When young minds lead transformation

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When young minds lead transformation

Thursday, 02 February 2017 | Shaun Star

The Australia-India friendship has grown over the years, and its impact is being felt in all areas of cooperation. Youth are playing a key role in facilitating the process

The Australia-India relationship has grown from strength to strength in recent years as our strategic interests seem to have aligned now more than ever. Both Governments have acknowledged the significant opportunity for our countries to boost our economic relationship and are negotiating a free trade agreement to take trade and investment ties to the next level.

However, while these increasing Government-to-Government ties and the alignment of strategic interests have facilitated stronger bilateral ties, the young leaders in both nations hold the key to sustaining our close ties. It is the energy, creativity and vision of the young leaders in Australia and India that give promise to an enduring and sustainable partnership between our future leaders.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said that the “... 800 million youth under the age of 35 years (in India are) impatient for change and eager to achieve it”. A staggering 65 per cent of India's population will have the potential to drive India's economic growth and foreign policy for years to come. Accordingly, it is unsurprising that Governments, business and social enterprises are engaging with the next generation of India's leaders so as to be a part of India's narrative.

In Australia, already a growing number of young people seems to be taking interest in India. Young Australians have had the opportunity to experience India through programmes such as the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan (NCP). The NCP provides university students the opportunity to take part in an internship and student exchange overseas. India has been one of the most popular destinations for Australian Students.

I have the privilege of interacting with students at OP Jindal Global University where I run the Centre for India Australia Studies. I am encouraged by the enthusiasm and energy from university students about the opportunities of collaboration between young Indians and Australians. From our shared passion for cricket to vibrant democracies which extol the virtues of the rule of law, our discussions showed that the future of Australia-India relations are in good hands and that the present-day leaders should encourage the dynamic youth in both countries remain interested and proactive.

Participants in the Australia India Youth Dialogue embody this enthusiasm to build sustainable ties and shape foreign policy between our nations. One of the principle aims of the AIYD is to provide young leaders from Australia and India the opportunity to experience the culture and differing perspectives of the other country.

Having moved from Australia to India five years ago, I appreciate the impact that such an experience can have on a young leaders personal and professional trajectory. I moved to India never having been there before and the experience of embracing the culture and engaging with young Indian leaders gave me a completely different perspective to what I grew up with, in Australia.

This is the very premise of AIYD, to allow young Australians and Indians to experience and embrace the other culture and these different perspectives, as well as to engage in a productive discussion on how to resolve challenges that may affect both of our nations.

The AIYD is a forum that focuses on facilitating a productive conversation between young leaders in Australia and India to tackle issues that affect both nations. The AIYD conference, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.

With the support of today's leaders in Government and Business, the youth of Australia and India can help shape the future of both of our great nations. In the short time since its inception, the NCP, AIYD and other such programmes have produced tangible outcomes and now has a strong network of young leaders from India and Australia.

As Australia-India ties are becoming increasingly relevant, it is the energy, dynamism, creativity and support of the young leaders from both countries that will ensure that this bilateral relationship is enduring.

(The writer is executive director of the Centre for India Australia Studies, assistant dean and assistant professor at Jindal Global law School, OP Jindal Global University and Chair of the Australia India Youth Dialogue)

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