Archive for the ‘Arts & Cultures & Societies’ Category

30
Jan

By Veena Venugopal

Last week I was shivering in the -12°C weather in a historic little town called Segovia in Spain. I was there on invitation from one of the big universities, IE University, to give their students an idea about contemporary India. What is India beyond the global headlines of the IT industry? What are the social, political and economic issues that India and Indians currently face?

On the panel with me was Eugenio Luján, who is the dean of philology at Complutense University of Madrid and a scholar on vedic history. He traced the strengths and problems of India from a historical context and my job was to inform them about their contemporary status. How does caste work, what are the gender norms for Indian women, why is it that there are communal clashes here; actually since people live so close to each other, how is it that there aren’t more communal clashes? How do the rich behave? How do the poor cope? How does inequality play out across various areas?

What was fascinating for me was not just the fact that a bunch of students braved the weather and turned up at 7pm — after a full day of class — because they were curious about issues in India but, more importantly, that they did this for something that has very little to do with their coursework or examinations. They don’t earn credit from this, they are not tested on their knowledge of this country. They merely wanted to get an idea of how things worked in other places. Last year, they listened to people from Russia. Next year, they’ll pick another nation and try and grapple with the ground realities there. It was impressive, this commitment to general awareness of the world around them. Read more…

26
Jan
16
Jan
28
Nov

img_9270On Thursday November 24th the IE Humanities Center hosted the second conference of the Cycle India: Present and Future, focusing this time on the subject of politics, under the title “Politics: the Largest Democracy”. This event was dedicated to the complex Indian political reality and the discussion panel included IE University’s IR Professor Babita Bhatt, Universidad Complutense’s Professor and expert on India Eva Borreguero and IE’s IR Academic Director Daniel Kselman, who acted as moderator.

Professor Kselman introduced the conversation speaking about the incredible diversity of India, a country with more than a billion people and 22 official languages and remembering how this “diversity in democracy” was thought impossible to survive at the time of its independence as, for example, Britain thought it was rather a civilization than a nation. However, as professor Kselman said “the diversity glues the country as they need one another” specially after configuring a multi party system, despite the different interests of state-level democracies, as well as national and regional parties, which has contributed to a progressive institutionalization of democracy.

img_9272Professor Bhatt started the discussion on the first thematic block of the event focused on domestic policies of India, centered on the two parties that have ruled India since the independence, namely, the Indian National Congress (I.N.C.) and Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P). After explaining the common view of each of them (I.N.C. is considered a dynastic party of the Nehru-Gandhi family and B.J.P. a pro Hinduist nationalist party), it was inevitable to talk about current Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi. Professor Bhatt gave an exhaustive description of the controversial figure, often compared to Trump or Putin and of his intention to project an image of a C.E.O rather than a politician, of an honest man who is an example of social promotion (he comes from a humble background), dedicated to his country (a single man whose only concern is the welfare of the Indians) with a successful record (as governor of Gujarat he got its economy increased by double figures during his term in office). The panel then analysed his two years in office and the recent issue of the demonetization and how could it affect the average citizen as well as politics in terms of party funding.

The second block was dedicated to India’s foreign affairs and its capacity to equate its economic position with its international influence. Professor Borreguero was quite clear India in expressing that “India has too many internal problems to become a global player and too many img_9234differences with his neighbours” referring to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. The moderator ask both speakers on the lasting Pakistani-Indian Conflict on Kashmir. Both experts agreed that the more likely scenario was interspersed periods of tension and calm between the two nuclear powers, since an external enemy is always useful in domestic policy, and that an open conflict or a long lasting peace was quite a remote scenario.

As a conclusion, Prof. Borreguero insisted on the “elastic” capacity of the Indian democracy to face present and future challenges and Prof. Bhatt pointed out that maybe the biggest threat was the growing Indian middle-class who does not necessarily perceive democracy as a form of government leading to economic growth.

The moderator invited the audience to give their insights in all of these issues and the discussion was enriched by the comments of IE’s students.

15
Nov
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