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Making progress through debate

Difficult Dialogues, the annual festival of topical ideas curated by the London School of Economics South Asia Centre and tve (Television for the Environment), will begin with an array of speakers at two centres in Goa. Difficult Dialogues 2016 will be held in partnership with
The Navhind Times and will be from Jan 28 to Jan 30

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The three-day global dialogue initiative, Difficult Dialogues is organised on the principle that knowledge sharing is the foundation of progress in this fast growing, region of the world which houses a quarter of the world’s population, including more than 40 per cent of its poor.
The core programme of panel discussions amongst experts, scholars, thought leaders and senior academics will result in a series of white papers to inform governmental policy as well as civic body interventions, according to organisers.
The focus this year will be on global finance, India and West Asia, infrastructure and civil society. In addition to policy debates, there will be open discussions, workshops and interactions with panchayati raj institutions.
The first day’s debate on global finance will cover complex dynamics of global and regional financial systems. A new global order is emerging with a powerful China and BRICS challenging the old systems of global finance.
The 2008 financial crisis has burst the myth that the market, on its own, is able to take care of everything. The speakers will debate what impact 2008 has had on the global finance market and what should be the legislative, institutional and regulatory agendas to prevent another such scenario from emerging again.
The speakers on global finance include director, Institute of Global Affairs and professor in practice in economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Erik Berglöf, who prior to joining LSE was chief economist and special adviser to the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERDB).
Among speakers is Nasser Munjee, an LSE alumnus, who is chairman of DCB Bank. He was a founding member of HDFC (Housing Development Funding Corporation), India’s first retail institution for housing needs.
The panel also has deputy governor, RBI, Urjit R Patel and Nicholas Stern who is the I G Patel chair professor in Economics and Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
There will be a debate on India and West Asia as West Asia has a distinctive place in India’s foreign policy and external relations. It has many external players and major power stakeholders, including the US, China and Russia; as such, India has to factor in the actions and initiatives of these countries and calibrate its own policies in an objective, equitable and sustainable manner.
The panel will debate a range of uncomfortable questions, considering politico-strategic, economic (especially trade and oil), and security-military issues and discuss continuities and departures in India’s foreign policy in West Asia in the current context. How appropriate has it been? What are the most desirable or equitable and politically sustainable orientations that the panel would recommend? What is the assessment of policies of the US and China in the region, and how will they impact India? What about military diplomacy? Speakers at the debate include associate research scholar, Yale Law School, Darryl Li; reader, LSE, Toby Dodge; journalist, Siddharth Varadarajan; retired diplomat and current visiting distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi, Talmiz Ahmad and director, Society for Policy Studies, New Delhi, Uday Bhaskar.
The debate on civil society is premised on the fact that economic growth and an aspiring middle class that votes opportunity to political power, alongside a hyper-proliferation of preferential digital interconnectivity has been the hallmark of India’s modernity over the last two decades. It has created harshly uneven and callous forms of development and appropriation; civil society provides the most effective platform for broad-based action and redressal of grievances in India. Does civil society, then, render a unique dynamism to Indian democracy? Pitted against political and business interests, civic action is the most potent route for impacting change in Indian society.
In a country marked by poverty and corruption, how and where do individuals find strength and courage to take on the system, to speak for rights and dignity of a few who are almost always the marginalised? Are there long-term changes through civic action, and benefits to society? Or are they just patches of unconnected personal initiatives of an enlightened few? Should there be a common platform for civic action of all types and sorts in a country as diverse and corrupt as India?
Panellists will discuss these issues through academic analysis and the experience of grassroots activists.
Participants on civil society panel include director, LSE, Craig Calhoun; Shubranshu Choudhary, who has pioneered the use of mobile phones as a media platform, and is the creator of CGNet Swara, and associate professor, LSE, Mukulika Banerjee.
There will also be debates on infrastructure, child marriage, agriculture, youth and migration and social exclusion.

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