Centre for Public Policy Research hosted an interaction  on the 16th of June, 2016 with Deepa M Ollapally, Research Professor of International Affairs and the Associate Director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. The discussion was moderated by Vinny Davis, Managing Associate, CPPR.

A Ph.D holder from Columbia University, Dr. Ollapally is directing a major research project on power and identity and the worldviews of rising and aspiring powers in Asia and Eurasia. Her research focuses on domestic foreign policy debates in India and its implications for regional security and global leadership of the U.S. She is also a frequent commentator in the media, including appearances on CNN, BBC, CBS, Reuters TV and the Diane Rehm Show.

A specialist on Indian foreign policy, Asian regional security, and comparative foreign policy outlooks of rising powers she gave valuable inputs to deliberate over through strong arguments supported by convincing facts. The discussion ranged from India – China maritime relations in the Indian Ocean region to US presidential elections.

We are fortunate to have had this discussion in a month which saw maritime issues discussed in the Asia Security summit and will see the forthcoming Hague-based tribunal’s judgement with regard to maritime claims in the South China sea. Rising tensions in the region has become a concern for countries in the Asian peninsula including India. This has given enough food for thought for India to reconsider its policies on the maritime front with respect to China and other neighbours.

With regard to the maritime interests of China in the Indian Ocean region, Dr. Deepa Ollapally  pointed out that the country will not be able to pursue much of its interests in the region without India’s support. To make use of the limited chokepoints in the Indian ocean this would be an additional requirement. Hence, India has got enough opportunities to make use of this interdependency and expand its economic and strategic ties with its neighbours. The real challenge for India will be to cultivate and maintain strong bonds with countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal that can withstand outside pressures.

The panel analysed the efficiency of the methods chosen by India to assert its maritime prowess in response to Chinese initiatives. Projects such as ‘Mausam’ and ‘Spice route’ were compared with Chinese ‘Maritime Silk Road’ initiative. The scope of expanding avenues for India in building ports in the neighbouring countries and port development within the country through initiatives such the ‘Sagar Mala’ project were discussed.

India’s membership to the elite Nuclear Supplier’s Group is a much discussed and debated issue in the past few months. With the Prime Minister successfully seeking support from almost all the countries for the same, India hopes for an entry into NSG soon. Despite the present opposition from China, Dr Ollapally was quite hopeful that positive developments would take place in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s meet in Tashkent this week.

The discussion came to an end with a brief analysis of the major runners in the US presidential elections. Amidst the tough fight between Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton and the likely Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump, Dr Ollapally predicted a possible victory for the latter. According to Ollapally, Trump’s campaign and Sanders’ campaign are two anti-establishment  movements through totally opposite means. She described Trump as a realist who is simultaneously appealing to both the left and the right and had more chance of winning despite his divisive rhetoric. She observed Hillary Clinton as a status quoist but a pragmatic politician and more  pro-Indian than the incumbent owing to her strong bonds with the Indian diaspora.

Hillary’s support base from the lower socio-economic sections like the Hispanics are less likely to turn out to vote, placing her at a less advantageous position compared to Trump. As news reports claim, Hillary’s lead over Trump has been declining since Orlando shooting incident. Sanders was considered a better candidate to challenge Trump compared to Hillary since he did not possess a negative factor like Hillary but with a future vision for American youth to carry forward. She concluded her observations by stating that the one who is capable enough to deal with America’s  worry about the delay in recovery from the financial crisis will have the last laugh.

Other participants in the group discussion included Mr. Antony Dawson D’silva, Academic coordinator – CPPR,  Prof K C Abraham , Academic Director  – CPPR,  K V Thomas, Advisor, Centre for Strategic Studies – CPPR,  Dr. Mathew Varghese, Lecturer Maharajas college and team CPPR.