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Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Raisina Dialogue: India’s global influence through Think Tanks and cultural diplomacy

In the realm of policymaking and its implementation, think tanks play a crucial role in India. While policies are articulated by the Prime Minister and government officials, the intellectual prowess of these institutions significantly shapes India’s cultural diplomacy landscape. Their influence on foreign policy is gaining recognition, as the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in India actively utilizes their expertise to advance the country’s interests on the global stage. An exemplary instance of this collaborative synergy is the annual Raisina Dialogue, a prestigious forum jointly organized by the MEA and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

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By: Dipak Kurmi

In the realm of policymaking and its implementation, think tanks play a crucial role in India. While policies are articulated by the Prime Minister and government officials, the intellectual prowess of these institutions significantly shapes India’s cultural diplomacy landscape. Their influence on foreign policy is gaining recognition, as the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in India actively utilizes their expertise to advance the country’s interests on the global stage. An exemplary instance of this collaborative synergy is the annual Raisina Dialogue, a prestigious forum jointly organized by the MEA and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF). This event serves as a prominent platform where global leaders converge to address pressing issues in the international arena. The recent edition of the Raisina Dialogue, with the participation of around 2500 individuals from 115 countries, focused on the theme ‘Chaturanga: Conflict, Contest, Cooperate, Create.’ It provided a vital space for discussions on the ever-evolving dynamics of the global landscape.

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A notable highlight of the dialogue was External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s advocacy for reforms in the United Nations and Security Council. His call underscored India’s stance on advocating for a global governance system that aligns with the contemporary world order, emphasizing inclusivity to accommodate the emergence of new global powers.

The deliberations during the Raisina Dialogue extensively explored the intricate geopolitical dynamics related to Russia. India put forth a perspective advocating for a nuanced approach, emphasizing the importance of providing Russia with diverse options beyond a close alignment with China. In the midst of contrasting views from Western nations, this stance reflects India’s strategic positioning as a ‘middle power,’ showcasing its ability to navigate amidst competing global interests. Furthermore, the discussions also touched upon topics such as cultural rebalancing and the challenge to biased narratives, highlighting India’s commitment to fostering fair representation in global diplomacy and challenging established norms.

The importance of the Raisina Dialogue extends beyond its distinguished participants, finding significance in its capacity to spark discussions that go beyond conventional diplomatic avenues. By orchestrating multilateral conferences and guided dialogues, entities like the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) fulfill a vital role in uniting stakeholders from similarly aligned states to craft solutions for shared challenges. The Raisina Dialogue serves as a platform that not only highlights India’s influential role in shaping the future global order but also underscores its assertiveness on the global stage.

The Raisina Dialogue, often likened to Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue, draws in prominent participants spanning diverse fields such as politics, defense, diplomacy, academia, and journalism. Over the years, it has hosted distinguished figures, including former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Held in New Delhi this year, the event featured panels delving into crucial topics, notably discussions on the Indo-Pacific security framework, exemplifying India’s dedication to regional stability and collaboration. At the Raisina Dialogue, think tanks contribute insights into how India’s cultural diplomacy can nurture mutual understanding and respect among nations. Their recommendations encompass leveraging cultural heritage, soft power assets, and digital platforms to bolster India’s global influence.

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Fundamentally, the Raisina Dialogue stands as proof of the escalating significance of think tanks in influencing international relations and cultural diplomacy. Acting as an informal arena for the exchange of ideas among states, these dialogues actively promote discussions and collaboration on a broad spectrum of issues, spanning security and defense to trade and climate change.

Additionally, think tanks boast a rich history of shaping foreign policy and diplomacy, tracing their influence back to the Cold War era. Noteworthy initiatives such as the Dartmouth Conference and the Neemrana Dialogue played pivotal roles in fostering unofficial dialogues between adversarial parties, ultimately contributing to confidence-building measures and cooperation on pressing issues. In a parallel vein, the Raisina Dialogue has evolved into a crucial platform for India, allowing the nation to assert its role in the Indo-Pacific region and actively engage with stakeholders in shaping a novel security framework.

Leading think tanks such as the Observer Research Foundation, India Foundation, and Vivekananda International Foundation play a pivotal role in crafting policies that showcase India’s cultural heritage and values on the global platform. Through extensive research, analysis, and strategic recommendations, these institutions actively foster dialogue and collaboration between India and other nations. The prominence of Indian think tanks in the realm of cultural diplomacy has witnessed a significant upswing in recent years. Institutions like India Foundation and Vivekananda International Foundation have taken proactive strides, offering innovative solutions and policy frameworks for cultural exchange programs, educational initiatives, and fostering people-to-people connections.

In addition, think tanks forge partnerships with universities and academic institutions to enhance cultural bonds through educational exchanges, collaborative research ventures, and language programs. Their engagement spans a broad spectrum, involving diverse stakeholders such as civil society, diaspora communities, and international organizations. Through these collaborations, think tanks contribute to amplifying India’s cultural narrative and fostering meaningful intercultural dialogues.

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Their research and advocacy endeavors actively contribute to molding a dynamic and inclusive cultural diplomacy agenda for India. Beyond promoting cross-cultural understanding, these efforts are instrumental in debunking cultural stereotypes associated with India in Western perceptions. By accentuating India’s abundant diversity and embracing a pluralistic ethos, they work to dispel misconceptions and cultivate a more nuanced appreciation of Indian culture and society. (The writer can be reached at dipaknewslive@gmail.com)

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