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Italy and India share decades old diplomatic ties and have witnessed significant progress over the past few years with Rome emerging as a key partner in Europe. The virtual summit among the leaders of the two countries last year marked an important milestone in the bilateral relations. Both countries signed a Joint Declaration and Plan of Action to prioritize areas of cooperation and strategic goals for the period 2020–2025. They agreed to strengthen cooperation against common global challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic, and coordinate closely at the multilateral level including the G-20 for which Italy is the current chair. India and Italy agreed to work together on a sustainable and inclusive post Covid-19 recovery, finding solution to the climate crisis and identifying new areas of economic partnership. In the light of growing relationship, Ananta Aspen Centre held a digital session on “Italy and India, partners in sustainability and multilateralismwith H.E. Mr. Vincenzo De Luca, Ambassador of Italy to India chaired by Ambassador Anil Wadhwa, Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and Former Indian Ambassador to Italy.

Currently, Italy and India are important trading partners in key sectors such as finance, railway development, fashion industry, and automobile manufacturing, where Italian FIAT-FCA has a consolidated supply chain in India. In 2019, trade volume between the two nations reached 9.52 billion euros, with Italy emerging as India’s fifth- largest trading partner in the EU, while Italian Foreign Direct Investment to India is expected to reach 2 billion euros in 2020.

About 600 Italian companies are active in the Indian market as the current emphasis is on advanced manufacturing, automotive industry, energy transgression, infrastructure development. Italy emerges as an ideal partner for India in circular economy, pollution mitigating technologies, automation and food processing chain that includes food preservation processing and logistics.

In the field of space technology, collaboration between India and Italy have expanded and there is more potential to widen the sharing and distribution of technologies. The cooperation in renewable energy, pharmaceuticals, IT sector and Start-ups have been deepening.

Defence cooperation has been an important pillar of Indo- Italian relations. Both countries have experienced a new phase of the longstanding relationship and there is potential to strengthen the cooperation in defense industry with Italy sharing its expertise in technology.

Both countries also align on the idea of multilateralism. Recently, Italy shared a vision on a new and more effective multilateralism based on a new reality of the multipolar order with the Government of India. Italy along with India is trying to reinforce WHO because there is a need for a strong multilateral organization to tackle the challenges. Also reform of the WTO is in the direction of a fair equitable and inclusive organization for trade, which also involves more access to the global market. The G20 agenda will be focusing on 3 pillars- people, planet, and prosperity. In the last few years Italy has joined all the most relevant Indian initiative in the multilateral dimension of indo-pacific like Indian Ocean Rim Association, Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) and also the international solar alliance.

Over the years, people-to-people ties between India and Italy have strengthened especially with a focus on preservation of cultural heritage. Education is now emerging as a strong pillar of cooperation fostering high academic exchanges. In 2020, the number of Indian students in Italian University increased to 4844.

Amidst the ongoing second wave of COVID-19 Italy extended its support to India by promoting collaboration between the healthcare sectors of two countries. Italy further assisted India by providing oxygen and pharmaceutical products. Moreover, Italy has pledged 300 million Euros for the COVAX facility, 200 million for climate and health in poor countries, 15 million doses for COVID vaccines for low income countries. In the effort to promote solidarity and friendship.

Both countries agree to create a Centre for research on new treatment for pandemics on genomics and on other promising fields of research to be better prepared for future global pandemics. Therefore, India and Italy realise the growing synergies between them and aim to enrich the bilateral relationship in coming years.

This digital session was a part of a series on “Ambassador Series”

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India-Canada relations are founded on shared values of democracy and pluralism. They are further strengthened through expanding diplomatic engagement and one of the fastest growing Indian diaspora in the world. India and Canada have a unique relationship which has seen enormous growth in recent years. The Pandemic has thrown new challenges as well as opportunities for the two countries to work together. Against this backdrop, the Ananta Aspen Centre held a digital session on “Charting the future of India - Canada Relationswith H.E. Ajay Bisaria, High Commissioner of India to Canada chaired by Dr. Naushad Forbes, Co - Chairman, Forbes Marshall; Chairman, Ananta Aspen Centre.

The main weapon for this pandemic that both countries have and across the world is the vaccine. Today, India is in the middle of the largest vaccination drive in the world with 235 million vaccines being delivered or administered into the arms of Indians and Canada is moving at a similarly high pace. It is more than 26 million vaccines in the arms of Canadians but given the population of 38 million more than 62 percent have had at least one vaccine so far.

Over the last year or so the public health crisis has been the primary preoccupation and much of the conversation has been about this. There was talk of a joint Indo-Canadian vaccine being developed so a company called Providence therapeutics in Calgary has collaborated in the vaccine capital of the world that is Hyderabad with a company called Biological E to jointly develop a vaccine which is now in phase 3 trials in India which is being also registered and applied for in Canada and the government of India and the Ministry of Health have already reserved 300 million of the vaccines. This collaboration will produce for use in India. This speaks to the kind of collaboration India have with Canada which has accelerated from March 2020.

Both countries have engaged closely and have intense conversations about the India Canada air corridor but currently, flights are suspended after the second wave in India till the 21st of June. Both countries are hoping that this corridor rapidly becomes normal. 

In the initial phases India lived up to its role as the pharmacy of the world by sending hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol when it was required by Canada and other countries. On 10 February 2021 the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a call to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discussed the possibility of India sending vaccines.  India agreed and have sent 500000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Canada on 3rd March that was when things were the second wave was still a little far away. India continued this collaboration even during the second wave. India saw a surge of support and solidarity from Canada when India went through a tough phase.

There was a good deal of medical supplies and medicines that were delivered by the Canadian red cross on behalf of the Canadian government. Several planes came in to make a special contribution to helping with the second wave and there was a huge surge from the Indo-Canadian community.

The India - Canada relationship have a strategic partnership in place since 2015 when Indian Prime Minister Modi visited Canada. The relationship have accelerated even more in 2019 and both governments in India and Canada came back with renewed mandates and decided to reset the relationship even further so it was being called Trudeau 2.0 talking to Modi 2.0. After the new government came in, there was a talk of a more pragmatic phase of engagement and moving with a strong focus on the economic partnership, and the strategic partnership between India and Canada. Investments have been made particularly by Canadian portfolio investors and investment firms.  It was about five billion dollars in 2014-15 and it has risen to more than 10 times to about in the range of 50 to 60 billion dollars today.

Now India have about 600 Canadian companies which are active about a thousand companies doing with business with India but it’s a two-way corridor so in Canada there are about 100 good companies from India in sectors like information technology, pharmaceuticals and so on. Trade also hit a very important milestone even though it continues to be low. It was 10 billion dollars in goods and services and India has been exporting pharmaceuticals, steel pipes, diamonds, seafood, rice and even auto components. 

India has an economic exchange with a country of 38 million people of over 100 billion dollars. India is now having conversations with Canada on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement and also talking of an early harvest agreement. India received an FDI of 80 over billion dollars and much of it came from Canada even at a time when global FDI was diminishing. The largest Investor in India today globally happens to be a Canadian company which is Brookfield having a portfolio of 20 billion dollars.

Given a special depth to the economic partnership one very special feature of the India Canada partnership is the Indo-Canadians diaspora. There are more than 1.6 million Indo-Canadians and they give a special meaning and a special blast to the relationship in multiple ways. Indo-Canadian heritage have had in every conceivable sector, whether it's politics, business, economics, academia, in science etc.

Both countries have the opportunity to co-create a strong startup ecosystem by enriching resource pool and common linkage to further bring in big investments and take the bilateral relationship forward.

This digital session was a part of a series on “Ambassador Series”

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The Indo-UK ties are built on the bedrocks of shared history and mutual interests. These ties have also continued to grow due to stronger cultural and personal relations. As both countries start their post-Covid plans, they are exploring different and new avenues of collaboration while deepening their traditional ties. Against this backdrop, Ananta Aspen Centre and the Aspen Institute UK held a digital session on ‘The Way Forward: India UK Bilateral Relations’ with Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry, Karan Bilimoria, Founder, Cobra Beer and Chairman, Cobra Beer Partnership Limited, Shobana Kamineni, Executive Vice Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd, Nandita Sahgal Tully, Managing Director, Thomas Llyod. This session was chaired by Tarun Das, Founding Trustee, Ananta Centre and Chairman, Institute of Economic Growth.

Both India and UK are vibrant democracies with rich history and diversity. This personal relationship has played a huge role in how these countries have chosen to interact with each other since India opened its economy to the world. This was evident when India and UK signed the Indo-British Partnership Initiative in 1993. Since then, UK has become a gateway for Indian companies to Europe. Indian companies have started treating UK as their base for Europe. Both have enormous opportunities to interconnect on all levels to recover and initiate growth.

The year 2020 brought unprecedented challenges at the domestic and global front resulting in complete lockdowns, severely affecting economies with healthcare emerging as the driving welfare tool. These challenges brought India and UK much closer to collaborate on the healthcare front, both made a huge success in the Oxford-AstraZeneca collaboration with SERUM Institute. Secondly, trade and investment has been instrumental in deepening bilateral relations between the two countries. Relations between India and UK post Brexit offers an incentive to explore the viability of Free Trade Agreement. There is great potential for both the Indian and UK companies to invest in each other’s markets as there is availability and accessibility of resources and diverse talent pool. India can learn and collaborate with the technological advancements of the UK companies and integrate MSMEs. Third, collaboration in energy sectors looks promising as energy transitions in both countries are on a good trajectory therefore an alliance in this sector can  bear fruitful results as both economies try to achieve sustainable growth and development. This will also create a sustainable society with employment opportunities benefitting demography of both the countries.

Investment is leading growth as economies try to revive themselves from the pandemic with India’s new Union budget targeting to start recovery efficiently and get growth back on the table. Investors are seeking climate where they can rely on growth, stability and regulatory and legal framework. Indian and UK companies have always had a special investing relationship. Despite the pandemic, FDI flows in India jumped by 13% with large investment in digital economy, as well as Infrastructure and healthcare. Going forward technology is the biggest manufacturing area that UK can contribute to India. With Insurance opening up and defence manufacturing becoming important in India, the UK has an opportunity to invest and gain dividends in the future. UK should be cognizant of India’s paths to a 5 trillion dollar economy. Momentum towards green collaboration is yet to be seen during the participation of two countries in COP26 and G7.

Moreover, with the New Education Policy of India there is a huge potential for UK to capitalise and bring universities to base their campuses in Indian cities. With this, India will have world class capability to access great potential in their lands and global degrees will become a reality. It will be through education, personal experience and cultural understanding that will shape the future relationship.

Profound ties of culture, history and language already give UK a potentially strong foundation upon which to further deepen its relation with India but exploring avenues of collaboration and cooperation in space, renewable energy, digital industries, and climate change can prove beneficial as both countries move to make a mark on the world stage. Both countries have ample opportunities that will not only improve bilateral relations but also provide opportunities to their people. A world transformed by the pandemic has lit up a unique path for Indi-UK collaboration going forward with opportunities that are just waiting to be picked up. Hopefully the meeting of the two Prime Ministers this year bores results that start a new chapter in India-UK bilateral relations.

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The QUAD has materialised into the international arena only in the last few years. The member countries namely India, Japan, United States and Australia are partners in a common platform of protecting freedom of navigation and promoting democratic values in the Indo – Pacific region. Against this backdrop, Ananta Aspen Centre supported by The Nippon Foundation held a digital session on “An Indo-Pacific Axis: Future of QUAD and Maritime Cooperation in the East” with Professor Tomohiko Taniguchi, Professor, Keio University Graduate School of System Design and Management and Special Advisor to President ABE, Shinzo’s Cabinet, Michael J. Green, Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan chair, CSIS, Director of Asian Studies, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University and C. Raja Mohan, Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. This session was chaired by Ambassador Gautam Bambawale, former Ambassador to Bhutan & China & High Commissioner to Pakistan, Distinguished Fellow, Ananta Centre.

The idea of QUAD has its seed sown by the former Japanese President Shinzo Abe as well as the Bush administration in the US. It started out as a way for rearranging the architecture of Asia particularly looking from a maritime perspective. But recently with China’s international behaviour becoming aggressive and decreasing power differential between the US and China, the importance of QUAD has gained importance with even the Former Secretary of State hinting to the media about institutionalising QUAD. In the last few months we have seen cooperation and coordination strengthened among member nations of the QUAD. Even during the pandemic the members met in Tokyo. The Malabar Exercise in 2020 saw Australia being invited into the fold and one of the first manifestations of four way cooperation between its members.

The four member nations of QUAD hold significant reasons for their membership in this security alliance partly due to growing Chinese hegemony in the Indo – Pacific region but also due to their own vested interests in the region. It was the coming together of like-minded ideas. Maritime Security has become a big point of collaboration among these nations because it forms a big basis of the QUAD Security alliance. There is a strong inclination to institutionalise QUAD in terms of maritime security by way of a standing naval taskforce since it’s the most important aspect of this alliance. Even intelligence holds for initiating cooperation among its member countries. For institutionalization to work it is important to develop the habit of cooperation, habit of discussion and the habit of exchange of ideas more often then what is happening at present. Summits should become more regular as it would send a powerful signal to our giant neighbour.

Now the case of China has given the alliance members a formidable opponent in the Indo Pacific as it is in its quest to gain hegemony in the area. China has continued to mount incursions into islands in the East and South China seas as well as pursued wolf warrior policy. It has become aggressive in the South China Sea, Taiwanese strait, around the Senkaku Islands, frontier with India and its relationship with Australia. It is in this context that QUAD has gained relevance and support across the world. There is growing European interest in the Indo Pacific with Germany and the Netherlands announcing their Indo – Pacific strategy. France has also appointed an Indo-Pacific Ambassador and UK will also likely announce some kind of strategy or approach paper for the region. Countries like Canada, New Zealand and even South Korea is interested to play some role in the Indo– Pacific.

It has long been suggested that the Indian Ocean is the future. It is going to be the industrial corridor for the 21st century. Indian resources are critical to shaping the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific; hence it has emerged as a big power player in the region. The Indian understanding of the QUAD is about India and putting it on the map in the Pacific. The past UPA governments were hesitant but the Modi government has demonstrated confidence for the benefit of itself and has actively participated in QUAD related activities. The country also has fractured relations with China due to the frequent border. Therefore it is clear that India holds a key role in countering Chinese aggression in Asia and is an essential part in the coming together of the idea of a unified opposition to any hegemony in the Indo – Pacific region.

There is interest in the institutionalization of the QUAD but as the situation in the area develops and the alliance itself is quite young comparably there is still lots to discuss. QUAD plus would be a good idea with 4 members being central organising group around which there should be consideration about widening the circle of engagement especially with regard to South East Asia. There should be a framework which allows for engagement with other actors who seek to play a role in the region as demonstrated by nations who are actively proposing their position for the area. An Important thing to note is that the QUAD has to exist with the assumption that ASEAN will never have solidarity or consensus and will always be picked apart. In that situation the QUAD can provide stabilising diplomacy and maritime security around ASEAN to make it possible for ASEAN countries to resists Chinese aggression.

It has been debated on what fronts QUAD members should be engaging with each other. As with other international alliances security and trade come to mind. The first point of collaboration on security is quite evident due to the Alliance’s creation in the name of geo – strategy. It is in trade and economics where things become complicated. China not only serves as biggest trade partners for three of the four QUAD nations but they have also not devised an alternative to Chinese market power. Hence traditional economic agreements are not what QUAD nations are trying to achieve at present. Though this could certainly evolve with changes in the future Chinese Economic trajectory and as India competes with China in supply chain.

As these paths of collaboration and cooperation evolve, QUAD should look at Maritime services driving its agenda. This was pushed forward in the past because all four countries are in total agreement in what they will not tolerate which is Chinese hegemonic ambitions over the maritime domain. Humanitarian disaster relief, joint operation, under-sea warfare, air defence, high-end joint operation, technological security and changes in the energy sector due to climate change are the next avenues for collaboration among the members. These would provide the nations to build a repertoire of working in the area together and will surely add to any future formal partnership and would signal to a united front in the region.

This digital session was a part of a series on “India-Japan Partnership Perspectives”

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Bilateral cooperation between India and Japan have flourished over the years sharing convergence of views on rule-based maritime order and respect for territorial and sovereign integrity in the Indo-Pacific region. In the light of growing defence cooperation between the two countries Ananta Aspen Centre supported by The Nippon Foundation held a digital session on “India-Japan Defence Cooperation: ACSA, Malabar and Beyond” with Admiral Tomohisa TakeiJMSDF, (Retd.); 32nd Chief of Staff, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chairman, National Maritime Foundation; Former Chief of Naval Staff, Indian Navy.

The relationship obtained positive momentum during Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's visit to India in August 2000, when the two nations established the ‘Global Partnership”. This momentum reached an inflection point in 2007 when the then prime minister of Japan Mr. Shinzo Abe made his influential speech at the Parliament of India where he spoke about the Confluence of the Two Seas. Since then, the relationship has continued to move forward with annual summits between the two Prime Ministers.

The Indo-Pacific itself has become an area of focus since the speech delivered by Prime Minister Abe at the Indian Parliament. The defense relationship between India and Japan has been a major pillar of cooperation. The relationship has strengthened immeasurably through Quadrilateral Foreign Minister -level summit and 22 dialogue mechanism consisting of foreign and defence secretaries.

The two countries recently signed the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA). This is an agreement for the supply of materials and services to each other’s military and is looked upon as an important intersection point in the military relationship between the two countries.

However, there are two key areas of concern. First, the need to deepen India- Japan defense cooperation in the “Gray Zone” ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific. The maritime traffic that converges to and dispersed from the South China Sea (SCS) is estimated to be one-third of global shipping. Nearly 3.37 trillion dollars’ worth of trade and 21 percent of global trade pass through the SCS clearly illustrates the importance of free and open Indo-pacific. Global trade depends on trade rules in the SCS, not only for the countries in the vicinity of SCS but also for the countries in Europe and Africa. Moreover, seven security hot spots pose a challenges to the peace and stability in the region where China is a key player directly involved in the four security zones and indirectly in the others. Second, security challenges of Biden’s administration in the Indo-Pacific region. The primary challenges of Biden administration in the Indo-Pacific foreign policy would be to prevent China from controlling the media, on the other hand it may take time to prioritize issues in the Indo-Pacific.  It is necessary for the United States to quickly restore the military power plans with China in the Western Pacific which is leading to China’s dominance.

Therefore, Japan and India as countries that share the common values must continue to emphasize to the United States the importance of free and open Indo-Pacific. It is essential to deepen defense exchanges between Japan and India based on three constraints; first geography; second domestic policy and third military capability. Given the geographic separation and connectivity via sea, both India and Japan, the two realistic maritime forces can lead the formalization of security architecture in the region.      

On the other hand, development of domestic policy relies on ideologies, political system,       constitutional framework and other legal procedures. Japan defense policy adopted article 9 of Japanese Constitution in 2015, prohibiting use of military force internationally. Even with expansion of the peace and security legislation, certain restrictions on deploying self-defense forces capability to defend other countries remains. Therefore the defense cooperation between Japan and India in war time lacks realities.

The present geopolitical landscape in the region offers avenues for both countries to co-produce equipment and enhance capacity building for both the defense forces.

In the past decade Indian Ocean has become the hub of intense global activity for several reasons. The most important trade routes pass through this region, connecting some of the fastest growing economies of Middle East, Africa and East Asia with the rest of Europe and America.     The Strait of Hormuz and the Malacca straits are key gateways.  A very large segment of the world maritime trade flows through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. No nation in the past decade has invested so much of capital in beefing up maritime capability than China.

Moreover, China has been  violating international conventions and norms trying to change the global order to its advantage in a win-all situation. The South China Sea conflict is a prime example       which disregards UNCLOS and the international code of justice. This ignites the reason for India and Japan to cooperate in the maritime realm ensuring freedom of navigation and a free and open Indo-Pacific.    

In terms of defense cooperation India and Japan have come a long way. The first JIMEX exercise was conducted in 2012 between the two Japanese maritime self-defense force and the Indian Navy. Now, India has signed an agreement on Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with Japan which will allow access to each other’s provision of supplies and services during the bilateral exercises and training, UN Peacekeeping Operations, and other Humanitarian activities. Both countries are working together in carrying out joint naval exercises, research programmes inclusive of tactical training and communication fostering Navy to Navy cooperation. The defense cooperation is also possible based on the idea two countries would yield supporting or supportive equations in each sub-regions that is a concrete measure to further cooperation between two Navies. India - Japan maritime and Navy to Navy cooperation can head and how important it is for both the countries to continue working together for ensuring a rules-based and open and free Indo-Pacific.

This defence session was a part of a series on “India-Japan Partnership Perspectives”

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India and Japan have been Asia’s two most vibrant democracies. Both countries have shared a warm relationship. This relationship has been founded on pillars of mutual interest and shared universal values. Therefore, strengthening of the strategic partnership between the two countries amidst the dynamic geopolitical realities prove crucial. Against this backdrop Ananta Aspen Centre supported by The Nippon Foundation held a digital session on “India-Japan Digital Partnership: Opportunity for co-creating and co-innovating” with Ambassador Sanjay Kumar Verma, Ambassador of India to Japan and Mr. Rajan Navani, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Jetline Group of Companies. 

The first stepping stone in the digital partnership between the two countries was the “India-Japan Digital Partnership” (IJDP) agreement signed during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Japan in Tokyo on 29 October 2018. Recently on 15th January 2021, India and Japan had signed a MoU to enhance cooperation in the field of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), including 5G standardization. Another interesting document to be signed soon increasing the Indian workforce in Japan under “Specified Skills Workforce”. The complementarities are to be focused on and there is a large potential to take those complementarities to take forward and enrich the bilateral relations. 

With the growth of Indian start-up ecosystem, Japan has emerged as a key stakeholder making huge inroads into Indian markets. Indian Ambassador to Japan, Sanjay Kumar Verma emphasised on three core values namely, co-innovation, co-creation and co-production reiterating the need for countries to co-innovate, having understood differences in national ambitions but solutions to be similar, hence scaling joint ventures of co-production. Japan is the fourth largest investor in India with SoftBank leading the investment in Indian startup initiatives. However, more cooperation on the Small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) is necessary to encourage business- to- business, society-to-society and people-to-people ties between India and Japan to foster their bilateral growth. Another dimension in the partnership which requires an action plan is the supply chain diversification regionally and bilaterally. Diversification will be largely based on a nation’s investment strategy, talent pool, natural resources and domestic market. Hence, trust building, predictability of domestic environment, quality and logistical capacity of a country will pave the future roadmap in the cooperation of India and Japan.

Moreover, fostering partnerships on joint research activities through academic linkages, pilot projects, simulations, workshops to help diaspora and businesses to remove language barriers, equip workforce with technical skills with regular exposure to workshops, creating understanding of cultural living and ease of doing business was addressed signalling the need to enrich cultural understanding between the two countries.

Over the years and with changing leadership, the positive socio-economic factors backed by diplomatic relations act as a catalyst fueling Japanese strengths to be blended with Indian strengths. Both India and Japan understand that it is time to create real partnerships rather than committing to quick co-relationship in order to realign synergies in the world order largely driven by technology with increasing demands for co-innovation leading to avenues of co-success.

This digital session was a part of a series on “India-Japan Partnership Perspectives”

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India and Indonesia are two vibrant democracies with converging interests resting on shared history and rich cultural linkages dating back centuries. Both countries, given their size, population, and status as key maritime entities share leading roles in the region. The past few years have underlined that the foundation of the bilateral relationship between India and Indonesia stands strong but must extend beyond shared history and cultural linkages to new contemporary areas of strategic significance.

Against this backdrop the Ananta Aspen Centre held a digital session on “India – Indonesia relations and the Indo-Pacificwith H.E. Mr. Sidharto Reza Suryodipuro, Ambassador of Indonesia to India chaired by Dr. Naushad Forbes, Co - Chairman, Forbes Marshall; Chairman, Ananta Aspen Centre.

Over the years, both governments have made conscious efforts to enhance cooperation. In 2018, bilateral relations were elevated to “Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation” which added to the building momentum. However, the potential for trade between the two countries remains severely under tapped. New trade links have been relatively slow to develop and Indian investments in Indonesia have been minimal.

The discussion highlighted key potential areas of collaboration to spearhead and materialize the action plan between the two countries. The first being efforts to establish direct shipping links between Andaman Nicobar Islands and Sabang to develop cooperation between navies and coast guards. Indonesia believes that being the second largest country in the Indo-Pacific region, they along with India can set a tone for the region. Indonesia aims to increase maritime cooperation with India including cruise-ship tourism and coastal shipping between the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Aceh. Secondly, realising the opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry with easy access and reduction in prices. Vaccines also offer another important area for fostering research and development, joint ventures on active pharmaceutical ingredients, and collaboration between different stakeholders.

Another key area is to increase the collaboration in the connectivity and infrastructure projects with the need of private as well as public firms to visit and understand both countries’ requirements through dialogues, regular interactions and visits beyond the ministerial/summit levels. It is crucial for companies from both sides to visit the other as it offers room for growth and opportunities via contextual knowledge. Moreover, realizing the strength of the entrepreneurial class stands important in these times to drive the future road map of the bilateral relationship in the coming decades. Initiating direct flights from Hyderabad and Bangalore along with the existing four metropolitan cities of India to increase accessibility, affordability, and sustenance of economic cooperation would go a long way in realizing this and other bilateral visions.

With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing unprecedented challenges, it offered the space for countries to reinvigorate untapped areas and enrich the ones that stand crucial to take the country’s growth forward. One such area identified in this session was the tourism industry and the exchange of students. Encouraging University to University ties and creating more familiarity among the diaspora of both countries would be beneficial in many ways. This is an opportune moment to make the relationship between India and Indonesia more robust in the coming decades and centuries ahead.

On the geopolitical front, QUAD plays an important role in the regional security and strategic conversation for many South Asian players but Indonesia has not yet received an invitation to join these conversations.

Indonesia honoured the late Biju Patnaik by naming a room in the Indonesian embassy in New Delhi after him. Biju Patnaik’s contribution to Indonesia’s Independence was immense and the room will be used as a guest lounge where a repository of books and pictures will be featured.

This digital session was a part of a series on “Ambassador Series”

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India and Australia share a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership which has allowed both countries to increase the bilateral engagements with each other and establish a platform which would continuously aim towards progressing this strategic partnership. The Strategic Convergence since 2018 has grown tremendously, showing encouraging signs of mutual trust, respect, and integrity that both countries have for one another. An important outline of this Strategic Convergence is the collaboration between India and Australia in the Indo-Pacific region. Against this backdrop the Ananta Aspen Centre held a digital session on “Australia and India in the Post-COVID-19 World” with H.E. The Hon Barry O’Farrell A.O., Australia’s High Commissioner to India. This session was chair by Mr. Govindraj Ethiraj, Founder - Editor: IndiaSpend & BOOMLive.

Australia recognizes the Indo – Pacific region as an important area in modern-day geopolitics as it hosts the Exclusive Economic Zones for both India and Australia, hence, a free Indo-Pacific remains a mutual goal shared by both Australia and India as well as collectively in the Quad grouping. Moreover, territorial usurpation by China remains a key concern for both countries as any claims to sovereignty violates international law and deters the mutual goal of the Quad.

The Coronavirus pandemic might have halted and hindered the growth in key industries, but it also has opened new areas of collaboration on which the Strategic Convergence between India and Australia aims to focus in this post-COVID-19 era. The COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened the gravitational pull between the two countries as the ties are seemingly blossoming as India and Australia see a perfect match for each other as illustrated by Australia’s rejoining in the naval exercise, Malabar in the Indian Ocean where joint defence activities were carried out both bilaterally and under the aegis of Quad. The reshaping and restructuring of network architecture in the Indo – Pacific remain an important goal for the Quad as ensuring a peaceful, secure, and democratic Indo – Pacific region would set forth a precedent as well as safeguard one of the major geopolitical theatres. Due to the pandemic, economies of both countries have had major setbacks, but both have managed to elevate their respective economies and move towards normalcy whilst ensuring robust growth. Australia and India can be categorized as complementary economies as Australia is one of the few countries in the world that can potentially match India’s domestic demands. India is a pioneer in critical renewable technology and has been for recent years. India aims to lead the way towards fighting Climate Change by transitioning from a non-renewable energy-based economy to a renewable one. Hence, Australia being home to several critical minerals such as nickel, lithium, uranium, and cobalt, which are key minerals required in fostering renewable energies, could collaborate with Indian companies in ensuring smooth yet rapid transition in both the countries.

The two emerging prospects in this major Strategic Convergence are – greater coordination between India and Australia in the post-COVID-19 world and Cooperation on climate change. India is leading the way in the production of vaccines against the COVID virus and it can generate and distribute the vaccines to the entire globe. Australia, on the other hand, has managed to contain the virus effectively. Collaboration on the medical and healthcare front between the two nations could yield significant outcomes not just for India and Australia but also for the entirety of the world in its fight against the COVID-19. Similarly, climate change is a major concern for Australia and its pacific neighbours as having an insular geographic presence threatens their primitive livelihood and destabilizes the entire region. India and Australia are both the founding members of the International Solar Alliance and both countries are blessed with an abundance of sunshine which enables greater generation, transmission, and transfer of solar energies. There is a mutual recognition to act against climate change and provide not just hope but a bright future for our successors.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth unprecedented changes in the way we imagine our lives, it has also provided us with an opportunity to prepare ourselves for future outbreaks. The last time an international restructuring occurred was in the aftermath of World War II which resulted in the establishment of multilateral agencies but the post COVID-19 era allows us the liberty to restructure our critical industries such as healthcare and public service to prevent them from withering. International cooperation on the healthcare front is not just out of compulsion but rather is led by need-based cooperation to safeguard our global health. Likewise, cooperation and collaboration in cyberspace are mandatory due to the evolving landscape. Australia has allocated more funds for cyber technology and has also created several jobs in the tech industry.

India and Australia share a deep diasporic bond as 1 in 35 Australians have Indian roots. Australia is home to several thousand students studying across Australia and contributing towards its economy. Several Indian tech companies have established their largest bases in Australia which is proving beneficial as Australia now aims to move towards the services-based economy for which consumption of technology plays an integral part. While the COVID-19 pandemic has called for the closure of international borders, Australia remains hopeful that the footfall of Indian tourists visiting Australia keeps soaring as tourism and hospitality are key economic sectors for Australia.

It is believed that Australia and India are a perfect match for each other as both are old yet young with vibrancy in their democracy who share a similar history of colonization by the same colonizer and are hoping for the similar trajectory of progress in the future in their respective regions. The potential and scope for enlargement of this Strategic Convergence remain unimaginable due to their sheer size, presence, and magnanimity. This relationship could evolve into one of the most valuable regional partnership in the Indo – Pacific.   

This digital session was a part of a series on “Ambassador Series”

Please watch the full session on YouTube



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India and Japan have been long considered as global stalwarts in ensuring energy security and the cooperation between the two energy giants has now been further deepened and strengthened which now provides a global impetus with regards to energy cooperation. In the recent 10th meeting of the India - Japan Energy Dialogue, both states have reaffirmed the importance of energy transitions to improve the “3E+S” (Energy Security, Economic Efficiency, and Environment + Safety) and therefore reconfirmed the importance of innovation in the fields of hydrogen, carbon recycling and sequestration in sustainable and clean energy systems.

In the light of ensuring the sustenance of this bilateral cooperation, Ananta Aspen Centre in collaboration with The Nippon Foundation conducted a digital session titled “Reshaping Asia’s Energy Future: Indo-Japanese Energy Cooperation” with Mr. Hirofumi Katase, Executive Vice Chairman and member of the Board, I-Pulse and Dr. Ajay Mathur, Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute as the key speakers. This session was chaired by Mr. James Abraham, Founder, and Director, SolarArise.

The modern geopolitical backdrop remains dynamic with systematic changes occurring around the world especially in the energy sector. The energy sector is now considered as a key sector for collaboration not only due to excessive global usage of fossil fuels which are exacerbating the perils of global warming but also, they offer our world a chance towards reinventing, restructuring, and reshaping the way we consume different sources of energy. Energy security in modernity focuses on investing in renewable sources of energy. Japan since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 has restructured its energy consumption pattern, and has focused its attention towards investing and yielding ultimate efficiency from renewable sources of energy than drawing outputs from large nuclear plants which not only endanger the lives of millions living around the plant but also threaten with excessive nuclear wastage. Likewise, India being home to over 1.3 billion people draws higher energy, needs to keep up with the increasing demand in a cleaner, greener, and more efficient way. Hence, the bilateral energy cooperation between the two Asian giants could set forth a precedent in both Asian and Global energy collaboration by restructuring the energy portfolio.

The Indo-Japan energy corporation is now unfolding a new chapter under the aegis of strategic cooperation based on sustainable development. The newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has recently announced his new policy to work towards a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. To achieve such an ambitious yet arduous goal, innovation is the key. India and Japan need to lay greater emphasis on learning to maximize and innovate new forms of technology which propel the global energy conundrum towards a more viable and sustainable approach that safeguards the future of our successors.

A major areas of collaboration could be the usage of renewable energy to produce electricity. People tend to focus on the sources of renewable energy such as Photovoltaic (PV) or wind power. The larger outcome is to yield and disseminate greater electrical energy from such renewable sources. Currently, this is an area which needs greater focus and requires a sterner governmental effort. The current Indo-Japan energy cooperation is in its preliminary stages however both sides have been showing promising signs of development which could soon ensure a larger percentage of electrical demands being generated from various renewable sources.

The second key area of collaboration is the usage and integration of Hydrogen based technology in our daily lives. Hydrogen is important for varied reasons: firstly, it is used in the transport and automobile industry in the form of Battery electric vehicles (BEV) which will be effective for passenger cars. Secondly, the usage of hydrogen when combined with oxygen in a fuel cell results in the generation of electricity which can be used in multifarious ways effective in reducing pollution. Thirdly, hydrogen can be produced and generated from numerous sources rather than one which helps in both the production and distribution of hydrogen-based technologies. Hence, both the countries have just started discussing and negotiating in this area which needs acceleration to witness any productive outcome.

The third area is achieving and optimising energy efficiency. Now, both India and Japan are working together to combine India’s Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) Scheme and the Japanese sectorial knowledge for improved energy efficiency. Such an approach is an important part of the bilateral cooperation as the sectoral approach is better to tackle the challenges of global warming. This collaboration will have a longstanding impact which can help create a foundational mechanism to further accelerate and demonstrate progress in all the efforts listed. Today, there is increased cooperation in the energy efficiency sector. Most of such improvements have occurred in the steel industry and the top recovery turbines with the infusion of Japanese technology.

The Strategic Partnership between India and Japan has fostered greater cooperation in the energy sector which has enabled the Japanese technologies to venture into the strong and demanding markets of India. Energy cooperation is an area where the relationship can grow progressively while consequently allowing for private collaboration between the various companies established in India and Japan. For instance, the Maruti- Suzuki collaboration has set a benchmark for camaraderie in the automobile industry which remains unmatched. Today, the greatest amount of electricity demand in India is driven by air conditioners. The best-selling air conditioner is the energy-efficient Daikin air conditioner, a Japanese product, has garnered its place in the majority of Indian households and commercial spaces.  

Finally, cooperation in the civil nuclear energy area should also be part of the bilateral dialogue between India and Japan. Nuclear energy has its perils but also remains one of the most effective ways of generating consumable energy. The bilateral energy cooperation is a matter of great pride and significance to both India and Japan as the quest for finding the road towards renewable energy remains stronger than ever before not only to lead by example but also to focus on their respective policies of self-reliance. The new decade should mark a new chapter in Indo – Japanese relations which lays significant emphasis on a carbon-free relationship between the two Asian giants.

This digital session was a part of a series on “India-Japan Partnership Perspectives”

Please watch the full session on the Ananta Aspen Centre Website



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The India- Japan relationship is pivotal to sustain the international order in Asia. The India- Japan relationship is a natural alliance in terms of values, strategic weights, and economic integration. Against this backdrop, Ananta Aspen Centre supported by The Nippon Foundation held a digital session on “Can India-Japan Partnership be the crucial pillar for a free and open Indio-Pacific?” with Professor Nobukatsu KaneharaProfessor, Doshisha University; Former Japanese Senior Diplomat and Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary to Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (2012-2019). This session was chaired by Pramit Pal ChaudhuriForeign Editor, Hindustan Times, and Distinguished Fellow & Head Strategic Affairs, Ananta Aspen Centre.

The first half of the 20th century was cruel, there were two stories of international order on the top. The colonial rulers were there, Africans were all colonized, there was no sovereignty no dignity, and there was harsh labor. But after the second half of the 20th century, many countries attained independence and became industrialized. After the fall British exited India, a wave of self-determination started in Asia. Today both India and Japan are together with the western nations to sustain the liberal order. Therefore, both India and Japan along with America in the Indo-Pacific have the responsibility of the 21st century and maintaining the global strategic balance is a responsibility of the strategic powers.

Both China and India have 1.3 billion people.  But the Chinese average age is now 39 years old, Japanese is 49 years old, Indian average age is 29 years old. The future is with India and India will take off after China and it will be a true superpower. Presently China is rising and it will be a regional hegemon but China cannot be a global hegemon as far as the western countries remain united. So, India and Japan should go hand in hand. The purpose is not to confront China, the purpose is to stabilize the relationship and engage with China. This engagement should be on mutual appreciation, equal footing. Japan believes that the relationship with India in the future is vital.

One very important engagement in Indo-Pacific is Quad. Today Quad could help to attain strategic stability and strategic balance in Asia. That is why Japan is collaborating with India. Both India and Japan are cooperating in connectivity, infrastructure projects attempting to counter the belt road initiative of China to some degree. Also, both countries are working to bring countries like Myanmar into the mainstream and give them alternatives to China. Among all Quad members, India and Japan are working together very closely. This will create stability in the Pacific region. Quad is beneficial for safeguarding free and open Indo-Pacific as it provides a multi-dimensional comprehensive regional strategy to contain China. Thus, regular dialogue between the Pacific Alliance and Indian Ocean Association can foster cooperation and free flow of goods and services in Asia.

Another crucial development amid COVID- 19 crisis and changes in the global economic and technological landscape is to enhance the resilience of supply chains in the Indo-Pacific region. Nations dependent on China for trade have suffered from supply chain disruptions, signaling the need for diversification. Recognizing the pressing need for regional economic cooperation India, Australia and Japan launched the supply chain resilience initiative recently extending the participation to other Asian and Pacific Rim nations. Both India and Japan acknowledge the complementarities in multiple sectors like automobile, pharma, chemical, textile, and food processing. As India rapidly grows into a huge market hub attracting global investors, policy reforms are vital in India to bring in greater synergies and reap the benefits of the de-risking activities undertaken by Japanese companies to move out their supply chains from China.

However, with China’s expansionist tendencies seen in the Western Pacific, there is a growing concern in India and Japan towards Chinese coercion as it continues to threaten India along its land border and Japan in the East China Sea. Both Japan and India need to balance several strategic objectives to dissuade China from its assertive behavior.

The geostrategic shifts in the world will be played out in the maritime continuum of the India and Pacific oceans with India and Japan playing a key role. Thus, reinvesting in regional diplomacy with shared objectives of peace, progress, and prosperity and a common commitment to free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific is a step forward in deepening India- Japan strategic partnership.

This digital session was a part of a series on “India-Japan Partnership Perspectives”

Please watch the full session on the Ananta Aspen Centre Website:

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In the current geopolitical reality, bolstering the resilience of the Indo-Pacific region across all its dimensions from maritime security and economic development to the balance of strategic interests with adherence to climate change stands crucial. With the pandemic halting the world and creating political distractions, the shared interests of France and India to foster a resilient Indo-Pacific region remains mutual. The current pandemic has not only exposed a nation’s domestic, national, and international weaknesses but also has provided them with an opportunity to address the fragility.

The strategic partnership between France and India rests on shared interests and values of stable, rule-based, and multipolar order. Since the 1980s, France has displayed a greater understanding of India’s security compulsions and strategic interests. It has supported India’s claim for a permanent seat in the reformed United Nations Security Council and India’s candidature for the membership of multilateral export control regimes, namely Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Australian Group (AG), and others.

In a space of hegemonic tendencies and unilateral temptations, creating balance in the Indo-Pacific region is vital. Given the region’s demographic diversity and energy weight, the global economy’s centre of gravity has shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This compels France and India to adopt a pragmatic resilience approach in meeting their strategic goals in the region. France has 93 percent of its exclusive economic zones in the Indo-Pacific region and is one of the stabilizing powers in the region. Both countries share a strong degree of comfort and are ambitious to create new coalitions to tackle shared challenges in the region. Indo-French cooperation in this geostrategic space can offer alternatives in ensuring regional stability coupled with India’s intent to ensure Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).

The present deliberation directs towards strengthening and safeguarding three areas. Firstly, strengthening of organizational capacity to counter global threats and preserving the integrity of the alliance shared information landscape. Secondly, increased maritime and naval cooperation to strengthen asymmetric economic independence supported by oceanographic research. Developing tangible commercial and economic projects based on core principles of maritime security, infrastructure, and provision to climate change. Lastly, sustainable efforts to reciprocate Agence Francaise de developpement (AFD) to strengthen economic and ecological transitions across Asia like International Solar Alliance (ISA) which has been spearheaded by India. Furthermore, enhanced role in regional and sub-regional forums like the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Pacific Community for furthering the development of renewed multilateralism.

As the world experiences geostrategic upheaval, the Indo-Pacific region also faces various challenges. Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain, French Ambassador to India, reiterated that in a space of hegemonic tendencies and unilateral temptations, fostering a reliable and an inclusive Indo-French partnership can create a balance in the region. This view was expressed in the session chaired by Dr. Mohan Kumar. Pragmatic resilience approach with a policy independent of both the US and China based on the reality of power and interests with adherence to norms can strengthen a supportive configuration of power and interest between the two countries. Therefore, the historical partnership holds the potential to create new coalitions, strengthening security, solidarity, independence, and strategic influence in the upcoming times.


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While the pandemic has disrupted our lives in terms of all we understood as normal, it has also created the space for technology to bloom. What AI and IoT do in the current context of Covid -19 is reinvent the manner in which work was envisioned and introduce novel ways to keep workers safe while also driving productivity. 

AI and IoT are still recent and unfamiliar to many. Therefore, highlighting the potential benefits of the same is imperative to truly gauge how these technologies can bring about transformative change. Keeping this in mind, the Aspen Ananta Centre organized a Masterclass with Tejpreet  S. Chopra, the Founder & CEO of Bharat Light and Power Group (BLP), to speak on how AI and IoT can allow businesses to continue during a pandemic and the work his organization has done around the same. 

The relevance of AI technologies in a pre-Covid world was envisioned around predicting machinery failures, optimizing supply chain, driving asset productivity and developing visual technologies. However, in the context of the pandemic, these technologies can be altered in a manner that would allow businesses to continue while creating systems that would ensure the safety of the workers.  

The three main technology samples that are leading the shift towards AI and IoT are Trust AI, US Pro and Spot AI. Trust AI is based on training a computer vision model to detect the practice of social distancing in the workplace. Without any new investment, an installed camera can be used to decipher this. Furthermore, alerts can be sent out in case of any alarming happenings such as the breaking of social distancing protocol or individuals not wearing masks.  

Another type of AI technology that has been developed is US Pro. This is relatively simple in principle as it uses one's cell-phone to detect when social distancing is broken and then utilises the same data to carry out contact tracing. 

Spot AI is innovative and revolutionary in the sense that it can track anything present on the factory floor. Aside from ensuring a plethora of opportunities for asset management, this also helps bring in bands in place of cell phones for contact tracing and other safety purposes. 

Each industrial requirement is different and therefore for AI and IoT to successfully permeate the market, fitting these varied needs is essential. What is also crucial is a discussion on privacy protections provided. With great power comes great responsibility, and with AI, the potential for misuse is also plenty. Mr. Chopra elaborated on the steps his organization had taken to protect worker privacy which includes storing absolutely no data, providing encryption and anonymity and ensuring tracking in only the public sphere. 

Efficient technologies are bound to take over the world. While the growth of AI and IoT in times of Covid is imminent, the opportunities it provides are remarkable in terms of a revolutionary reinvention to the manner in which work is carried out. By keeping workers safe, ensuring productivity and changing how people interact, AI and IoT are nothing short of a mine of options during a global crisis and even after.

To watch the session, please click here:

Ms Riya George, Intern, Ananta Centre

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As the world grapples with the COVID-19 crisis, two major questions have arisen:

  • What is life likely to be or should be in a post COVID-19 environment and world? This question does not assume that the virus is going away, but clearly there are some changes that have been triggered by the virus and the way it has swept the whole world. Perhaps it could be used as an opportunity to reshape some practices that have been prevalent in businesses, civil society or even governments.
  • What are the post COVID-19 challenges and opportunities from a carbon footprint point of view?

Against this backdrop Ananta Aspen Centre held a digital session on “Reducing Carbon Footprint: The Post COVID 19 challenge” on 4th June, 2020 with Dr. O P Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, World Resources Institute, India, Dr. Aniruddha Agnihotri, Head, Environmental Sustainability, Health and Safety, Tata Consultancy Services, Mr. Harish Hande, Founder and Chief Executive, SELCO Foundation. This session was moderated by Mr. Govindraj Ethiraj, Founder IndiaSpend & Boom.

From a mobility perspective, COVID-19 is an opportunity to step back and start thinking about what has been going wrong. There are two major things that people can take advantage of. First, the recognition of unnecessary travel. As we begin to realize that people do not need to travel to and for work on a daily basis it gives us the opportunity to pick up this trend and reduce travel demand.

The second concern is about social distancing and how long it will last - For the next six months or next two years? Social distancing is likely to impact travel patterns, particularly in public transport systems. The efforts of sixty (60) years of promoting public transport are going to start getting reversed because social distancing is becoming a concern. However, this is an opportunity to start looking at how public transport has been and should be financed. Is all the money coming from fares or are there any options available that could make the financial model of public transport more sound allowing it to provide higher quality service to the public

There are opportunities for electric mobility in this phase of transition as well as most regular trips have become short-cut trips.

In the IT sector, the impact of COVID-19 has been far lesser than most other sector because of the nature of IT business allows people to work remotely. IT assets have started moving to people’s home since the lockdown has started. Currently, for IT sector, about 95% of people are working from home.

In the energy access sector, there has been a collapse in and of the last mile entrepreneurs and enterprises. It’s important to highlight that if small and medium enterprises, who provide energy access services to the poor collapse, then the cost of providing essential services like energy will increase drastically. This is an imminent danger.

But looking ahead, towards a post –COVID 19 pandemic world, this a chance to look at decentralizing energy access and consider a decentralized manner of governance to support it

This is really the opportunity to start looking at decentralized set-ups. Prioritizing the creation of decentralized livelihoods, which would imply a decentralized generation and access of energy, healthcare, education etc. all would beget self-sustainability and reduce consumption of carbon and other materials. Working from home is also a one form of decentralization. Today, the decentralization in decision making is also happening for e.g. some Deputy Commissioners are exhibiting ground level leadership in India by arranging beds for COVID-19 patients in and beyond hospitals and for patients within the districts and returnees. This is a time to move away from centralization.

The pandemic, and the disruption it has caused in the status quo, could be the perfect opportunity for planning and executing overhauls in existing mobility, industrial, governance and service sectors to create new economically and ecologically sustainable systems. Systems that wouldn’t leave behind any faction of the social food chain while reducing each faction’s carbon footprint.

This digital session was a part of the series: “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” which explores this seminal moment in history where we battle two existential crises at the same time – Climate Change & COVID 19.


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There exists a variety of concepts of world order such as the Western concept of order, Chinese concept of order, Russian concept of order and so forth. The term ‘world order’ comprises two conditions- a stable balance of power among the major nations and legitimacy i.e. a broad agreement amongst these major powers about the rules of the road. It’s been rare in human history to have such a world order. The world order began to deteriorate in the early part of this century as nations began to quarrel with the American concept of order, which was based on liberal ideas and enlargement of institutions that benefits the US. Around the same time, China and Russia also began to contend with these ideas and offered a different model of order.

Today the distance among major powers regarding what should constitute as order has grown more than ever and it is unlikely that they will reach a census on the world order.

In the last couple of years, the principle attack on the American concept of international order has not been from other countries, but from the President himself. The President has contested major elements that comprise the American version of international order such as the free trading system, support for democracies around the world among other issues. The American policy has been over militarized over the years. There will be a more restrained US in terms of its international behavior. There may also be a return to the classic instruments of diplomacy of the earlier periods.

The pandemic will reverse the trend of weakening international institutions which we have seen, and give a new impulse to strengthen them, driven by the failures of international cooperation on this virus. However, it is too early to predict the basic outcomes of the pandemic and how US and China will emerge from it.

On the economic consequences of the virus, more autonomous economic activities will be attempted by all countries, particularly the major powers but there will be severe limits to that. In a globalized world it is very difficult to have indigenous supply chains.

US has generally seen international institutions at the margin of its foreign policy and its international behavior. Now with the rise of China, US needs strong international institutions in a way it never did before. China has also recognized that the international institutions will have an increasing influence on the international system. Therefore, during the last 5-7 years it has worked very hard to strengthen its positions in various UN agencies. There is a systemic Chinese effort to strengthen its positions in these international organizations at the expense of human rights, values of international orders and so forth. If the US and the West don’t respond now, having seen this occur with the WHO, international institution will essentially be driven by Chinese authoritarian models. That will be grievous for all countries that have democratic preferences.

The US-China relationship is on a long term dangerous decline. If it evolves into a permanent confrontation, all countries in the world will be negatively affected. The contentious relationship has become an issue of domestic politics in both countries. It’s a major campaign issue for President Trump who has accused Joe Biden, the democratic candidate, for being soft on China. The Chinese leadership has used the confrontations with US to increase support for its policies domestically. In the future, it is unlikely that the US will be able to compete with China independently over the long term, it will need alliance with friendly democracies in Europe and Asia. Diplomacy should be employed as an instrument of approach to China, which is not the case right now and the balance of power between US and China also needs to be repaired.

American Presidents and their policy makers have spent too much time on the Middle East issues. Particularly on the two-state solution for the Middle East, which is dead.  Rather there needs to be an increase in involvement and engagement in Asia. In the period ahead US will need to have a more consistent and coherent foreign policy on India. Diplomatic engagements with India need to be expanded. Military cooperation between the two countries is also key. US continues to have bureaucratic obstacles to intensify defence cooperation with India and these obstacles should be removed. There is a need for a clear Indo-US strategy to deal with China.


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A gloom scenario in terms of Growth and prosperity around the world is emerging in past few months. Today, the Covid Pandemic has occupied the centre stage and it has made the nations rethink on how they conduct trade around the seas and land.

International Trade, as we see today has been historically placed through some of the important perspectives. Countries have immensely benefited and open economies have positively impacted domestic population.

However, with the Global pandemic on the spread, global economy will be in the downturn. It is not alarming to see that two of the most developed continents, North America and EU will be on the downturn and coincide. Their public Debt to GDP ratio will be very high due to massive trade deficits.

It is in times like these that we see India as a potential player to drive up international trade dynamics. It needs to ramp up its capacity to progressively achieve its $5 trillion target in the economy. Almost 50% part of this revenue will come from trade through what India exports and what it imports. Amidst all of this lies geopolitics of the South China Sea. Asian economy has a vast stake in this region due to geographical impediments and this is the region where China has a larger say. Trade and Geopolitics go hand in hand in Asia. This is the new world which we will see in the coming years.

Indian Industries have a huge role to play to ramp up Indian economy in terms of growth and international contribution to trade. Some of the principal challenges that can create hurdles for India vis a vis the world are MFNs, WTO restructuring, and FTAs. In the next set of years, we can expect Free Trade Agreements to be negligible, rather regional blocs like the EU are going to focus on RTAs.

This is a great opportunity for India to tie up pacts with the EU, as the EU will not compromise on the depth the trade agreements that might take place. This is also the time for India to have a trade pact with African Continent, where huge resources are a potential contributor for both Asia and Africa.

The future offer a lot of challenges for India to play its part in international trade. The current situation has lots of opportunities for India to be significant economy.

This digital session was a part of a series on”Covid-19 and the World Order”.


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Africa during the Pandemic

Africa was among the last continents to be affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. It was also widely seen as the least ready to handle its consequences. However, many governments including Nigeria have responded pro-actively drawing from their experiences in tackling Ebola and other epidemics. The economic consequences are proving far more difficult with the crash in commodity prices, drop in tourism and other projects driving Africa into its first recession in a quarter-century.

The African countries have been so far managing the situation. As Africa is the last continent to be affected by the virus, this remains a developing story so far. Different countries have had different outcomes in dealing with the pandemic. Some of them have done extremely well like South Africa, war torn Congo, Liberia and Senegal. This has been possible due to their previous experience with Ebola. North African/Maghreb countries have done quite poorly compared to other parts. This is especially noticeable in case of Libya, Algeria (has the highest death rate at 12%), Egypt, Morocco (whose COVID 19 related data is unavailable and Tunisia (claims to be over the hump but susceptible to a resurgence).

However, the common challenge that binds all of Africa is the looming economic crisis and the China factor as Beijing is not willing to write off debts as requested by some African states.

Tied to the economic crisis is the external debt factor especially the debt to China. As the Chinese investments/debts in Africa are opaque in nature, the actual volume of it remains a mystery. However, they form a large part of the USD 600 billion debt that Africa has incurred over the years.

Even though few countries have asked for debt forgiveness China has been unwilling to do the same. The inability of Africa to repay the debt means an enormous asset grab by China in the next few years which could prove a challenge for many countries like India, Europe and others who have significant infrastructure projects in many African countries.

Africa’s economy is particularly linked to commodity prices like oil. Over 85% of their exports are oil. Now collapse in global oil prices, slowing down production and decreased demand due to a slump in economic activities has added pressure to the economies of various African states.

Additionally, projects offered on Line of Credit to the African states are also at a standstill for the moment and need a revaluation post pandemic.

The tourism Industry has also taken a bad hit in the continent. Estimated air passage loss of USD 4 billion has been projected.

Remittances are predicted to drop by at least 25% while GDP will take a hit of at least USD 20-100 billion.

However, immense potential exists for India in Africa post pandemic if it continues its bilateral engagements with African nations and also looks beyond buying-selling commodities and engages in sectors like technology, defence and services.


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Decades old institutions have come under fire for failing to manage a coherent response in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trump administration has halted funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for its seeming failure to warn other countries and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has been paralyzed by disputes among its members. In these testing times it is crucial to understand India’s role in steering and shaping these international institutions and their future when the crisis is over. Against this backdrop Ananta Aspen Centre held a digital session on “India and International Institutions post COVID-19” with Professor C. Raja Mohan, Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore and Mr. Ashok Malik, Policy Advisor, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.

The trouble with multilateral institutions started well before the COVID-19 crisis, for example in the WTO, but the crisis has accentuated it. The WHO which is indispensable in dealing with this pandemic finds itself in the centre of controversies over its alleged delayed warning and response. The WHO crisis is a broader crisis faced by the international organizations at a time when we have a problem of harmonizing interests & this harmonizing has become more difficult given the renewed contestation and tensions between major powers, making it harder to move forward on international cooperation.

India has been arguing for a long time that multilateral institutions become compatible to the realities of 21st century. In that respect three issues need to be considered – First, WHO which plays a very critical role in global health security today, needs strengthening, resources and internal restructuring. Second, the scope of conventional issues considered by the UNSC need to be broadened. The nature of challenges has increased and the traditional challenges have evolved, issues like cyber security, health security or pandemic preparedness are major contemporary security concerns, yet the UNSC has neglected them since they are not conventional security issues. Lastly, the governance of multilateral institutions, issues of their accountability, efficiency of spending and degree of autonomy need to be revisited.  To make these institutions 21st century compatible human resources, leadership positions and the approach to elections in these institutions need to be looked at in a manner that is more pragmatic and member countries need to have coordinated and strategic thinking on these fronts.

Globalization has suffered three big setbacks. One was the 9/11 attacks, second was the 2008 financial crisis and now the COVID-19 experience.  These three setbacks have caused a shift in the idea that you can tell your domestic constituents that you don’t need a self-sustained supply chain rather you can seek out the lowest cost producer in the world to meet your requirements. That logic has suffered a crippling blow. This will accelerate the shift towards plurilateralism from multilateralism, the QUAD+ is one example. There will certainly be an evolution of new partnerships and platforms moving forward.  India is looking at multiple formats of multilateralism- QUAD+, BRICS, Indian Ocean Grouping, etc. It is an interest-based multilateralism rather than the ideological multilateralism of the past.

The resurgence of nationalism and nation first positions as a response to the overreach of globalization will certainly be heightened after this crisis. The pressure on trans-oceanic supply chains is coming not only from domestic workers & manufacturer’s but are also from environmental conservationists who emphasize on the ecological cost of long supply chains. There are funds which were promoting regional trade, even before the COVID pandemic, because of the climate change imperative.

Even after COVID-19 the world will see much of China as it is a very important stakeholder in the global economy and global politics & institutions. China has gone on to build its own institutions, though there are concerns raised around it. There will be a new alphabet soup in the wake of COVID-19, with many pluri &multilateral institutions popping up for various purposes like one specifically for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. There will be a lot of institution building in the coming years in the Indo-Pacific particularly with India playing an important role.

Because multilateral institutions have taken a knock doesn’t mean we have become less international. We may not need certain institutions as much as we needed them before but we need partner countries, groupings and coalition of the willing in various areas like technology, security, etc. But the multilateral system as we have known it in the past needs to seriously relooked at and rebooted.




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“Young people and students are at the centre stage of Climate Action Plans. Today, the discourse on Climate change around the world has raised the consciousness of people towards mitigation.”- Jamshyd N Godrej, Feb 5, 2020.


In the past year, the world has witnessed several extreme weather events ranging from wildfires in California, floods in Kerala, bushfires in Australia, and the alteration of the mighty Amazon rainforest due to forest fires across South America. Speaking at the 9th India-US Track II Dialogue on Climate Change and Energy organised by Ananta Aspen Centre and the Aspen Institute US’ Energy Environment Programme on 5th February 2020, a group of experts gave their insights on the emergency of climate change that is upon us and the role of India and US government and citizens towards its mitigation. There is a need to make cosmic change happen on the ground level so as to save the environment. We have been noticing the emphasis on mitigation with enhanced prospects of solutions like electric mobility, and green buildings. Governments have been formalising the push towards these solutions side by engaging panels to work together.  Subnational and private sector actors in the United States and their counterparts in India have formed alliances to deal with climate change specifically in the arena of electric mobility.

Sustainable finance, one of the topics discussed by the dialogue participants during the closed door meeting, would harness the mitigation prospects of the world by ensuring there is enough influx of capital to facilitate the targets recognized in Paris in 2015 and beyond. Sustainable finance would also be needed to invest into building carbon free, sustainable and resilient infrastructure in developing countries. India has established an International Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure to create a mechanism to bring together technical expertise of multiple stakeholders from around the world to upgrade capacities in developing countries with their risk context and economic needs. The United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction agency has estimated that approximately USD 94 trillion would be needed for investment in infrastructure in the next 20 years with 60% of that concentrated in developing countries.

Climate change is not just an emergency, it is an existential crisis. Nature has the ability to recuperate on its own provided the absorptive capacity of the environment is well within its limits. The crisis, thus, is for the living species of the planet not the planet itself. Citizens have been proactive in creating a sense of awareness on how consumerism is affecting the climate in a negative manner. There needs to be a three-pronged approach for tackling this crisis: regulating the industries; providing incentives in the form of carbon credits; and then pricing the carbon so as to exercise the sense of being conscious towards our consuming limits.


*This session was held as a part of the India-US Track II Dialogue on Climate Change and Energy.

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India gets Budget Ready

T-3 days for the Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman to present the Union budget 2020-2021. Watch Dr Naushad Forbes, Chairman of Forbes Marshall and Ananta Aspen Centre, on ET NOW discussing what should be the focus in this budget to get the economic growth back on track!




                                                    Click here to watch the video:

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3835596698?profile=RESIZE_710xH.E. Mr. André Aranha Corrêa do Lago, Ambassador of Brazil to India with Mr. Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Foreign Editor, Hindustan Times and Distinguished Fellow & Head Strategic Affairs, Ananta Aspen Centre speaking at the session.

Relations between Brazil and India have been on an upward trajectory recently, receiving a push from favourable domestic and international developments. Both countries have demonstrated commonality in multilateral political and economic matters which creates a strong foundation for a stimulating bilateral relationship. Both countries are playing a lead role in the process of reviving south-south diplomacy which aims to not only promote a new configuration of multilateral institutions reflecting the current geopolitical scenario but also support cooperation among developing countries.

The acceptance of India’s invitation by the Brazilian President to be the Chief Guest at the former’s 71st Republic Day celebrations is a positive sign of commitment from both countries to expand bilateral ties beyond the current mandate focusing on converging interests. During the visit, India and Brazil have signed 15 agreements to strengthen cooperation in multiple areas ranging from energy, trade and investment to cybersecurity and information technology.

Set against this backdrop, the Ananta Aspen Centre recently hosted H.E Mr André Aranha Corrêa do Lago, Ambassador of Brazil to India as part of its Ambassador Series for a session titled “Beyond BRICS: Tapping the Full Potential of the India-Brazil Partnership”. The session was ably chaired by Mr Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, foreign editor of Hindustan Times.

President Bolsonaro’s Republic Day visit has been a landmark in the India-Brazil relationship as it marks the beginning of new mandates for both the President and Prime Minister Modi. It is a good time to collaborate on various levels bilaterally using the synergy between the two countries on multilateral forums like IBSA, BRICS, G4, G20 among others.  The strong personal dynamic between the two leaders ensures a positive pre-disposition to follow through on projects of mutual benefit.  

The ambassador explained the areas which would be focused on in order to strengthen the relationship. Brazil is one of the first nations to have a strategic partnership with India. Brazil and India are looking forward to expanding this partnership and make it tangible not only at the higher levels but for all stakeholders and business investors. Only a committed and focused approach would work in order to smoothen the process and issues that may arise.

Discussing economy and technology, the ambassador was optimistic about the unique opportunities the two countries have to offer. The businesses in both countries are bright and courageous and which provides a strong base for cooperation. Especially start-ups working on fin-tech and other similar areas are good sources for collaboration and investments and unicorns could be established for the purposes of strong B2B relationship.

Coming to energy, Brazil changed its status through the bioethanol programme in 1970s. India and Brazil suffered the most during the oil crisis of 1973- one of the roads which Brazil chose was to invest in ethanol. Currently Brazil has 0 subsidies and has agreed to collaborate with India on ethanol and would also share the state of art technology in this sector. Brazil has become one of the largest producers of oil and while India imports crude oil from Brazil at the moment, it also has a lot to offer in terms of hydro and wind energy. They build 2.8 million cars per year, with 98% of these cars having flexible technology, which could be explored by India.

Interestingly food is another upcoming point of convergence between the two countries. India consumes very different food from Brazil. There is a great demand for protein in India and Brazil is producing certain pulses only for exporting to India. As millions of people integrate, the consumer market is steadily growing.

On trade, India and Brazil have signed the first investment cooperation and facilitation treaty agreement during this visit in order to increase trade and investment in areas with high growth potential. This provides a great opportunity for Brazil’s modest trade to grow significantly based on the fact that when the profile is analysed, India is deemed as developed while Brazil is developing. The arrival of 50 businessmen from Brazil along with the official delegation is a strong signal of commitment to strengthen business and trade relations. The two nations have agreed to increase the bilateral trade from $8.2 billion to $15 billion by 2022. In addition to this, the two countries are also looking to strengthen defence industrial trade and widen the scope of partnership in this sector.

There are many commonalities in views despite the geographical distance between the two countries, especially on terrorism and climate change. As the world becomes increasingly complicated, a strong partnership between the two countries could play a crucial role in balancing world powers based on shared values of democracy, multiculturalism and free trade.


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