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Where do we go from here?

This year's Summit has the usual star-studded line-up from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who will tell ushow he sees the future of the world to Sonia Gandhi who will discuss her vision of the new India in these uncertain times, writes Vir Sanghvi.Hindustan Times Leadership Summit

delhi Updated: Nov 01, 2008 12:00 IST
Vir Sanghvi

This was meant to be the Indian century: a time when India would recover its lost glories and reassume its rightful place as one of the world's leading nations. Hindustan Times Leadership Summit

After all, three centuries ago, before colonization,India was one of the world's richest countries,a magnet that drew traders and invaders from every corner of the globe. The India of the Twenty-first century, we believed, had finally laid to rest the ghosts of colonization and was ready now to sit once again at the high table, keeping company with the other great powers.

But, the events of the last few months have shaken our belief in India's inevitable march towards super-power status. More significantly, they have even raised questions about the very world order that we set out to join.

What is the point of globalisation if the greed and foolishness of American bankers can cause workers in Gurgaon to lose their jobs? Where is the security in a global economy where bad home loans in the American heartland can cause millions of middle class Indians to watch helplessly as half their savings are wiped out in a domestic market crash that nobody predicted?

This is a pivotal moment both for India and the world. We live in times that we were assured would never re-occur after the Crash of 1929. Our old assumptions are dead. Many of the old certainties are fading.

And the future is a dangerous and unmapped country.When we planned the annual Hindustan TimesSummit, we scheduled it for November 21-22, and decided on "Ambitions For The New Century" as our theme. We thought then that the challenges of the 21st Century would make for an interesting discussion. We knew also that previous Summits have had significant impacts on Indian policy making. And so we thought: let's set up an agenda for 21st Century India.

Little did we dream then of the mayhem that would follow in the months to come. Never, in all our discussions did it occur to us how uncannily appropriate this subject would be as the world groped for answers and grappled uneasily with the new uncertainties.

But time has a way of destroying old assumptions and of reminding us that the essential questions of life never change. Only the answers do.

This year's Summit has the usual star-studded line-up from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who will tell us how he sees the future of the world to Sonia Gandhi who will discuss her vision of the new India in these uncertain times.

The aviation industry, battling for its very existence, will be represented by all the heavyweights: Praful Patel, Naresh Goyal and Vijay Mallya.

There will be others too: academics, heads of government, ministers, experts, stars, policy-makers and economists. All of them will provide new answers to that old question: what should the world's ambition for the new century be? It promises to be our most significant Summit yet.