India in a World Adrift: A Conversation on Peace and Security with by Shivshankar Menon
New Delhi- An online collaborative event (co-sponsored by Committee on Southern Asian Studies, UChicago and the University of Chicago Center in Delhi) on the topic was held virtually with the former Foreign Secretary of India ‘Shivshankar Menon’.
Mr Menon mentioned that the World Adrift- is full of challenges and opportunities. A world where despite strained geopolitical relations, economic/trade relations are booming. A major opportunity for India is to position itself as a supportive partner for its South and Southeast Asian neighbours and initiate both geopolitical and economic relations. Maritime security and good trade relations will enable India to play that role. For India, security threats from its neighbouring countries is not a major issue. The bigger concern is to address internal problems such as communal violence, crimes against people, violence against women, political polarisation, etc. Still, it is limited to only certain pockets and most part of Indian society is intolerant towards violence. In fact, the resilience and solidarity demonstrated by common people during COVID-19 are very heartening and reinstate our faith in the goodness of Indian society. So as long as the violence is not politically motivated, it can still be handled. If India successfully manages to deal with the internal crisis/unrest its relationship with the neighbouring countries will definitely improve. Globally many countries have the political class using nationalism to gain legitimacy. But he is hopeful that when people have to choose between jobs/economic growth and nationalism they will choose wisely. Talking about the need of the hour, he stated that presently the level of globalized economy needs a more forward-looking approach, it’s not in India’s interest to opt for an inward-looking economy. The protectionist approach is becoming our enemy. When asked about the intelligence reforms, he mentioned that it’s easy to blame intelligence failures as they cannot talk about their successes as well as failures. intelligence agencies carry the brunt of bad political and bureaucratic decisions. The need is to build the capacity of the political class to deal with intelligence findings. India’s relation with China has been stressful and needs to be reset. However, it is not impossible because, despite the strained relations between the two countries, trade had boomed, so there is hope. On a positive note, India has done a good job of learning from its external/geopolitical relations. Now it’s time to put apply the same knowledge and strategy in the Indian context.
Mr. Shivshankar Menon is also the author of “India and Asian Geopolitics: The Past, Present” where he addresses many questions facing India as it seeks to find its way in the increasingly complex world of Asian geopolitics.