The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent nonpartisan organization, held a special event at Chicago’s Prudential Plaza to discuss the recent history of India, particularly focusing on the departure of the British and the challenges of democracy in the world’s biggest free nation. The lessons for India and its partner in largesse, China, are manifold.
The end of the British Empire on the Indian subcontinent was one of the planet’s most transformational events since World War II. Leading to the foundation of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as a war that consumed them all, the collapse of British dreams of a permanent colonial empire will forever leave their mark on this planet. The event was described by the organizers as:
Seventy years after independence, India is the world’s largest democracy, one of its most diverse societies, and the economy with growth potential that could rival China’s. Yet it also remains one of the poorest and unequal, with hundreds of millions mired in deep poverty and limited by a rigid caste system that constrains social mobility.
The Narendra Modi-led government’s turn to Hindu nationalism has sharpened sectarian tensions and raised questions over the rule of law—and hasn’t helped relations with Pakistan either. With three decades left before its centennial, what must India do to become a decisive force on the world stage and convert its expected demographic dividend into broad prosperity?
The discussion was moderated by the University of Pennsylvania’s Marshall Bouton who is a Senior Fellow at the university’s Center for Advanced Study of India. Other speakers include:
- Alyssa Ayres, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations
- Raghuram Rajan, Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
- Somini Sengupta, UN Bureau Chief and Foreign Correspondent, New York Times
- Tunku Varadarajan, Virginia Hobbs Carpenter Fellow in Journalism, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
The event video for India’s Democratic Journey is about 60 minutes. Take a look: