The inaugural edition of the Ideas for India conference ended on Friday after three days of rich discussion on public policy. The three-day event on 18-20 May was held to celebrate India’s 75th anniversary of Independence, with speakers providing their vision for where they see India in the coming 25 years.
Day 1 featured an education delegation to Birmingham, hosted by Birmingham City University. Day 2 featured a Policy Forum on closer UK-India relations, the Commonwealth Education Conference and an Awards evening in Parliament. Day 3 featured the main plenary sessions, including discussions on India’s leadership in addressing climate change, tackling misinformation, unemployment, skill development, women’s participation in the workforce and building India’s institutions.
The event marked a culmination of three years of thought leadership from Bridge India, a progressive non-profit think tank dedicated to discourse on public policy. Registered as a charity in June 2019, it has engaged in high-level conversations with Ministers, CEOs and Ambassadors from more than a dozen countries, including those as diverse as India, Afghanistan, Israel, Uganda and Mauritius. In doing so, it is the leading Indian diaspora-led think tank in Europe.
The ‘India Story’ abroad is often presented through a narrow lens, be it focusing only on business and the economy, society or policy landscape. Given its diversity, everything about India, and its polar opposite, is true in unison. The Ideas for India conference sought to highlight and celebrate this nuance, to help India-watchers understand India better.
It saw participation from more than 500 attendees over the three days, including 50 international delegates from India, Bangladesh, Malta, Singapore and the USA. In a true celebration of the breadth of India, MPs, Members of Legislative Assembly and other policymakers from seven political parties, across nine states in India attended the event.
The inaugural edition was an incredible success, with even the Indian Minister of External Affairs for India S Jaishankar tweeting a video clip of the event. Sessions from Ideas for India featured on prime time TV news in India and several stories ranked in the top ten trending stories of the day.
Lord Tariq Ahmad, Minister of State at the FCDO, said: “I’m grateful to the team at Bridge India for organising this important conference. It provides an excellent opportunity to celebrate the deep friendship between our two countries, and also look to the future. It is this trusted partnership that extends to trade as well. We’ve already got a strong track history on this. Just look at Reliance Industries’ recent investment into the UK battery industry.”
Angela Rayner, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party,said: “It was an honour to speak at the Bridge India conference. I first visited India many years ago and discovered such an incredible, diverse country. The people of the Indian diaspora strengthen our economy, culture and society – but are also at the heart of our communities.”
Rahul Gandhi, Member of Parliament from Kerala,was the keynote speaker during Day 3. He said: “Democracy in India is a global public good. We’re the only people who have managed democracy at our unparalleled scale. [I] had an enriching exchange on a wide range of topics at the Ideas For India conference in London.”
Lord John Browne, Chairman of BeyondNetZero, was the keynote speaker at the dinner celebrating 75 years of India’s independence. On the evening theme of sustainability and climate change, he referenced a seminal speech he gave at Stanford University exactly 25 years ago where he talked about how oil companies needed to look towards technologies to promote climate action.
Ashwin Kumaraswamy, trustee, said: “India’s national identity has been built on unity in diversity, and it has long celebrated the commonality of major differences amongst its people. It offers many truths, each of which give shape and substance to the idea of India. We’re proud that in our inaugural conference we were able to engage stakeholders from policy, technology, business, academia and civil society across three days. We were able to showcase an India conversation that was progressive, inclusive and diverse in the ideas it discussed.”
Other notable participants included Dr Ashwath Narayan (Minister for Higher Education, IT, BT, Skill Development and Livelihood, Karnataka), Tejashwi Yadav (Leader, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Bihar), Sitaram Yechury (General Secretary, CPI-M), Salman Khurshid (former Minister for External Affairs, India), Mahua Moitra (Member of Parliament, West Bengal) and Pradyot Manika (Chairman, TIPRA, Tripura).