When asked his view of democracy promotion, Arun Jaitley, leader of the opposition in India’s Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament), replied “[There is a] normal human desire for freedom.” Yashwant Sinha, former Minister of Finance and External Affairs, offered “Democracy cannot be imposed from outside, it must grow from within.” The International Republican Institute (IRI) heard these and similar remarks about the vibrancy of India’s democratic spirit during its five-day visit to the country January 11-15, 2012.
Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, former Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs; Constance Berry Newman, member of IRI’s Board of Directors, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and former U.S. Agency for International Development Assistant Administrator for Africa; and Maria Cino, former Chief Executive Officer, 2008 Republican National Convention and former Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation joined IRI President Lorne Craner and Executive Vice President Judy Van Rest as delegates on an exchange visit with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of India, organized in coordination with the Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini Knowledge Excellence Centre, the training complex affiliated with the BJP.
The delegation met with leading political activists and party officials in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and New Delhi, including the president of the BJP, the former minister of external affairs and finance, and the head of the BJP women’s wing. Discussion topics ranged from foreign and security policy to domestic U.S. politics.
In addition to briefings and meetings, IRI had the chance to visit the Prabodhini training complex near Mumbai to observe firsthand the instructional programs and research opportunities the complex has to offer. In Ahmedabad, IRI witnessed several large-scale development projects, including the Bus Rapid Transit System and Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, which offers a number of specialized undergraduate and post-graduate degree programs.
In June 2011, IRI hosted the first of its kind exchange program with the BJP to lay the foundation for future cooperation between IRI and the BJP on training and outreach to other political institutions in Asia and other regions around the world. IRI and the BJP share a mutual interest in providing critical leadership and governing skills to political leaders and in strengthening political institutions. IRI plans to engage the BJP and the Prabodhini training
complex, and ultimately other partners as well, in its programming, such as training sessions and additional networking opportunities for interested partners in the region and globally. Incorporating this international experience adds immeasurably to IRI’s work around the world.Top