Exactly thirty years ago, I spent nearly 10 days at Delhi’s notorious Tihar jail (from 11 to 20 May 1983) for the first and, till now, only time in my life. With me were more than 600 young men and women, many of whom are today leaders across the globe including Ambassadors, professors, members of parliament, scientists, and editors. For me the Tihar experience was transformational. My daughter’s school in Melbourne advertises itself to current and potential students with a pithy slogan: “I found my place in the Methodist Ladies College.” Thirty years later, I can rightfully say: I found my place in Tihar jail. Here is the story. I was twenty and had been admitted to New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University to do a Masters course in International Studies. Like hundreds of others, JNU was our first exposure to the real India. JNU had a policy of affirmative action that allowed students from all over India to be admitted, especially those who were socially or economically challenged. But even those like me, who came from relatively affluent backgrounds, had better chance of getting in because I came from Srinagar, cocooned in the Kashmir valley, and not from a public school in an urban metropolis.
The Australian university sector has reacted sharply to the Labor Government’s $900 million cut to the higher education forward estimates, and in anticipation of further reductions to come. Ostensibly, the cause for the cut is that Labor needs to invest in basic education system as formulated in the David Gonski plan. As Glynn Davis points out, the sector has changed dramatically in recent years, makes a major contribution to nation-building, and is allegedly at the heart of the Government’s “clever Australia” aspirations. The immediate problem for the sector is that there are potentially more votes in Gonski, especially in the now escalating number of “at risk” Labor seats, and the sector has never dealt well with that political reality.
The opportunity to live and work in Australia, even if for a few weeks, helped to modify my perceptions shaped by the Indian media’s clichés and stereotypes about Down Under. Australia is highly developed and organised, people are proud of their distinctive Australian traditions, have high civic sensibilities and attempt to make the most of their life. It is heartening to discern that India is an entity to be reckoned with in most political, economic and academic discussions. The Australia-India Poll highlights that India will soon become Australia’s fourth-largest export market and people of Indian origin have become one of Australia’s largest and fastest-growing migrant communities. Both are parliamentary democracies and federations; India since 1947 and Australia relatively older; since 1901. The diplomatic relations between the two have gone through periods of highs and lows. However, there have been limited but constant engagements between the two. Relations may get further reorientated amid the deepening of Sino-Aussie ties strengthened by the visit of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Professor Amitabh Mattoo in his piece “India beyond the clichés: We've got some catching up to do” in The Age newspaper recently, made a pertinent observation that India as a diplomatic entity tests patience, and duly rewards those who have been patient.
The attraction of Private Equity (PE) as an alternative equity asset class is that it can generate “alpha”, ie excess returns, over and above the returns that investors can hope for in the listed equity markets. Why so? Because talented PE teams with deep expertise and networks can originate investment ideas that are unavailable to investors in the listed equity markets. And once they invest in such private businesses, these teams can also add value to the businesses through their industry expertise, global connections, financial engineering skills and corporate governance best practices. In addition, especially before the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), global funds could juice up returns for their investors by leveraging the funds with cheap debt. In India, PE as an asset class has had a spectacular run in the last two decades – in terms of cumulative committed funds under management (FUM) and annual deal value. In the early-90s, PE was merely a development tool used occasionally by financial institutions to share project risk with promoters in large projects to which they lent funds. Annual PE deal value was less than US$ 100 million then. The first wave of PE and Venture Capital (VC) investments that changed the game was in the late-90s on the back of the IT and telecom booms, taking annual deal value to the US$ 500-700 million range in the 1999-2002 period. The second wave was the rapid growth registered between 2003 and 2008, which took annual PE deal value to nearly US$ 12 billion in 2007, driven by the post-tech meltdown economic recovery in India, the pre-GFC global financial boom and growing interest in emerging markets amongst global funds (remember the Goldman Sachs BRICS report of 2003). After a lurch in 2009 due to the GFC, annual PE deal activity has seemingly stabilized around US$ 10 billion. There are nearly 400 PE and VC funds active in India today, with investible “dry-powder” of an estimated US$ 30 billion, most of which is from overseas Limited Partners (LPs, institutional investors who invest in PE funds).
A recent trip to Canberra coincided with the city’s centenary celebrations. The celebration included an exhibition of the work of Walter Burley Griffin, the American landscape architect who won the international competition to design a new capital for a young nation. Fittingly, the city took its name from an Aborigine word meaning “meeting place”. The name signified the unification of previously self-governing colonies and an end to the political jockeying among Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, for proximity to power.
By Rakesh Ranjan, Emerging Leader Fellow. India is a large nation. Thousands of years of uninterrupted history has made it a society so complex that it would be pure chance that your impression of the nation would match that of others. It can be ‘India shining,’ ‘Incredible India,’ a potential superpower on the march, a great emerging economy and the most vibrant democracy. And at the same time, to many, it is a country characterised by exploitative feudal relations; unsafe and undernourished, or simply put, a country of chaos with an unmistakable march towards disaster. While there is an indeed distinct sense in the word “Indian," perhaps to a serious watcher, nothing can give rise to more contrasting a feeling. However, if there is unanimity on any aspect, it is that the country is changing, and changing fast - especially in the last two decades, where the aspiration of her population has unmistakably risen. Since some of the changes are manifestations of far deeper transitions in society, I have picked up some of its major drivers, which are going to change the face of the nation in a short time.
By Alexander Davis. With an Australian tour of India underway and governmental relations finally showing signs of life, it is an appropriate time to look at Indo-Australian relations on the cricket pitch in the broader context of the political relationship. Cricket connects Australia and India like a (second) common language, yet conflicts have emerged over the sport.
Before commencing our trip, and indeed before applying, I was unsure what to expect from India. This tour offered a unique approach to exploring a new country and I wasn’t sure how this would shape my experience, nor did I know what to expect from the students I would spend time with, the food I would eat, the sights and people I would meet. Least of all did I have an understanding of how this trip would shape me. All of my preconceptions, expectations and doubts meant nothing in the end, for India was to be like no experience I’ve had in my life.
I came to India with the agenda that I would try my best to analyse its culture. Instead what began to happen was I found myself analysing my own thoughts and emotions in relation to what was going on around me. What triggered this introspection was the anxiety I felt from the 'organised chaos' that is India.
I had put aside the university email advertising the Australia India Study Tour for quite some time before I actually thought I would give it a go. I had always wanted to visit India, but I wasn’t sure if this study tour was the right means of exploring the vast and vibrant India. After much deliberation, I decided to apply for the opportunity. A week after having been to India and returned home, I am confident I made the right decision.