GDF - KAS Global Dialogue Security Summit 2020

This year's conference titled "The Global Dialogue Security Summit (GDSS 2020) - A 2020 Vision Contesting The Indo-Pacific For Global Domination" analysed, through eminent speakers, various facets of the shift in global power to the Indo-Pacific region from the Atlantic, and weighed its global consequences on issues ranging from security to the environment to the economy to international law to technological advancements.

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Said ― Victor Hugo


And so it can be said about QUAD whose time has come because nations have interests and China has caused these interests to converge, especially those of the QUAD members. This was a resonating refrain in one form or the other during the sessions of the day I and to some extent in day II too.....




Gen Bipin Rawat brought into a sharp focus, the challenges that exist for India in the Indo-pacific (see media links at the end).Mr. Rimmele highlighted the changed European and German perspectives towards the Indo Pacific. His discernment between the ‘right of the might or might of the right’ was brought up repeatedly by the speakers in the ensuing sessions.


Session II



HE Mr. Barry O'Farrell, the Australian High Commissioner painted a bright picture of Indo-Australian cooperation on bilateral level and Indo-Pacific arena as well.

Admiral Arun Prakash, with his evident gift of succinctness and usage of statistics, was vivid in his description of Chinese ambitions and her geo-strategic trajectory aimed at global domination with its various sub components. He stressed on US being the bulwark against the Chinese expansionism for India and the world as a whole. The Chinese want the best of both worlds- Coopetition.


Session III



Amb. Ruchi Ghanshyam emphasised on the high potential EU-India cooperation due to shared values and ethos, citing the joint work being done on the covid-19 vaccine as a wonderful template for future cooperation in areas of AI, Green energy, climate change, environmental challenges, E- mobility, rivers rejuvenation

Professor Priya Poojary went into the genesis of the Indo-Pacific at a time when the geostrategic and geo economic considerations are dominating the international political discourse. She highlighted the divergences in the concept and approach to Indo-Pacific wherein, for example India had the ‘Quad’ approach while Europe was only now turning its gaze to this spot with France and Germany leading the way in spite of high stakes in terms of economic security in this region of the world.


Session IV



moderated by Ambassador A.R. Ghanashyam IFS (Retd) who set the tone with the statement that from 1950 till today, the number of UN member countries have tripled as has the world population while the per capita income has multiplied 20times or more.

Mr. Rahul Chhabra IFS, Secretary (Economic Relations), Ministry of External

Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi culled out the various disparities and inequalities as road block towards achieving the SDGs while acknowledging the fact that the pandemic has exacerbated the challenges of achieving equitability in multilateral institutions and other arenas and that India is ready to be an engine of growth for the world and looks forward to playing a critical role in the evolution of an equitable global economic order.

Dr. Rathin Roy, Managing Director, Overseas Development Institute, London, UK brought out the fact that the fundamental reason of economic inequity is heredity as asset inequity leads to income inequity over generations of inheritance and how the downsides of the system of global finance as well as globalisation play a negative role in this process of fostering inequity.

Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani emphasised that never before in the last 3000 years have so many people been lifted out of poverty as have been in the last 30 years and globalisation deserves a lot of credit citing cases of China, India and Vietnam as leading examples. He explained that Fukuyama’s assertion of ‘the West has won’ was an inflection point as it lulled the West into complacency while shook awake the Asia countries into joining the globalisation process which really reaped the gains but this, while should have led to convergences between the West and East, has actually lead to divergences. He also dispelled the notion that RCEP was China driven and not ASEAN driven and pointed out that US, till to date, has invested more dollars in ASEAN than in China, Japan, Korea and India combined.


Session V



Dr. Jeffrey Becker, Research Programme Director, Indo-Pacific Security Affairs,

Centre for Naval Analyses, George Washington University, Washington DC, US

was of the opinion that China’s maritime expansion coupled with its silk route and OBOR initiatives was a cause of concern and has created an opportunity for India and USA to work together on these new challenges. Being democracies, the QUAD shared common values and were natural partners for addressing the expansionist behaviour of China. The downturn in US-China relations is not simply a function of Trump administration as it had already begun in the second Obama administration and is likely to continue during the Biden administration. Of course, in spite of the building blocks of agreements between India and the US being there, they still needed to operationalised to the maximum and definitely more needed to be done particularly in the maritime domain to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific based on international rules based order.


Dr. Connie Bakrie, President, Indonesia Institute for Maritime Studies, Jakarta, andTrustee at National Air Power and Space Centre of Indonesia believed that the fate of Trump’s policies under the Biden administration remains uncertain and that included placement of India in the centre of its Indo-Pacific policy. Till 2015, US was leading in maritime capability in the region vis-a-vie China but this will be overturned soon. The challenge now for Indonesia and ASEAN was to balance between the coalition of the willing countries- read Australia rather than US and the coalition of the non-willing countries- read China and its allies. Security cooperation arrangements needed to be established due to the existing asymmetries- India and ASEAN needed to work together and the way forward was to quit the talking and start the doing.


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Dr. Laura Yerekesheva, Professor at al Farabi Kazakh National University, Almaty,Kazakhstan kicked off the day 2 by bringing the concept of ‘space’ into the discourse with its various interpretations where in the Globalisation was all about shrinking space while the pandemic was about expanding space with the social distancing being advocated. Applying this concept to the Indo-Pacific, she pointed out that how this space or zone was interpreted differently by France, USA, Japan, Australia, Germany, India and other countries in terms of geography. The Indo-Pacific concept seems to be aimed at restricted China and preventing the Indo-Pacific from becoming a sino-centric space. She brought into focus the infrastructure of the Eurasian space for the economies of the region and the various trade agreements between the Eurasian (economic union) and the Indo-Pacific spaces.


Lt. General Arun Kumar Sahni UYSM, SM, VSM (Retd), former General Ofcer

Commanding in Chief, South Western Command, Director General, Indian NationalAssociation, Club of Rome felt that the post second world war US- led liberal order was under stress due to various reasons and a new order was looming on the global horizon with China’s confidence and ambitions growing in the economic and geo-strategic dimensions. He foresaw a greater control by the governments in democracies, a shake-up of global world order due to pandemic as also its ramifications with critical role being played by the Corporate giants like Alphabet, Facebook, Alibaba, and change in the role of multilateral institutions.Mackinder’s and Brzezinski’s theories were pointed to and it was stressed on the need to interpret them in light of the current scenarios where the circumstances are quite differentfrom the times when these theories were propounded. Salient facts now are Europe with its challenges has diminished in stature, China isthe new player in the Eurasian bloc and Russia has brought plutonomics into play to regain its lost glory. Russia and China are synergising their efforts to create a regional space which is free of western influence.





Mr. Salman Khurshid, former External Affairs Minister of India. Previously India'sMinister for Law and Justicebegan by invoking Tagore’s poem- ‘Let my country awake’ and said that India had come a long way since independence and if it was felt that India deserved a place on the global high table, it was well founded but there is no denying the fact that India still had critical problems to address in terms of food security, gaping holes in the social safety nets as well as constitutional questions like scope of fundamental rights read together with doctrine of proportionality, individual vs societies etc. There was a need to reorient priorities, cultural ethos, adopt humanistic approach on universal basis not just in India. He discussed the Gandhian and Nehruvian ideas of India and then threw the question in the air as to was there another alternate idea or version of India? He admitted that the debate was on as to what India should be in ten years from now and as to what kind of India do we want our children to live in and this debate was a hallmark of a great democracy that India was, is and will remain.


Professor John Varghese, Principal, St Stephen's College, New Delhi began by averring that the future of India is the future of the world and this is an idea which has been long overdue. He advocated giving primacy to education with the right values as the real source of power over the convention thinking of world domination through force. Here the Indian democracy was a real strength with its ethos advocating the whole world being a family.





Ms Ritu Rao, specialist on urban water bodies, Teri School of Advanced Studies, New Delhi warned against the damming of rivers due to destruction of downstream dependent eco-systems, silting, shrinkage of deltas and degradation/drying up of down streams over a period of time. Riverfront developments are a potent threat because of flood plains reclamation, sewage dumping into the rivers and such other related phenomena while the faulty implementation of the already weak though well- meant legislations added to the water woes. Conferring of legal entities to rivers is a step in the right direction but it still needs ratification by the Supreme Court. The state of river degradation is alarming and if rivers die, so do we!


Professor Ashok Swain, Director, Research School of International Water

Cooperation, Uppsala University, Swedenbrought in the global context mentioning that 3.4 million people die every year due to water scarcity and the 7.5 billion world population has an increasing per capita water footprint with a lot of inequity thrown in. Water pollution, cross border disputes of transnational rivers, climate change were added complications. The US and World bank tried to stop financing dam constructions in Asia and Africa but then China has stepped in to build dams all over the world thus negating the world efforts to stop dam constructions and avoid huge negative implications. He touched upon the Indus treaty vis-à-vie Pakistan and the situation with respect to Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers vis-à-vie China and emphasised that Indian strategic thinkers and policy makers need to become more aware of water not just as a natural resource but also as a strategic tool or weapon in the arsenal of its unfriendly neighbours as well as in its own.





Dr. Matthias Stürmer, Head of the Research Center for Digital Sustainability, BernUniversity, Switzerlandbegan by pointing that the market capitalisation of GAFAM+ Tencents+ Alibaba was 3 times India’s GDP at around 8.4 trillion$ and still growing and they are buying up every competing tech company thus leading to data colonisation. Data is now a strategic good leading to issues of data sovereignty, data localisation, data as a source for AI, machine readability of data etc. He brought out the duality of the relationship between digitalisation and sustainability. He walked the rapt audience through the exciting research possibilities of digital applications in agricultural and pharma realms amongst others.


Professor Carlo Masala, Director of Project Metis: Institute for Strategy & Foresight and Chair for International Relations, University of German Bundeswehr, Munich, Germanyspeculated on the possibility of a clash or war between the rising power (China) and the declining power (USA) which may start with a local regional conflict involving China and become a major conflict between the two when the US intervenes. On the other hand, there is a shift in doctrine of nuclear deterrence which used to be based on a second strike ability but now, with development of smart AI based and miniaturised nuclear weapons, the doctrine is changing with catastrophic possibilities of a conflict if it was to occur between China and US in the South China sea for example. Another problem is absence of China from the new START negotiations while NPT’s effectiveness is debatable. China’s reluctance to be drawn into a global nuclear weapons management treaties may represent an existential threat in the near to the middle term. Erstwhile USSR and now Russia and the USA managed this threat responsibly but China playing coy, this threat is very real.


Mr. ShreyasJayasimha, Head of Aarna Law, Aarna ADR, Singapore, space,

technology and nuclear law specialistoutlined the need to underline the fundamental principles that should guide deployment nuclear weapons while to talk of principles for development of these advanced weapon systems, well, the horse has already bolted the stable and it was too late. Techniques of deeper dialogue needed to be explored where the role of UN certainly existed. The realm of Space is the next theatre of war as projects relating to military use of space are already up and running in many countries. Even the internet is satellite based now and hardly undersea cables based.


SESSION X - 1530 hrs - 1630 hrs



Air Marshal Diptendu Choudhury, AVSM, VM, VSM, Commandant, National Defence College, while delivering the valedictory address, pointed to the geopolitical jostling as a result of the pandemic with the blurring of boundaries between the traditional and the non-traditional, between home and office, between friends and rivals and so on. He addressed the challenges faced by the developing and the developed countries and discussed the linkages between economic growth and security issues as a part of overall national interests. He also opined that ceding international space to expansionist nations like China was a danger to the international rule of law and her various planned aggressive moves in the SCS and ECS as well as in Himalayas will have ramifications for the whole world.Even though a strong push back from its direct targets may have surprised China but it just may have paused China, and not stopped it as it will take cohesive actions of the like-minded powers to force China to rethink its ambitions and bring it into the ambit of the international rule of law and multilateral framework where India has always walked the talk in the spirit of As Mahatma Gandhi’s quote” let us be the change that we want to see in the world!!!”



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