Seminar discusses India’s democracy, challenges

Surekha Vijh –

 

Many students from various local universities, interacted with academicians, diplomats and scholars at a daylong seminar on ‘Delivering Democracy in India,’ organized to discuss the Indian democratic process and the economic and social challenges the country faces.

Hosted by the Hudson Institute, the Indian Council of Cultural Relation and the Embassy of India, it provided a platform for 150 scholars, diplomats, members of India’s parliament, local Washington DC think tank leaders, and students to discuss India’s democratic, economic, and social process. The event was held at institute in Washington DC, February 13.

Ambassador Santosh Jha, chargé d’affaires at the embassy, in his keynote address, said that India has progressed in many areas just as India-US bilateral relations have developed into a global strategic partnership, based on shared democratic values and the increasing convergence of interests on bilateral, regional and global issues.

Jha said there was no looking back on the deal covering many sectors, including trade and investment, defense and security, education, science and technology, cybersecurity, high technology, civil nuclear energy, space technology and applications, clean energy, environment, agriculture and health.

There were three major panel discussions – ‘Democracy and the Economy,’ ‘Democracy and Public Participation,’ and ‘Governance and Democracy in India.’

Speakers from India included Surjit Bhalla, an economist who is chairman of Oxus Research and Investments; Sanjay Paswan, professor in the Department of Personnel Management and Industrial Relations at Patna University and a member of the Bihar Legislative Council; and Ramaswami Balasubramaniam, development activist, author and academician.

Bhalla highlighted the involvement of young people in helping India address challenges in its process of development.

Paswan explained the growing role of US direct investments in India, set at $ 28.33 billion in 2015. Official Indian statistics put cumulative US investments from April 2000 to December 2015 to about $ 17.94 billion, which constituted nearly 6 percent of the total foreign domestic investment in India. It made the US the fifth-largest source of FDI into India. In addition, he said, in recent years, growing Indian investment in the US has become a novel feature of the bilateral ties.

Speaking of development and the opportunities therein, Balasubramaniam pointed out the more than 65 per cent of Indians were below the age of 40. He said many schemes, such as “Swacch Bharat,” or clean India, had made people conscious of the need for their involvement. Women were forging ahead and claiming their rightful place in the country, he said, adding that social media has played a big role in bringing people and issues to the forefront, the.“Me too movement” even getting many senior officials and ministers to resign.

The experts from the US side included Rick Rossow, senior adviser and Wadhwani Chair at the US-India Policy Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Thomas Duesterberg, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute; Richard Fontaine, acting CEO at the Center for New American Security; Daniel Twining, president of the International Republican Institute; and Tod Lindberg, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Rossow felt there was a need to further strengthen India-US revelation in many untapped fields and said that it was natural for two democracies to operate in an open and free atmosphere. He stressed the need to see and India being not just New Delhi but as many states, each with its own way of governing. That, he said, is why India had to be seen at the microlocal level.

Twining said India needed to move to counter and balance China’s rise in the international system, and more particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. He pointed out, though, that India’s geographic proximity to China, and its weaker capabilities compared to both China and the US, limited its traction. Twining felt that India needed to provide balance against a proximate power like China, a closed society. But he added that despite there being a lot of progress in India, it had yet to aggressively deal with poverty and unemployment issues.

The emcee, Aparna Pande, a research fellow and director of Hudson Institute’s Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia, spoke about the pleasure she felt in having India-US relation discussed in a positive light.

 

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