National Seminar on Indian Democracy at 70: Challenges Ahead

Event Information

Jawaharlal Nehru College
End Date

Inception of democracy could be tinged to ancient Greek; however since the end of cold war it has been pervasive across the world. Though India was late entrant in the modern democratic system but it is able to achieve the status of largest democracy in the world. It is evident especially from the last three decades that the roots of democracy in India are ever entrenching deeply after passing of every epoch. For the success of democracy, it needs civil and political liberties, genuine competition among individuals and groups, representation of minority groups in public sphere, inclusive level of political participation at various level of state institutions apart from regular free and fair elections at given interval of time. Though great powers have always been promoting democracy in their parlances, but in India, promotion of democracy has never been an integral element of India’s foreign policy. The pursuit of its national interests in the international arena has traditionally revolved around security, trade, and energy issues. However, that in recent times there is congenial shift in Indian diplomacy towards more vigorous role in promoting and supporting democracy in neighbouring states in particular and around the world in general. India’s engagement in the promotion of democracy and for its support around the world has been done in a specific ways. Pursuance of realist diplomacy for fulfilment of its strategic and economic interests is more evident in Indian foreign policy rather than any idealistic commitment for promotion of democracy. For instance, to accentuate its image as an emerging global power, concomitantly India is constantly trying to improve its relationship with the United States. Thus pursuit of traditional foreign policy objectives will continue to take precedence over democracy promotion and for its support at global level. As such, there are elements of both continuity and changes observed regarding the issue of democracy promotion in India’s foreign policy. Peace and security has always been an important issue in the global politics. Democracy is a seminal aspect in the promotion of these issues. It reflects the people’s manifestation around the world. It believes in tolerance and spawn spaces for active participation of people in governance at both level, i.e., domestic and global. The present century is the consolidation and deepening of democracy around the world. Enticement of democracy is underlies in deliberations and debates consequently it spawn feeling of acceptance of ‘other’ among individuals. Establishment of political institutions and its legitimate practices requires democratization of polity. Examples of Indian democracy could severs as a tool for analysis of problems of diverse Third World societies as Indian democracy has been showing its enduring commitment towards secularism, tolerance, and democratization of its polity for peace and stability.

Nevertheless, Indian democracy is also facing many challenges. Though there is a direct challenge of democratization process in Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa and Latin America, India had celebrated 70 years of independence. Indian records in success of constructing and sustaining a democratic political system among the post colonial states are relatively satisfactory. Despite of ephemeral national emergency and single party dominance for almost 40 years, democracy in India has been deepening through surpassing its hindrances for entrenched institutionalisation. Today, Indian parliament may be more fragmented but it is also more representative in nature. Plausibly, India’s strong commitment to democracy, one would expect India to be at the forefront of promoting democracy as an ideal political system among countries of the developing world, including its neighbours. Fragile democracy needs certain assistance that may be supported by some external actors for the entrenchment of democratization processes; these may includes political party development, electoral monitoring, supporting independent media and journalists, capacity building for state institutions, training of judges, civic group leaders and legislators, enactment of pro-democracy clauses in regional bodies, and conditional development aid. Some of these activities directly support democracy through the development of institutions and capacity of political and social actors, while others indirectly support democracy by creating conditions that facilitate the transition to democracy and/or help in deepening it. This might be the reason why India pursuing the concept of ‘constructive engagement’ with non-democratic states. India may be serves as a model for many voiced democracy, though there are many dramatic challenges are taking place, the 70 years of Indian independence is still challenged by various seminal issues. Still India has to walk a long way in order to transform itself into a truly democratic nation as the newly elected President of India Ram Nath Kovind asserted in his Independence Day eve address and presented his vision in Compassionate New India by 2022”. He emphasised on the more partnership between citizen and government for further deepening of democracy in India.

On the basis of above discussion, broadly speaking there would be three major sets of challenges ahead for Democracy and India’s foreign policy, namely, meeting strategic challenges, and secondly, responding to the challenges of globalization and managing critical issues such as human security, water, energy, environment and Weapon of Mass Destruction, etc., and thirdly evolving a national consensus on what constitutes India’s national interest. Centre for International Relations in this proposed conference will try to deliberate on these major challenges to the India’s foreign policy by bringing together eminent academic experts, diplomats, strategic thinkers and some members of mass media and think tanks.

1. Democracy, Inclusive and Good Governance
2. Democracy and Indian Foreign Policy(Act East Policy, India and South Asia, Central Asia, India’s stand in a multi polar Global Politics)
3. Democracy, New India, Issues and Challenges
4. Terrorism and Cross-border Terrorism
5. Participatory Democracy, Election, Corruption and Poverty
6. Issues of Caste and Identity Politics
7. Environmental Issues, Climate Change and Global Warming
8. Democracy and Secularism
9. Human Rights, Dalits, Women Empowerment and Trial Issues
10. Democracy and Partnership between Citizen and Government, Individual and Society
11. New India and Legacies of Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar, Rabindranath Tagore, Deen Dayal Upadhay and Birsa Munda

Note: The above sub-themes are only indicative. Authors may opt other topics also relevant to the main theme of the Seminar