Global India Foundation International Conference -‘India’s Eurasian Endeavour: Rediscoveries and Reformulations’
Conference Report

Global India Foundation under the auspices of the trilateral collaboration with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS) and the India-Central Asia Foundation (ICAF) organised an International Conference on ‘India’s Eurasian Endeavour: Rediscoveries and Reformulations’ at India International Centre Annex, New Delhi on the 29th and 30th of September 2011. The Conference was supported by MAKAIAS and IFCI. It saw the coming together of speakers representing perspectives from politics, economics, academia and media on India’s engagement with Eurasia. Presenters included representatives from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Kazakhastan, Kyrgyzstan, and Singapore. The conference was inaugurated by Smt.Preneet Kaur, Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs, GOI (Speech) and included fifteen presentations by participants.

From left to right- Ms. Cauvery Ganapathy, Mr.K. Santhanam, Amb. Salman Haidar, Smt.Preneet Kaur, Dr.Sreeradha Datta, Mr.Ajay Bisaria

The sessions were augmented by perspectives offered on the papers by the chairs and discussants who presented their expert views on the topics discussed in the session. The themes discussed by the participants included, inter alia, Shanghai Corporation and Chinas role in Eurasia and its significance to India’s foreign policy, the strategic importance of Afghanistan, balance of power in the Eurasia and the role of India as a global player, soft power and track two diplomacy, drug trafficking as a nontraditional security threat, energy and transport corridors and the role of Iran.

Following initiation by Prof. Omprakash Mishra, Member Secretary, GIF, and opening remarks from Dr.Sreeradha Datta, Director, MAKAIAS, Kolkata, Mr.Ajay Bisaria, Joint Secretary, Eurasia Division, Ministry of External Affairs, GOI, and Mr.K. Santhanam, President, ICAF the conference was formally inaugurated by Chief Guest Smt.Preneet Kaur, Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs,GOI, who spoke on the strategic importance of Eurasia to India’s foreign policy objectives.The session was chaired by Amb. Salman Haidar, Former Foreign Secretary, Member, Executive Council, GIF. The inauguration session ended with a vote of thanks offered by Ms. Cauvery Ganapathy, Fellow, Global India Foundation.

Prof.Gautam Kumar Basu chaired the first working session, ‘India-Eurasia Ties’, presiding over a panel that included Prof. Ilhan Sahin (Faculty of Letters Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University) Dr. Angira Sen Sarma (Fellow, Observer Research Foundation) and Prof. Abdul Razzaq Vahidi (Acting Chief of Staff, Ministry of Finance, Kabul and Lecturer, Kabul University). Dr. Sanjay Pandey (Associate Professor, Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies, SIS, JNU) was the discussant. Prof. Ilhan Sahin presented an ethnographic study on verbal account of living history of Central Asian people. Dr. Angira Sen Sarma tracked the trajectory of the Shanghai Corporation highlighting scope for India’s involvement in the imitative in the future. Prof. Vahidi highlighted the efforts of Afghanistan in establishing a regional support system that would help the cause of the nation’s reconstruction.

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(A) From left to right- Prof. Abdul Razzaq Vahidi,Dr. Angira Sen Sarma, Prof.Gautam Kumar Basu, Prof. Ilhan Sahin, Dr. Sanjay Pandey
(B) From left to right- Mr. Togrul Juvarli, Ambassador Arundhati Ghose, Prof. R.G.Gidadhubli, Prof. Nirmala Joshi

The second working session on traditional security and strategic perceptions was chaired by Ambassador Arundhati Ghose with Prof. Nirmala Joshi (Member, ICAF) as the discussant. The session included presentations made by Prof. R.G.Gidadhubli (Centre for Central Eurasian Studies, University of Mumbai) and Mr. Togrul Juvarli (Energy Consultant, Turan Information Agency, Baku, Azerbaijan). Mr. Juvarli offered interesting perspectives on Russia and China as traditional powers in the energy landscape in the Eurasian region and argued that there is a need for balance in the power equation a role which India can potentially play.

The last working sessions of day one on Non-traditional Security Perceptions was chaired by Admiral P.J.Jacob with Prof.Hari Vasudevan as the Co-Chair. Speakers included Prof.Dr. Gulnara Mendikulova (Director, Centre of Diaspora Studies, World Association of Kazakhs) and Dr.Bhagaban Behera (Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University) with Dr.Lopamudra Bandopadhyay (Fellow, Global India Foundation) as the discussant. Dr. Mendikulova spoke about the potential of India’s soft power and track two diplomacy in addressing nontraditional security threats while Dr. Behera dwelt into drug trafficking as a threat to Central Asia.

From left to right- Prof. Dr. Gulnara Mendikulova, Dr.Bhagaban Behera, Admiral P.J.Jacob, Prof.Hari Vasudevan, Dr.Lopamudra Bandyopadhyay

The proceedings on the second day began with a session on ‘Energy Security and Transport Corridors’ which was chaired by K.Santhanam with Dr.Gulshan Sachdeva (Associate Professor at the Centre for European Studies, School of International Studies, JNU) as the discussant. The session included presentations from Mr. Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury (Diplomatic Correspondent, Mail Today), Prof. Abolghasem Mahdavi Mazdeh (Faculty of Economics, University of Tehran), Dr. Meena Singha Roy (Fellow, Institute of Defense and Strategic Analyses, New Delhi), and Mr. Hassan Karrabi (Second Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Iran). Mr. Roy Chaudhury provided the perspective from the media on the future of transport corridors between Central Asia and India while Prof. Mazdeh provided an enlightening economic model of the development benefits of increased trade between Eurasia and India which currently less than 2% of India’s trade volume. Dr. Roy spoke about using soft power strategy in our foreign affairs policy discourse and Mr. Karrabi again provided a perspective on the opportunity cost of India-Eurasia cooperation.

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(A) From left to right- Dr. Meena Singha Roy, Mr. Dipanjan Ray Chaudhury,Mr. K.Santhanam, Prof. Abolghasem Mahdavi Mazdeh, Mr. Hassan Karrabi
(B) From left to right- Dr. Suchandana Chatterjee, Dr. Sanjeev Kumar, Prof.Arun Mohanty, Brig. Devinder Singh, Mr. Mahan Abedin, Dr. Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

The final session of the conference was on the ‘Role of Actors in Eurasia and Strategic Compulsions’ chaired by Prof.Arun Mohanty (Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies, School of International Studies, JNU) and included presentations from Dr. Sanjeev Kumar (Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi), Dr. Suchandana Chatterjee (Fellow, MAKAIAS), Mr. Mahan Abedin (Fellow, Centre for the Study of Terrorism, United Kingdom and Visiting Fellow, IDSA), and Dr. Shanthie Mariet D’Souza (Visiting Research Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore). The Discussant for the session was Brigadier Devinder Singh (Member, ICAF). While Dr. Kumar spoke on China’s policy towards Central Asia and Eurasia focusing on India’s response to Chinese policy,Mr.Abedin focused on the possibility of a Sino-Iranian strategic partnership in Eurasia and its attendant implications. Dr. Chatterjee dwelt upon the renewed interest in Siberia’s growing interface with Russia’s Asian affairs and the tangential relevance of India in this dynamic. Dr. D’Souza focused on adapting changes in India’s policy towards Afghanistan in the light on the evolving circumstances in the region, especially given the geopolitical importance of Afghanistan as a bridge to Eurasia.

The conference ended with a vote of thanks provided by Sreya Maitra Roychoudhury, Fellow, Global India Foundation.(Conference Schedule)