Talking (Indian) Democracy with Tony Abbott

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In celebration of the 75th anniversary of Indian democracy, I’ll be hosting a discussion at Sydney’s Centre for Independent Studies featuring Tony Abbott AC, Prime Minister of Australia from 2013-2015 and Member of the Australian Parliament for Warringah from 1994-2019.

Titled “Indian Democracy at 75: Troubled or Triumphant?”, the August 11 event will see Mr. Abbott sharing his insights and experiences regarding the operation of democracy in India, as seen from the perspective of a practical politician who has worked at the highest levels of domestic politics and international diplomacy.

Mr. Abbott has a long history of engagement with India, and has been called not only a colleague but a ‘friend’ by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Everyone knows that India is the world’s largest democracy. Few realise that it is one of the world’s oldest. When India was born a democracy in 1947, fewer than a dozen countries could boast well-institutionalised, continuously-functioning democratic governments. In the list of countries with unbroken records of free and fair elections under the rule of law, India’s 75 years make it one of the oldest in the world.

The need for a frank reassessment of India’s democracy is palpable. In recent years, Indian democracy has been roundly criticised in the Western media. The Economist Intelligence Unit now calls India a “flawed democracy” in which “democratic backsliding by the authorities and crackdowns on civil liberties led to a further decline”.

Whether or not there is any merit in such appraisals, it is clear that they are damaging for India’s international reputation, and may have real consequences for India’s foreign policy. They have also inevitably become embroiled in domestic politics. This entanglement is especially troubling because it incentivises domestic opponents of Mr. Modi to conflate criticism of the BJP with evaluations of democracy itself. This kind of personalisation of politics is something with which Mr. Abbott is very familiar here in Australia, and I’ll be asking him how his Australian experiences shed light on the position of Mr. Modi in India.

The August 11 event at the Centre for Independent Studies is open to everyone, with a general admission charge of $31.68 per person (including tax and fees). There will be a brief reception before the formal proceedings begin, and attendees will have the opportunity to meet and chat with Mr. Abbott. A limited number of questions will also be taken from the floor. So please do consider joining us, and have your questions ready.

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Salvatore Babones
Salvatore Babones
Salvatore Babones is an associate professor at the University of Sydney.

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