Amid rising Covid cases, Raisina Dialogue to go fully digital
The organisers of Raisina Dialogue, the external affairs ministry’s flagship conference on geo-politics and geo-economics, announced on Monday that the event will be fully digital instead of a hybrid affair because of a spike in Covid-19 cases around the world.
A number of in-person meetings between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his counterparts from several countries had been planned on the margins of the Raisina Dialogue, and the list of foreign dignitaries who will make in-person visits is still being worked out, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.
The Observer Research Foundation and the ministry, which jointly organise the Raisina Dialogue, had earlier planned to hold the event with limited in-person attendance of around 100 people, including foreign dignitaries, within a bubble in New Delhi. The event is scheduled for April 13-15.
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“The organisers of Raisina Dialogue 2021 have decided to host this year’s edition as a fully digital event, instead of the hybrid event planned earlier that envisaged both online as well as in-person speakers and delegates,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
The decision to move to a fully digital version was made as a “measure of abundant caution, given the Covid-19 situation in various parts of the world”, he said.
“It underlines the strong sense of responsibility that the organisers feel towards the safety of all those involved with the dialogue,” he added.
India has become only the second country in the world, after the US, to add more than 100,000 Covid-19 cases in a single day at any time during the pandemic. According to data from the health ministry on Monday, the country recorded 103,796 cases in the past 24 hours.
The day’s spike pushed India’s infection tally up to 12.5 million, according to the health ministry’s dashboard.
Bagchi said the fully digital Raisina Dialogue will use technology to give participants an opportunity to engage and debate on the most pressing issues facing the global community while avoiding any Covid-19-related risk.
“The impact of the change in format will be appropriately reflected in our diplomatic engagements,” he added.
Jaishankar and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian were expected to hold separate trilateral meetings with Australian foreign minister Marise Payne and Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi. Jaishankar was also expected to hold bilateral meetings with leaders such as Maldives foreign minister Abdulla Shahid.
There were already questions about an in-person visit by Marsudi, given Indonesia’s leading role in efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to address the situation in Myanmar following the February 1 coup.
More than a dozen foreign and defence ministers had been listed among the speakers at the Raisina Dialogue. There is still a possibility that some leaders, who had planned bilateral engagements, will go ahead with their visits and the list is still being worked out, people familiar with developments said.