India’s Four Path-Breaking Initiatives: Response Of The World (Part II) – Analysis

CDRI

The third major initiative by the Modi government is the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI). It was launched by Prime Minister Modi in September 2019 at the UN Climate Action Summit. It is an international coalition of countries, UN agencies, multilateral development banks, the private sector, and academic institutions. Its objective is to promote research and knowledge sharing in the field of infrastructure risk management, standards, financing and recovery mechanisms. 

If one recalls the history of this initiative, it was first proposed by PM Modi during the 2016 Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi. PM Modi probably was persuaded for this idea by his own experience in dealing with the 2001 Gujarat earthquake when he was chief minister of Gujarat state. (For the first part of this click here: India’s Four Path-Breaking Initiatives: Response Of The World (Part I) – Analysis)

Therefore the CDRI was later conceptualised in the first and second edition of the International Workshop on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (IWDRI) in 2018-19, organised by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in partnership with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the UN Development Program, the World Bank, and the Global Commission on Adaptation. After PM Modi approved the proposal for CDRIon 13 August 2019, it was approved by the Union Cabinet on 28 August 2019. India also pledged financial support of Rs. 480 crore towards the CDRI corpus.  

Membership

As regards membership, as of 2023, the CDRI has 39 members, consisting of 31 national governments, 6 international organisations (1) and 2 private sector organisations. (2) Membership application approval is pending for another nine countries. It transpires that CDRI has steadily increased its membership by attracting a diverse range of economically advanced, developing, and vulnerable countries to climate change and disasters. Malaysia is the only member of the ASEAN bloc whose application for membership is pending. The rest of the nine members have decided to stay out so far. Like the ISA and the GBA, Vietnam’s stance is inexplicable. As expected, China too has opted out.

Roadmap

Indeed, the CDRI is a practical approach and roadmap towards climate change mitigation. The World Bank and the Green Climate Fund also have extended support to the launch. The truism is that whenever there is a cataclysmic development climate event, infrastructure gets undermined and overwhelmed very quickly, and it becomes difficult for developing countries or countries which do not have the economic wherewithal to address these. By launching this initiative, PM Modi wanted to leverage geographically and economically diverse nations to work across the board and to bring to the table a group of countries who are ready to address issues of infrastructure. The CDRI is thus a transformative initiative and critical to significantly reduce economic losses. 

The CDRI was the second major coalition launched by PM Modi outside of the UN after the launch of the ISA. Both are seen by the world as India’s attempt to obtain a global leadership role in climate change matters and disaster resilience issues. In particular, India and Japan with their experiences in disaster management can use the CDRI to provide a safer alternative to China’s BRI, as unlike the CDRI which is an international knowledge platform, BRI is a infrastructure creation and funding activities that lack transparency and thus opaque. The strategic priorities of the CDRI are technical support and capacity building, research and knowledge management, and advocacy and partnership. (3)

Addressing the 5th International Conference on Disaster Resilience Infrastructure (ICDRI), 2023, PM remarked that CDRI arose from a global vision that in a closely connected world, the impact of disasters will not just be local, which is why the response had to be integrated, not isolated. PM Modi noted that it was encouraging that a large number of countries, both from Global South and Global North, responded to be part of the CDRI. (4)

PM Modi outlined some priorities for discussion for disaster resilience infrastructure in the context of the theme of ‘Delivering Resilient and Inclusive Infrastructure’. He said “Infrastructure is not only about returns but also about reach and resilience. Infrastructure must leave none behind and serve the people even during times of crisis.” He stressed the need for a holistic view of infrastructure as social and digital infrastructure as important as transport infrastructure. The $50 million committed fund generated immense interest among developing countries. This commitment is thus the key to the success of initiatives. The CDRI was of immense benefit to the people affected by the earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria.   

Some academic works have been done on this critical global issue. (5) Such works are useful for policy makers in designing appropriate responses at a given situation. In view of the importance and relevance of this initiative, if certain Asian countries still decide to stay out, that would be unfortunate. Many countries in Southeast Asia have been affected by disasters such as cyclone, tsunami and earthquake. The association of these countries thus far left out of the initiative shall benefit in such situations. 

IPOI

The fourth major initiative proposed by Prime Minister Modi was the creation of the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI). First proposed during the 14th East Asia Summit in Bangkok on 4 November 2019, this non-treaty-based initiative was meant for countries to work together for cooperative and collaborative solutions to the common challenges in the region of Indo-Pacific. The suggestion was aimed for a safe, secure and stable maritime domain. 

The Indo-Pacific region covers the Indian and Pacific Oceans, with global security and prosperity affected by its strategic discussions and economic activities. The IPOI is a collaborative approach among stakeholders to address shared challenges. It extends the Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) (6) initiative of 2015. The IPOI encompasses seven thematic areas, including resource development, resilient infrastructure, security and marine environment.  

Seven pillars were identified under IPOI. These are:

  • Maritime Security
  • Maritime Ecology
  • Maritime Resources
  • Capacity Building and Resource Sharing
  • Disaster Risk Reduction and Management
  • Trade Connectivity and Maritime Transport
  • Science and Technology and Academic Collaboration

The aim behind these seven pillars is to establish connections with various nations. It is open to all the participating nations from the region. The initiative emphasises collaboration with nations that share its goals in order to advance maritime trade.

The Indo-Pacific region is a vast maritime region where many different parties have interests. The main objectives of the IPOI are:

  • To strengthen maritime boundaries in the Indo-Pacific region
  • To formulate partnerships based on the principle of free trade and sustainable use of maritime resources and biodiversity
  • To promote welfare through a democratic model of governance by establishing a rules-based order that promotes free trade and working together in collaboration in order to create wealth
  • To develop a mechanism for cooperating with like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific.       

In PM Modi’s IPOI initiative, the ASEAN remains at the core. It may be interpreted as an addition to India’s Act East Policy and the existing regional institutional comes handy to implement the objectives of the IPOI. It highlights some important key ideas. These are:

  • Since India perceives the Indo-Pacific in the multi-polar terms in its foreign policy discourse, it has tried to balance its policy that shuns hostility with any and embraces all so that the policy remains inclusive and non-confrontational to maximise benefits.            
  • The IPOI thus aligns with India’s goals for the area, as it focuses on networking amongst stakeholders to achieve positive outcome. 
  • The IPOI’s primary tenet is a purposeful partnership with nations that share its values.  

Despite the hype on the IPOI, more needs to be explored and explained on how to maximise the rent that could be expected from the collaborative efforts to get results from the seven pillars that are identified. There are several issues that either are bilateral or regional or even both. This is more important when the global centre of gravity has shifted from the West to the Indo-Pacific with so much economic and demographic potentials to be honed, the main challenge that confronts the stakeholders comes from the security front. Unless this is addressed diplomatically, all efforts to create an inclusive world may be frustrated. (7)

Interestingly, though the ASEAN countries could be the biggest beneficiary, only Vietnam and Malaysia have come out with their opinions on the IOPI. India has taken cognizance that Vietnam acknowledges that it is an important partner in India’s IPOI initiative that is based on shared values and interests in promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region. Vietnam has territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea region. (8) India has oil exploration projects in Vietnamese waters in the South China Sea. China objects to this. India and Vietnam have historically shared warm and friendly relations based on mutual trust, goodwill and strategic convergence on several global and regional issues. According to Vietnam’s Foreign Investment Agency, as of June 2020, India had about 278 projects in Vietnam with total invested capital of $887 million. India’s investments in Vietnam are in the sectors of energy, mineral exploration, agro processing, sugar, tea, coffee manufacturing, agrochemicals, IT and auto-components. Also, Vietnam’s investment in India is to the tune of $28.55 million primarily in the area of pharmaceuticals, IT, chemicals and construction materials. 

Since both have shared concerns on China, bilateral ties are getting stronger and deeper. Both sides have agreed to strengthen their strategic partnership “in line with India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) and the ASEAN’s Outlook on Indo-Pacific to achieve shared security, prosperity and growth for all in the region.” (9)

As in the case with IPOI, it is desirable that Vietnam should reflect on the merits of the other three major initiatives by Prime Minister Modi as these are aimed to serve the interests of the countries of the region. The existing regional architectures may be used to popularise the merits of these four path-breaking initiatives for common good and the stakeholders need not be persuaded by China which traditionally has reservations to all that India proposes.  

Endnotes:

  1.  The 6 international organisations are Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank Group, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), European Union, European Investment Bank. 
  2.  The two private organisations are Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies and Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment.
  3. https://www.cdri.world/cdri-overview
  4.  “PM addresses 5th International Conference on Disaster Resilience Infrastructure”, 4 April 2023, https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1913490 
  5.  For example, for disaster vulnerability resilience, theory, modelling and Prospective, See, David Matyas and Mark Pelling, 27 November 2012, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/287456/12-1298-disaster-vulnerability-resilience-theory.pdf. Also see, Marie-Helene Graveline and Daniel Germain, “Disaster Risk Resilience: Conceptual Evolution, Key Issues, and Opportunities”, 21 June 2022, pp. 330-341,   https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-022-00419-0
  6.  For a comprehensive analysis on this, see Subhasish Sarangi, “Unpacking SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region”, USI Occasional Paper, December 2020, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/347497121_Unpacking_SAGAR_Security_and_Growth_for_All_in_the_Region   
  7.  Premesha Saha and Abhishek Mishra, “The Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative: Towards a Coherent Indo-Pacific Policy for India”, ORF Occasional Paper No. 292, December 2020, Observer Research Foundation. https://www.orfonline.org/research/indo-pacific-oceans-initiative-towards-coherent-indo-pacific-policy-india/ 
  8.  “Vietnam important for India’s Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative: Senior Diplomat”, The Economic Times, 20 October 2020, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/vietnam-important-for-indias-indo-pacific-oceans-initiative-senior-diplomat/printarticle/78770772.cms 
  9.  Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, “India-Vietnam Relations: Strong and Getting Stronger” The Diplomat, 20 August 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/08/india-vietnam-relations-strong-and-getting-stronger/