11 Jan 2018 15:52 IST

Modi’s participation in WEF reflection of India’s ambition

This would be the first time since 1997 that an Indian prime minister will attend the Davos summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s participation in the World Economic Forum in Davos is the reflection of India’s ambition at the global stage, a former top US diplomat said.

This is for the first time in about 18 years that an Indian Prime Minister is attending the prestigious World Economic Forum meeting.

This week, the White House also announced that President Donald Trump too would be attending the meeting of world economic leaders.

“To me this speaks to India’s ambitions on the global stage. India has at previous World Economic Forum’s taken large delegations headed by cabinet ministers, but this year is going to be a little bit different,” Alyssa Ayres, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow and author of the forthcoming book Our Time Has Come: How India is Making Its Place told a New York audience.

Participating in a panel discussion ‘Asia Briefing: India 2018’, Ayres said her guess is that last year’s appearance by Chinese President Xi Jinping probably made something of a “splash” and probably factored into the decision for India to send its head of government to that forum this year.

Noting that she is saying this as an anecdote to illustrate what she thinks one is seeing happening with India now on the global stage, Ayres said: “What you see happening on the world stage is now in India that is stepping up in a more active way“.

The Indian government has defined a new term for the type of global leader it would like to be, she said at the event organised by Asia Society ahead of the launch of her book.

“There’s a new term that to my mind has not been used in this way before. Leading power not a global power not a great power...what does this mean,” she said and referred to the remarks made in this regard by top Indian diplomats wherein they have talked about not reacting but “shaping the global events” as they unfold.

“That’s what you’re seeing happening now with India,” Ayres said.

Adding that some of the issues that India’s stepping up on the world stage are economic in focus. Some of them are also about rising military power and the way India is thinking about its role militarily, she said.

The Indian navy has a declared ambition for primacy across the Indian Ocean, said Ayres. India thinks of its space in the region increasingly describing its role across the Indian Ocean as a net provider of regional security.

One hears that echoed in the way US secretaries of defence and secretaries of state talk about India and its role a net provider of regional security.

“This starts to paint a portrait of a country that’s now playing a little bit different role than it was 15 years ago and one which it’s playing the more active role; playing a more participatory role with other countries in the process of thinking about global challenges and what the solutions should be,” she said.

But she quickly pointed out that this is not true in every case like global coalition against the Islamic State which India has decided not to join.

“But I think you are starting to see more instances in which India is ready to stand up and say this is our position, this is what we’d like to be debating with the global community and our view is our voice should be heard,” Ayres said.

Ayres served in the Obama administration in a senior leadership role as deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia from 2010 to 2013, covering all issues across the region.

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2018 will take place later this month in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, under the theme ‘Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World’

Modi will travel to Switzerland on January 22 on a two-day visit during which he will deliver the keynote address at the plenary session of the WEF.

This would be the first time since 1997 that an Indian prime minister will attend the Davos summit.