By Liu Zongyi Source: Global Times Published: 2018-1-25
The 3rd annual Raisina Dialogue, organized by India`s Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi from January 16-18 with the theme - "Managing disruptive transition: ideas, institutions and idioms" - revolved around the so-called "order," including regional and world order.
There were two core issues under "order." One is Indo-Pacific, which includes issues in Indo-Pacific security, role of major powers and whether the Asian century means the end of the free order. The other is connectivity and geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges.
China is undoubtedly an important stakeholder in both issues as well as a major target. Paradoxically, there were only two Chinese scholars who spoke on women`s issues and nuclear proliferation. Neither did Chinese scholars speak on key issues such as regional security and connectivity nor did they have the opportunity to ask questions. As far as the discussion on connectivity is concerned, I believe the organizers were trying to give an impression that India is the main facilitator of regional connectivity with a role not inferior to China`s. They meant to say that New Delhi played a positive role in regional connectivity while other countries were trying to export political influence.
Criticizing the China-proposed connectivity plan, Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Iraq and the UN, said it has changed the international order. Indian speaker Vijay Gokhale raked up the old issue that connectivity projects must be transparent, respect sovereignty and follow international rules.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Kazem Sajjadpour slammed the international north-south transport corridor. But István Mikola, Hungary`s minister of state for security policy and international cooperation, welcomed China`s investment and supported China`s efforts to promote connectivity. In discussions on Indo-Pacific security and regional order, the US, Japan and Australia indicated that they want to reverse the imbalance of power in the Indo-Pacific region by establishing a military alliance with India to counterbalance China. Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command, called China a "disruptor" of the freedom, openness, prosperity and inclusiveness of the Indo-Pacific region. Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, Chief of Staff of the Japan Joint Staff, said Beijing is changing the status quo in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, and it is important for countries in the area to close ranks against it. He added that China`s Belt and Road initiative aims at military expansion.
However, Indian Chief of Naval Staff Sunil Lanba did not respond positively to the speeches of American and Japanese generals, but emphasized India`s strategic autonomy. Ram Madhav, general secretary of India`s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said that India cannot just be a participant in regional affairs but is a stakeholder, indicating that New Delhi should play a leading role in the Indian Ocean region.
In the absence of Chinese scholars, Indonesian scholars tried to balance the views of US, Japan and India and said that the region needs alignments based on issues rather than allies based on treaties. Major powers such as China, the US, Russia and India cannot be contained, and the US-Japan-India-Australia grouping will only result in more distrust. Countries in the region lack grand ideas on the regional order, with many people viewing it from the strategic hawkish perspective.
The Raisina Dialogue was elaborately planned to serve as a platform for countries like the US, Japan and Australia to show their tough stance toward China and Russia, and meanwhile demonstrate India`s posture of trying to balance between Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific region, in addition to India`s independent major-power status and dissatisfaction with China.
However, countries in and outside the region did not accept the stances of India, the US, Japan and Australia. Instead, statements made by officials of Hungary and Sri Lanka showed that China`s Belt and Road initiative and cooperation with regional countries have been widely welcomed. In addition, organizers acted mean by not inviting Chinese scholars to speak at the meeting and not properly handling technical glitches when Chinese attendees asked questions.
The author is a visiting fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.