September 19, 2017        Reading Time: 2 minutes

Your weekly digest of foreign policy commentary:

Reading Time: 2 min read

Dani Rodrik argues against using the G20 to manage domestic economic issues. Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons


A Sacred Geography by C. Raja Mohan, Director of Carnegie India

Although Buddhism was an important part of Indian diplomacy in the 1950s, it is only over the last decade that efforts have been made to revitalise it.

  • C. Raja Mohan looks at economic relations between India and Sri Lanka through the lens of cultural diplomacy. He makes the following observations:
    • The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of economic cooperation between India and Sri Lanka, signed on 26 April 2017, signals that New Delhi is capable and willing to lead infrastructure projects in the region.
    • There is, however, political resistance in Sri Lanka to this “new economic activism” by India.
    • Cultural diplomacy, and specifically Buddhist diplomacy, is key to supporting India’s “new economic activism” in Sri Lanka.
    • India can address resistance to its economic activism in Sri Lanka by:
      • recognising Sri Lanka’s position in the “the sacred geography” of Buddhism; and
      • acknowledging Colombo’s leadership in Asia and the Indian Ocean region.


The G20’s Misguided Globalism
by Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government

If we want to avoid misguided protectionism, or to benefit from better economic management in general, we need to start by putting our own national houses in order.

  • Dani Rodrik criticises countries for trying to solve pressing economic issues through global platforms like the G20, describing this approach as “false and distracting.”
    • Platforms like the G20 permit national leaders to blame external forums for ineffective domestic economic policies.
    • Economic problems like protectionism and financial instability are not “global commons” issues like climate change and infectious diseases, which must be addressed by global cooperation.
    • The failure to maintain free trade policies is a failure of domestic policy and not of inadequate global cooperation. The skewed advantages of trade agreements are a result of powerful domestic corporate and financial interests, which must be addressed locally.

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