Rising Ambitions, Challenges at Home

February 16-18, 2024

Seventy-five years after independence, India is on track to have both the world’s largest population and the second largest economy. It is pursuing a unique path as a democracy and as an ambitious player in global affairs. Possession of nuclear weapons gives it prestige globally and confidence in its security amid unstable neighbors. Domestically, a diverse, complicated, multicultural mosaic of issues—from poverty, caste, religion, to repression of women and minorities—pose unrelenting challenges for democratic institutions. How will a younger generation of Indian leaders choose its priorities? What’s at stake for China, Russia and the United States as India expands its role in the global economy and becomes a more assertive leader in the Indo-Pacific region?

We invite you to join us February 16-18, 2024 to learn more about this exceptional country and its potential as a global player. 




Nirupama Rao

Nirupama Rao

Keynote Speaker

Nirupama Rao served as India’s Foreign Secretary from 2009 to 2011, after a well-respected Foreign Service career that included diplomatic assignments as the first woman spokesperson (2001-02) of the Indian foreign office and as India’s Ambassador to the United States, to China, and to Sri Lanka. 

Since retiring, Ambassador Rao has taught at various universities, including as a Senior Visiting Fellow in International and Public Affairs at the Watson Institute at Brown University and as George Ball Adjunct Professor at Columbia Universitys School of International and Public Affairs.

Her publications include the 2021 book “The Fractured Himalaya: India Tibet China, 1949 to 1962.” Ambassador Rao was a Fellow at the India-China Institute of The New School, New York in 2016, Public Policy Fellow at The Wilson Center, Washington D.C. in 2017 and Pacific Leadership Fellow at the School of Global Politics and Strategy, University of California at San Diego in 2019.  She is a Global Policy Fellow of the Wilson Center and was the recipient of the Fellowship of Peace Award of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Center in Washington D.C in 2018.

David Brancaccio Official Headshot

David Brancaccio


David Brancaccio is Host and Senior Editor of American Public Media’s Marketplace Morning Report. Most recently, his reporting has focused on ecosystems of innovation drawing on the 75th anniversary of the semiconductor revolution. He also covers regulation of financial markets, the role of technology in labor markets, digital privacy, sustainability, and social enterprises.

His work has earned some of the highest honors in broadcast journalism, including the Peabody, the Columbia-duPont, the Emmy and the Walter Cronkite awards.

Mr. Brancaccio anchored the award-winning public television news program NOW on PBS until 2010. He is author of Squandering Aimlessly, a book about personal values and money. He is producing a feature-length documentary film about the intersection of art and science focusing on an exiled American rocket pioneer who founded the enduring science and art journal Leonardo. Mr. Brancaccio grew up in Waterville, Maine and attended schools in Madagascar, Ghana and Italy. He enjoys bicycling, rocketry, and photography.

Fernand de Varennes

Fernand de Varennes


Fernand de Varennes’ work and commitment focusses on the human rights of minorities, as well as the prevention of ethnic conflicts, the rights of migrants, the relationship between ethnicity, human rights and democracies, and the use of federalism and other forms of autonomy arrangements to balance competing cultural interests. 

De Varennes is currently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, appointed to that position by the Human Rights Council in 2017. A truly international scholar and advocate, he has been, over the past three decades, a resident or visiting professor at universities in Africa, Australia, Asia and Europe. He has more than 250 publications globally, translated into some 30 languages.

Tanvi Madan

Tanvi Madan


Tanvi Madan is a Senior Fellow in the Center for East Asia Policy Studies in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, where her work explores India’s role in the world and its foreign policy, focusing in particular on India’s relations with China and the United States.

Madan also researches the U.S. and India’s approaches in the Indo-Pacific, as well as the development of interest-based coalitions, especially the Australia-India-Japan-U.S. Quad. She is the author of “Fateful Triangle: How China Shaped US-India Relations during the Cold War” (Brookings Institution Press, 2020). She lived in India through college, then came to the US for graduate work.

Daniel Markey photo

Daniel Markey


Daniel Markey is a senior advisor on South Asia at the United States Institute of Peace and a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Foreign Policy Institute. Dr. Markey has two decades of academic, think tank, and government experience focused on international relations and U.S. policy in Asia, with a particular focus on South Asia and China’s evolving role in the region.

He has served on U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning Staff and as a senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. Markey is the author of “China’s Western Horizon: Beijing and the New Geopolitics of Eurasia” (2020). His commentary has been featured widely in U.S. and international media.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta

Pratap Bhanu Mehta


Pratap Bhanu Mehta is a Laurence S. Rockefeller Professor for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University. He was previously Vice-Chancellor of Ashoka University, and President, Center for Policy Research, Delhi. He has published widely in political theory, history of ideas, Indian constitutional law and politics in India. His policy experience includes being Convenor of the Prime Minister of India’s (…)

(…) Knowledge Commission (2005-2007).

His citation for the Infosys Prize written by a jury Chaired by Amartya Sen read, “Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta has established himself as one of India’s finest scholars and public minds, who has inspired a new generation of intellectual enquiry. He has addressed urgent issues of Indian politics and public policy, showing an exemplary willingness to broaden the sphere of public reason and to challenge reigning orthodoxies, while remaining committed to institution building.”

Emily Schmall

Emily Schmall


Emily Schmall is an award-winning correspondent for The New York Times based in Chicago.  She was previously a South Asia correspondent for The Times, where she covered, among many things, India’s struggles to include more women in its booming economy. She also covered government policy, social uprisings, wealth and inequality and the rise of Hindu nationalism. 

Previously, she was an Associated Press correspondent in South Asia and Texas. Before joining AP, she was a roving foreign correspondent with datelines from a dozen countries across five continents. Emily’s writing has appeared in other publications including the BBC, The Miami Herald, Newsweek, the Financial Times, Christian Science Monitor, World Policy Journal, Salon and Forbes. She won awards for her coverage of Ebola in Dallas and for an investigation of sexual assaults in U.S. public schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Bard College and a master’s in journalism from Columbia University.

Prerna Singh

Prerna Singh


Prerna Singh is the Mahatma Gandhi Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies and the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Her research focuses on the improvement of human well-being, particularly as it relates to the promotion of social welfare on the one hand, and to the mitigation of ethnic conflict and competition, on the other.

Her book, How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India (Cambridge University Press 2016), was awarded both the American Political Science Association’s Woodrow Wilson prize for the best book published in politics and international relations, as well as the American Sociological Association’s Barrington Moore prize for the best book published in comparative historical sociology.  Singh is a recipient of the so-called ’brainy award’ from the Andrew Carnegie foundation, the Berlin prize from the American Academy of Berlin, and the Stanley and the Priscilla Kochanek prize from the American Institute of Indian Studies. She is currently working on a range of collaborative projects around the themes of nationalism and public health. This includes co-authoring a book ‘National Solidarities and Strong States: When and Why Ethnic Diversity is not a Curse for Development and Democracy’ with Matthias vom Hau for Cambridge University Press.

subramanian, arvind

Arvind Subramanian


Arvind Subramanian is an Indian economist who served as Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India from 2014 to 2018. Subramanian is currently a Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, having previously taught at Brown, Ashoka and Harvard Universities.  Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the world’s top 100 global thinkers in 2011. 

As chief economic adviser, Subramanian oversaw the design and implementation of a number of policy initiatives (including the national Gooods and Services Tax) and the publication of the annual Economic Survey of India, which became a widely read document on Indian economic policy and development and elevated the public discourse on economics. Subramanian is the author of the award-winning Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance, 2011, and India’s Turn: Understanding the Economic Transformation, 2008. He has written extensively for many academic journals on growth, trade, development, aid, India, Africa, and the World Trade Organization. His op-eds and essays have been published in the EconomistFinancial TimesWashington PostNew York TimesWall Street JournalNewsweekNew York Review of Books, and he had a widely read column in the Business Standard, India’s leading financial daily.


Ashley J. Tellis


Ashley J. Tellis holds the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs and is a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, specializing in international security and U.S. foreign and defense policy with a special focus on Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

While on assignment to the U.S. Department of State as Senior Adviser to the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, he was intimately (…)

(…) involved in negotiating the civil nuclear agreement with India. Previously he was commissioned into the Foreign Service and served as Senior Adviser to the Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

He also served on the National Security Council staff as Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Senior Director for Strategic Planning and Southwest Asia. Prior to his government service, Tellis was Senior Policy Analyst at the RAND Corporation and Professor of Policy Analysis at the RAND Graduate School. He is a Counselor at the National Bureau of Asian Research, the Research Director of its Strategic Asia program and co-editor of the program’s eighteen most recent annual volumes, including this year’s Strategic Asia 2023-24: Reshaping Economic Interdependence in the Indo-Pacific.  He is the author of Striking Asymmetries: Nuclear Transitions in Southern Asia (2022), India’s Emerging Nuclear Posture (2001) and co-author of Interpreting China’s Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future (2000). Tellis serves as an adviser to the Chief of Naval Operations. He is a member of several professional organizations related to defense and international studies including the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the United States Naval Institute, and the Navy League of the United States.

Varshney, Ashutosh 2012

Ashutosh Varshney


Ashutosh Varshney Indian-born political scientist and academic and currently the Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences and Professor of Political Science at Brown University, where he also directs the Saxena Center for Contemporary South Asia at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. Varshney previously taught at Harvard University and the University of Michigan.

His books include “Battles Half Won: India’s Improbable Democracy” (2013), and “Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India” (Yale 2002). He has been awarded the Guggenheim fellowship, the Carnegie Fellowship, the Gregory Luebbert Prize, and the Daniel Lerner Prize. Varshney contributes guest columns to newspapers and magazines and is a contributing editor to the Indian Express, an English-language daily published in Mumbai.



Friday, February 16
Keynote, 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.

Saturday, February 17
Morning Session 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Afternoon Session 2:00 – 4:30 p.m.

Sunday, February 18
Morning Session 9:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.


Suggested Readings

Basham, A. L. The Wonder That Was India. Picador, 2014. (572 pages)

A great book on ancient Indian history, covering its geography, religion, governance, philosophy, and literature to science.

Chhibber, Ajay and Salman Soz. Unshackling India: Hard Truths and Clear Choices. HarperCollins,
2021. (492 pages)

A look at human capital, technology, agriculture, finance, trade, public service and more and the limitations of the Indian state.

Dubash, Navroz K. India in a Warming World: Integrating Climate Change and Development.

Oxford University press, 2020 (504 pages)

A look at the challenges of addressing climate change compounded by a sense of injustice-we did not cause the problem—and the immediate challenges of poverty and development.

Ghosh, Amitav. The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis. University of Chicago Press, 2022 (336 pages).

A powerful work of history, essay, testimony and polemic, stating that the origins of our contemporary climate crisis is in Western colonialism’s violent exploitation of human life and the natural environment.

Guha, Ramchandra. India After Gandhi Revised and Updated Edition: History of the World’s Largest Democracy. Ecco, 2019. (992 pages)

Understanding post-independence, from 1947-2017, Economist and Wall Street Journal Book of the Year. 2017.

Jaffrelot, Christophe. Modi’s India: Hindu Nationalism and the Rise of Ethnic Democracy. Princeton University Press, 2021. (656 pages)

How a popularly elected leader has steered the largest democracy toward authoritarianism and intolerance.

Jaishankar, S. The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World. HarperCollins, 2022.

An intelligent analysis of world events and the evolution of India’s foreign policy since independence.

Jaishankar S., Why Bharat Matters. Rupa Publications India, 2024 (237 pages)

In Why Bharat Matters, S. Jaishankar argues that while rising powers seek stability most of all, India must plan to rise amidst serious unpredictability. This process is also exceptional as it represents the rejuvenation of a civilizational state. Simultaneously, he also explains why foreign policy in a globalized world matters increasingly to all citizens in their daily lives. 

Jeffrey, Craig. Modern India: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2018. (144 pages)

Changes in the economic, social, political and cultural changes unfolding in India today.

Kant, Amitabh. Made in India: 75 Years of Business and Enterprise. Rupa Publications, 2023. (212 pages)

Multi-faceted survey of the nation’s business heritage and culture-now one of the largest economies in the world.

Karnad, Bharat. Why India is not a Great Power (Yet). Oxford University Press, 2015 (568 pages)

The deficits in hard power; the country’s military capacities and the “software” related to hard power-absence of political vision and will, insensitivity to strategic geography, and unimaginative foreign and military-the shortfalls that prevent the country from achieving great power status.

Madan, Tanvi. Fateful Triangle: How China Shaped U.S.-India Relations During the Cold War.

Brookings Institution Press. 2020.

A long view of the three-party relationship and its future prospects.

Madhusudan, Harsh and Rajeev Mantri. A New Idea of India: The Civilizational Republic. Viking, 2023. (405 pages)

An analysis of the socio-political past from the Mughal ere to the current government in power.

Markey, Daniel. China’s Western Horizon: Beijing and the New Geopolitics of Eurasia. Oxford

University Press. 2021.

How China’s policy initiatives will be shaped and redefined as they confront the ground realities

of local and regional politics outside China.

Menon, Shivshankar. India and Asian Geopolitics: The Past, Present. Brookings Institution Press, 2021. (408 pages)

A clear-eyed look at modern India’s role in Asia, including its response to the rise in China and the broader world.

Mody, Ashoka. India is Broken: A People Betrayed, Independence to Today. Stanford University Press, 2023. (528 pages)

A provocative new account of how India moved relentlessly from its hope-filled founding in 1947 to the dramatic economic and democratic breakdowns of today.

Nehru, Jawaharlal. Discovery of India. Penguin Random House, 2004. (656 pages)

An introduction to Indian history by a brilliant writer during India’s struggle against the British Empire.

Singh, Prerna. How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development.

Cambridge University Press. 2016.

An argument for the power of a collective identity as an impetus for state prioritization of social


Varshney, Ashutosh. Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life. Yale University Press. 2003.

A presentation of how civic ties between different ethnic communities can contain or even

prevent ethnic violence.

Varshney, Ashutosh. Battles Half Won: India’s Improbable Democracy. Penguin Global


Essays related to the deepening of the Indian democracy since 1947 and the challenges this has

created for the forging and consolidation of India’s improbable democracy.

Saran, Shyam, How China Sees India and the World. Juggernaut, 2022. (305 pages)

An authoritative account of the India-China relationship and how China perceives the other country.

Saran, Shyam, How India Sees the World. Juggernaut Publication, 2017. (320 pages)

A ringside view of the most critical events and shifts in Indian foreign policy in the new millennium, including the epochal India-US nuclear deal.

Sen, Amartya. The Argumentative Indian: Writings in Indian History, Culture and Identity. Picador, 2006. (360 pages)

The idea and identity of India, written by a renowned economist and a Nobel laureate.

Tharoor, Shashi. An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India. Aleph Book Company, 2016. (360 pages)

The impact of two hundred years of British rule. A winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award.

Zubrzycki, John. The Shortest History of India: From the World’s Oldest Civilization to Its Largest Democracy–A Retelling for Our Times. Experiment, 2023. (288 pages) 5,000 years of history–from the Bhagavad Gitā to Bollywood–fill this masterful portrait of the world’s most populous nation and a rising global power. The Shortest History books deliver thousands of years of history in one riveting, fast-paced read.








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