December 24, 2010

India-US Relations: Post President Obama's Visit

Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Najeeb Jung,

                    Joint Secretary, Navdeep Suri


    I am honored to be in your midst at this august institution, the Jamia Millia Islamia Central University.  I have been asked to share some thoughts with you this afternoon on the current state of India-US relations, following the visit to India last month of President Barak Obama.  The views expressed by me are personal and, apart from my past experience, based on information in the public domain.  I was not even present in Delhi during the US President’s visit.

    Let me touch briefly on our relationship with the US before the visit.  These relations were given a major boost during the visit of President Bill Clinton to India towards the conclusion of his second term as President in 2000.  The relationship scaled unprecedented heights during the Presidency of George W. Bush, particularly during his second term in office.  This was manifested above all in the historic India-US civil nuclear deal, the unique single country specific exemption for India from the application of the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) (which was discriminatory and intentionally so) and the approval of an Additional Protocol by Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  Another important milestone was the conclusion of a 10 year framework on Defence Cooperation by the two Defence Ministers in 1995.  There were several other initiatives for bilateral and global cooperation which transformed India-US relations to the most broad-based relationship that India has with any country in the world.  The strategic initiatives, including the nuclear deal, were first envisaged in the Next Steps of Strategic Partnership (NSSP) announced jointly by former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and President George Bush in January 2004.  It was strange that this visionary initiative of Shri Vajpayee was not recognised by his own party.  Prime Minister Manmonhan Singh’s sagacity and strategic foresight led him to stake the future of his government on this issue. It was also ironic that the major global implications of the deal were better realised by most countries abroad, including by China and Pakistan, than in our Parliament.  

Track 2 and Back Channel Diplomacy in India-Pakistan Relations

Track 2 and Back Channel Diplomacy in India-Pakistan Relations.
By G Parthasarathy
Traditional Diplomacy has, for centuries, involved talks in closed chambers between the rulers of countries, or their designated representatives, to resolve differences, forge alliances and put in place new architecture for cooperation and coexistence, after conflicts.  But, in the contemporary world, civil society activists, academics, politicians, corporate business representatives and persons well versed in the conduct of international relations play an increasingly important role in influencing and moulding the foreign and security policies of nations. In the present day, therefore, contacts between designated Government representatives are very often complemented by inputs resulting from meetings between non-official representatives of countries. On many occasions, when Governments wish to avoid publicity, or seek to informally ascertain the positions of others, before entering into the realm of official and formal talks, they utilize informal channels, using trusted and reliable individuals and institutions for planning out their negotiating strategies. Equally, when civil society institutions feel adequately concerned about situations getting out of hand, they take the initiative for contacting counterparts abroad, to ascertain whether they can contribute to easing tensions, or promoting cooperation. Such moves are the basis for what is now popularly known as Track 2 Diplomacy.

October 26, 2010

Politics of Multilateralism: The Geneva Story by Amb. Swashpawan Singh

Swashpawan Singh

Professor Tyagi, distinguished guests and friends,

As we observe United Nations Day and meet to recall its many achievements and its limitations, I consider it an honour to have been invited by the School of International Studies of this venerated University, to share with you my thoughts on ”The Politics of Multilateralism: The Geneva Story”.

I recall with nostalgia and much pleasure, my brief association with SIS as part of the program of training as a young Foreign Service Probationer in 1975. It was in the old campus. We had the opportunity of being tutored by a faculty of renowned scholars. They told us about how the world was structured, what India’s place in it was, and how the aspirations of a young nation state, which was also an ancient civilization, could be realised. Their discourse was inspiring, rooted in a vision of a better world that would be more equitable, more inclusive, free, peaceful and democratic. One in which the historical injustices of colonialism would be addressed and sustainable development promoted. It was a vision imbued with idealism and hope and in which the United Nations and other multilateral institutions would play a leading and positive role.

There was a basis for this optimism in the mid seventies. The United Nations had done well. It had assisted in bringing about decolonisation and an end to apartheid. It had created normative principles to regulate international conduct. It had addressed issues such as disarmament, social development, gender equality, population, food and water and a host of problems which were directly relevant for the developing world. Common transnational services related to civil aviation, maritime regulations, health, telecommunications, postal systems, refugees, world weather and food security among others, were the global public goods that had been contributed by the UN multilateral system. New ways of addressing the inequities of the international economic system were studied and creative solutions were proposed, some even implemented (General system of preferences, commodity fund, special drawing rights etc). The sense of idealism was reinforced.

October 23, 2010

Lecture on Indo-Pak Relations by Amb. K. Sibal

Lecture on Indo-Pak Relations by Amb. K. Sibal at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar
22Oct 2010

India’s relations with Pakistan are exceedingly complex. The problems are multi-dimensional, stretching across politics, security, territory, religion, history, geography, psychology etc. It is not merely a foreign policy issue, and therefore the normal tools of diplomacy are not enough to resolve them.

Pakistan has no historical basis; it has only a political one. If it was the case that two distinct people, with their own clear sense of history and identity, had been forced to cohabit against their will, and at an opportune moment separated as independent entities, reconciliation would be easier in principle. But if division is made because of political expediency, distorted narratives and geo-political reasons, and the cut and paste separation remains incomplete, then the wounds of partition will fester.

The “two nation theory”, the basis of Pakistan’s creation, lost meaning with millions of Muslims staying on in India in 1947, and, later, Pakistan itself getting divided into two separate Muslim nations. The integrative role of India’s democracy and secularism vis a vis our Muslims is a continuing challenge to the asumptions on which Pakistan was created. This accounts for Pakistan’s Islamization drive, its attempts to delink itself from its Indian moorings and orient itself toward the Arab world, and its emphasis on differences with India. Pakistan has, for the same reason, striven to excite communal passions in India so as to weaken India’s secular fabric.

September 28, 2010

Role of Technology in India's Foreign Relations by Amb. B. Balakrishnan


Role of Technology in India’s foreign relations

Starting with the basic concepts of Technology and International Relations, we outline a conceptual framework showing the impact of technology on international relations, including the contest for power, dominance and control. The increasing importance of technology related issues in foreign relations of countries and on global issues such as climate change, energy and environment is outlined.

We review India’s technological development since independence, especially in strategically important areas. In particular some key recent technology issues that have become important in India’s foreign relations are analyzed. Some of the most recent challenges that have arisen in regulating technology, such as preventing access by terrorists, spread of mass destruction weapons, protecting intellectual property rights, are outlined. The importance of technology in international relations is likely to grow in future, posing challenges for India’s foreign relations.

MEA Distinguished Lecture Series on India's Foreign Policy
“Role of Technology in India’s foreign relations”
IIT Roorkee, 28 Sept 2010


Technology is as old as human civilization. Man has constantly tried to enlarge knowledge, and apply it in diverse ways to meet his needs. This practical application of basic knowledge is what we call technology. Throughout history, the search for knowledge and its application through technology have been important determining factors in the progress of human society. In the competition for dominance and control, societies which forged ahead in mastery of basic knowledge and technology were able to succeed, sometimes far beyond expectations.

This paradigm changing, force multiplying effect of technology has been responsible for major historical changes and relations among societies in the past. Examples are numerous. The discovery of agriculture allowed for the feeding of larger populations, and development of complex societies. The Mongols used a composite bow which was compact and more powerful, and could be used on horseback. Babur used cannons from Turkey to win the battle of Panipat in 1526. The impact of technology on warfare and military balance was particularly striking, allowing relatively smaller forces to prevail because of superior technology. This phenomenon continues even in modern times, when the first atomic bombs caused the immediate surrender of Japan.

September 16, 2010

The Evolution of India-Russia Relations by Amb. Ronen Sen





Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor Prof. Suranjan Das,

Mr. Rudrangshu Mukherjee,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am highly honoured to have the opportunity to address this distinguished gathering in the august premises of Calcutta University. It was India’s first English medium university, with an initial jurisdiction of almost subcontinnental proportions from Burma and the North-East through Bengal and the Indo-Gangatic plains and undivided Punjab to the NWFP and Baluchistan, and Ceylon in the South. It had a number of other firsts, including India’s first science college, first college for women, first art college, Asia’s first medical college etc. It was led by outstanding educationalists, like Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee; had illustrious faculty members, including Rabindranath Tagore, Sir C.V. Raman, Nilratan Sarkar, Sarvapali Radhakrishnan; distinguished alumni, such as Rajendra Prasad and Amartya Sen. In view of the University’s awesome reputation, and my poor academic record, you will understand my reluctance to reveal that I am an alumnus of this institution.

Given my last diplomatic assignment in the United States, I have been viewed, correctly, as a strong advocate of Indo-US partnership and, in particular, as one of the architects of the Indo-US nuclear deal. The longest association of my diplomatic career has, however, been with Russia. Some of the happiest and most challenging years of my life has been in Moscow.

I have spent more years in Moscow than in any other city, including my birthplace, Pune. I also happen to be the only Indian diplomat, so far, to serve in every diplomatic rank in our Embassy in Moscow, from that of Third Secretary to Ambassador, in the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s and, finally, in the ‘90s. My long experience does not imply that I am a specialist on Russia. I remain a student of developments in that great country. Today, I will share with you some of my personal experiences and assessments on Indo-Russian relations, which I am convinced deserves more public attention and discourse than it has in recent years.

Each of my assignments in Moscow happened to coincide with major transitional periods in our relationship with the former Soviet Union, and subsequently, with Russia. There was a major transformation of the Soviet policies on the Indian sub-continent from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. These evolved from seeking leverage in Pakistan through large-scale Soviet arms supplies to that country, and thereby revive its mediatory role between India and Pakistan, to one of strong support of India and recognition of our regional pre-eminence. This was manifested in the Indo-Soviet Treaty and the decisive Soviet role in countering US-China moves in developments leading to the liberation of Bangladesh.

September 13, 2010

Amb. Ronen Sen's Address at Jadavpur University


Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor Prof. Pradeep Narayan Ghosh;
Hon’ble Professor Radharaman Chakrabarty, President of
the Jadavpur Association of International Relations;
Distinguished Members of the Faculty;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to have the opportunity of addressing you at this highly reputed centre of learning in the fields of engineering, science and arts. I am aware that your university has one of the best departments on political science and international relations in our country, and that I am speaking to a knowledgeable and discerning audience.

I have been asked to speak to you this afternoon on our efforts in sensitizing US interest groups to appreciate India’s concerns and priorities, and to what extent this was a manifestation of a successful public diplomacy exercise abroad. Before I come to this subject, I would like to make some general observations.

In one sense, the term “public diplomacy” is an oxymoron, a fundamental contradiction in both conceptual and practical terms. Each country seeks to pursue its own national interests, while preserving its independence of action and autonomy in decision-making. Ultimately, however, the most effective diplomacy is aimed at an optimal balance of maximizing its national security or socio-economic development objectives, while minimizing the corresponding dilution of national sovereignty. No amount of rhetorical posturing can alter this basic reality of international negotiations. This applies to all countries, large or small, though of course in varying degrees, with the rise and decline of the economic and strategic strength of individual countries or of regional groups. Concepts such as national autonomy or complete self-reliance have always been divorced from realities. This is all the more so in the process of globalisation, not only of markets but of global threats posed by failing States, religious extremism, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change, pandemics and so on.

September 7, 2010

India’s Engagement With A Resurgent Africa: Amb. H.H.S.Viswanathan

Lecture at Central University of Jharkhand
By Amb. H.H.S.Viswanathan
7 September, 2010

Historical links
India and the African continent have been linked for centuries through trade, commerce and travel across the Indian Ocean. There are historical evidences of well-established Indian settlements in the coastal regions of Africa and some Indian connections even in the hinterland. Many Indian plants are of African origin, millet being the prime example of a crop which travelled all the way from West Africa to India. The great Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama took the help of two Indian sailors in his first and subsequent voyages to navigate him from East Africa to Calicut.

With the advent of Colonialism, the traditional trade was disrupted. However, contacts continued to flourish through other ways. Indians were taken in large numbers to the new colonies to work on the plantations, for the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway and as subordinate staff in the colonial administration. Today there is a very large Indian diaspora in Africa of about 24 million ie. more than 2million. Some Indian enterprises have been there for a very long time, like the Chellarams in Nigeria started their business in 1923.

September 6, 2010

Prospects and challenges for a resurgent Africa- Amb.H.H.S.Viswanathan

Prospects and challenges for a resurgent AfricaLecture at Ranchi University by Amb.H.H.S.Viswanathan.

Image of Africa in the past

Africa has been in the news in a very positive way in June and July this year because of the FIFA World Cup. It was a proud moment for Africa for having organized one of the best, if not the best ever, World Cup. Players like Drogba and Gyan became household names. We marveled at the meticulous organization of the event. But Africa, unfortunately, has not been getting such positive coverage traditionally. In fact, the awareness about Africa is both low and distorted. It is depicted as a Continent of war, disease and poverty with no hope of progress. Hardly any of the success stories of Africa would be reported. It is true that Africa, as a continent, has had more than its share of misfortunes. There have been historical reasons for this. Today, we see a new resurgent Africa. In my presentation, I will go into both these aspects.

India Builds Asia's Largest Film School

Film City, a state-government run enterprise, stretching out on 400 acres is known as Mumbai’s green lung. During the monsoon months, thickets and trees turn into a deep green and grass sprouts wildly all around. Whistling Woods International (WWI), a 20 acre film school (billed as Asia’s largest) , is set amidst this sylvan terrain. It regards itself as the third real film and media studies centre after the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune and the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in Kolkata.

WWI is a recent creation. Established in 2006 by one of the best known producer-director-screenwriters in the industry, Subhash Ghai, it is a complete film school, offering a two-year course not just in film, television and media arts but in broadcasting and media management as well. It covers direction, production, screenwriting, editing, cinematography and sound recording and design. There’s an MBA in Media and Entertainment as well, a part-time screenwriting course, a school of animation and an actor’s studio.

September 1, 2010

Revealing India – Cinema with a Purpose

A group of men walk towards a young boy being carried by his father. As the boy notices that the men are Muslim, he frantically rubs the stripes off his father’s forehead, trying to conceal their religious identity from the hostile group. Another clip reveals a woman questioning why she has to feel incomplete without a man. These aren’t scenes from an Oscar line-up with themes of terrorism, gender equality or the intricacy of human relationships. These are excerpts from regional Indian films that reveal an India far removed from popular perception created by commercial Bollywood films. The themes and messages are very close to not only the film makers’ hearts, but a reflection of the reality in different regions of India. There are a thousand movies produced in this country annually. To most of us this would translate to Bollywood, as the Hindi film industry is popularly known, churning out a majority of these films. However, Anu Radha’s ‘Cinema with a Purpose’ reveals the lesser known facts about the film industry outside Bollywood, which in fact dominates 70 percent of the film production in India.

It would be unfair to say that Bollywood only produces big budget commercial fare with a focus on style rather than substance. There is a lot of originality and experimentation within Bollywood today, but ‘Cinema with a Purpose’ suggests that regional cinema has long been ahead of Bollywood when it comes to realistic or controversial themes. The documentary is peppered with excerpts from Tamil, Bengali, Telegu and Marathi films that focus on everything from communalism to hierarchical relationships in society. To believe that these cater to a well educated or urban niche audience is also a misconception. Interviews with film makers and actors like Nandita Das and Amol Palekar reveal that regional film festivals are well attended by a cross section of rickshaw pullers to local homemakers to students. These films run for a considerable time in theatres with their inspirational messages and a reality that many in the audience have experienced.

Asian Film Critics bowled over by Hyderabad Film City

The group was invited and hosted by Public Diplomacy Division of MEA in connection with the Netpac film festival. ( At Fancy Street, Ramoji Film City)

Ramoji Film City, an hour’s drive from Hyderabad, is a total package. Vast (it sprawls over 1666 acres) and monumental, extravagant and flamboyant, it appears to be, at first a collection of sets for cinema. In the words of its founder, Ramoji Rao, “it is a gateway, a one-stop shop for directors, providing every single item they may ever need… All you have to do is walk in with a script and walk out with a canned film.” And every in-betweens can be found right here.

The world’s largest studio, according to the Guinness World Records, there’s not a service Ramoji Film City does not provide: production paraphernalia, audio and video post-production (the audio lab is particularly remarkable, with its data-base of sound effects and its networked sound facility), film lab, high-end technology, state-of-the-art cameras, set design, costumes, props and, above all, locations. There’s enough infrastructure here to host 200 productions a year and an unlimited number of TV programmes. Ramoji Rao, owner of Eenadu TV and its twelve channels, says his offerings are far cheaper and more productive than any in Mumbai, and there’s scope for growth.

August 30, 2010

Amb. Sudhir Devare on India's Look East Policy

Former External Affair Secretary Amb. Sudhir Devare addresses Tezpur University

Ambassador Sudhir T Devare, Director General of the Indian Council of World Affairs and a former Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India delivered a Lecture on “India’s Look East Policy vis- a –vis the North East : Issues and Concerns” at the Kalaguru Bishni Prasad Rabha Auditorium of Tezpur University yesterday, August 27. The lecture was organized under the aegis of the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs as one in the Distinguished Lecture Series being initiated by the Division from this year. Speaking to a packed audience of the students, research scholars, faculty members and other dignitaries, Ambassador Devare dwelt upon the genesis of the Look East Policy and its ramifications and implications in the broader context of the new global economic realities and the perspective of the north east. While tracing the origin of the Look East policy in the 1994, Mr. Devare pointed out that India has been historically involved with providing global and regional leadership right from the years following our independence as witnessed in the pivotal role played by India in the Non Aligned Movement. Referring to the aspects of foreign policy dynamics and its evolution with the changing geopolitical developments, Mr. Devare pointed out to the post Soviet Russia disintegration shifts in global geopolitics and its consequences.

August 23, 2010

India's Climate Change Diplomacy

India’s Climate Change Diplomacy
by Chandrashekhar Dasgupta*
Banglore University 23 Aug 2010

I am delighted to have an opportunity to address alumni of the Bangalore University on the subject of climate change and Indian diplomacy. Twenty years ago, most people thought of climate change as an esoteric subject reserved for meteorologists and atmospheric scientists. When I first became deeply involved with climate change issues in 1990, it raised many eyebrows and I was frequently asked why a Foreign Service officer should spend his time on climate change. Indian diplomats today do not have to field such questions. Climate change is recognized as one of the most important global issues confronting humankind. It figures prominently on the agenda of virtually every major international summit.

Nature of the climate change problem

Why is this so? What is the nature of the climate change problem?

Our planet has experienced several cyclical climatic changes over the ages because of the operation of the forces of nature. The current phenomenon of global warming is, however, unprecedented. Its unique feature is that it is not caused by nature but by human activities. Its primary cause is the ever-increasing consumption of hydrocarbon fuels – coal, petroleum and natural gas - since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Combustion of increasing quantities of hydrocarbon fuels has generated a corresponding increase in emissions of carbon dioxide- the main greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere. The build-up, or concentration, of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere is causing the phenomenon of climate change or, in popular terminology, global warming. Unlike the cyclical climatic changes of past eras, the phenomenon we are confronting today has been caused by human beings.

July 17, 2010

Amb. R.M. Abhyankar Lecture on 'India & West Asia' at IIT Mumbai on 16th July 2010

MEA Distinguished Lecture Series on India's Foreign Policy
Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, 16 July 2010

Amb. Rajendra Abhyankar *

Director, IIT,And Friends,

I thank the Ministry of External Affairs and the IIT for giving me the opportunity to talk of Indian and West Asia – a region in which I spent over a decade of my career dealing with its complexities and challenges. It is interesting that I speak to you on West Asia here in Mumbai- I don’t know how many of you are aware that Iraq was administered from the Bombay Presidency during the early part of the British period. You have only to go to the Prince of Wales Museum - Chhatrapati Vastu Sangrahalaya - to see archaeological artefacts from ancient Iraqi sites which were brought to Mumbai then. But even more, Bombay has been, and remains, the first point of contact between the peoples of the Arab world- particularly the Gulf and Iran- and India. For decades we have seen Arabs in their traditional garb walking and lounging on Marine Drive taking the air in the monsoon season- something which is a rarity in their land.People who hail from Pune or Bangalore are equally familiar with Iranians who have settled generations ago. In fact when I was doing my PhD at Mumbai University Geroge’s Restaurant was a favourite for the Biryanis and Pullav’s it served!