In the evolving geo-political context centered in the Indo-Pacific with emphasis on South Asia to attain comprehensive deterrence for India, a first of its kind, Chanakya Defence Dialogue was organised by the Indian Army in collaboration with the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) at Manekshaw Centre, New Delhi. The dialogue had six sessions centered around the theme, ‘Serving India and Indo-Pacific Region- Collaborating for Comprehensive Security.’
This dialogue is the brainchild of General Manoj Pande – Chief of Army Staff, Indian Army, in his opening remark, indicated the Indo-Pacific region in an “unprecedented churn in the global landscape has set into motion a chain of events and new trend lines…growing salience of National Security in the International Affairs and the renewed currency of Hard Power…escalating conflicts in West Asia…global health challenges due to pandemic are compounded by notable economic turbulence and the weaponization of multiple domains from information to supply chain with issues like radicalization, terrorism, piracy, illegal migration, refugees, and climate change add to the bouquet of global concerns.”
With cold war-driven order facing challenges due to the contrasting division between East and West, in other words, Global North and Global South, Lt Gen PS Rajeshwar – Director General of CLAWS, posits an argument that South Asia and Indo-Pacific are at the intersection of Geopolitics, Geoeconomics, and the emerging technologies are the key elements affecting the National and Regional Security which inter-twined with military connections. The dialogue aims to discern the challenges anticipated in the Indo-Pacific region with its associated ripples in India, its neighbourhood (South Asia), and its immediate neighbourhood (Southeast Asia) for probing opportunities to collaborate for enduring peace and security.
With the contemporary divide on West versus East, the dialogue named after Chanakya explains the path for opportunities linked with the Indo-Pacific – this dialogue intends to bring Chanakya’s prescription to the 21st century – the present world order being a derivative of two centuries of Western Political Thought and dominance stands to gain from the Arthasthra’s strategic longevity, relevance, and application to provide security and prosperity. In the inaugural address by Jagdeep Dhankhar – Hon’ble Vice President of India, addressing the delegates from Bharat and abroad, puts forward that this dialogue would be productive to formulate a defence strategy for collaborating partnerships converging to secure, stable, and prosperous future in the vibrant landscape of Indo-Pacific. In the comment on the title of this dialogue, the Hon’ble Vice President of India explicated a reflection on Chanakya: “If you don’t take up arms, you will lose your nation, and if you don’t read your scriptures, you will lose culture.” Decoding this extract, the Hon’ble Vice President of India emphasized the evolving security dynamics in the Indo-Pacific to fortify India’s position as a ready, resurgent and relevant stakeholder among the nations of this region.
The six sessions span two days on the 3rd and 4th of November 2023. The topical areas discussed are Neighbourhood First – South Asia Prognosis, Indo Pacific – Decisive Frontier, Collaborative Partnerships, How Emerging Technologies Impact Defence and Security, Indian Defence Industry as an Enabler for Collaborative Capacity Building, and Comprehensive Deterrence – Indian Way. The eminent speakers and subject matter experts from Australia, Bangladesh, France, Japan, Nepal, Israel, Indonesia, the Philippines, the USA, Singapore, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. The dialogue paved the way to prioritize military diplomacy in India’s multilateral engagement with friendly foreign partner nations in the region with a national resolve to achieve self-reliance in defence hardware that a resurgent Indian Defence Industry is enabling. The two-day defence dialogue had two keynote addresses: Shri Vijay K Gokhale – Former Foreign Secretary of Bharat (2018–2020), and Dr Arvind Virmani from Niti Aayog, with special addresses by Amb Kanwal Sibal – Foreign Secretary to the Government of Bharat (2001–2002) and Amb Vikram Misri – Deputy NSA to Govt of India.
During his Keynote Address on the first day, Shri Vijay K Gokhale underlined ongoing global transformations, as in 2023, the global theatre of action is no longer the Mediterranean-Atlantic but the Indo-Pacific. He stated that the global equilibrium is changing from West to East. He emphasised the role of technology in empowering all people equally, which is no longer limited to the West. He stated that India must play a major role in the evolving world order and that to do so, India must collaborate closely with all parties, including the United States and China.
Session I- Neighbourhood First – South Asia Prognosis, the session was chaired by Ambassador Ashok K Kantha. Lieutenant General Rakesh Sharma (Retired), Ambassador Shamsher M Chowdhury (Bangladesh), Mr Asanga Abeyagoonasekera (Sri Lanka), and Mr Chiran Jung Thapa (Nepal) spoke and participated in the session. The session witnessed the arguments centred on potential future difficulties in South Asia and how the region may prepare to deal with them. The session examined the consequences of India-China competition and India’s potential as a geoeconomic growth driver in South Asia. The session chair explained that the current transition in the global landscape is turbulent with ‘acute uncertainty’ with acute uncertainties. Furthermore, the session addressed non-traditional and contemporary security challenges such as human migration, ethnic divides, resource sharing, political divergence, and climate change to ensure South Asia’s peace and prosperity in the future.
Admiral Sunil Lanba (Retired), former Chief of Naval Staff, presided over the second session titled Indo Pacific: The Decisive Frontier. This session has subject matter experts – Dr Troy Lee Brown (Australia), Vice Admiral Amarulla Octavian (Indonesia), Ms Lisa Curtis (US), and Saurabh Kumar (India) delivered speeches on the shifting power dynamics in the Indo-Pacific, emphasising India’s role as an economic powerhouse, China’s influence in the region, and the critical role of ASEAN Nations in shaping the region’s fate. According to Ms Lisa Curtis, the Indo-Pacific region is becoming more competitive. A non-military alliance, QUAD, is expected to emerge as a successful multilateral organisation. Mr. Saurabh Kumar emphasised the unique characteristics of India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific Region and the various initiatives undertaken by India. He emphasised the significance of QUAD as a powerful platform for dealing with contemporary concerns.
Lieutenant General Prakash Menon (Retired) presided over the third session titled Collaborative Partnership for Security. Dr Satoru Nagao (Japan), Vani Sarraju Rao (India), Dr Renato De Castro (Philippines), and Dr Paco Milheit (France) all took part. The session focused on potential Indo-Pacific security alliances, drawing on historical ties and projecting future alliances across the global spectrum, emphasizing the importance of multilateral alignments based on shared interests, particularly for the security of the region’s smaller nations. Vani S Rao emphasised strong India-US relations, WTO trade dispute resolution, excellent academic ties, and expanded defence collaboration. She further stated that this defence alliance is bilateral rather than regional. She further stated that the QUAD is a Plurilateral platform that gives feasible answers to common-interest concerns such as HADR, marine security, and health security.
Day 2 began with a Special Address by Ambassador Kanwal Sibal, who discussed possibilities for India in the midst of ongoing world affairs. He emphasised the importance of India preserving strategic autonomy without being a fence-sitter, as well as positive relations with all like-minded nations. Dr Arvind Virmani of Niti Aayog delivered the keynote address for Day 2 of the discussion, emphasising India’s aim of being a responsible power in the evolving world order. He envisaged India becoming a big power by the mid-twentieth century, with the United States and China remaining superpowers.
Prof Ajay Kumar Sood, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, presided over the fourth session titled How Emerging Technology Impacts Defence and Security. The session featured talks and discussions on critical aspects of emerging technologies such as space, cyberspace, artificial intelligence, and big data by eminent speakers such as Dr Umamaheswaran R (Former Director of Human Space Flight Centre, Bangalore), Prof V Kamakoti (IIT Madras), and Prof Mayank Vatsa (IIT Jodhpur). The session investigated the influence of emerging technologies on defence and security to provide a complete picture for the coming years. It addressed the difficulties and promise of disruptive technologies, emphasising India’s defence capabilities and readiness for multi-domain conflicts in the face of global technology breakthroughs, as well as the integration of innovations with defence policies.
The fifth session, titled Indian Defence Industry as Enabler for Collaborative Capacity Building, was presided over by Lieutenant General Subrata Saha (Retired) presided over the fifth session. The eminent speakers are Commodore AP Golaya, Mr RS Bhatia, and Mr R Shiva Kumar, who elaborated on ‘Policy Initiatives,’ ‘Industry Collaboration,’ and ‘Start-Ups,’ respectively. The main message from Session V was that India should be prepared to win future battles using Indian solutions. The discussions centred on the Indian defence industry’s skills, potential, and future trajectory, as well as its critical role in collaborative and individual capacity building. It investigated the roles of policy frameworks, the DRDO, private defence sectors, and MSMEs in strengthening India’s defence capabilities domestically and through foreign relationships.
Lieutenant General DS Hooda (Retired) presided over the sixth and final session, titled Comprehensive Deterrence- The India Way. Ambassador DB Venkatesh Varma and Colonel KPM Das (Retired) presented speeches on diplomacy and technology, respectively. The session focused on India’s unique approach to comprehensive deterrence, unravelling its philosophy, practicality, and future developments such as China’s aggression and regional economic downturns caused by various crises.
Exhaustive discussion in the Chanakya Defence Dialogue iterated Bharat, that is India’s unwavering commitment to regional peace and shared prosperity. The Indo-Pacific area is key in the world’s strategic discourse, and it has been stated that ‘deterrence’ should not fail in this region. The sessions covered both traditional and non-traditional aspects of Indo-Pacific security to emphasize the importance of collaborative security and partnership among like-minded nations to achieve regional stability through military balance and address transnational threats. In his final remarks, General Manoj Pande stated unequivocally that peace is guaranteed from a position of strength and that strength comes from the solidarity of like-minded states that uphold international principles. He stated that collective and collaborative security alliances are the way to go in the future.