The Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) is an inter-governmental security forum held annually by an independent think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). It is attended by defence ministers, permanent heads of ministries, and military chiefs of 28 Asia-Pacific states. The topic is of importance for the IAS Exam as they are part of the International Relations segment of the exam.
The 2021 edition of the Shangri-La Dialogue that was to take place in Singapore on June 4 – 6 has been cancelled.
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Background of the Shangri-La Dialogue
The forum gets its name from the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore where it has been held since 2002.
The Shangri-La Dialogue was conceived by the current IISS Director-General and Chief Executive Sir John Chipman in 2001 in response to the clear need for a forum where the Asia Pacific defense ministers could engage in dialogue aimed at building confidence and fostering practical security cooperation.
The SLD was based on the Munich Conference on Security Policy with the divergent point being for the creation of a Track One organization. Invitations were at first made towards ASEAN members in order to serve as a regional security system. The first host country would be Singapore with the Shangri-La hotel being the venue. Chipman proposed the idea to Singapore President S.R Nathan in February 2001. Nathan promised his full support until the IISS could run the conference independently.
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Format of the Shangri-La Dialogue
The summit begins with a keynote address given by a noted personality. In 2009 it was Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak in 2010. About five complete sessions are held across the remaining days of the summit with the presence of all the participants. These on-record sessions are usually helmed by a minister with the invitation to the media also being extended. Since 2006, the plenary speaking spots were allocated to ministers from a delegation.
Largely unnoticed the Shangri-La Dialogue provides an annual venue for ministers and top defense officials to network and expands their diplomacy both bilateral and multilaterally. A government delegation might typically arrange 15-20 such encounters, lasting half an hour each, over the course of the summit.
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India and the Shangri-La Dialogue
In his keynote address on May 31st during the 2019 forum, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the India-China relations as layered, and said he firmly believed that Asia and the world will have a “better future if India and China work together with trust and confidence, keeping in mind each other’s interests”. Prime Minister Modi was the first Indian prime minister to speak at the SLD since its inaugural edition in 2002.
According to the IISS official website, since its launch in 2002, the Dialogue has become a venue for proposing and advancing initiatives on important security issues. This is especially true with India using the venue to safeguard its interest especially in the face of China’s continued support to arch-rival Pakistan, be it through economic assistance such as the One-Belt One-Road initiative, or by stalling UNSC resolutions regarding Pakistan’s terror state-funded activities. These actions in the past have made India vary in attending the forums, but PM Modi’s recent overtures may have changed the scenario for the time being.
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