On May 14, 2019, Moscow State Institute of International Affairs (MGIMO University), with the support of the Embassy of Sri Lanka in the Russian Federation, held an international round table “Contemporary Political Dynamic of the Indo-Pacific Region”, followed by a lecture by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka on “Armed movements, terrorism, and the ethics of violence. Sri Lanka: A decade after the defeat of terrorism in the 30-year war.”
MGIMO University is an academic institution run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, which is widely considered the most prestigious university in Russia. Henry Kissinger called it the “Harvard of Russia” because it educates a constellation of the political, economic, and intellectual elite. It was founded by Joseph Stalin in 1944 for the purpose of enhancing the education and training of the Soviet diplomatic corps for the new, post-World War II global environment. Since 1946, MGIMO University has opened its doors to foreign students.
The round table discussion, moderated by Dr. Ekaterina Koldunova, the Associate Professor and Dean for MA programmes of Asian and African Studies Department, School of International Relations, MGIMO, gathered a number of leading Russian scholars studying the countries of the Global South, representing the most prominent academic and research centres in Russia, such as the Moscow State University, and the Higher School of Economics.
After the introductory remarks from Dr. Andrey Baykov, the Vice-Rector for MA and International programmes at MGIMO, who mentioned that this meeting may be regarded as a start of a series of roundtables and lectures on the current subject, and Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka, the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Russian Federation, the discussion revolved around the conceptual understanding of the Indo-Pacific region, viewed both in terms of a scientific concept, and in terms of the current political and economic reality, reflecting the strategies and goals implemented and pursued by different state actors.
The participants of the roundtable discussed the political, strategic and economic underpinnings of the Indo-Pacific idea, the way it corresponds to other Greater Eurasia concepts (for instance, Belt and Road initiative), and to the traditional integration processes (ASEAN), the differences in the perception of the IPC in small and medium-range countries of the region and regional/great powers, international mechanisms for reconciling the differences between different states, and other issues.
The discussion was joined by Dr. Victor Sumsky, Director of the ASEAN centre of MGIMO University, Dr. Sergei Lunev, Department of Asian and African Studies (author of the article “The end of the civil war in Sri Lanka and its lessons,” published in the Russian Academy of Sciences Journal in 2009), Dr. Boris Volkhonskiy, from the Institute of Asian and African Studies, MSU (supervising a group of Russian students, who are studying the Sinhala language at MSU), Dr. Alexei Voskressenski, Professor at the Department of Asian and African studies and Research Fellow, Centre for Comprehensive Chinese Studies and Regional Projects, MGIMO (author of the Greater East Asia concept), Dr. Anna Kireeva, associate professor at MGIMO, Dr. Olga Solodkova, Associate Professor at the Higher School of Economics, and other members of the Russian academic community, with expertise on the subject.
After the roundtable, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka delivered a lecture on Terrorism for the MA and post graduate students of MGIMO University. The lecture was also attended by the students of the Institute of African and Asian Studies, MSU, studying the Sinhala language. The problem of classification of different types of movements, of non-state actors, was raised by Dr. Jayatilleka, which is the most pressing issue of the reality we find ourselves in today. In order to deal properly with the threats that we are facing, it is most crucial to understand their nature, which is the task of the political scientists of the new generation. Ambassador Jayatilleka also touched upon the “just cause” concept, and the problem of “innocence,” lying at the moral and ethical heart of any exercise of violence.
The audience showed great interest in the subject and asked many questions, displaying their knowledge of the situation in Sri Lanka and concern over the threat of terrorism, which Russia faced in the recent past, and is still counteracting against both domestically and internationally.