Event ReportsPublished on Feb 02, 2015
India's former National Security Advisor M K Narayanan thinks that the country's external relations are set to undergo a sea change. "The first half of the 21st Century will be a soft period, but as time progresses, things will not be so smooth," he cautions.
India's foreign policy set to undergo sea change: Former NSA

"India’s external relations are set to undergo a sea change. The first half of the 21st Century will be a soft period, but as time progresses, things will not be so smooth," cautioned M.K. Narayanan, former National Security Advisor and West Bengal Governor.

"We have had a steadfast partnership for six decades with Russia. But we’re now seeking new partners, and India is warming up to the US and the West. The consequences of this need to be carefully considered," Narayanan said while delivering the keynote address at a two-day seminar on "India’s Foreign Policy and the Media" in Chennai. The seminar was organised by the Chennai Chapter of Observer Research Foundation, the Institute of Contemporary Studies Bangalore (ICSB) and the Press Institute of India (PII), Bengaluru on January 23-24.

Apart from Narayanan, a galaxy of officials who have held important positions in India and abroad in the service of the Government of India, and senior journalists who have carved out niches of expertise, shared fascinating insights into diplomacy and foreign policy - constraints, compulsions, contours, ramifications and portends - with young and middle-level journalists. The seminar was aimed at equipping journalists with knowledge and skills to report on foreign policy and national security issues in ways that have relevance to a variety of audiences.

The seminar in Chennai was the third in a series of national security workshops being organised by PII and ICSB. Foreign Policy is an important component of national security and a wide-ranging grasp of how it functions, what its role and contemporary form are, and how India is positioning itself today on the world stage is necessary to report accurately, reliably and with context on events and issues related to India’s national security interests and objectives.

Welcoming the gathering, Sashi Nair, director, PII, said that despite negative winds blowing across the media landscape for various reasons, there were journalists who were bold and passionate, who wanted to do well, all of which was an encouraging sign. He said that elements such as accuracy, fairness and balance were important, and maturity and dignity, too. Such seminars helped journalists to use knowledge wisely, he added.

P.M. Heblikar, managing trustee, ICSB, and former special secretary, Government of India, said "we need cogent, impartial, effective communication, and reporting without bias. Inculcating this was our agenda in organising this seminar."

The seminar had sessions on India’s Foreign Policy: Lineages and Perspectives, Emerging Dimensions of Indian Foreign Policy, India and the Major Powers, India and its Neighbourhood and Multilateral Financing Institutions and Economic Diplomacy. The topics included varying perspectives of foreign policy, the post-Independence vision of foreign policy, military diplomacy, economic diplomacy, back-channel diplomacy, nuclear diplomacy, demographic shifts and influences in the context of migration, economic cooperation between India and its neighbours, and the nation’s relationship with Russia, the US, China, Japan, the Indian Ocean countries, and Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The speakers were: M.J. Vinod, professor and chairman, Department of Political Science, Bangalore University; M. Ganapathi, former secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs; Commodore (retired) R. Seshadri Vasan, head, Strategy and Security Studies, Centre for Asia Studies, and director, Chennai Centre for China Studies; R. Srinivasan, senior associate editor, Business Line, New Delhi; A.K. Arni, former special secretary, Government of India, who served RAW (Research & Analysis Wing) for 37 years; L.V. Krishnan, former director, Safety Research and Health Physics Group, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam; Bernard D’Sami, associate professor in History and former HoD, History, Loyola College Chennai; D.S. Rajan, former director, Chennai Centre for China Studies, and member, Board of Studies, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Madras; Dr Sridhar Krishnaswami, former foreign correspondent, The Hindu, and currently HoD, Journalism, Mass Communication and International Relations, SRM University, Chennai; Sripathi Naryanan, a doctoral scholar; M.R. Sivaraman, former revenue secretary, Government of India, and former executive director, IMF; and Somi Hazari, managing director, Shosova Group.

The final session was a question and answer one, which was chaired by N. Sathiya Moorthy, director, Chennai Chapter of ORF. Other speakers were S.R. Madhu, former information officer, UN, and and Dr B. Chengappa, associate professor (International Relations and Strategic Studies), Christ University, Bengaluru.

The seminar was attended by young and middle-level newspaper, magazine and agency journalists from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Some civil service aspirants also took part.

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