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B. Kalita: Address to International Leadership Conference 2018

Address to International Leadership Conference 2018, Seoul, Korea, February 18-22, 2018

Fellow Parliamentarians, Religious Leaders, Civil Society Leaders, and Esteemed Friends from the media,

I consider it a privilege to participate in this special International Leadership Conference (ILC) sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF). I take this opportunity to thank the Universal Peace Federation for allowing me to address this august gathering. I also congratulate it for selecting an extremely relevant theme for this conference: “Addressing the Critical Challenges of our Time: The Responsibility of Parliamentarians and Religious Leaders.”

I understand that the ILC series has been a flagship program of the UPF since its inception and has been the foundation for a wide range of initiatives, including the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace, the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development, the World Summit series and many other programs.

It is needless to mention that every nation in the world, whether it is a superpower, developed, developing or underdeveloped country, is faced with some critical and sensitive issues at local, national, regional and global levels that can include climate change, rise of extremist ideologies, natural disasters and conflicts. As a parliamentarian, I personally believe that parliamentarians, religious leaders of all faiths and civil society leaders play a pivotal role in finding solutions to complexissues/problems through peaceful discussions and prolonged debate before they finally decide anything. We should always bear in mind that the views of the majority should be respected, but at the same time we must ensure that the views of the minority should not be neglected.

It is interesting to note that some people have rightly termed parliaments and parliamentarians as international actors. Parliaments and parliamentarians traditionally have been a feature of domestic politics, as a distinctive branch of government or as representatives of the people respectively. However, lately they have come to develop a different role linked to international rather than domestic politics, especially regarding regional organizations. 

Parliamentary institutions engage in international affairs in three major ways: (1) by influencing foreign policy through national parliaments; (2) by conducting parallel diplomatic relations, known as parliamentary diplomacy; and (3) by establishing and empowering parliaments as representative bodies of international, often regional, organizations. These roles differ in form and substance. The first is a classical function of parliaments and implies no policy-making innovation, although, the degree to which parliaments do so varies from one democracy to another. The second function is more recent and has focused mainly on peace-building and conflict prevention activities. The third is the most atypical function and is ideally oriented toward supranational institution building.

Parliamentary diplomacy has various levels. Many parliaments are engaged directly or indirectly in international affairs. The engagement can be formal or informal, laid by parties or individuals, secret or open, and conducted with or without the blessing of the national executives. Hence, it has become an established fact that parliamentarians can intervene in areas that traditional diplomats cannot venture into.

The parliamentarization of international relations is often perceived as both a result and a cause of democratization. Be it through friendship group, occasional visit, regular meetings or simply by participating in different regional or international parliamentary meetings, parliamentarians who come from less democratic or emerging democracies can gain from rubbing shoulders with their counterparts from well-established democracies.

Before concluding, I must say a few words about parliamentary democracy in India. Parliamentary democracy in India has withstood the test of time. Over the last 65 years, the country has faced numerous challenges, hardships and obstacles in the smooth functioning of its polity, economy and democracy. However, on each occasion, the people of India have rallied together to overcome difficulties. Our parliament, which represents the voice, aspirations and expressions of our people, has reflected the resilience and courage of this nation on all occasions of crisis. A journey spanning 65 years is not a short journey. Over this long and significant period, the Indian Parliament has developed a character of its own. This character stems from the unique features of the people of this great country and symbolizes the multifarious, diverse and yet harmonically synthesized bonding shared by the people of our country.

I consider it to be a rare honor and privilege to be a parliamentarian in the world’s largest democracy. People all over the world look forward to peaceful solutions to all their problems, and I reiterate that parliamentarians the world over have a major role to play, as they cannot disappoint the people and they have to rise to the occasion. While performing their duties, parliamentarians need to be extremely wise and judicious. I once again thank the Universal Peace Federation for organizing this international conference, and I am sure that all their efforts will be crowned with success.

Thank you.


To go to the International Leadership Conference Schedule 2018, click here.