s intentions, state-level politics and demographic shifts hinder effective development. This scenario emphasises the need to reconcile regional aspirations for autonomy with the central goal of fostering development. He underlined that the security situation in the Northeast remains complex, with unresolved grievances and the influence of neighbouring countries like Myanmar and Bangladesh, directly impacting India's border states and complicating regional stability and development. He concluded by stating that India’s Foreign Policy must address these cross-border influences, as the conflict in Myanmar and instability in Bangladesh have significant repercussions within India. Collaborating closely with regional authorities and considering local sentiments for autonomy and development is crucial.

    Questions and Comments

    The Director General, Amb. Chinoy thanked Ambassador Shringla for his remarks.

    The Q&A session offered an in-depth look at India's strategic priorities, touching on the intricacies of India-US relations, India's firm pursuit of its national interest, as well as regional security and economic development. He also observed that there is a systemic imbalance at the global level, contributing to conflicts and unrest in the Middle East, Ukraine, and other parts of the world. Therefore, equilibrium is required in the international system.

    Amb. Shringla provided responses to all the questions. The session emphasised the need for pragmatic diplomacy to navigate the global landscape, uphold India's strategic autonomy, and promote multipolarity. The interaction concluded with a formal Vote of Thanks to the Speaker by the Director General.

    The Report has been prepared by Ms. Sneha M., Research Analyst, South Asia Centre.