A Lecture was arranged on the topic “Enhancing India’s Constructive Influence in the International Arena” by BIC on 23rd January, 2007 at 6 PM.
Prof. James Manor who is the VKRV Professor at the I.S.E.C and a Professor at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, England, delivered the lecture.
Mr C V Ranganathan, IFS(Retd), Former Indian Ambassador to France, China and Ethiopia presided over the programme.
Mr. P R Dasgupta, Director of the Centre, welcomed Mr. Ranganathan and Prof. Manor. In his introductory comments, Mr. Ranganathan mentioned that the subject was of great interest and topicality, particularly in the context of the shift in political gravity towards Asia ever since the turn of the millennium when Asia started becoming the pivot of economic growth.
Prof. Manor began his lecture by stressing that he was not an unbiased observer of India’s foreign policy as he had spent much of his academic life in India, and that his general approach was that of a friend of India rather than that of a neutral critic. Independent India, unlike many other countries, has projected itself to other countries as a Country based on a set of humane ideas adapted from the freedom struggle and with a high moral content. This, according to Prof. Manor was entirely correct and natural. Over the years, India had taken the line that capabilities of the developing countries should be built up consistently without aligning with any power bloc. However, earlier this political stance was without any economic clout. Now that India has developed its economic strength, it is necessary to use this to leverage its political stance without in any way compromising its own enlightened self interest. Prof. Manor drew a comparison between the approach of India and China to the Least Developed Countries and the emerging Developing Countries and felt that India’s approach to help assist the building up of capabilities in those countries (which the Chinese did not attempt at all) had a better chance of enhancing its influence there. In this context Prof Manor felt that India should lay more emphasis on making its impact on the commonwealth which is now recognized as an important forum where the Least Developed Countries are encouraged and fostered. India should do it by participating more vigorously in the working of the commonwealth, by contributing more to the commonwealth and by bidding for the post of Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat which is falling vacant this year. Once India assumes a leading position in the commonwealth, it can have a great influence in the LDCs within the commonwealth. There are possibilities of greater cooperation and collaboration between commonwealth and the Organisation of Francophone countries which have a large number of LDCs outside the commonwealth, particularly in Africa. India, along with Brazil, is already playing a leading role in G-20 to articulate and operationalise the aspirations of the Least Developed Countries. So its assumption of leadership in commonwealth and nudging commonwealth to greater cooperation with the Francophone Countries would be entirely consistent with its idealistic foreign policy thrust of bonding with the LDCs and helping them to realize their dreams. Prof. Manor thought that this approach would be in consonance with India’s national interest also.
In the lively discussion that followed, there was a general agreement that moral overtones (which many find irritating) in foreign policy should be avoided without sacrificing the basic humane ideas which India has consistently followed over the years and that India should utilize all the fora, including G-20, WTO, European Union and others to project itself an enlightened champion of equity in every sphere.
Several well-known personalities of Bangalore had attended this extremely informative lecture and the discussion that followed.