The Georgetown University India Initiative will host the second annual India Ideas Conference on April 21 in Riggs Library and the Bioethics Library. This year’s conference theme is “Empowering India” and features speakers from both the U.S. and India.
The Caravel spoke with Nitya Biyani, the chairwoman of the Student Board of the India Initiative, about the conference. The conference is designed to focus on India’s actions and what the country is doing to empower itself, rather than examine it from an international development perspective. Biyani explained that the conference comes at an exciting time for India, as “the last four years with [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi have been rather revolutionary and have placed India in a very precarious position that could determine its future role for decades to come.”
The conference opens with a plenary session discussing India’s growing strategic capability and importance. This topic will be discussed by Ambassador Richard Verma, who served as U.S. ambassador to India from 2015 to 2017 and who is a centennial fellow at the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service, and Thomas L. Vaida, deputy to Ambassador Alice Wells, the current principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia. This panel takes place at a time when the Trump administration has emphasized the importance of defense cooperation to the U.S. relationship with India, according to news outlet the Wire. The Trump administration also recognized the broader strategic importance of India, notably with President Donald Trump’s call for “a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The conference features six panels of experts discussing a wide range of social, political, and economic issues that are poised to shape India’s future. Biyani explained that, unlike most D.C. conferences, which have panels that often consist exclusively of policy experts from think tanks, the India Ideas conference will primarily feature panelists who have “field experience” or direct business experience working in India. For example, the panel titled “India’s Economic Outlook” features Anoop Singh, director of the Asia and Pacific Department of the International Monetary Fund, Dr. Mukesh Agh of the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum, and Bhavani Parameswar, the CEO of Kingmaker Marketing. Experts from think tanks will still moderate some of the panels and use their expertise to help direct conversation.
One of the panels Biyani highlighted is the panel on women’s empowerment, which features three female executives discussing the importance of women in the workforce for India’s economic future as well as their own personal experiences. Speakers on this panel include Amita Poole, CEO of infrastructure firm IIPL USA, and Ranji Nagaswami, CEO of investment firm Hirtle, Callaghan & Co. Biyani said that the conference has more female than male panelists.
The conference will also feature a student research showcase, in which students can present their work relating to India or the South Asia region. Any students interested in participating should reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.