S Jaishankar wants India to promote its technology abroad: Full text of foreign secretary's speech at Global Technology Summit

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar laid a pitch for India making a strong commitment to promoting its technologies abroad through business activities and development partnerships. Jaishankar was addressing the 'Technology Diplomacy: Prospects for India and Japan' summit at the two-day Global Technology Summit 2017 organised by Carnegie India. Here's the full speech of Jaishankar's speech:

File image of S Jaishankar. PTI

File image of S Jaishankar. PTI

It is a great pleasure to join you all this morning at the Global Technology Summit that is taking place with a special focus on our relations with Japan. The Ministry of External Affairs is pleased to partner with Carnegie India in this regard, set appropriately in India’s premier technology city. At the outset, I express my appreciation to all those involved in organizing this event and would like to specifically recognize its moving force, Dr. C. Rajamohan, and the Ambassador of Japan, who has joined us today.

The history of international affairs is in many ways the history of technology. Equations between societies and nations have been largely determined by this factor. Most dramatically, they were expressed in the outcomes of military conflicts. Time is in fact replete with examples, whether they are of metallurgy or engineering, of logistics or firepower, in land, sea or air. But there is also the more secular rise of economic power, one that was essentially driven by the growth of technological and later industrial capabilities. If technology impacted the international power distribution, the pace and capacity for adaptation certainly contributed to the rise and fall of nations – and eventually, to the nature of the global order itself. The current era has, of course, introduced many more imponderables with the proliferation of technologies. There are two broad propositions that are relevant for consideration today: (i) the bandwidth of technologies that can make a difference is steadily widening, going well beyond those with narrow and direct military application. This is particularly so as we move from military dominance to strategic influence as an operating principle in global politics. We see that expressed through concepts like dual technologies, connectivity and comprehensive national power. And (ii) influence and power are derivatives not just of knowledge but of its successful application. This implies access to technology, its absorption and larger percolation, and most important, its effective deployment.

With that as a context, you would all readily appreciate why India’s contemporary history – like those of other large modernizing societies such as Japan, Russia, Korea or China - has been one of playing technology catch-up. For a variety of reasons, that has been a much harder journey for India to make. Our social indices at the time of embarking on it were much lower than the others, perhaps an issue in itself for a debate on historical responsibility. Challenges of national integrity and consolidation were also formidable, made even more complicated by the Partition. And to accomplish all this, unlike the others, in a democratic framework has been no less significant.

Much of our policy debates focus around access to technologies, and legitimately so, given that it is the starting point of this catch-up endeavour. Current generations may perhaps not be aware how strongly this shaped our foreign policy choices till recently. Bear in mind that world itself was much more a seller’s market than it is today. Constraints that needed to be overcome have varied, both in their motivation and complexity. Old mind sets and short term commercial objectives were an obstacle to our early industrialization, for example, to find partners for building steel plants. Remember Bhilai and Bokaro. When combined with political suspicion, they drove the resistance to licensed production, in heavy industry as much as the defence sector. Bengaluru is a witness to that era, be it HAL or HMT. As respect for our capabilities grew, the denial system became broader with a focus on dual technologies, especially in space and atomic energy. Recall the cases of cryogenic engines and Tarapur.

But as our economy expanded and our record of responsibility gained broad recognition, the access window started to open out. Much of the credit – in substance and image – goes to the tech industry centred around Bengaluru. In many ways, the India-US nuclear deal was the turning point. Resistance does continue in some sectors from the entrenched order that professes otherwise. However, as India’s rise in the global order gains increasing acceptance, one expression of that has been our membership of technology export control regimes, still work in progress.

Technology challenge has shifted from access now to absorption, generation and deployment. It is sought to be addressed by programmes like Make in India, Skill India, Digital India and Start Up India. Making it easier to do business is also integrating India into global tech supply chains. This will accelerate as we appreciate the distinction between Make in India and Make for India. Again, automakers are a great example. After a very long time, technology capabilities are being put at the centre of our domestic development agenda. Now, because access issues have eased up, it does not mean that technology will automatically come. Like capital, it must be invited, valued and nurtured. That the Indian polity relies more on incentives and markets than on command and coercion has made technology flows a patient exercise. There is, of course, a natural trade-off between technology transfers and market opportunities. To the extent we make it easier to do business, India also encourages that process. While it is hard to generalize, it would probably be smart today to make a bet on India’s future. Ask Suzuki, who did it early. Commercially proven technologies would, in many ways, create their own markets once in the country.

Without minimizing the supply-side challenges, we must also accept that there were demand-side problems. Much of that centres on shortcomings in the larger enabling environment, whether it is in our policies, our business models, or in the quality of our human resources. To that extent, the fact that Government has chosen to make literacy, gender gaps, skills and entrepreneurship into national campaigns shows that we have at last recognized this challenge. But surely, there could be greater appreciation of how much our technology goals will be influenced by the state of our society. A comparison with the social indices of East and South East Asia is telling.

On the diplomatic side, widening Indian access to technology has been one of our longest standing endeavours. I can state with some pride that there have been few countries whose foreign policy has created that many openings with major technology sources. As noted earlier, we have also negotiated bilaterally and multilaterally to expand technology cooperation understandings in a wide variety of fields. While the traditional focus was on nuclear, defence and space, today it extends to other forms of energy, rail-road, urban and agricultural technologies, water resources and health. An equally significant change is that while our efforts till now have been to accelerate inward flows, this is balanced by a growing emphasis on outward collaboration as well. To that end, it is important for India to shape key negotiations and deliberations, whether it is in Geneva, Vienna or Paris. It is equally essential to now start taking the lead, especially in deployment of technologies. The International Solar Alliance is a notable initiative in that regard. But as a country, we need to show strong commitment to promoting our technologies abroad through business activities and developmental partnerships. This has many facets, including extending lines of credit and facilitating trade in services. Both in and out, our interactions can be centred more around their technology relevance.

Among the regional engagements that have acquired a stronger technological component is our Act East policy. From the very start, it was conceived as a foreign policy reflection of a broad national approach towards reform and modernization. We are now in the next phase, where the outreach extends well beyond the ASEAN. The intensity of interaction is also much higher and the potential for collaboration much vaster. This applies most of all to Japan, that brings to bear a unique combination of political, economic, technological and cultural synergies. It is also worth noting that Japan has directly or indirectly actually driven the larger economic resurgence of Asia. Having lived myself in South East Asia and China, I can testify to the difference that Japan has made in the economic growth of those geographies. So, if there is a partner that India needs to reach out to at this juncture, it is to that country.

Japan, of course, has a longstanding presence in the Indian economy and society. For many years, even though it was a large footprint, it was a light one. Opportunities in India that opened up a quarter century ago did not evoke the expected response from Japan, due to their over-caution as much to our uncertainties. Reconciling the "just in time” approach with a "just in case” one was a daunting task. Competing demands from other growing economies were also a factor. Nevertheless, Japan was responsible for two major technological upgrades of the Indian economy: the Maruti and the Metro. Both had ripple effects well beyond their narrow sectors. In fact, it is no exaggeration to state that they have helped change the modern Indian mind set and lifestyle. Maruti Suzuki had a multiplier impact on industry, underlining in that process the first mover advantage in a large and latent market. The Metro, on the other hand, had a demonstrative effect, creating demands from other cities that were not foreseen. Both hold their lessons even now. We are now poised for the third upgrade that combines the two – one associated with High Speed Rail technology. Anyone with a feel for technology or industry would understand and appreciate its enormous potential. Associated with it are best practices of technology deployment – including training and skills, safety, security and maintenance.

Today, there seems a much broader Japanese thinking on India in evidence, one that suggests that a larger and stronger Indian economy is in Japan’s strategic interest. That is reflected, amongst others, in the following:

i. A range of infrastructure and connectivity projects spanning the breadth of India that will significantly accelerate our efforts at industrialization and urbanization. They include major industrial corridors, economic zones, transportation and logistics networks and intra and inter-city facilities. Special attention is being given to our North- East region and the recent creation of an Act East Forum with Japan is a pointer in that direction.
ii. Japan is particularly noted for its skills impartation and training methods. Its partnership with India is now being expressed through the establishment of Japan Institutes of Manufacturing (JIM), Japan Endowed Courses, Technical Internship Training Programme, Japanese language training, and dedicated training courses and centres for major initiatives including the HSR. Let me add that the lastest-5th- JIM is starting tomorrow, coincidentally in Karnataka, in Dharwad.
iii. The numbers and size of Japanese companies operating in India have grown very strongly in the last few years. Commercial interactions have been facilitated by special visa regimes at both ends. Greater attention is being paid to improving quality of life for expatriates.
iv. Energy cooperation has been a significant growth area, with dialogues now giving way to more practical cooperation. This ranges from energy efficiency and smart grids to clean coal and green energy. The stage is now set for cooperation in nuclear energy, where participation of Japanese companies can make a big difference.
v. Longstanding but limited S&T cooperation is now slowly broadening out, with Japanese recognition of benefits from partnering Indian research institutions. We are beginning to see that in bio-medicine and stem cell research, among other areas. At the round table in the morning, I heard some interesting thoughts on what we could do in space collaboration.
vi. Just beyond the horizon is the prospect of defence technology cooperation, where the potential for collaboration is being firmed up through more regular conversations.

India and Japan are admittedly two very different societies, each with its own unique history, sociology and culture. In the past their distance was accentuated by the pulls and pressures of international politics. Today, in an era of growing convergences, our relationship has reached a level of closeness to be called a Special Global and Strategic Partnership. Look at it like a political rating, with its connotation of how much and how well we could work with each other. Bengaluru is just the right place to give that nomenclature concrete expression and I hope that you will all find more ways of taking it forward. I wish you all a productive afternoon.

Note: The above text has been used directly from the Ministry of External Affairs website, and hasn't been edited for content or style by Firstpost.


Published Date: Dec 08, 2017 08:40 am | Updated Date: Dec 08, 2017 11:14 am