The event, launched by Modi in 2003 to showcase his state, has emerged as India's largest investment promotion meet. Many Indian intellectuals who see things only through the prism of their own ideology call Gujarat the laboratory of a divisive communal agenda, where ideas, policies and processes were honed and perfected and then rolled out across India. This is the view they hold and this is what they disseminate to the world at large. There is another more widely accepted but less discussed view that sees Gujarat as a laboratory, not of majoritarianism, but of development, where Narendra Modi (as chief minister from 2001 to 2014) seeded ideas and successfully implemented schemes that he later unveiled on a pan-India stage as his flagship Make in India, Start-up India and solar initiatives, among many others. Exchanging ideas Over the years, the summit has emerged as a platform, not only for attracting investments to Gujarat and elsewhere but also to exchange ideas on development models that could work under different circumstances. Many of the elements of the much lauded Gujarat Model of development emerged from discussions at this summit. And India's new development paradigm, portions of which are being piloted abroad by the World Bank and other international institutions, owes a huge debt of gratitude to the round tables and seminars organised at the previous seven summits. Prime Minister Modi, who launched this biennial event in 2003, to attract fresh Indian and foreign investments to his state, will use the Vibrant Gujarat platform, the largest investment promotion meet in India, to pitch for investments across India. Sustainable development The summit has also played a lead role in setting the development and policy agenda of the government. Even as his rivals decried Modi politically, many of them borrowed liberally from ideas aired at the summit to industrialise and develop their own states. In keeping with Modi's green push and his credo of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas (development for all), the theme of this year's summit is “Sustainable Economic and Social Development”. At the summit, heads of states and governments, ministers, top corporate executives from across the world as well as India, leading policy makers, heads of international institutions and a galaxy of Nobel laureates will discuss how to promote development and cooperation. And like before, many of the ideas disseminated by global thought leaders in their respective fields will find their way into government policies in the coming months. Nobel laureates to share insights A special attraction at this year's summit is the Nobel Prize Series Exhibition and the Nobel Laureate Dialogue at which as many as nine Nobel laureates will discuss cutting edge ideas and interact with industrialists, policy makers and students. This will be the first time that so many Nobel Prize winners will be coming together for such an exchange of ideas in India. “The Nobel laureates will interact with students of educational institutes such as IIT Gandhinagar, Gujarat University and MS University on January 11,” a senior official said. This is particularly significant as Gujarat, having topped the industrialisation charts in India, is now planning to transition to the next stage - and emerge as a knowledge and R&D destination for the world's leading companies. And, as stated above, many of these ideas will seed new businesses and perhaps even new development paradigms not only for India but also for the many countries that will be participating at the summit. Transforming India On the agenda this year, among many others, is a Global CEO Round Table on “Transforming India” where Modi will hold a dialogue with the heads of 35 foreign multinationals and 23 leading Indian industrialists. Leading global business leaders who have confirmed their participation at the Round Table include Bertrand-Marc Allen, President of Boeing International, John Chambers, Chairman of Cisco and Jean-Bernard Levy, CEO of French electricity giant EDF. “The roundtable aims to brainstorm on industry's expectations to make India an ideal investment destination,” the state's Additional Chief Secretary P.K. Taneja told the media. 80 countries to attend The 2017 edition of the summit will have participants from more than 80 countries. The Prime Ministers of Portugal and Serbia, the Presidents of Kenya and Rwanda, the deputy Prime Ministers of Russia and Poland and senior ministers from Japan and Sweden will be among the delegates to the summit. This is in addition to the participation of the 12 “partner countries”, which includes the US, UK, Canada, Singapore, the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia among others. Focus on women, MSMEs, start-ups In keeping with the Modi government's focus on empowering women, encouraging entrepreneurship among Indians and generating employment for the army of 12-15 million youth who join the Indian work force every year, the 8th Vibrant Gujarat Summit will specially focus on start-ups, women entrepreneurs and medium, small and micro enterprises. To enable them to rub shoulders with the big boys of the world of business, the organisers have given discounts of 50 per cent to 90 per cent. Top ministers to participate “The Vibrant Gujarat Summit is definitely India's largest and highest profile investment promotion meet and offers investors a unique opportunity of interacting and networking with the country's top political leadership and policy makers,” said Deepak Bagla, CEO of Invest India, the country's recently set up investment promotion agency. The organisers are expecting 11 Union ministers, mostly holding important economic portfolios to attend the summit. Besides Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani) who will be part of the PM's round table meet with global and Indian CEOs, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Commerce and Industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Power Minister Piyush Goyal are among the senior Union ministers who will take part in various sessions of the summit. Focus on defence units In the run-up to the summit, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has spoken of his interest in encouraging defence and aerospace companies to set up base in the state and also of his plans to “a coastal economic zone on the lines of China”. In the course of his meetings with leading industrialists from Mumbai, he said, a large group, which already has a license for making arms, expressed interest in building ships and repairing submarines in Gujarat. This is likely to emerge as a key focus sector for the state. Reaching for the skies The organisers have planned a spectacular inaugural show for the delegates as well as the 1.5-2.0 million people who are expected to attend the summit. For the first time, two teams from the Indian Air Force will conduct special displays for the assembled guests. A 14-man squad from the IAF's Akash Ganga team of sky divers will drop from a Mi-17 helicopter to a park near the event venue. Later, a Chetak chopper will fly past, dropping rose petals over the venue. And finally, there will be an aerobatic display by a Sukhoi 30 MKI multi-role fighter and a show by four planes of the IAF's Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team.