Media Center Media Center

Speech by Foreign Secretary at the Launch of PHD Ambassador's Club at PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry, New Delhi (November 20, 2017)

November 20, 2017

  • It is a great pleasure to join you all this evening at the launch of the PHD Ambassadors’ Club. This is an occasion to reflect on the interplay of diplomacy and economics, especially business. I thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts in that regard.
  • International relations are a mix of advancing interests and exercising influence. While that has always been the case, what has changed in a more interconnected and constrained world is the pursuit of the same objectives but in a less coercive manner. This is reflected, amongst others, in the nature of the contemporary global agenda where economic factors are seen to be a more effective tool of shaping the world. Whether it is opportunities like connectivity, trade and investment or mobility, or challenges like terrorism, climate change or maritime security, the conduct of diplomacy is increasingly dependent on economic capabilities and their deployment. It is, therefore, particularly welcome that a business chamber is devoting energy and attention to promote such a discourse.
  • Few would dispute that the growing stature of India in the world is an outcome of the economic progress that we have made in the last quarter of a century. The salience of foreign partnerships in the flow of capital, technology and best practices that drive India’s growth has only increased in this period. Indian diplomacy has been extremely active in enhancing awareness, facilitating contacts and promoting cooperation in this regard. In the last few years, a concerted effort has been made to get across the message of India being an easier place to do business. As the Indian economy expanded, the nature of our interactions with the global one also underwent transformation. Indian businesses have been more and more active in pursuit of overseas opportunities. The demands of manufacturing at home and promoting exports have also driven a more sustained relationship with companies abroad. I am sure you will all agree that one important aspect of this change has been in the more supportive role that our Missions abroad play in identifying and exploiting such opportunities.
  • The image of India in the world is shaped by a number of factors. Primarily, it is a derivative of our economic prowess at home. But to a large extent, it is also determined by individual experiences that people outside have of India and Indians. If today, there is a perception of India as a ‘tech’ society, that is an outcome of the activities of our professionals abroad. Similarly, our businesses – big and small – have also made their mark all over the world. Whether it is a giant enterprise operating in Europe or North America or more modest traders in Africa or the Caribbean, our work ethic and respect for local practices have been noted. A real partnership between diplomacy and business is important not only for the benefits that it brings to the economy at home but also in enhancing access and building brand abroad.
  • As we mark a quarter century of economic reforms, it is evident that the scale and intensity of change underway has assumed more serious proportions. We have shifted from doing the reforms we must, to those that we should. The boldness of our thinking in this regard is also more apparent. The agenda of change now extends beyond the narrow scope of governmental policy to much broader social transformation. Here too, some of that responsibility rests on the shoulders of Indian diplomacy. Facilitating and promoting national flagship initiatives like Digital India, Skill India, Smart Cities or Start-up India are a core element of our diplomatic interactions. Indeed, if one looks at the outcomes of incoming and outgoing leadership level visits, you will note that these collaborations form a significant segment of the discussions. This is also true of initiatives focused on modernizing infrastructure and upgrading technologies.
  • While this is our broad global approach that I would assert has already started yielding results, India’s international standing depends not just on its own capabilities, but how they impact abroad. Naturally, the first impact of that is on our immediate neighborhood. Conscious of this, we have initiated and determinedly pursued a Neighborhood First strategy that prioritizes these relationships. In essence, this strategy envisages commitment of a much higher level of resources and attention to the countries bordering India. Building stronger connectivity is of particular importance, as indeed, is the expansion of our contacts and cooperation. We also encourage Indian businesses to make their contribution, both directly and indirectly, in this important endeavor. Underlying our thinking is the calculation that the region, and indeed the world, is better served if India’s prosperity becomes a broader lifting tide. In recent years, we have therefore dramatically expanded our lines of credit and development assistance, while taking a regional approach to cooperation prospects.
  • The growth of India, its interests and capabilities, have predictably shortened our sense of distance. Today, more than ever before since independence, the extended neighborhood – be it to the East or the West – looms much larger on our radar. The relationship with ASEAN and East Asia is, of course, inextricably associated with the era of reform. These nations have been agents of change as much as partners in trade or investment. What has happened more recently is that the intensity of our collaborations has deepened perceptibly, whether it is in the more serious implementation of connectivity projects through Myanmar or infrastructure building in partnership with Japan. The upgrading of Look East to Act East signifies this shift, which also has its security and strategic dimensions. On the other side, there has been an equally important if less commented reach out to the Gulf and beyond. This Think West initiative is visible in the more substantive economic cooperation with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran, amongst others. While the focus in the past has been predominantly on energy and diaspora welfare, there is now a much more effective exploitation of opportunities in investment and connectivity. Another recent development has been the growing tendency to approach our maritime neighbors in an integrated manner through what Prime Minister enunciated as the SAGAR doctrine.
  • Looking at the world beyond, it is important to recognize that we are in a period of major transition where many of the assumptions that guided our thinking in the past are no longer valid. The end of the Cold War was one milestone. Globalization and the rise of Asia including of China especially and thereafter of India was another. The recalibration of the Western world is the latest. At one level, this calls for a nimbler and more open-minded approach to international politics where there are less fixed points and more flexible combinations. Our earlier mindset of broadening our options in a more structured world has to give way to the understanding that the rigidity of positions and alliances no longer hold and we ourselves are increasingly one of the poles. In terms of diplomatic orthodoxy, the dichotomy between bilateral and multilateral must now accommodate the reality of the need for the plurilateral.
  • But it is not just that there is a repositioning and rebalancing in the global order. The broader direction of global development is itself under challenge with many societies turning more insular - economically, socially and politically. Even as this happens, the transformational forces that have already been unleashed continue to shape the play in other parts of the world. What we see before us is predictably a very diverse and differentiated picture that will both shape and will be shaped by a new set of global issues. A key one that will dominate Asia in particular is the building of new connectivity, its principles and its ownership. The challenge of responding to climate change is another, one that will impact the developmental profile and prospects of all states. Terrorism, while still approached in many quarters in a segmented and opportunistic manner, has acquired new dimensions through metastasis and networking. These are but three examples that will impact businesses in the coming years in different ways.
  • While much of what I have articulated represents an analysis of the implications of political developments on business prospects, a direct concern is the terms of India’s economic engagement with other nations. Our future is undeniably and deeply tied to the optimal utilization of our vast human resources. While that leads us to skill enhancement and employment generation possibilities at home, it must inevitably shape our thinking vis-à-vis economic dealings abroad. The global agenda till now has naturally reflected the international power structure. That hierarchy is now changing and so too must the discourse. India’s interests dictate that its international commitments are more balanced and give due weightage to services and mobility. It is only if these interests are taken into account that we can arrive at win-win situations. We not only must negotiate for mobility abroad; we must equally promote it at home. The enormous energies that the Government has devoted to making the issue of passports easier is a reflection of that priority. A related outcome is the greater importance placed on diaspora welfare and the responsibility of the Indian state for its citizens abroad.
  • Let me conclude by thanking the PHD Chamber and the Convener of the Ambassadors’ Club, Ambassador K.V. Rajan, for this opportunity to participate in this initiative. I fully share your desire to expand economic relations by tapping foreign and Indian diplomats, creating a forum for interactions and strategizing, facilitating business visits and contributing to national growth and modernization. I convey my best wishes for your success.

Post A Comment

  • Name *
    E-mail *
  • Write Your Comment *
  • Verification Code * Verification Code