Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Talk on Multilateralism

Centre for Southeast Asian and Pacific Studies, Sri. Venkateswara University

International Conference on Multilateral Cooperation: Emerging Global Scenario.

(Keynote address by former Ambassador of India, T.P.Sreenivasan at the Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati. February 22, 2016)

Prof. M.Bhaskar, Rector of the University,
Shri. Ajaneesh Kumar, ICWA,
Prof. Ngo Xuan Binh,
Prof. G.J.Reddy,
Distinguished Delegates,

A few days ago, I received three unexpected offers from the Sri.Venkateswara University. The first was a captive audience for a lecture on multilateralism. For a person, who has spent several years at the United Nations and its agencies, an invitation to speak on multilateralism was attractive enough. The second was an offer of an ISAPS Lifetime Achievement Award for International Understanding, an exceptional honour. The third was a special darshan of Lord Venkateswara, the most irresistible offer of all. No wonder I accepted the offers wholeheartedly. I am grateful to the Sri Venkateswara University, particularly Prof. G.J Reddy, for the opportunity. My time at the UN between 1980 and 2004 witnessed several shifts and turns in the fortunes of the United Nations, not to speak of the periods before and after in the seventy years of its existence. But multilateralism is alive and well, unchanged in form, but altered in substance.

The pyrrhic victory of the allies in the Second World War inevitably led to a collective security system to rid the succeeding generations of the scourge of war. Care was taken to include economic, social and human rights concerns in the Charter of the United Nations. But the victors of the war shaped the world body in the belief that they would be the arbiters of global security forever and gave themselves the veto, which diluted the principle of sovereign equality and democracy. In the last seventy years, however, every independent nation subscribed to the Charter and made the UN the only universal international organization. It survived the game changing developments in the world and proved itself resilient enough even though the rigidity of the Charter perpetuated some anachronisms. The success of the UN was on account of its ability to change with the times on substance, though not in structures and procedures.

Multilateralism assumed new forms and roles in the crucible of the cold war. The unanimity of the permanent members, envisaged in the Charter, collapsed earlier than expected and the big powers did not surrender even a fraction of their sovereignty for the sake of the global good. Instead, they began to use multilateral organizations like the UN, the World Bank and the IMF as instruments to influence global affairs. For the rest, they pursued bilateralism to secure their core interests. Multilateralism became the privilege of the weak, first to protect their sovereignty and then for collective bargaining. But the global situation was such that the UN was able to harvest the low-hanging fruits in the areas of decolonization, development and disarmament and thus proved worthy of the faith placed in it by the international community.

The cold war, however, did not allow multilateralism to succeed in its primary purpose of safeguarding international peace and security and while “mutually assured destruction” prevented a nuclear confrontation, many wars were fought in the developing world as the Security Council chose to be a mere witness. The growth of the Nonaligned Movement into a virtual third force in international relations was the most significant development in this period. Though it was only a movement and not an organization, it developed organizational structures like a Coordinating Bureau, Ministerial Meetings and Summits. Given its composition with Singapore at one end of the ideological spectrum and Cuba at the other, its pronouncements were balanced except on fundamental issues like imperialism, colonialism, apartheid and Palestine. The western world dismissed it as extremist and irrelevant, while the easterners claimed to be its natural allies as their views coincided with the views of the Movement. As leaders of the Movement, countries like India, Yougoslavia, Algeria and Cuba gained some bilateral advantages because of their multilateral influence. The Soviet Union cultivated these countries bilaterally to gain multilateral support.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war transformed multilateralism beyond recognition. Multilateralism became the corner stone of international relations. There was a spring in the air at the UN, which encouraged the Secretary General, Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali to bring about thorough changes in the role of the UN in maintaining international peace and security. In his ‘Agenda for Peace’, he called for a stronger UN and a stronger Secretary General to deal with threats to international peace and security by emphasizing the need for every member nation to surrender some of its sovereignty to the UN. He brought disarmament into the purview of the Security Council by holding a Council Meeting at the level of heads of state on the subject. He also called for a standing army for the UN to speed up peace operations.

None of the proposals of the Secretary General gained traction in a yearlong discussion, though the General Assembly was polite to him by taking back with the left hand, what it gave him with the right. He was accused of acting like a Pharaoh and harboring ambitions to be a General, not a Secretary General. Some marginal changes were made, but nothing major to alter the role of the UN. The Secretary General was also asked to present an ‘Agenda for Development’, essentially to balance the security role of the United Nations with its developmental agenda.

Multilateral diplomacy, however, kept evolving in the post cold war era in multiple ways. The Nonaligned Movement lost its cutting edge and the concerned countries professed strategic autonomy, but sought cooperation with the remaining Super Power. Dr.Manmohan Singh characterized the new trend in multilateralism as “Cooperative Pluralism”. The dimensions of international security multiplied after the attacks of 9/11, when the world’s most powerful nation was brought to its knees without guns and bombs. Counter terrorism, nuclear security and safety, human rights and environmental protection became the focus of multilateral attention. Confrontation gave way to cooperation, though the powerful nations continued to force their way in each of these issues as collective bargaining became increasingly ineffective. A Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism demanded by India and others did not become a reality, despite the horror of 9/11. Nonproliferation concerns are still considered more important than nuclear security and safety, human rights remain politicized and common but differentiated responsibility has been turned into common responsibility in matters of the
environment. Bilateral pressures are brought to bear upon multilateral cooperation.

Regional arrangements were envisaged in the Charter, but multilateralism has become more pronounced regionally in recent years. Apart from geographic regions, similarities in history and state of development began to play a role in forging multilateral bodies as in the case of BRICS and IBSA. An American economist invented BRICS as countries with common characteristics, but it turned into a grouping to counter western economic domination. The BRICS bank has assumed extraordinary importance in reordering the world order, though Chinese domination is inescapable in the present dispensation. Regional groupings have their own dynamics as bilateral relations among neighbours impinge on multilateral cooperation as seen in the case of SAARC. Even the established regional organisations like the European Union fear ‘Brixit’ and ‘Grexit’ occasionally despite the imperatives of cooperation.

China has invented an altogether new form of multilateral cooperation through its multi-billion dollar One Belt One Road initiative, which will link nations in an unprecedented manner. Needless to say, the motivation is Chinese domination and control of pathways and waterways across continents, but its advantages will lure many countries to embrace it. Rival multilateral structures are also emerging in the Asia Pacific as the power centre shifts from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Reform of multilateral organizations is essential for their very existence even if they have managed differences by innovative approaches. Voices began to be heard to abolish the veto in the UN Security Council right from the beginning. The World Bank and the IMF fought reform proposals tooth and nail. Then came the demand for an expansion of the Security Council, first in 1979 to maintain the proportion between the membership of the General Assembly and the Security Council. After the end of the cold war, demand arose also to increase the number of permanent members to reflect the reality of the global situation. Many proposals for expansion of the Security Council have been advanced and discussed over the years, but there is no proposal today, which can command two thirds majority of the General Assembly and the positive votes of the five permanent members, though the idea of an expansion of the Security Council has been widely accepted. The credibility of the Security Council as representing the entire membership of the UN has eroded and unless an expansion takes place, the UN itself will be marginalized and other multilateral organizations will fill the void. G-8, G-20 and NATO are dealing with multiple issues, which should fall legitimately in the lap of the United Nations. A day may come when “Coalitions of the Willing” will take over many multilateral responsibilities.

India has been an unflinching champion of multilateralism, particularly the UN. In the initial years of independence, India had a high profile role in disarmament, decolonization and development, but it diminished as we took on the “Third World” leadership through the Nonaligned Movement during the cold war. India took the Jammu and Kashmir issue to the UN on the principle that the world body should settle disputes by peaceful means, even though it had the capability to repel the aggressor from the part of Kashmir that Pakistan had occupied by force. But it was frustrated by the play of international intrigues in the Security Council and realized its mistake. India learnt the hard way that multilateral bodies tended to complicate issues rather than resolve them on the basis of justice.

India’s approach to multilateralism has been to contribute to the common good rather than to seek for itself any advantages from the UN and other bodies. India became nervous about the internationalization of the Kashmir issue and refrained from taking any issue to the Security Council on the plea that neighbours should deal with issues bilaterally rather than multilaterally. India resisted the formation of SAARC for the same reasons and insisted that bilateral disputes should not be taken up in multilateral forums. Plagued by the problems between India and Pakistan, SAARC remains ineffective as a multilateral regional forum. Bilateral issues inhibit its growth as an instrument of multilateral cooperation.

India has begun to modernize its multilateralism in recent years. Having consolidated bilateral relations with the important countries of the world, India has begun to demand its due share in multilateralism such as permanent membership of the Security Council and membership of APEC. India has also ceased to be a deal breaker in many negotiations and become a partner in multilateral decision-making in areas such as climate change, WTO, internet governance, challenges to sustainable development and reforming peace keeping. It was through a bilateral deal with the US that India returned to the mainstream nuclear group even without signing the NPT. India is now more pro-active in multilateral arenas because of the new confidence it has acquired. India has begun to demand permanent membership of the UN Security Council as a matter of right rather than a mere entitlement.

Today, every nation juggles with the bilateral and multilateral options to safeguard its interests. Multilateralism serves the global commons, but bilateralism is pursued to increase trade, investment and security. They are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, reinforce each other. In the current global scenario, success lies in forging bilateral and regional ties, which, in turn, will equip nations to meet the multilateral challenges.

Thank you.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Kovalam Declaration

Global Education Meet (GEM) Kerala 2016
 Kovalam Declaration on Making Kerala a Hub of International Education

The Government of Kerala and the Kerala State Higher Education Council organized, with the support of the Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a Global Education Meet at Kovalam, Kerala, on 29-30 January, 2016, which brought together over a hundred academicians, academic administrators and education providers from around the world.

The Meet, having debated various aspects relating to enhancing the international collaboration of Higher Education Institutions in Kerala, for establishing an Academic City and International Higher Academic Zones, in five sessions over 2 days, has agreed to issue the following Declaration as the consolidated outcome of the Global Education Meet 2016.

The Global Education Meet 2016

Noting that there is a considerable increase in the number of students going abroad from India and other developing countries to developed countries in pursuit of higher education,

Acknowledging that international education has immense potential to enhance employability of students, improve their economic situation and help them to become world-class entrepreneurs.

Taking into consideration the high cost of international education, which allows only stake holders from affluent families to afford the same,

Considering that a large proportion of the students who go abroad do not return to India and are thus unable to contribute to our growing economy with their skills,

Understanding that the Make in India, Digital India and other campaigns of the Government of India will benefit from an internationally trained workforce, which is able to establish and work in state-of-the-art-facilities,

Expressing concern that there is no support system for economically and socially backward students to benefit from the opportunities for international education,

Acknowledging that India itself could be an attractive destination for higher education for students from many developing countries, particularly in Asia and Africa,

Taking into account the fact that the private sector has played a big role in    expanding educational facilities in Kerala within the existing policy framework,

Noting that the Government of India is reported to have proposed to establish ten private universities with substantial institutional freedom to design curriculum and implement academic innovations,

Addressing the need to strengthen interdisciplinary learning and research skills into the curriculum

Considering that Universities and educational institutions in Kerala have already established a number of international collaboration programmes for student exchange, faculty exchange and research with universities abroad,

 Noting that the Government of Kerala, in its budget for the year 2015-16 announced its intention to establish an Academic City and International Higher Academic Zones in Kerala,

Taking note of the success made by Academic cities in the Middle East and South East Asia to attract international universities to establish their campuses in those countries,

Appreciating that a number of individuals and institutions from Kerala have expressed interest in investing in International Higher Academic Zones,

Recalling that the UN Sustainable Development Goals calls for greater efforts for international co-operation on education,

Taking into account that KSHEC has identified infrastructure, use of technology, teachers' training, research, autonomy and internationalization as areas for immediate attention in shaping a "Higher Education 2.0" for the twenty-first century and has submitted 17 reports to the Government with appropriate recommendations,

Noting that the Government of Kerala has constituted an International Relations Group (IRG) to promote cooperation between the Universities in Kerala and foreign Universities,

 Acknowledging that KSHEC has framed an IT@Colleges Programme to improve connectivity in colleges,

 Noting that the Kerala State Higher Education Council has submitted a report, recommending that private universities should be established,

Taking note of the Thiruvananthapuram Declaration ( of the Meet on Transnational Education 2014, which contains valuable recommendations for promoting internationalization of higher education,

 Noting with appreciation the initiative taken by the Government of Kerala to continue with its effort to promote internationalization of education by calling a Global Education Meet, which provided a platform for all participants to understand and deliberate on the opportunities and challenges posed by technology-enabled transnational education,

Noting that the present procedure for academic travel is cumbersome and not conducive to faculty and student exchanges,

Taking note of the fact that China has the third largest foreign student population in the world and it is the country that sends out the largest number students abroad,

1)                            The Government of India to finalize the Higher Education Bill so that a long term legislative framework for international co-operation on education is available for  educational providers  to make long term financial commitments needed for international academic co-operation;

2)                           The Government of India to facilitate international student exchanges by increasing the number of fellowships available for cultural exchange programmes as well as rationalizing legislation to make students entry procedures easier;

3)                         The Government of India to relax legislation regarding short term employment of faculty and researchers from other countries in India which is urgently needed for the smooth functioning of the International Higher Academic Zones and other academic collaboration;

4)                           The Government of India to ensure massification of education with equity;

5)                           The Government of India to liberalize its visa regime to facilitate academic mobility;

6)                            The Government of India to liberalize academic travel and to eliminate red tapism in dealing with request for travel.

7)                           Acknowledges the pioneer efforts of International Institute for Scientific and Academic Collaboration to facilitate two batches of American students for a semester each in the University of Kerala and encourages the institute and the University of Kerala to expand and strengthen the programme.

8)                            The Government of Kerala to set up an Academic City Authority as a facilitator-cum-regulator for the bodies proposed to be established to promote internationalization of higher education in Kerala;

9)                           To transform the research landscape in the state, including through partnerships with industries and maximize the benefits of research by advancing fundamental knowledge to contribute much to the society at large;

10)            To harness and align different knowledge domains and thus create Centres of Excellence which combine inquiry and investigation;

11)            The University Grants Commission to urgently streamline procedures and support for facilitating international collaboration so that all institutions desirous of establishing such co-operation can do that within the shortest possible time;

12)            The All India Council for Technical Education and other apex bodies on higher education in India to establish procedures for international recognition of Indian degrees and vice versa so as to promote internationalization of higher education India;

13)            Requests to create an environment for blended learning which will integrate online materials, traditional classroom teaching and online virtual classrooms;

14)            The Government of Kerala to finalize legislation on establishment of an Academic City and International Higher Academic Zones so as to give a boost to internationalization of education in the state; 

15)            The Government of Kerala to initiate work to identify locations for an Academic City and to approve the locations for International Higher Academic Zones as identified by academic providers so that individuals and institutions desirous of partnering can start to prepare their plans;

16)            The Government of Kerala to make available procedures and incentives for faculty and students in the Academic City and International Higher Academic Zones;

17)            The Government of Kerala to implement  the report of the KSHEC on establishing private universities in Kerala at the earliest;

18)            The Government of Kerala to ensure that economically and socially weaker sections of the society have access to the new institutions, courses and opportunities created in the Academic City and International Higher Academic Zones;

19)            The Government of Kerala to establish procedures which will ensure gender equality in access to the new institutions, courses and opportunities created in the Academic City and International Higher Academic Zones;

20)            The Kerala State Higher Education Council to arrange training programmes for managers of higher educational institutions in Kerala on legal and practical aspects of establishing international collaboration, including student and faculty exchange;

21)            The Department of Higher Education, Government of Kerala, to support educational institutions in the state to establish hundred percent high speed connectivity with data network in every academic institution so that students can benefit from technologically enhanced learning on the basis of the report on IT@Colleges;

22)            The Universities in the state to revise their rules and regulations to facilitate exchange of faculty, student and researchers locally, nationally and internationally in a seamless manner;

23)            The Universities in the state to urgently establish easy and transparent procedures for international academic credit recognition to support student exchange programmes;

24)            The Universities in the state to take full advantage of technologically enhanced learning by promoting Massive Open Online Courses, flipped classrooms and blended learning in their universities;

25)            The Academic institutions in the state, both in public sector and private sector, to start to work on international collaborations for teaching, research, student and faculty exchange so as to get familiarized with international co-operation which will be greatly expanded in the coming years;

26)            The Public and Private Sector Companies in Kerala to consider contributing in higher education including research as part of their corporate social responsibility to contribute to a sustainable state;

27)            The Individuals and companies owned and promoted by Indians abroad to invest in the Academic City and International Higher Academic Zones in Kerala;

28)            The faculty members in academic institutions in the state to proactively engage international academic community for collaborative research, teaching and student exchange to maximize internationalization of curriculum and educational experience;

29)            The student community in the state to see the internationalization of higher education as a huge opportunity to be exposed to higher education of global standards, which will improve their ability to pursue higher education and research;

30)            The student community to take advantage of internationalization of education as a way to maximize their employability locally and globally;

31)            The educational providers in Kerala to leverage Kerala’s reputation as a family friendly and economical global tourist destination to market their capacity to deliver quality higher education at affordable costs across the developing world in order to attract more international students to come to Kerala and increase diversity in classrooms;

32)            Considers that good governance of educational institutions is required to ensure quality, efficiency and transparency.

The participants of the Global Education Meet further resolve

To continue the discussions individually in coming days in their respective countries, academic forums and educational institutions they represent, to harness the potential of internationalization of education;

To promote, in their respective countries and spheres of influence, the relevant conclusions from the Thiruvananthapuram Declaration( on Transnational Education 2014 and the Kovalam Declaration of the Global Education Meet 2016.

The participants of the Global Education Meet  further request

The Kerala State Higher Education Council to widely publicize the Kovalam Declaration on International Education so that students, teachers, academic policy makers, education providers and other stakeholders of higher education can use it as a basic document to advocate and promote transnational education.

The participants noted with concern the   undue anxieties in certain sections about internationalization of Higher Education because of a lack of understanding of the concept and expressed the hope that dissent will not degenerate in to violence.

The participants of the Global Education Meet express appreciation for the Government of Kerala for the excellent arrangements for the Meet and for its generous hospitality.

Issued in Kovalam, on 30th January 2016