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PM to open Asia Society conference on Saturday

By Indrani Roy Mitra in Mumbai
March 17, 2006 16:05 IST
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It's Destination Mumbai for business head honchos from more than 23 nations as they get together to assess India's rise in the global economy at the Asia Society's 16th Asian Corporate Conference, to be held from March 18 to 20 at Grand Hyatt.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh will inaugurate the conference and the Asia Society of India Centre on March 18.

The conference on 'Driving Global Business: India's New Priorities, Asia's New Realities,' co-organised by The Wall Street Journal and the Confederation of Indian Industry, will examine India's potential to take off as a mature business market and how India's growth will impact Asia's economic future.

This was announced at a press conference during earlier part of the day. The speakers at the press meet were Asia Society president Vishakha Desai, former CII president Jamshyd N Godrej, former US Ambassador to India and vice chairman of external affairs at American International Group Frank Wisner, and Chairman of Chatterjee Group Purnendu Chatterjee.

The conference and the inauguration of the India Centre coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Society's founding by John D Rockfeller 3rd.

While Desai spoke on the Society's contribution towards strengthening Indo-US ties, the other speakers lauded its efforts in building an effective bridge of communication between the two countries.

"The Asia Society," said Desai, "aims not only to serve as a local resource on Asian business, policy, civil society and cultural issues, but also to promote intra-Asian connections and exchange."

Speaking about the new Centre, she informed, "It will provide year-round programming in business, policy, social issues, arts and culture. The Centre's first executive director is Bunty Chand."

"The society is a forum for thinking about Indian-American policies," said Frank Wisner. "Policies," he said, "do not always stem from White House alone. Rather, they originate from many streams and rivers and Asia Society happens to be one of them."

Wisner said the inauguration of the India Centre in Mumbai will give a major boost to already strengthened Indo-US relationship.

Godrej opined that this new wing of the Society will promote investment, trade and cultural exchange between the two countries. "The new centre will go a long way in furthering the cause of the society."

Hailing the India Centre as India's contributor to the global power regime, Chatterjee took cue from Victor Hugo when he said, "This indeed is 'an idea whose time has come.'"

He sounded optimistic about paving the way for Asia Society's success through its Indian section. Though Chatterjee touched on difficulties that may raise their ugly heads now and then, an assuring Wisner commented those are not to be taken seriously.

"You need not think of the pebbles in your sandals if you are walking a long way," said the former US Ambassador to India.

Going by Wisner's words, one does have reasons to believe that the conference and the India Centre will go a long way in consolidating Indo-US ties.
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Indrani Roy Mitra in Mumbai