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Opinion: Indian youth facing same issues as Kiwi counterparts

Leadership Network member Abbas Nazari was part of the New Zealand delegation that attended the India Track II in Delhi in April. In this article Abbas looks what he learnt about the fast pace of change in India and the challenges this has brought.

Leadership Network member Abbas Nazari chatting with the Foundation's chief executive Simon Draper at ANZAC Day commemorations in New Delhi

“Hey, where’d you get those tattoos done?” I ask the Indian millennial at the local kebab parlour, with the Maori-inspired moko sleeve down his forearm.

He repondes with a smile: “Have you heard of a place called Taupo? I got it done when I was backpacking through New Zealand for a month.” He then pulls out a greenstone necklace from under his shirt.

This small interaction in the middle of Khan Market, New Delhi, on the final day of our trip really captured the numerous connections that bind India and New Zealand.

Over the previous three days, we had heard of the cultural connections between the two countries. However, my experiences attending the TrackII delegation with the Asia New Zealand Foundation revealed that there was more than just the three C’s: cricket, climbing and the Commonwealth.

The panel discussion with the youth participants, organised by the New Zealand High Commission in Delhi, provided an insightful take on the future direction of India and the current challenges it faces.

Although previous sessions with government and non-government organisations revealed various strategic, political, economic, and trade issues that India was grappling with, the youth delegation managed to elaborate these various issues by focussing on the interconnections between them.

We heard from young entrepreneurs, social activists, journalists, public servants, and students about their experiences growing up in India and their vision of the future.

Through the panel discussion, we learnt that India was grappling with many of the same issues that we face in New Zealand: equality, quality of news journalism, the opportunities and challenges of technologies, global trends in geopolitics, climate change, and the skills and education required to thrive in the future workplace.

We heard of how technology was an enabler of greater connections and an excellent tool for education, but that it was also being manipulated during critical points, such as in elections, with fake news being spread through social media streams such as Facebook and WhatsApp. In a country that is poised to reach one billion internet connections by 2020, this poses an immense challenge and an opportunity.

At the conclusion of the three day delegation, my impression was that India can provide enormous opportunities to countries such as new Zealand, but that there is a lot to be done in order for it to take its place as a true world leader.

I was impressed by the quality of data, and the dedication of the public service to furthering Indian development; I did not expect such meticulous data on a granular level on areas of focus for the central government.

But I was also struck by the unanimous agreement that implementation of policy was the biggest challenge. While New Delhi could develop robust and comprehensive policies in areas as challenging as health, education, or the labour market, it was properly implementing these that proved the real challenge.

There is no point in having well-informed policy if it does not achieve the desired impact. As a public servant in Wellington, I can relate to these problems, although not to the same depth of challenge.

India has globally-ranked strengths in areas as diverse as IT, research and development, a youthful and educated population, high levels of economic growth, and an influential and affluent global diaspora. But the country is being hampered by the lack of physical infrastructure, burgeoning inequality, geopolitical issues, civil unrest (especially in matters of social/religious/tribal and caste differences), encroachment on human rights, and press freedoms.

Developing countries, while aiming high, are hamstrung by the practical and political issues at home. It was summed up well by one of the youth panellists who, optimistically, concluded our panel with “Before we can take up any position on the world stage, we have many backstage errands that need attention first.”

This was my first trip to India and for a public servant from Wellington, it was an insightful if not limited peek into incredible India.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation, in partnership with the New Zealand India Research Institute, co-led a Track II visit to Delhi, India, between 23-25 April 2018.

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5 June 2018