India Trilateral Forum 12: Takeaways on 'Modinomics,' the Liberal International Order, and Next Steps Forward
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), Observer Research Foundation (ORF), and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs convened the 12th India Trilateral Forum on April 27–28, 2017, in New Delhi. In this blog series GMF Young Professional Summit Alumna, Amanda Sellers, presents key highlights from the discussion. To see more about what happened at the India Trilateral Forum this year check out #ITF12, @orfonline, and @GMFUS on Twitter.
NEW DELHI –India Trilateral Forum 12 was rife for debate on matters of common concern for the EU, U.S., and India. At a time when nations look inward, the India Trilateral Forum is examining a diverse blueprint for multilateral cooperation.
As GMF Non-Resident Senior Fellow Ambassador Arun Kumar Singh foretold in an earlier piece, “an overall politico-economic narrative for the relationship” can help smooth “bumps” and “sustain bipartisan support for the relationship.” During the two-day Forum experts and government officials pondered the depth and scope for more cohesive approaches to common issues.
The India Trilateral Forum began by offering a window into the domestic context. Participants examined the sweeping economic reforms that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proposed and negotiated since taking office in 2014. The rapid rollout of the demonetization policy blitzed black money in India with the stroke of PM Modi’s pen. Moreover, the negotiations to convince Indian federal states to agree a Goods and Services Tax (GST) is tantamount to forming a common national market. If PM Modi proves to be successful in introducing GST on July 1, 2017, this measure would reduce the overall tax burden on goods by an estimated 25-30 percent by eliminating double taxation for movement across internal borders.
NEW DELHI — The Forum included an energetic discussion on the sustainability of the liberal international order. On the issues of multilateralism, economic development, respect for sovereignty, international law, and “exceptionalism,” panelists observed a number of general trends:
- Brexit and the election of Donald Trump came as part of a package borne of disenchantment with globalism and the existing liberal order.
- Though Trump’s efforts to gain support for campaign promises such as the selective ban on Muslim migrants and the healthcare repeal have faltered thus far, some of the U.S.’s allies in Asia welcome a new degree of foreign policy assertiveness that the new U.S. administration has demonstrated thus far.
- The sustainment of American “exceptionalism,” rooted in the notion of the U.S. as a provider of global public goods and a guarantor of rule of law and economic liberalism, is being tested.
- The consensus on multilateralism as a protector of broader national interest is now in question. However, the alternative to an open system is a sphere of influence world, where only Russia, the U.S. and China win.
As GMF’s Daniel Twining pointed out in his Foreign Policy Article, India’s Optimism Is a Welcome Antidote to Western Pessimism, India “increasingly champions key pillars of the liberal world order” and sustains 7 percent economic growth per year, at a time when “anxieties in Europe and the United States are mounting, producing an insurgent populism that challenges democratic institutions, risks hollowing out multilateral cooperation, and undercuts support for the rules-based global order.” After decades of Jawaharlal Nehru-inspired non-alignment, India may benefit the most from assuming a leadership role in multilateralism and global liberalism today.
Looking to the Past and Learning for the Future: Geopolitical Developments and Further Steps for the India Trilateral Forum
NEW DELHI — The final sessions of the India Trilateral Forum sparked animated discussions on topics that have the power to define the geostrategic trajectory of the region. From defense capabilities to transport infrastructure, experts shared their assessment of the calculus and constraints that underlie decisions made by India and China, respectively. The culminating exchanges complemented the open, hands-on debates held throughout the forum, and they led to some further reflections on its outcomes and perspectives for the future.
A Trilateral Outlook on India’s Defense Modernization
A fascinating penultimate session on India’s military acquisition program took a comparative regional and trilateral perspective. The expert panelists began by comparing India’s procurement to that of NATO and EU countries.
India has become one of the biggest defense capability importers in the world with the procurement of Rafales from France, Howitzers, C-17s, and C-130s from the U.S. and equipment from other countries such as Russia. Behind this, however is a lack of:
- skill to develop and maintain defense technology made in India,
- long-term political strategy underpinning procurement decisions, and
- doctrine and education — to not only teach soldiers how to use the equipment but why and to what extent, according to the rule of law.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.