The major challenges to India's future as an economic powerhouse were education and energy needs, the Senior Editor of The Hindustan Times told a major public policy conference in Perth today.
Change in India was being driven by the private sector, which provided 60 per cent of government revenue and leadership in education, Pramit Pal Chaudhuri told delegates at the In the Zone conference at The University of Western Australia.
Manufacturing in India has taken off since the global financial crisis, with the telecommunications, the information technology service sector and software the fastest growing areas.
"There is no guarantee that India will be a powerhouse in the 21st century," he said. "The two major barriers are the supply of energy and education."
There are approximately 400 million illiterate people in India, almost all of whom are over 40 years old. About 90 per cent of India's cohort below 14 years of age is literate.
However, he warned Australia that it faced the prospect of being shut out of discussions with India over nuclear energy because of its stance on uranium exports.
Mr Chaudhuri said nuclear power alliances were being made across the world, between countries that supply uranium and their potential customers.
"Australia's problem will be: who will be your reactor partner when you change your (federal nuclear) policy?" he said.
Also speaking at the session India: Twenty-first century powerhouse, the Diplomatic Editor of The Times of India, Indrani Bagchi, said India's 2008 nuclear deal with the United States was the "coming out" of its foreign policy interests.
Ms Bagchi said the first meeting between Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama would occur on November 24.
"India loved George Bush," she said. "Can this be replicated with Barack Obama? These issues will shape Indian foreign policy in the very near future."
India's first circle of foreign policy interests included its neighbours Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, with whom it was developing closer ties, she said. However, the real challenge for India was to prevent Pakistan from self-destructing and in that challenge its relationship to the United States was of fundamental importance.
IN THE ZONE is a major public policy conference initiated by The University of Western Australia positioning Western Australia as a thought leader within the time zone it shares with 60 per cent of the world's population and the nations which promise the greatest economic growth for the 21st century.
2009 marks the inaugural IN THE ZONE Conference. This will become a biennial event and a strategic meeting point for the Australian and wider regional community to engage in dialogue about the zone we inhabit and to deepen the policy, trade and investment relationships.
NB: MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES MUST REGISTER TO COVER THE CONFERENCE. GO TO: www.zone.uwa.edu.au/news/media_registration