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Roundtable with Polish delegation

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  • January 13, 2011
    Round Table

    As part of an initiative to reach out to Universities and Think Tanks across the world, a bilateral meet was organized by IDSA with the University of Warsaw, Poland. The two sides appreciated the EU’s support which had helped create a meaningful programme of cooperation between the two institutes, as well as its support to other initiatives to bring Poland, the EU and India closer.

    The University was represented by Professor Edward Halizak, Director of the Institute of International Relations, Dr. Boguslaw Zaleski, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Institute of International Relations, and Dr. Jakub Zajarczkowsky, Chairperson of the Centre for Contemporary India Research and Studies, Institute of International Relations, University of Warsaw. IDSA was represented by Shri N.S. Sisodia, Director General, Smita Purushottam, Wg Cdr. V. Krishnappa, Joyce Sabina Lobo, Rajorshi Roy, and Pallav Pal.

    Director General said that India and Poland have always had the best of relations, a fact he experienced during visits to Warsaw when he was at the Indian Ministry of Defence. He emphasised the need for greater knowledge about Europe, a continent which was often taken for granted. That was the reason for starting the Eurasia cluster at IDSA. The EU model of integration presented a successful role model of peaceful co-existence and cooperation. Poland had a key position in Europe as a mediator and as an active contributor to its evolution as a multinational body. Shri Sisodia suggested a collaboration programme with special focus on roundtables, lectures and publications to improve mutual understanding and contact.

    He specially welcomed the initiative to start an Indian Studies Masters programme at the University of Warsaw and suggested that the curriculum could create employable skills that would improve the marketability of the programme. Some pertinent themes that could be included in the syllabus were the Indian business and legal environment, intellectual property rights and WTO issues, comparative assessments of developing economy models, role of FDI, technology transfer and technological indigenisation, trade agreements, macroeconomic management, and aspects of India’s Energy Security. These were highly relevant issues and would also require understanding of the global context which would increase the knowledge base, skills and employability of the student.

    Prof. Halizak, Director of the Institute of International Relations, University of Warsaw, said a lot of effort had gone into developing a unique curriculum on Indian studies. It was an intra- disciplinary program which encompassed politics, security and business. He felt it would go a long way in better understanding India’s booming growth story and the steps which the country had taken to combat pertinent issues like poverty, unemployment and health care. This should bring India closer to the West. However, he identified security studies and economic integration as a leading area of expertise in his Institute. Poland had had the unique experience of re-orienting its security strategy in the last two decades. Members of his Faculty were engaged in the development of NATO’s Security Concept and had contributed significantly to the drafting of the Lisbon summit statement.

    Poland had good relations with NATO and the West and had supported the campaigns to stabilise Iraq and Afghanistan. In Poland there was a huge discussion on these issues as controversies regarding the United States partnership could not be avoided. Questioning the idea of a decline of American power, he said in fact the unipolar moment was increasing as China’s model had still not fully consolidated and the EU was going through a difficult phase. For the moment only the U.S. was going to play a significant role in the new security arrangements in NATO and the Asia Pacific region. President Obama had made two very important visits to this region in the last couple of years and the U.S. had made new strategic partners in this region such as Vietnam, Indonesia and India. He said the East Asia summit would take place next year and India would join it. India as the EU’s strategic partner and as a connector was in a very unique position and was a very interesting partner for all countries including Poland. India plays a very important role in Polish minds. It is recognized as a great country. In light of India’s potential role in the Asia-Pacific, the Professor iterated a need for explicit pronouncement of an Indian national strategic doctrine. It should not under- estimate its capabilities.

    Dr. Boguslaw Zaleski, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Institute of International Relations said it was a common European interest to understand India and there was a need to specialise in Indian studies. Theirs was the only such institution in Central Europe and had been very active in organizing conferences with the aim of understanding India better. He added it was difficult to fulfil all expectations from the programme.

    Dr. Zaleski, while highlighting his long standing association with India, expressed the need for a greater interest and participation on India’s part to promote learning about contemporary India in Europe. India is looked upon as a gateway between the Euro-Atlantic and the Asia-Pacific region. India enjoys huge goodwill in Poland and the people of Poland have high admiration for the country. But it is also imperative for India to tap into the opportunities that exist in Poland and reinforce the belief amongst policy makers that Poland and India can carry forward their relationship which seems to have stagnated in recent times. The last Prime Ministerial visit to Poland was way back in 1979 when Mr. Morarji Desai endeared himself to the Polish public. PM Donald Tusk had visited India and met the Prime Minister. Trade had been falling and it was important to rejuvenate contacts and revive cooperation. Therefore, India should ‘throw its doors wide open’ and show an urgency to rejuvenate the Indo-Polish partnership.

    Wg. Cdr. Krishnappa spoke about the Indian National Strategy Project initiated by IDSA. Against the backdrop of political and economic developments since the early 1990s and the consequent blurring of lines between politics and economy, Wg. Cr. Krishnappa reflected on their combined implications for India’s national goals and aspirations. Whether this has caused a paradigm shift in the Indian mind-set to a more realist and rationalist approach will be a central consideration for the role India chooses to play on the global stage. India’s institutional memory, largely inherited from a cold-war context, leaves it ill-equipped to fully embrace the great opportunity a new global scenario has sent its way. Certain reflexive stances had been taken as default. He gave a frank analysis of the internal dialogue going on in India on these issues and said it was the aim of the project to elaborate a national security concept and strategy.

    Professor Halizak said the dialogue on this issue should be continued, especially since India was a democracy and an important bridge between East and West. He remarked that although Indian business had gone global its approach on the WTO was old fashioned. He posed two issues: should India look at the possibility of forming alliances, and why was the concept of balance of power not talked about? The conversation also touched upon China, Russia and the asymmetric differential in power between India and China. The Minister said that the world expected that India as a big ship would give signals while it was changing direction. No one expected this change to happen overnight.

    Director General felt that no big country can be in an alliance relationship with any other power. It had to be an equal partnership. Even the United States had said that the time for alliances had gone.

    Dr. Zajarczkowsky of the Centre for Contemporary India Research and Studies, Institute of International Relations, University of Warsaw, stated that this was the second time the two sides were meeting and they valued IDSA’s support for the program. He stressed that it was important for IDSA and the University to create a real platform for sharing of ideas. Security issues continue to be crucial and there is a need to dedicate more than one seminar exclusively on security related issues. There can be a comparison between the security scenario in Europe and Asia and the role played by India. Issues like the question of Afghanistan, Indian Ocean, India-China competition and implications for the U.S. would be of great interest.

    He thanked DG for his remarks on the Master’s Programme but added that the aim at the conferences was to strengthen cooperation by exchange of views on security which is the most important pillar. He described the number of international conferences held on the issue.

    Eurasia cluster coordinator Ms. Smita Purushottam said that the Eurasia cluster had been created to focus on this vast and important region and to build up capacities for understanding global issues. She emphasized that the Eurasia cluster will strive towards achieving research excellence. She also identified the possibility of a joint assessment of implications of China’s rise by concerned constituencies in Poland, the EU and India. She added that the EU-India was a genuinely strategic partnership and both sides should take full advantage of a commonality in values. The EU was a global player and India also saw its future in partnership with peace loving countries and democracies. Other areas of focus were outlined.

    DG proposed that an interesting area for focus could be Turkey’s growing role and the EU accession talks. There was a view that Turkey’s membership would help build one of the strongest bridges between Europe and the Muslim world. Turkey could set a positive example for democratization in the region and significantly contribute to EU’s security objectives. The DG proposed holding a roundtable conference to discuss the strategic importance of Turkey for the European Union and India.

    In conclusion, a proposal was tabled for a joint conference and round-table over the years 2011-12 to exchange views on Polish and Indian perspectives on strategic issues in a rapidly transforming world. It was also agreed to strengthen the institutional relationship between the two institutes. As a priority it was decided to have a round table on Indian and Polish national strategic doctrine and exchange views on the strategic thinking on both sides. At a later date, roundtables on other interesting topics could be organised, especially during Poland’s EU presidency in the second half of this year.

    Event report prepared by Mr. Rajorshi Roy, Research Assistant, Eurasia Cluster, with inputs from Ms. Kalyani Unkule.

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