The two-day Hindustan Times Leadership Summit concluded today with the speakers expressing their hope for a better future.
Starting the morning session on “The Middle East-Risks And Opportunities For A Stable World,” former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak said that the US ought to reduce its forces in Iraq by two-thirds. “This would promote stability in the region.”
Barak added that the remaining US forces could be concentrated on Iraq’s border with Jordan so that the country’s ‘Sunni triangle’ did not have a visible US military presence. He further said that the attack on Iraq was not based on a stable enough premise, that there were WMDs in Iraq.
The topic of the second session was “New Thinking On Kashmir,” moderated by NDTV’s Barkha Dutt, well-known Kashmiri leaders spoke on their vision for Kashmir.
Omar Abdullah said that there were two facets to the new thoughts that were evolving on how to resolve the issue of Kashmir.
“Externally, there have been developments like opening of points of contact along the LoC and the PM talking about de-militarisation of Kashmir. Internally, however, there are enormous challenges, like militancy, to be tackled,” he noted.
According to Mirwaiz Omar Farooq a pragmatic and tangible mechanism involving Kashmiris was required to resolve the issue. He said “The issue of Kashmir is not only about governance and administration but also about the sentiments of the people of the state. Their pain and suffering for the last 57 years need to be looked at.”
PDP’s Mehooba Mufti spoke on the importance of “economic self realisation” for the people of Kashmir. “The need of the hour is to rise beyond ‘photo opportunity’ events like the opening of contact points. Both India and Pakistan should stop talking about joint control of the state. Instead, they should be talking about joint contribution to the state,” she maintained.
In the second session, “Influencing Public Policy: The Role Of The Celebrity,” Indian tennis sensation Sania Mirza expressed her displeasure at other people trying to interfere in her private life, saying her public life was about what she did on court.
“How does it matter whether my skirt is six feet or six inches? I would not have had 10 per cent of the attention if I were world No. 31 and living in Russia,” she quipped. All the three speakers, including India’s solo F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan and Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova reiterated the importance of using their celebrity status for bringing attention to important issues and causes.
Speaking in the post lunch session on “Regional Cooperation For Peace And Progress”, moderated by Vikram Chandra of NDTV, the beleaguered ex-Foreign Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh said, “India is eager to throw open its markets and invest in infrastructure in neighbouring nations so that they can also become full stakeholders in India’s economic destiny.”
On the Volcker report, Singh reiterated his innocence. “If I had done anything wrong, I wouldn’t be here. When I look at the mirror… I don’t feel ashamed.” Dr Zalmai Rassoul, national Security Adviser, Govt of Afganistan also spoke on the occasion.
In the last session, speaking on “Building A Better Future For India,” moderated by Business Standard Editor TN Ninan, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said, “Our policies and programmes should be guided towards gaining one-sixth of the world GDP. We should aim to sustain an over 8 per cent growth rate and our per capita should double every 12 years. Either by default or design, we cannot leave anybody aside.”
Delivering the concluding keynote address of the last session on “Emerging Challenges And Opportunities For The World’s Two Biggest Democracies,” US Senator John Edwards said, “US and India must work together for expansion of globalisation. They should also push for reforms in the United Nations. India must get its due place in the Security Council as the largest democracy.”
At the end of the 3rd annual HT Leadership summit, HT Media Ltd CEO, Rajiv Verma, said, “In the last two days, we have been transformed into students again. To ponder over, to debate on the issues that really matter to us. At HT, we believe in putting the right questions. We believe to move beyond just reporting and being analytical.”