Director’s Opening Remarks: VIF-ECSSR Meeting on 03 Jun 2024

Excellency Dr. Sultan Al Nuaimi,

Members of the delegations of the Emirates Centre and the VIF,

I would like to thank His Excellency Dr. Sultan Al Nuaimi and the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies (ECSSR) for hosting the first VIF- ECSSR meeting at Abu Dhabi today. Thank you for your warm hospitality and the programme.

The VIF and ECSSR are the leading think tanks of India and UAE respectively. We are happy that today we will be signing a MoU which will lay the foundation of a productive cooperation between the scholars and experts of two sides.

The VIF is an independent, non-partisan think tank dedicated to the studies of global and regional politics and furthering the cause of peace and global harmony. We are inspired by Swami Vivekananda who expounded the ancient Indian philosophy of unity in diversity. He was a Hindu monk, disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa and the founder of Ramakrishna Mission.

Speaking at the first meeting of the Parliament of World Religion in 1893, Swami Vivekananda spelt out the inclusive and non-sectarian ancient Hindu philosophy that transcends the differences of religion, race and nation. Swami Vivekananda in his Chicago speech told the world that he was proud to belong to a religion that taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. His teachings have continued to inspire countless generations of Indians to this day.

The VIF is dedicated to Swami Ji’s principles of harmony in diversity, assimilation and acceptance which remains relevant in a world that is caught up in violence, ideological conflict, wars and strife.

The VIF believes in a strong India which can be a force for global good. During its presidency of G-20, India promoted the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam- ‘One planet, One world, One family’. Viswabandutava or global brotherhood is the framework of India’s foreign policy.

India has promoted global cooperation on key issues ranging from climate change, energy transition, health, education, trade, infrastructure and the form of multilateralism. India has voiced the concerns of the Global South and advocated cooperation. PM Modi mentioned to President Putin in Sep 2022 a few months after the Russia-Ukraine war that this should not be an ‘era of wars’. This theme was reflected in the G-20 leaders’ declaration and formed the basis for the consensus. The idea that we should avoid war and resolve the differences through dialogue and diplomacy has resonated across the world.

Excellency, the Covid pandemic exposed the shortcomings of the post-war world order. When the global cooperation was needed most, it was sadly missing. The global economy came to a grinding halt. The developed countries, instead of helping the needy countries, became selfish as they hoarded the vaccines for themselves. In contrast, India under its vaccine ‘maitri’ programme, supplied 72 million doses of COVID vaccine to 94 countries and 2 UN entities in the form of grant, commercial export or through COVAX. As the world becomes more complex, we will need more cooperation not less.

The Russia-Ukraine war and the ongoing war in Gaza have put further strain on the international system. The world is getting divided into groupings inimical to each other. Russia and China are championing a multi-polar world that is opposed to the US hegemony. On the other hand, the West sees Russia as a threat to the world order that they founded after the Second World War. The gulf between Russia and the West is widening. The nuclear arms control agreements are today dysfunctional. There is also a loose talk about the use of nuclear weapons. The Russia-Ukraine war has made the world more unstable. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight even as both sides are suffering heavy casualties.

The ongoing war in Gaza has created instability in the region. The ramification of the conflicts are global. A humanitarian crisis of unimaginable proportions is unfolding with the international community watching the situation helplessly. This war has created problems that will last for a very long time.

The divisions in the world are growing and further exacerbated by issues such as climate change. The UAE hosted the COP 28 meeting last year at which the first global stock take was taken. It showed that there is not enough cooperation in dealing with climate change. The 1.5-degree Celsius target for global warming is most likely going to be breached as there is not enough global cooperation. The developed countries that are primarily responsible for historic emissions are simply not forthcoming with the financial and technological help expected from them to help developing countries in dealing with climate change. Energy transition to ‘net zero’ is going to put an unbearable burden on the developing countries.

Emerging technologies like AI, Machine learning, electric vehicles etc have revolutionised the world. While new technologies can provide some solutions, they also create problems. Generative AI will potentially make humans redundant to decision-making. That is why several countries are coming up with guidelines for regulating AI. These technologies will also revolutionize warfare as we see happening in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The UN Secretary General has spoken about a fragmenting world faced with a series of ‘interlocking threats’ like the changing nature of warfare, terrorism, weaponisation new and emerging technologies, shrinking space for civic participation climate emergency and violation of international law and the erosion of collective security system envisioned in the UN charter. The search for principle for a new, more effective multilateralism is still in conclusive even as the world become more unstable.

Relations between India and UAE have reached new heights in the last ten years. Our leaders have excellent personal chemistry and mutual regard. High-level exchanges have been frequent. India and UAE have signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2022. Bilateral trade has increased sharply to USD 86 billion. Mutual investment has increased. New areas of cooperation, particularly in food, energy, pharmaceutical, space and emerging technologies have opened up.

The 3.5 million strong Indian diaspora in the UAE played an extremely important role in strengthening bilateral ties. The recent inauguration of the Swami Narayan Temple in Abu Dhabi by the Prime Minister is an indication of the strong cultural and civilisation connect between our people.

India and UAE are also cooperating with each other in the format of I2U2 and India-UAE- France trilateral.

I2U2 is aimed to encourage joint investments in six mutually identified areas such as water, energy, transportation, space, health, and food security. It intends to mobilize private sector capital and expertise to help modernize the infrastructure, low carbon development pathways for our industries, improve public health, and promote the development of critical emerging and green technologies.

The agreement on India-Middle East Economic Corridor (IMEC) has a lot of potential for the region. An MOU on IMEC was signed by India, USA, Saudi Arabia, UAE, European Union, Italy, France and Germany. The IMEC comprises of an Eastern Corridor connecting India to the Gulf region and a Northern Corridor connecting the Gulf region to Europe. It will include a railway and ship-rail transit network and road transport routes.

IMEC would help promote economic integration between India and Europe.

India, UAE and France have set up a trilateral mechanism of dialogues which focuses on defence, energy and environment, innovation and people-to-people exchanges. The trilateral holds promise of contributing to regional stability.

India and UAE have also strengthened their defence cooperation. This includes high level exchanges at the level of Service Chiefs, functional level exchanges and military education exchanges between the countries. The ships of the Navies of both countries have regularly made port calls enhancing bilateral defence co-operation. India and UAE hold an Annual Defence Dialogue to discuss the security and defence co-operation issues between the two countries.

Both countries made an important contribution to global and regional peace and stability. This is just a beginning. The potential of Indo-UAE relations has yet to be tapped.

At the VIF we are focussing on many such issues. We are glad that we will have a chance to discuss some of these issues in today’s conference. We look forward to working with our colleagues to deepen our understanding and learn from your perspective and experience.

Thank you very much for making this meeting possible. We look forward to receiving your delegation in New Delhi in not too distant a future.

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