Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra has told a Parliament committee that the Raisina Dialogue is now among the most significant global level think tank events in the world and it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s presence at the event in 2016 which transformed it.
“We have a platform which today rivals any other international conference. Today, Raisina Dialogue is a permanent fixture in the international calendar for any think tanker you ask for. For any opinion global-maker you want, they all want to come for Raisina Dialogue. They want to come in large numbers,” the foreign secretary told the committee, whose report was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.
Since 2015, this annual event is held by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), which is an independent think tank.
Kwatra told the committee that the government works with ORF because they do invite political leadership to their conferences. “That is where the synergy between ORF and the government plays out”, he said.
How PM Modi’s Presence Transformed it
The foreign secretary added that “one thing that actually transformed the journey was when Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended and spoke at the Raisina Dialogue in 2016.” Kwatra said after that, the entire attention, the entire framework and reference point of ‘Raisina Dialogue’ changed.
He pointed out to the humble beginning in 2015, when the event had a sum total of only 100 people in the room, but “within a short period of eight years, today, is a centre piece of global think tank deliberations”.
“It is a go-to place. It is a permanent fixture now in the international calendar for any think tanker for any speaker of repute to be on. There was a time when we used to look for sponsors for the Raisina Dialogue. Today, sponsors fight with each other to come to Raisina Dialogue. Such has been the nature of transformation,” the foreign secretary said.
Reflect Indian View
Kwatra said it was a very conscious decision that the Raisina Dialogue will become the global benchmark “to reflect Indian thinking”.
“So, with regard to anything happening in the world, what is the Indian point of view in that situation, the ORF Conference, the Raisina Dialogue should reflect that,” the foreign secretary told the committee.
He said since 2014, the country has focused on the creation of “India-centric thinking, India-centric think tanks, and based on that, the India-centric conferences”.
“The idea is that the world outside should know what I think; not just know, appreciate what I think; accept that this is one of the things which is out there, and this was done through the Raisina Dialogue,” Kwatra told the committee.
The foreign secretary also said if one looks at the list of sponsors which Raisina Dialogue puts out when they do it, “you will find the entire world is a co-sponsor to that Dialogue”, and added that at some point, “there is a degree of critical appraisal of government’s foreign policy.”
How Big Raisina Dialogue has Become
The Raisina Dialogue, which took place earlier in March this year, saw the presence of the Prime Minister of Italy and at least 30 foreign ministers. “We saw representation and delegations from over 100 countries which participated in the Raisina Dialogue in March 2023,” the foreign secretary said.
He explained how the Raisina Dialogue had, for example, at least easily 40 to 50 domains that were addressed over a span of 48 hours. “Sessions would start at 8 o’clock in the morning and would go on till midnight. There was a session, which is most popular there, which is discussion over Kahwa — which is after dinner you sit down at 10:30 and go on till well past midnight — is one of the most popular proceedings”.
The four flagship annual conferences supported by the foreign ministry are the Raisina Dialogue (in partnership with Observer Research foundation), Asia Economic Dialogue (in partnership with Pune International Centre), Global Technology Summit (in partnership with Carnegie India) and Indian Ocean Conference (in partnership with India Foundation).