(by Insa Ewert)
The second PRIMO conceptual workshop took place at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi from 27 April to 1 May. While the temperatures outside approached 40 degrees, inside the Rembrandt Room of the Center for European Studies, School of International Studies, PRIMO ESRs and local students learned and discussed about regional powers and EU foreign policy during the five day workshop led by Prof. Ummu Salma Bava.
Presentations were held by academics from JNU and Heidelberg University, think tanks, representatives of the private sector and diplomats including Prof. Gulshan Sachdeva, Prof. Jayati Srivastava, Prof. Satish Kumar, Mr. Harsh Srivastava, Dr. Priya Kumari, Ms Anne Marchal, Prof. C. Mahapatra, Mr. Siddarth Tripathi, Dr. Sribani Roy Choudhury, Prof. Ummu Salma Bava, Mr. Radu Carciumaru, Prof. Swaran Singh, Dr. Manoj Joshi and Prof. Varun Sahni and focused in particular on different aspects of EU foreign policy as well as the EU, India and China in a changing world order.
Designed as a conceptual workshop, a wide range of concepts were introduced and discussed, among them emerging powers, the EU as a normative actor, strategic partnerships as well as identity and perceptions in foreign policy. An essential task of the presenters was to outline how concepts such as identity and perceptions, that are rather vague and fluffy can be applied in practical research and to bring in examples to capture their various notions. Intensive feedback sessions linked back to the interests of the ESRs and local students and opened the floor for discussion on how to apply these concepts in our own research. Tapping on local sources of knowledge, the workshop highlighted aspects in the current debate of emerging/rising powers and a changing world order from a different perspective than my personal (European) background. Attention was drawn to how within this debate, terms such as “regional power”, “middle power” or “emerging power” are juxtaposed against a goal or reference point – mostly the already established powers – including the notion of a linear development path and the perception that so-called “new” powers always seem to be asked to justify themselves and their actions as soon as they do not comply with the rules and norms of world order as established by so-called “great” powers. Do to the location of the workshop, India was the example of choice, nevertheless India within the concept of an “emerging power” gains its (ir-)relevance largely from the comparison with China – further inducing the necessity to bring in the interests and roles of other powers in the region and beyond, such as Japan and the USA. However, the workshop not only discussed its guiding theme in light of traditional nation states, but included the institutional perspective of the EU, the role of business, education, people-to people exchanges and many more aspects into the debate – an aspect that was not only taught but lived through the exchanges of PRIMO ESRs and students from JNU.
For me as a researcher the workshop offered a great possibility to learn about views on the EU from the outside, by an area studies institute located in the “Global South”, as well as to experience not only a bit of the academic life at JNU but also gain an understanding of its context within the broader surroundings.