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Speaking before the lecture, Professor Sanjay Rajhans introduced and thanked Mr. Nandan Unnikrisnan for coming to share his expertise with students and the urged students to make use of Mr. Unnikrisnan experience by asking questions.
Delivering the lecture on India’s foreign policy and its interaction with great powers, Mr. Nandan Unnikrisnan started with highlighting the domestic challenges face by the Indian government; India’s population of 1.4 billion people and the approximately 400 million people living below the poverty line. Mr. Unnikrisnan stressed that both India’s domestic and foreign policy has to address the issue of poverty and unemployment as sixty-five percent of its population are youths. This accounts to roughly 12 million people entering the job market in a year but the job market is only able to accommodate three thousand jobs per year.
Mr. Nandan Unnikrisnan further elaborated on the energy injected by the Modi government after years of policy paralysis in India by re-branding several programs, such as “making India campaign” which, encouraged and promoted the use of Indian made products. He also touched upon India’s aspiration to become a global power and noted that India cannot become a global power unless it ends its dependence on imported arms. Showing the dichotomy of India’s aspiration and the reality, he added that the Modi government has now developed a policy were India will start building its own defense equipment with support from the Russian Federation.
With regards to Indian foreign policy, Mr. Nandan Unnikrisnan affirmed that India’s foreign policy is guided by what he referred to as the neighborhood policy. This policy is based on building close relations with India’s South Asian neighbors and has been quite successful, except in the case of building a relationship with Pakistan. Another key issue discussed during the lecture was the rise of China and its entry into Southern Asia, which, he highlighted was the wake-up call for India to peruse a policy of befriending her neighbors. Mr. Nandan Unnikrisnan emphasized that currently the most important partner to India is the United States, as it holds the most important bilateral relations with India. Some of the factors for this, mentioned were, the shared fundamental values, rich India’s diaspora and the belief that the US can play a significant part in India’s economy (transfer of technology). Another key point he stressed on was the rising power of China and India’s preference for the United States to remain as the world leader, in order to balance China’s influence.
The second most important relationship to India is China, despite of the border dispute since 1967, China can make huge investments into the Indian economy, which India desperately needs to solve its domestic goals. The third most important relationship for India, according to Mr. Nandan Unnikrisnan is Russia, Indo-Russian relations date back to the 1960’s when the Soviets help start building industries in India. He also labeled the relationship as a unique relationship, as Russia gave India a nuclear submarine. Although, he mentioned that as India forms closer ties with US, its relationship with Russia is straining. Russian moves to build closer relations with China has also strained Indian-Russian relations as India feels this would make Russia an unreliable ally if India happened to have a conflict with China.
This was followed by a question and answer session, during which students asked about the future of India’s relationship with Pakistan and the ability of the Modi government to solve India’s problems. In the end Mr Nandan Unnikrisnan was presented with a souvenir as a small token of appreciation from the Public Policy Department.
Written by Faye Malang, Sergey Zarochintsev and Bhurgri Mahrukh, PAPP students
Edited by Sanjay Rajhans