New Directions: Leadership in an Era of Change

The final panel of the ACC brought together experts in information technology, business, and academia to discuss the concept of leadership in India. Leadership is evolving on two levels in India: internally, as Indians find solutions to local issues, and externally, as India’s rising economic power translates to a need for more responsibility in the international community.

Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore looked externally, arguing that India must prepare its population to take on more responsibility in the new global order. Dr. Mahbubani said that India must take responsibility commensurate with the level of America’s or Europe’s. Tarun Das, President of Aspen Institute India and Former Chief Mentor of CII stressed that for India to cultivate better leaders there must be a change in mindset. That will take time. Among other changes, there must be a refocusing on long-term sustainability instead of on short-term all-out gains. Rajendra Pawar, Chairman of NIIT Ltd, said that although India has gone a long way in the IT sector, there is still great potential. There is a young workforce, which is reasonably well-educated and is aspiring for greatness. That bodes well for India’s internal leadership. Raul Rai, Managing Director, General Atlantic, emphasized that the youth of India are not only well-equipped to succeed, but that they feel more confident of their success. This is the generation that Mr. Rai hopes will redefine India, a generation that will have strong political and economic leadership in the world’s largest democracy.

Posted on March 20th, 2010 by Leah Thompson | 10 Comments »

Paul Beckett on the Congress Party Getting “Bogged Down”

Paul Beckett, Bureau Chief for South Asia at the Wall Street Journal Asia spoke to us about what stories he’s tracking right now. At the top of his list was the current struggles of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government to get legislation passed. Fractures have emerged within the governing coalition, and Beckett suggests the infighting among the United Progressive Alliance members might sap the momentum bestowed on the group by their landslide victory in the last elections.

Posted on March 20th, 2010 by Andrew Smeall | 1 Comment »

Shyam Saran on the Bleak Future of Climate Negotiations

Shyam Saran, Former Special Envoy on Climate Change to the Prime Minister of India, was gave his opinion of what happened at COP15 and what sort of next steps the world can expect. Following a presentation of glacier photography to the conference by David Breashears, Mr. Saran offered his candid and pessimistic assessment of the future of global climate negotiations.

Posted on March 20th, 2010 by Andrew Smeall | 2 Comments »

Final Keynote Given by Chief Minister

Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of New Delhi, gave the final keynote address of the Asia Society’s Asian Corporate Conference. She discussed challenges and opportunities that New Delhi faces, her strategies for addressing them, and how these strategies apply to a rapidly urbanizing India.

Ms. Dikshit argued that New Delhi has enough resources, but they must be managed better. There is enough water in India, but distribution must be improved. Electricity is there, but poor management leads to brownouts. Transport is better than it was even three years ago. There is a better metro and air-conditioned buses. Ms. Dikshit talked at length about some of New Delhi’s environmental successes. This includes the massive conversion of automotive vehicles switching to use compressed natural gas, a cheaper and cleaner alternative to gasoline and diesel. She also emphasized the need to develop public transportation- the recently opened Delhi metro is an excellent example of the progress her administration has made.

One lesson in particular can be learned from Delhi. It caters the best health services in Northern India, so many Indians in surrounding areas come to Delhi- approximately 30 per cent of patients served. Similar phenomena occur in education and in other services, causing overcapacity and inefficiency. To remedy this, Ms. Dikshit said that other cities must focus on providing services of equal quality.

Ms. Dikshit also discussed her electoral success at the request of the audience. She has held office for 11 years, a relatively long time in India. She attributed her party’s success due to contact with the people, and seeking to understand the needs of her population.

Delhi’s heritage is among the world’s oldest and most fascinating, and its livability is gradually catching up with the richness of its history. “We have achieved a lot,” said Ms. Dikshit, “but we have a lot more to achieve as yet.”

Posted on March 20th, 2010 by Leah Thompson | 2 Comments »

Climate Change: Responding to Resource Scarcity

India and other Asian countries are at relatively greater risk of being affected by the negative effects of climate change; one study estimates that 1.2 billion Asians could be affected. To discuss how best to tackle the issue of climate change, the ACC convened a panel discussion of five expert speakers.

The panel discussion on climate change began with a presentation by David Breashears, mountaineer, photographer and Senior Fellow at the Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations. Mr. Breashears presented his photographic study of glacial retreat in Himalayas. By taking photographs from the exact locations where George Mallory had taken his, Mr. Breashears was able to vividly show the how the glaciers have retreated due to climate change.

Mr. Shyam Saran, Former Special Envoy on Climate Change to the Prime Minister, spoke on the significance of the financial crisis in impeding negotiations at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. He argued that the crisis not only decreased resources available for funding climate change mitigation programs, but that it also made policymakers nervous about decelerating their economic recoveries, making them less likely to agree to carbon reductions. Rajat Gupta, Director at McKinsey and Co., drew parallels between the situation in 2010 and the industrial revolution in terms of the magnitude of productivity growth required to mitigate climate change while fostering growth.

John Negroponte, Vice Chairman of McLarty Associates, is optimistic that the international community will reach an agreement on climate change, but only within the next 5-10 years. This would be a much more comprehensive agreement than what was reached at Copenhagen.

Simon Tay, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, argued that Asia needs a new green agenda, but that there have already been positive steps. China, for example, in 2009 made up its mind to become the world center for clean tech manufacturing.

Posted on March 20th, 2010 by Leah Thompson | 1 Comment »

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Green Delhi

Much has been said at the ACC about the need for India to close the “infrastructure gap.” Delhi Chief Minister responds to the question of how Delhi lives up to its “Green Delhi” title, and how it will handle the coming economic and urban population growth in a sustainable way:

Posted on March 20th, 2010 by Leah Thompson | 1 Comment »

Hassan Abbas on India-Pakistan Trade

Following up on the remarks of Assistant Secretary Robert O. Blake promoting intra-regional trade, Hassan Abbas, current Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Fellow, spoke on the prospects for greater trade between India and Pakistan:

Posted on March 20th, 2010 by Leah Thompson | 3 Comments »