Welcome Remarks by Dr Arvind Gupta, Director, Vivekananda International Foundation during the visit of Valdai Discussion Club delegation on 08 Jan 2024

On behalf of the Vivekananda International Foundation, I would like to welcome the distinguished delegation from Valdai Discussion Club led by Mr Andrey Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, to India. This visit is taking place in the framework of the MoU of cooperation that our two institutions signed in Sochi in Oct 2023.

Valdai Discussion Club is one of the most renowned Russian think tanks and discussion fora. Established in 2004, it enjoys high global prestige. President Putin himself engages with the participants regularly. The VIF is delighted to partner with the prestigious Valdai Discussion Club. We hope that such engagement will continue in the future.

India-Russia relations have traditionally been characterised by a high level of trust, mutual understanding, cooperation, mutual assistance and support. This was recently reaffirmed during the successful 5-day visit of Dr S Jaishankar, India’s External Affairs Minister to Moscow. The two sides reviewed the present state of bilateral relationship, and also exchanged views on global and regional situation. Minister Jaishankar spoke of the convergence of strategic interests between the two countries and described the bilateral relations situation of “very steady, very strong”. Minister Lavrov described the relationship as of a “trusting nature, built on mutual respect and not subject to market fluctuations”.

Currently, global tensions are high and the mechanisms to resolve them have been found to be inadequate. The key multilateral institutions are becomingless effective as the world gets fragmented and polarised along multiple axes. The risk of a wider military conflagration is considerable. Arms control and disarmament mechanisms are non-existent or at a standstill. Global nuclear and missiles arsenals are being expanded at a fast pace. The risk of weaponisation of cyberspace and outer space has increased. The indiscriminate use of sanctions as a weapon causes economic and social disruptions globally. The rising income disparities, climate change, unfair and unequal trading rules are causing instabilities in the world.

The unipolar moment that came about after the end of the cold war has given way to a complex multipolar world in which western hegemony is being challenged increasingly. In a multipolar world sovereign nations, have many options. But there is no guarantee that such a world would necessarily be peaceful and stable. Russia and India, along with other countries, can and should contribute the evolution of a peaceful, stable, inclusive, multipolar world based on the idea of harmony in diversity, rule of law, cooperation and accommodation in which the security and growth aspirations of all are taken care of.

Despite major international changes, it is clear that both countries are drawn together due to strong strategic convergences, their respective geopolitical interests and a bilateral relationship that has huge potential. There is a strong public sentiment in favour of these relations but these need to be further buttressed with new forward-looking drivers relevant for this century. This should include greater interaction at the people-to-people level- business, scientists, artists, sportsmen and women and the youth of both countries. This will help raise awareness about the relevance of India-Russia relations in our countries.

At its G20 presidency, India put forward the civilisational idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or a vision of “One Planet, One World and One Future”. Such a vision recognises inclusively, plurality and diversity in the world, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam envisions a world of mutual cooperation, accommodation, caring and sharing, respect for nature, environment and biodiversity. A multipolar world requires such an inclusive vision. Otherwise, there will be chaos. Both India and Russia are positioning themselves as civilisational states and are in a unique position to contribute to the emergence of a harmonious, peaceful and stable multipolar world.

Think tanks can play an important role in enhancing mutual understanding. It is in this spirit that we are holding today’s conference. From the Indian side, we have eminent experts and thinkers participating in today’s conference. We look forward to a useful and productive exchange of views.

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