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Presidents to sports legends: When leaders made headlines at Hindustan Times Summit

Heads of state, Nobel laureates, business tycoons and your favourite celebrities: the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit has played host to some of the world’s leading personalities over the past few years.

htls Updated: Nov 09, 2017 08:37 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2017,Hindustan Times Leadership Summit speakers,Hindustan Times Leadership Summit schedule
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as Prime Minister, spoke at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in 2003.(PTI file photo)

Heads of state, Nobel laureates, business tycoons and your favourite celebrities: the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit has played host to some of the world’s leading personalities over the past few years.

The summit has served as a platform for candid conversations and crucial dialogue on politics and economy.

Here are a few guests who made news during the HT summits:

2003

When PM Vajpayee suggested a unified currency for SAARC, and Pakistan found it unrealistic

“If we provide legitimate avenues of free commercial interaction, we can eradicate the black market and underground trade. We could jointly tackle smuggling, drug trafficking, money laundering and other transnational crimes, which today flourish in our region because of mutual rivalries and inadequate coordination.... Once we reach that stage, we would not be far from mutual security cooperation and open borders and even a single currency. If this seems unrealistic and utopian, perhaps we are being unnecessarily cynical,” said then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative.

Pakistani prime minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali said Vajpayee’s proposals on a common currency and open borders in South Asia were unrealistic. “It took Europe a long time before they settled for the euro. It is not so easy to do and will take time,” he said.

Sonia Gandhi’s cooperation idea: South Asian parliament

Congress president Sonia Gandhi mooted the idea of a South Asian parliament that would debate issues of regional concern and importance. “Such a body could expand the perspective on South Asia among all our countries,” she said, while delivering the keynote speech on India’s roadmap for peace at the second session of the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative on “Peace Dividend: Progress for India and South Asia” meet.

Benazir Bhutto’s definition of peace

“Peace is not just between governments; it is between people at large. To create that consensus and domestic legitimacy for the peace process, my return and that of Nawaz Sharif is important,” Benazir Bhutto said at the HT event in 2013.

2004

Sonia Gandhi says she is not the power behind the throne

Candid and witty by turn, Sonia Gandhi denied she ran the government from outside. “I’m not the power behind the throne,” she said. “I’ve turned down the actual chair. Why would I want to be the power behind it?” She recalled that this wasn’t the first time such a thing was being said about her.

“The story that I was the power behind the throne dates back to the time when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister,” she said. “At that time I was supposed to sack ministers and decide who the PM should meet or not meet.”

When Congress president thought Rahul had ‘a long way to go’

“Rahul is a newly elected member of Parliament. Right now, he is concentrating on nurturing his constituency Amethi... For now, he wants to do his best by the constituency. Then, let us see. He has yet to gain experience of his constituency, as an MP, and he also needs time to get to know the workings of the organisation,” Sonia Gandhi said on her son and current Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s future in politics in 2004.

P Chidambaram, as finance minister, on economic growth

“We cannot claim economic superpower status without providing a decent life and dignity for all the people. We do not want divided growth. Such growth is unsustainable, unacceptable and is rejected. We should have all-inclusive growth,” finance minister P Chidambaram said in 2004.

With sustained growth over the next 10 to 15 years, India has the potential to displace Japan to become the third economic superpower, he said.

Actor Shah Rukh Khan speaks at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2007 in Delhi. (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT file photo)

2005

LK Advani’s advice on ending electoral corruption

“Corruption in high places must be dealt with firmly... India could learn from UK where today there was not a single case of electoral corruption,” BJP leader LK Advani said.

Sania Mirza aces it, and how

“As long as I’m winning, people shouldn’t care whether my skirt is six inches long or six feet long... How I dress is a very personal thing,” tennis player Sania Mirza said

2006

Karan Johar and Sourav play to the gallery

Karan Johar:

While Shah Rukh Khan is “like family”, Ram Gopal Varma “doesn’t like me, I don’t like him”, Karan Johar admitted. “He said Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was one of the scariest films he has ever seen. I don’t think he’s seen a couple of his own!” But Varma’s Satya is in Johar’s top 10 films list. “I could never pull off films like Lage Raho Munnabhai and Rang De Basanti,” he confessed.

“I can make films about emotions and relationships.” And were Preity and Rani really “clawing at each other” during the shooting of Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna as rumoured?

“Not true: the two were so cold, they could not even take their hands out of their jackets!”

Sourav Ganguly:

“My life does not depend on cricket, and captaincy has nothing to do with endorsements,” Sourav Ganguly said, when asked about Greg Chappell’s statement that he was hanging on to his captaincy because of his lucrative endorsements. “Other cricketers also make money from endorsements. That statement was made in anger.”

Being captain of the Indian cricket team is a “tough assignment”. “You hear a lot when you lose… You have to develop a thick skin,” he said. Rahul Dravid, he felt, is “a great player, but you have to give him time”. About his possible comeback, “It depends on the selectors and my performance. I have a very good chance if I can fit into the team.”

Manmohan Singh, who was the prime minister then, at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in 2013.

2007

Narendra Modi on if he wanted to become the PM

“It is irrelevant (whether he intends to take a shot at the PM’s post). I cannot think of anything other than Gujarat’s welfare. I’m obsessed with the state’s development.” – Narendra Modi

Bob Geldof on politics, culture

“The low art of politics will have to appropriate from the high art of culture.” – Bob Geldof

2008

Pakistan’s no-first nuclear-strike promise

For the first time, a Pakistani head of state promised a “no-first nuclear-strike” doctrine against India, talked of change and reconciliation, of shared bloodlines and the possibility of doing away with passports.

“I can assure you that Pakistan will not be the first country ever to use (nuclear weapons),” said Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari. “I hope that things never come to a stage where we have to even think about using nuclear weapons (against India).” The statement came when Zardari was addressing the HT Leadership Summit on Saturday via a satellite link from his official residence in Islamabad.

Sanjay Dutt on his time in jail

“Indian jail manuals have not changed in the last 100 years,” said actor Sanjay Dutt. “I was locked up in my cell from 12 noon to 7am the next day on Independence Day, because the manual says so, even though I, as an Indian, wanted to celebrate my country’s Independence Day.”

2009

George W Bush backs India

When the United Nations Security Council is expanded, said former US president George W Bush while speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative, “India will be part of the mix”.

The main barrier is less India’s credentials than getting the world to cross the “threshold” of agreeing to expand the council.

In a speech that referred glowingly to the India-US relationship, Bush said, “We seriously considered expanding the UN in, I think, 2006. [Then US secretary of state Condoleezza] Rice began serious discussions on the issue but we got blowback from other countries.”

Bush said present veto-wielding countries were less than happy with the idea once they realised an expansion of the permanent membership would mean a dilution of their influence.

“The Security Council should be changed given the new realities of the world,” said Bush.

“But the politics is difficult.”

2010

India and Tibet’s guru-chela relationship

“The relationship between India and Tibet is one of guru and chela,” said Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, at the first session of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2010.

“We learnt a lot from Indian scholars. And I always introduce myself to western audiences as a scholar of Indian thought... So we are chelas. But you must agree that we have been reliable chelas,” he added with a chuckle.

Julian Assange, founder of whistle-blower website Wikileaks, speaks through a video conference at the HT Leadership Summit in 2011. (HT file photo)

2011

Assange says China sucking out mails of CBI

China is “sucking out” e-mails of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation and a German firm is vending military surveillance tools with a special option — it could also be used to spy on political rivals. Unbelievable but true, claimed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in a special address on the second day of the HT Leadership Summit.

Assange said open societies were being threatened by state agencies and private firms. In his video address from London, Assange appeared with the inverted logos of Visa and PayPal to protest an international squeeze on WikiLeaks funding.

2012

Musharraf had no regrets over plotting Kargil

Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should visit Pakistan only if it was going to yield some results, maintained he had no regrets for plotting Kargil and asked India to be vigilant against Muslim radicalism.

“He (Singh) should visit Pakistan only if there is going to be a solution to disputes. Otherwise, the visit will be flat and unproductive,” Musharraf said. However, had a previously planned a trip in 2007 by Singh gone through, there could have been some concrete agreements, he said.

Between India and Pakistan, India had to be the more accommodative one because it was the bigger country, the former Pakistani ruler told a packed house at the summit.

“India should have a big heart because it is the bigger country. When the smaller party makes the compromise, it can have negative connotations,” he said, suggesting the latter scenario could be misconstrued as the “bigger party” dominating the other.

Musharraf said India-Pakistan relations took the biggest hits whenever the intelligence agencies of the two nations got into a confrontation and, according to him, sponsored proxy wars. “This led to a total breakdown of trust and, may I say, we became enemies.” He also harped on both sides displaying the right ‘niyat’ (intention), a word he mentioned 11 times.

2014

Karzai on India-Pakistan tensions

Afghanistan will not allow its soil to be used for a proxy war between India and Pakistan, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai said as he urged countries in the region to put up a united fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.

Reacting to former Pakistan ruler Pervez Musharraf’s recent comments on an India-Pakistan proxy war in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US troops, Karzai said his country will not allow it and India won’t be interested in such a scenario either.

“I’d like to reassure Musharraf. He needn’t worry about a proxy war,” Karzai said in the inaugural address to the 12th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

Every 3rd driver in the country has a fake licence: Gadkari

Nearly every third driver in the country has a fake licence and bad drivers are responsible for most of the 1.5 lakh deaths on Indian roads every year, transport minister Nitin Gadkari said.

Speaking at the 12th HT Leadership Summit, Gadkari vowed to crack down on errant drivers by installing cameras at traffic intersections and build better designed roads in a bid to lift the country’s rickety transport sector.

‘Pak-sponsored terrorism’

Terrorism in India is “completely Pakistan–sponsored” and while India is open to resuming dialogue, Islamabad must take the first step, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said.

He also responded to Sharif’s recent assertion that Islamabad would consult separatist leaders in Kashmir before any talks with the government, saying, “If Pakistan’s stand is clear, then so is ours.”

2015

Mulayam for PM, Rahul as his deputy is Akhilesh’s grand alliance formula

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav offered a deal to the Congress, saying the Samajwadi Party was game for a tie-up if his father and party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was made the prime ministerial candidate for the 2019 general election with Rahul Gandhi as his deputy.

The Congress vice president, in the audience on the opening day of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit where Yadav made the offer, smiled but refused comment when asked if he had anything to say about the offer.

Kejriwal declares war on pollution

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said in 2015 the plan to allow odd and even-numbered cars on alternate days would be tried out as a temporary solution to Delhi’s air pollution woes that have necessitated “emergency” measures.

The government would implement with public engagement other steps such as vacuum-cleaning of roads and greening of sidewalks as manual sweeping had proved inadequate to remove dust, the CM said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

2016

Demonetisation will cause just three months of disruptions: Jaitley

Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the recall of 500- and 1,000-rupee notes would cause just three months of disruptions before yielding substantial benefits for the economy.

The finance minister said in a year he saw a bigger and cleaner economy with less paper currency, a wider tax base with lower rates, and more money in the banks resulting in cheaper loans.

“If you switch over from a particular way of life and conducting expenditure, there is disruption. But I do not see the disruption lasting long, maybe a quarter or so. But if you look at the next 12 or 15 months, the impact will be beneficial,” Jaitley said.

First Published: Nov 08, 2017 20:28 IST