The Australia-India Institute’s third conference The Argumentative Indian wrapped up last week to acclaim from conference speakers, patrons, and the media alike.
Running over three days, the international conference canvassed key economic, social, political and cultural issues confronting India as it emerges as a global power.
The title of the conference came from Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s book of the same name, which discusses India’s history and identity. Amartya Sen opened the conference with a speech recorded at Harvard University, outlining the importance of the strong argumentative tradition in India’s past, present and future.
“I think the long argumentative tradition also has some contribution to make to having a flourishing democracy in India,” Professor Sen told delegates, a theme echoed in Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis’ annual Australia India Institute Oration.
The conference provoked stimulating debates between Australian and Indian delegates, and a total of nearly 60 speakers and chairs. Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research Senator Chris Evans addressed the conference on the importance of engagement with Asia, and the Federal Member for Goldstein Mr Andrew Robb spoke about Australia and India’s political systems and the way forward.
Activist Kiran Bedi was a galvanising force in the conference, speaking passionately about her fight against corruption in India. A fearless leader from a young age, she is well known in India for being the first female police officer, and for giving the Prime Minister a parking ticket.
“India is going through a huge exposé of corruption both in Government and the private sector which has increased inequalities and weakened institutions,” Dr Bedi said.
Also making headlines was the Governor of West Bengal and former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India, M.K. Narayanan, whose comment that India and China are natural rivals sparked media attention internationally. Governor Narayanan said the conference was vitally important as Australia-India relations had reached a ‘defining moment’.
Crticial discussions on the most relevant issues facing India today were held over the three days. Foreign Policy and International Relations enthusiasts were in their element, and sessions on the media in India highlighted some phenomenal facts and realities about the colossal powerhouse that is the Indian media.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi closed the conference with an inspiring and poetic valedictory speech, leaving no-one doubting that he had inherited his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi’s capacity to inspire.
The conference attracted over 700 registrations, making it the most well attended of the Institute’s three international conferences held so far.