The Jaipur Dialogues, with its first edition to be held on 19 and 20 November aims to be a platform which furthers a self-confident and proud narrative among Indians, without erring on the side of jingoism. Sanjay Dixit, chairman of “Jaipur Dialogues forum”, which runs the brand “The Jaipur Dialogues”, explains the story behind the dialogues in detail in this interview with Swarajya.
1. What is The Jaipur Dialogues all about?
The Jaipur Dialogues is a live discussion forum to discuss the emerging narratives in the context of the new India of the 21st century. It is an attempt to channelize focus and energy into subjects which either do not find space in the mainstream media or find a mention only in passing.
There is a significant disconnect between the digital space and the mainstream space which our endeavor attempts to bridge. The objective is to foster pride in India, that is Bharat, in every Indian citizen of every description. It is only a confident country, proud of its past and present that can become a major power in the world. The Jaipur Dialogues attempts to inculcate this confidence and pride among Indians, without erring on the side of jingoism.
2. The Jaipur Dialogues is described as a conclave on hard and soft power of India, can you expand on this?
The conclave is an event of Jaipur Dialogues Forum, which is the organisation promoting the brand “The Jaipur Dialogues”. The conclave is its annual event, as also its debut one. Besides this, there will be many smaller events, including digital events, lecture events, and several public events.
This year’s conclave seeks to focus on India’s actual and desired strategic compass in the 21st century, contextualizing it in the soft and hard power options available to the country in a comprehensive and systematic manner.
3. Why do you think the hard and soft power of India need The Jaipur Dialogues' platform?
The hard and soft power of India is for all to see and behold. However, there has been a feeling among many who love the idea of India as a great power, that India has punched way below its weight in the past seventy years. Countries like China have marshalled the genius of their civilization better and have been dealing with the world on their own civilizational terms for some time now. Military power serves to supplement that narrative. In India, we have been very shy about projecting the genius of the Indian civilization, which is perhaps the greatest soft power in the world.
Somehow, a feeling has gripped the collective mindset of the Indian elite, who percolated it to the masses, that India only arrived on the scene on 15th August 1947. This is a serious disconnect with the Indian masses who have lived and breathed the Indian culture for many millennia. The Indian movement for independence had a significant cultural underpinning, which is why the masses dubbed Gandhiji as Mahatma and he took on the garb of a sadhu.
However, in spite of a violent partition on the basis of religion, the Indian State has remained defensive on the Indianness or Bharatiya aspect of nationalism. Pluralism is etched deeply into all nine major philosophical streams of India. Inclusiveness comes to such experiential philosophies naturally, but the national discourse adopted a different definition of pluralism, which was artificial and created separate vote banks.
This has naturally caused many distortions, not the least in the school curricula. The post-independence education, particularly from the English speaking schools, has produced a self-loathing individual, which has also occupied most of the policy space creating an apologetic and confused Indian identity. Our children must know that we belong to a great civilization, which has had its many self-correcting mechanisms and numerous renewals, renovations and reawakenings over the millennia.
The situation in the nineteen-eighties came to such a sad state that only the Marxist narrative of India’s history and culture counted, though the Marxist narrative was being rejected everywhere else in the world.
As a young student taking the Civil Services’ exam in the 1980s, the way to score well was clearly defined. Read EPW, Seminar and Yojana for General Studies. Depend on Irfan Habib, AL Basham, Bipin Chandra, and Romila Thapar for History; and on Romesh Thapar, Rajni Kothari and the like for political analysis. The Aryan Invasion Theory and caste aspect of Indian society was the dominant flavour even in political and historical analysis. Constitutional history rarely mentioned Ambedkar, Sir BN Rau and the Constitutional Assembly Debates, and instead focused on the 42nd amendment. I was greatly attracted by the efforts of RC Majumdar, Jadunath Sarkar, Ram Swarup and Sitaram Goel; but they were treated like virtual pariahs.
We have to realize that the entire top bureaucracy of India has been schooled in this Marxist idiom, which makes it very important for all of us to bring in a balance of narratives to counter its distortions.
Because of this narrative, the civilizational soft power of India - encompassing Vedic sciences, intuitive Vedantic reasoning, Yoga, Samkhya, Buddhism and Jainism and the very scientific disciplines of Nyaya, Vaisheshik and Charvak - are not even known to our children. The scientific and mathematical genius of our ancestors is lost to this generation. The great arts, music and folklore of India has its roots in its ancient civilization, but is ascribed by the Marxists to the Mughals.
The Marxist narrative has been very anti-British but the Islamic colonization of India is hardly talked about as if it was a benign chapter in India’s history. It is sought to be sanitized in the name of Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb, which glorifies the rare soft aspects in the Islamic rulers of India, and downplays the harsh jihadi nature of most. It ignores the mentality that created Pakistan, and tries to make secular the very Islamic rulers like Aurangzeb that Pakistan honors for their religious piety.
By this glorification, this leftist modern narrative tries to put the onus of tolerance almost exclusively on the majority, expecting it not to react even to jihadi terrorism as a real danger. We intend to recognize and balance such narratives in our Dialogues.
This soft power of India through its older knowledge-based culture has been impacting even the great scientific minds of the world, including people like Einstein, Heisenberg, and Schrodinger in the 20th century and people like Zuckerberg in the 21st century. Yet the Indian intellengtsia at large has been unable to project this power in a significant manner like say, China has. In a large measure, this is due to its own inability to relate to pre-independence India and their ignorance of their own great culture. Western groups, who seek to carry on the work of the Marxists, have usurped significant areas of Indology. Yet India’s soft power has spread worldwide in spite of these obstacles through Yoga, Vedanta and Buddhism, with little support from India and its so-called cultural elite.
So we at The Jaipur Dialogues will discuss and harness the soft power aspect of the Indian heritage to impact the world in a positive way, unleashing the profound wisdom, art and culture it has developed over thousands of years.
The hard power of India has three aspects – diplomacy, economy, and military. Indian diplomacy has been apologetic at best, and often simply negligent or absent, seldom promoting the country’s national interest to the world community. The military aspects have been ignored for the most part, with India not developing adequately its own military or foreign alliances. Economically India has been weighed down by the same socialist way of thought that does not want an open economy or any innovation or entrepreneurship. Worse still, the strategic aspect has rarely integrated the three, allowing India to influence the world, and the soft power aspect has not even been talked about, though it has reached every corner of the globe.
This situation shows up in that phenomenon referred by me in the beginning, i.e. punching well below the weight. We have not modernized our forces even as the modernization of economy has galloped. Buying modern weaponry does not mean automatic modernization. A lot of military hardware has been purchased and capacities developed, including significant cutting edge space technology, but we are yet to move to modern command structures, and haven’t even thought about a strategy to counter a nuclear power which does not plan to use nuclear power except only as a deterrent.
India’s “No First Use” doctrine needs to be recalibrated in the face of an irrational nuclear power. We need to move to theatre command structures for being able to fight a 21st century war. We need to significantly enhance our cyber war capabilities. This is the era of “hybrid war” and anyone depending on 20th century methods will lose out.
When we discuss the hard options, we would like to find a way to channelize and synergize the three major aspects of India’s hard power, combine it with its soft power and present a strategy to project India to its rightful place of a great power in the community of nations.
Another aspect of hard power which the Dialogues intend to discuss is the post-war negotiation aspect of winning a war. Throughout history, India has won many wars but has lost every single post-war negotiation, including 1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999. This reflects poor strategic understanding among its political leaders, ever willing to forgive rather than punish an intractable enemy. The period between 1947 and 1962 is particularly forgettable as a series of strategic blunders finally culminated in the humiliation of 1962 China war. This year’s Dialogue attempts to become a post that will inform the strategic thinking in the top political, military and bureaucratic class.
4. What is likely to the specific agenda of the first edition of The Jaipur Dialogues?
This being the debut event, there are only 3 sessions. First two sessions are restricted to a select group. First sessions deals with the soft power aspect of India’s strategic space, second deals with the hard power aspect. The third session will be an open public session.
In the first session, four speakers will speak and discuss the aspects of India’s soft power that need to be harnessed, and also the challenges that need to be addressed. We have Dr. David Frawley who was one of the first to openly dispute the Aryan Invasion Theory, and has been vindicated with a complete demolition of that theory even though the Marxist historians refuse to acknowledge the incontrovertible evidence. He has also popularized India and Vedic thought through his many published books and articles over nearly four decades. Tarek Fatah brings his unique civilizational perspective on India. In his inimitable style, he posits that India is not only the most ancient civilization but also the civilization of the future. He also advocates the dismemberment of Pakistan for the success of Indian civilization in the long term. Tufail Ahmad brings his own perspective about the Islamist Jihadist challenge to India along with the practical and strategic solutions. As a person who was himself educated in a Madarsa, he has a powerful insight into the conflicts which are deliberately fanned by the global Islamist forces. I myself have an overall perspective to introduce before these famous speakers take over, showing how to integrate their perspectives into an integral view.
Thus we will have a to do list from these speakers to inform discussions and dialogues around the country.
On the hard issues, we have a very good mix of speakers. Lt Gen Ata Hasnain brings his rich military experience, while Sushant Sareen mixes his Pakistan watcher’s experience with his insights on defence strategy and overview. His IDSA experience would enrich the discussion significantly. Dr Arvind Virmani is a distinguished geo-economist. Nobody knows the interplay of geography, economy and strategy better than him. Yusuf Unjhawala is our armament expert who would also pilot the discussions in the hard option session.
5. Do you also intend to take the deliberations of the event to concerned policy-makers?
That indeed is the objective of this exercise. We do intend to tale out a set of recommendations and pass it on to the decision makers for their reference and consideration.
6. How difficult (or otherwise) was it to translate the idea of the Dialogues into the first conclave?
It is always hard work to translate an idea into reality the first time. It has, however, been a very enjoyable experience with a close-knit team at the Jaipur Dialogues Forum.
We look forward to having everyone interested for the Dialogues. The event will be broadcast live on social media and live tweeted.