Youth forum for foreign policy


Youth Forum on Foreign Policy (YFFP), an independent initiative to encourage dialogue on foreign policy amongst the youth, organized a joint conference with European Union’s EU in India, held on   23rd February. The panel for the conference consisted of Ms. Anne Marchal, First counsellor of the Delegation of the European Union to India, BW Businessworld’s CEO, Mr. Anurag Batra and Member of Parliament and co- founder of YFFP, Mr. Gaurav Gogoi.

The conference then commenced with a presentation by Ms. Anne Marchal, highlighting the salient features and functions of the European Union. EU was formed after the Second World War and since then it has been the biggest transnational democracy in the world with 24 official languages and flourishing trade relations all over the world. Similar to the foundations of India, EU has a well endowed parliamentary system of legislations with 751 seats, along with various political parties contesting in elections. The EU’s Council of Ministers consists of a member from each EU state and at present they are all under Dutch Presidency, to be rotated every 6months.

India and EU have had strategic relations for over 50 years, the most important highlights being the EU- India security cooperation agreement, Joint Action Plan and annual EU and India security dialogue with emphasis on cyber security and nuclear non proliferation.

The discussion then continued with Mr. Anurag Batra taking the lead, voicing his concern about the areas needing improvement in the EU – India agreement. For example, the free trade agreement, including goods and services to be made easier from both sides as many Indian products fail to match up to the European regulatory standards because of different packaging or processing techniques, among other things. The flow of conversation also steered towards EU being the largest donor of development aid in the world and is still yet to aid India in its Human Development projects. A few other points were raised by Mr. Batra, regarding the ban on import of generic drugs from India to EU states and high taxes and import duties which hinders trade between the two countries. At present, India’s 18% exports are to EU and the number could steadily improve if both the sides agree upon common standards of processing products and aim at minimising difficulties in the trading process. He ended by adding that EU has been India’s “real and steady partner” for many years and he hopes to see the relations flourish even further.

Picking up the discussion from then on, Mr. Gaurav Gogoi, started off with a show of gratitude to Ms. Anne for hosting YFFP and the audience and enabling the youth a glimpse into the EU – India relations. He then went to enunciate the similarities India and EU have had from their inception itself, and how both countries stem from the same belief of “unity in diversity”. Mr. Gogoi went on to say that when India was torn up by its own diversity post independence, EU emerged as a source of inspiration in that turmoil. He personally finds the framework of EU ‘fascinating’ as he has visited the EU Parliament in the past, and he also feels envious of their canteen, he wittily added.      

The discussion then came to an end, after inviting a few questions from the audience, who raised pertinent issues such as limited employment prospects of Indian students in EU states, development aid for north east India and EU’s contributions and the growing threat of terrorism and the refugee crisis which many EU states are facing, among others. The event ended with a vote of thanks for the panellists and the audience followed by evening tea.

DU Beat is the official media partner of YFFP.

Featured Image Credits: Youth Forum on Foreign Policy

Tarushi Varma

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Youth Forum on Foreign Policy recently launched its initiative ‘M.P. Engagement Series’ which is a unique programme aimed at bridging the gap between concerned MPs with the youth of our nation. As part of an outreach session under the MP Engagement Series, they hosted Senator Ellen Roberts of Colorado and Representative Paul Thissen of Minnesota at the American Center, New Delhi on 5th October 2015.

The theme of the event was “US Elections: Campaigns, Processes and Procedures.”  Students from DU, JNU and IIT-D participated in a healthy discussion on the US electoral process, among several other matters.

The session gave the students an opportunity to learn about the different aspects of a successful political campaign meanwhile drawing parallels between the electoral processes in India and the US. The US State Legislators shared their experiences in the office and shared insights into the challenges they faced early in their careers in their respective domains.

When the floor was open for questions, students asked about sources of campaign finance, redistricting and the electoral college in the US. The State Legislators also discussed the top agendas and issues for the  2016 United States Presidential elections. Further discussions revolved around additional measures the government takes to engage its youth in the political process.

Owing to the fact that the US elections are so extensively followed globally, the students were interested to know more about the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s nomination, Donald Trump. “Mr. Trump is riding a wave of enthusiasm; it is a wave of protest. He’s saying such outrageous things, but people are identifying with it,” said Ms. Roberts.

The role of social media and technology in a successful election campaign was also briefly discussed. Mr. Thissen explained how India’s global perception is changing partly because of Mr. Modi’s international trips which is encouraging international investors to venture the Indian markets.

The session concluded with a quick review of the intricacies of the American electoral process. The students left with a clearer grasp of American polls, and a better understanding of the process overall.

DU Beat is the official media partner of YFFP.

Featured Image Credits: Paurush Bhardwaj

Surbhi Arora

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Youth Forum on Foreign Policy, an independent and non-partisan initiative instituted to promote substantive dialogue on India’s foreign policy amongst the youth, organized an interactive dialogue in collaboration with the Singapore High Commission, as part of its Embassy Dialogue Series, on the 15th of September, the agenda for which was India – Singapore relations: Aspects of the Past and Future. The panel comprised of Mr. Gaurav Gogoi, Member of Parliament and co-founder at YFFP, Mr. Srinath Raghavan, senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Ms. Nisha Kaur Uberoi, partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas and head of the Mumbai Competition Law Practice, and Mr. Deep K Datta-Ray, assistant Professor at Jindal School of International Affairs.

The event was moderated by Dr. WPS Sidhu, senior Fellow for Foreign Policy at the Brookings India Centre and Brookings Institution. The audience comprised an eclectic mix of people, with a delegation from the Ministry of External Affairs of Singapore, representatives of various embassies, and students from various disciplines and colleges in Delhi. The event commenced with a short introduction by Mr. Darrel Chua, First Political Secretary, after which Mr. Sidhu briefly spoke about the past and present prospects between India and Singapore. Mr. Sidhu initiated the interactive dialogue by outlining the areas of collaboration between India and Singapore – economic, political and defence – and went on to provide an overview of India-Singapore relations. Mr. Gogoi attributed the prevalence of a strong cultural diplomacy and a presence of mongoloid decent as a commonality between Northeast India and Singapore.


Mr. Gogoi further spoke about the look east policy as a source of development in the Northeast, and emphasized its role in further strengthening ties between India and Singapore by projecting rail and air connectivity in these areas. He also spoke about making India a more investment friendly country through sustainable policy reforms and technological development and transparency. Mr. Raghavan pointed out the strong interplay of external players in South Asia, such as China and USA. He further laid emphasis on the TPP, India’s stand vis-à-vis the South China Sea issue and the model of regional and security architecture.

Mr. Raghavan also spoke about the growth of competitive federalism in recent times and the Singapore model of smart cities being adopted in Andhra Pradesh and other states in India. Mr. Deep K. Datta-Ray spoke about India’s changing attitude towards China as a partner rather than a threat and the effect of this shift of ideology in its foreign relations. Ms. Nisha Kaur Uberoi spoke extensively on the need of greater convergence between India and Singapore in the economic realm. Ms. Uberoi further spoke about India as an anchor for China in Asia and not as a counter balance. The growing disparity of investment between states and how it can be tackled was elucidated by Ms. Uberoi. The floor was then opened to questions.

These questions addressed issues such as viability of rail connectivity, parameters of regional architecture, and the role of individual states in attracting FDI. Lastly, Mr. Sidhu laid emphasis on conflict prevention and conflict resolution as imperative aspects of the security architecture. The question-answer session was followed by a reception, where all the speakers were available for further interaction. The audience also got the opportunity to interact with Mr. Lim Thuan Kuan, High Commissioner of Singapore to India. The event was a significant contribution to YFFP’s mission of bringing foreign policy issues into the ambit of youth groups and to engage the youth in debates with scholars and policymakers.

As Brijesh Mishra, the late National Security Advisor under Vajpayee government had once bluntly remarked,” The only thing straight in Kashmir was the poplar tree”, a similar discussion on the K-word and other significant issues unfolded at the Youth Forum on Foreign Policy as part of its Embassy Dialogue Series with the honourable High Commissioner of Pakistan, Mr. Abdul Basit, at the Pakistan High Commission on 9 September 2015.

Amidst an august gathering consisting of students from Swedish and Sri Lankan embassy, students of International Relations and other varied backgrounds from Delhi, the High Commissioner started the discussion by defining foreign policy and differentiating it from the concept of diplomacy. He connoted that Pakistan had been through difficult times and their foreign policy was influenced by security interests.
Coming from a country that is both reflective and complimentary to the unique diaspora that both neighbours share, he expressed a desire of having normal relations with India as he remarked, ” Our main issue is the problem of Kashmir. Had that issue been discussed we would have been discussing a different paradigm. India -Pak need to sit across the table to debate and solve these issues.”
He strongly voiced how our countries become hostage to our own rhetoric as he said, “There is a lack of understanding of my country. It is always seen as a hub of terrorism, instability and a state where women’s voices are suppressed. We are a confident country and are developing in different areas”. He pushed across the fact that Pakistan is not the country we see on TV and read in the newspapers.
The lecture was followed by an interactive question and answer round where he played off all the questions with a straight bat.
While both India and Pakistan make individual claims for having won the 1965 War, on being asked, ‘Who won the 1965 war?’, given the war’s 50th Anniversary this year, Mr. Basit unabashedly said, “Pakistan won the 1965 war”. And to not many people’s surprise, questions related to Kashmir were asked too.
When he was quizzed as to whom does Pakistan consider as the true representatives of the people of Kashmir, the High Commissioner bodaciously uttered, ” We believe that Hurriyat are the true representatives of Kashmir. A plebiscite or referendum in Jammu and Kashmir is the most honourable way of determining the aspirations of that region.” He also assured that, If after a plebiscite, the people of Kashmir want to join India, Pakistan would readily agree.
Though the agenda of the talk was ‘India- Pakistan talks post Ufa’, this segment was seldom deliberated by the High Commissioner in his address. All in all, the address provided hindsight into our neighbour’s perspective as his excellency called upon the youth to play a pivotal role in deluding years of animosity between the two countries.
Riya Chhibber