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Event Report: C3S Founders' Memorial Lecture

Updated: Jul 4

By Deepak Srinivasan, Research Intern, C3S



C3S Event Report: 2/2024




The Chennai Centre for China Studies (C3S) held its annual Founders’ Day Memorial Lecture in collaboration with the Department of International Studies at Stella Maris College, Chennai. The event aimed to honour our founders for their exemplary guidance and dedication to research. To achieve this, C3S invited leading experts to provide insights on current economic, political, and technological issues affecting India and China.


The lecture  started with a welcome address by Dr. Priya Suresh, Head of the International Studies Department.. She celebrated the ‘spirit of intellectual discussion and scholarly pursuit’ that is cultivated by such events, and looked forward to fostering an environment where ideas and innovations thrive.


This was followed by opening remarks from Commodore R.S Vasan, where he extended his sincere gratitude towards Stella Maris College for collaborating with C3S. He spoke about the history of C3S, from its founding in 2008 by Mr Raman, Mr Rajan, Mr R Swaminathan, Professor Suriyanarayanan and Mr B S Raghavan. He emphasised the growing power and influence of China, and that it was necessary to understand our adversary in order to engage with them. The welcome and opening address set the tone for the rest of the lecture by highlighting the importance of intellectual discourse and rigorous research, in order to understand and tackle the problems faced by us today.


The Founders’ Memorial lecture was delivered  by Mr. M. R. Sivaraman IAS (Retd.) Former Revenue Secretary to the Government of India and Executive Director of the IMF, most well known for piloting the PAN Card. He spoke on the topic of “Economic Challenges facing the New Government and Way Ahead”. He divided the challenges into 3 parts: political, economic and foreign. He pointed out that the new government was a coalition government, and hence more vulnerable. Thus, he emphasised the need for swift decision-making and maintaining strength within the coalition.


On the political sphere, he started by noting that the opposition is much stronger this time than the current BJP government is used to. The unstable nature of a coalition government further increases the need to reach across the aisle and work with the opposition. Two key allies of the BJP, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) from Andhra Pradesh and the Janata Dal from Bihar, have also made demands for Special Status for their states. Other states with special status include Assam, Manipur, Uttrakhand etc. He noted that special status had not done much to drive investment to these states or boost them economically. The problem of state funding is a huge problem, especially for Bihar with one of the lowest per capita incomes in India.


On the Economic sphere, he stressed the need for improved investment to drive growth. On this front, he stated that the Private Sector had ‘betrayed’ the government by taking government grants and incentives but not investing them properly in the economy. They also have continued to rely on imports from China. In terms of Education and Employment as well, India is lagging behind. The youth unemployment rate stands at 15%. Over 10 lakh teaching posts are vacant in government schools. Many workers are stuck in agriculture which contributes little to the GDP. Investment in Education must increase from 3.5% of GDP to 6% of GDP.


On foreign policy and international relations, he pointed out that the government had previously not respected the opposition with regard to border issues and that this must change. Two key countries that neighbour India are Sri Lanka and Nepal, and India should improve relations with them. However relations with Sri Lanka remain rocky due to increased Chinese investment as well as India’s history with the LTTE. Regarding Nepal, he highlighted China's growing influence in the country and its determined efforts to establish dominance in Kathmandu through various influence operations. He also pointed out that foreign policy has two levels: foreign policy is affected by domestic issues and domestic issues are affected by foreign policy. Thus there is a need to balance the two.


Key Takeaways:

  • The Government must improve relations with the opposition and keep coalition parties in check, especially key allies like TDP and Janata Dal.

  • The government must drive more investment for economic growth and focus on import substitution.

  • Increased investment in Education is needed in order to improve economic growth as well as labour markets. More people should be encouraged to shift from agriculture to other sectors

  • It is necessary to improve relations with Sri Lanka and Nepal to combat China. However the willingness of these countries to engage with India is doubtful.


Followed by this, Mr. Srinath Ravichandran, Co Founder of Agnikul Cosmos, an aerospace manufacturing company based out of IIT Madras, presented  on the topic “Exploring New Frontiers: The Rise of Private Space Players in India and their Impact and the Success Story of Agnikul”. He  spoke on the rise of the space sector and space technology in India, and ways to take it forward. He started by talking about the success of Agnikul Cosmos. Since its inception in 2017, the company has now reached 240 employees, filed 3 patents and had a successful rocket launch in May 2024 at Sriharikota. Thus their very existence shows that space technology can be profitable and successful in India. He then set out to dispel myths about the space sector, by emphasising that space tech is not merely a ‘rich man’s game’ and can be done without huge amounts of initial investment. He pointed out that there exists facilities ‘hidden’ all over India with the technology necessary to build the materials required. Space is also a very collaborative sector and cannot be done without the continued effort of everyone at the company.


He also talked about the need to look at space not just as a ‘destination’ but as a platform to launch further enterprises like communication and even entertainment. He gave an example of ‘space fireworks’ where debris is dropped from space which burns up when reentering the atmosphere, creating a shooting star effect. 


Key takeaways

  • Entry into the space sector and development of space technology can be done without huge amounts of investment. It requires ingenuity and collaboration across multiple sectors and various institutions and facilities. 

  • Space should be seen as more than a destination but a platform for further innovation.

  • India has huge potential for space technology and it is important to tap into this wealth of intellectual resources..


Both lectures were followed by a Q & A session which provided a chance for the students and audiences  to interact with the dignitaries and raise pertinent questions.

After a fruitful lecture and Q&A session, the event was brought to a close with the delivery of the vote of thanks by Ms. Sapna Elsa Abraham, Senior Research Officer, C3S. 


(This event report was prepared by Deepak Srinivasan, research intern, C3S. The views expressed do not reflect the views of C3S.)

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