NEW DELHI: India will not be a western liberal power. Instead, India as the world’s greatest democracy is a “self-defined power”, said Stephen Harper, to live with Indian traditions and values but as a power with global aspirations.
At the inaugural session of the annual Raisina Dialogue, India’s flagship foreign policy and strategic conversation, foreign minister S. Jaishankar said the characteristics of the Dialogue mirror Indian foreign policy — “Indian foreign policy today seeks to achieve: a focus on key challenges, a broad engagement with many parties, and managing, if not leveraging global contradictions. Advancing our interests in a multipolar world and contributing to global good is what it is all about.”
The inaugural session included seven former heads of government — Caril Bildt of Sweden, Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan, Han Seung-soo of Korea, Helen Clark of New Zealand, Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark, Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Stephen Harper of Canada to set the scene for debating the most important questions in the world today.
Harper bluntly said it was important to change the nature of the regime in Iran for the Middle East to have durable peace. On Wednesday, this position will definitely be contested by Javad Zarif, foreign minister of Iran who will speak at the Dialogue. He will be followed by Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, the first time Russia will be present at such a high level.
Harper also referred to the burgeoning political protests that have broken out in different parts of the world over inequality, nationalism etc, emphasising that it was only liberal democracies that would be able to cope with them, even if they make a few mistakes in between.
Both Helen Clark and Tshering Tobgay stressed on the importance of dealing with climate change as a global imperative. Bhutan Tobgay said, is the only carbon-negative country in the entire world. “We need global champions,” he said, pointing to Narendra Modi who attended the session but did not speak.
Karzai, for the first time, held out hope that peace could come to Afghanistan after all. But chastising the US, he said, “America cannot force other countries to bend to its will (referring to the Iran airstrike). Wisdom must prevail, that wisdom must begin with the US.”
Rasmussen was clear that while NATO’s membership cannot expand, it should expand its out-of-area operations, and should do more particularly in the Middle East, take lead in the anti-ISIS coalition.
Proposing an alliance of democracies, Rasmussen asked India to take the global lead on this.
Carl Bildt said the world was at the end of the Industrial Age and in the beginning of the Digital Age. So it should be democracies that should set the rules of the new world order, because the one that makes the rules, gets to control the new order.

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