The University of Warwick India Forum (WIF) held their 5th flagship event entitled ENVISAGES: India — a Global Power, last week. WIF endeavours to set straight all stereotypes, question and explain the Indian story and the differences that sum up 21st century India. In the past, the enthusiastic student-run organisation has welcomed Indian personalities like Shashi Tharoor, Kiran Bedi, Rajkumar Hirani and Shazia Ilmi to present their take.
WIF’s 2016 goal is to generate universal interest in matters relating to India and increase their presence by collaborating with societies and unions at other universities across the UK.
The distinguished speakers, who held the attention of the students were Dr Jonathan Cave, Senior Research Fellow at Warwick of Policy on Telecommunications and Information Society policy. Dr Cave delivered a specialised talk about what is happening in the data-sphere, with references to the monetisation of the internet and how bandwidth will decide the winner of a game. He explained pricing transparency, various discriminations, data-caps, zero rating, current content space battles, market control and the need for policy. He referred to Facebook and Google as institutions without borders and financial technology being weightless so being able to migrate anywhere.
Nirupama Rao, former Foreign Secretary and ambassador, spoke about “Foreign Policy for India Today”. Rao congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s drive and determination in this geopolitical arena and mentioned Kautilya’s theory of “Vijigishu”. She explained that foreign policy is the instrument to safeguard national security and the Prime Minister has approached this with pragmatism and skill. However, she gambled that a more difficult hand to reverse was the India-Pakistan relationship, as the LeT and JeM chaperoned Pakistan’s diplomacy as demonstrated by Pathankot. Rao remarked on foreign relations around India’s neighbourhood, from China to Sri Lanka and Fiji to Iran, concluding that Modi’s maritime co-ordination was a good beginning as the future would be decided by the sea.
New wave film director Anurag Kashyap came to the lectern with humour and humility and recapped the highs and lows of his rollercoaster career. Kashyap said that the only way into Bollywood is “to do anything for everyone and not to take anything. The film industry is threatened by change, it is content not to push boundaries and just to make films for Indians, change only occurs in small steps.”
Professor Bina Agarwal, development economist, presented her ideas about “Representation: Gender, Government and Governance”. Prof Agarwal claimed that representation is something in between a commonality of interest and caste, gender, faith and ethnicity are all scripted categories and can lead to quotas. She suggested everyone prioritise their identities. Her case study was particularly about rural women. She was of the opinion that the panchayat does not bring forward women’s issues as they are embarrassed to do so. She said that gender should not define what issues representatives must take up. She also lamented that in the 1960s there was a Women’s National Conference and a Women’s Property Rights Conference and that today women’s issues are not sufficiently addressed. She pointed out that in the last Uttar Pradesh elections, only 15% of the voter turnout was women.
Last but not the least, Dr Subramanian Swamy gave his views about the mindset needed for India to become a global power. First was to expunge the Nehruvian economic model which produced the anomalous misnomer “the Hindu rate of growth”. He suggested that the agricultural sector had much more to offer, and that India should fight the World Trade Organisation for reduced tariffs. Talking about India as a nuclear power, Swamy suggested that by 2050 world uranium deposits would be exhausted, but India contains 60% of the total global deposits of thorium. He called on young Indian innovators to develop thorium into uranium for export. He encouraged students to take pride in their country, not to aim for careers in bureaucracy, but to take risks and help solve the problems facing India and make their country a global power.
The lively panel discussion that followed highlighted student concerns about tolerance, minorities, free speech, JNU protests, women’s careers in international diplomacy and “glass ceilings”, the role of media, the chaotic television debates, the lack of an Indian state television channel and the shameful behaviour of some Members of Parliament.