11 June 2022 06:46:10 IST

India should be self-reliant, not protectionist: S Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar speaks to students at IIMB on Atmanirbhar Bharat

There is, today, a very different India in the making. The scale of beneficiaries of schemes taken up in the last eight years to connect people to the banking system, electricity, housing, potable water, replacing firewood in the kitchen with LPG, and public health, will make you understand that India is in the middle of a revolution with lives changing dramatically, and this ‘revolution’ is happening democratically. So, the India you step into as you start off with your careers will be fundamentally different,” said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar while addressing the students of IIM Bangalore on Atmanirbhar Bharat.

The External Affairs Minister highlighted that the country was going through a socio-economic change in its bid to create a social security net which will raise the bottom line of India. “So, India will be different in terms of its skills, demand, entrepreneurial and business acumen, and this change is linked to the implementation of Atmanirbhar Bharat.” 

People-centric policies 

Describing Atmanirbhar Bharat, he said, it means a better-enabled India — better-fed, more healthy, more self-reliant, and self-confident. “What it is not is a protectionist India. It is: make with and make for the world. India is not trying to get more strength by building walls, but by engaging with the global community.” 

“The underpinning to Atmanirbhar Bharat is its people-centric policies, as the most important resource of a country is its people. So, raising the quality of human resources is one of the goals which will be a game-changer. If we have come up short in achieving a few of these goals in the past compared to other countries, it is not due to our practice of democracy. Moreover, the process of correction has now begun. Earlier, if the last mile delivery was lacking due to a problem in the transmission system, there is now an enormous governance change. And, that has been made possible due to the application of digital technology, which is significantly responsible for the scale of success of our schemes.” 

When technology drives change 

“The belief that this new India is destined for a greater place in the world is happening due to the effective realisation of sustainable goals. Our schemes are aligned with such goals. And realising these goals will change the socio-economic landscape of the country and uplift our human resources.” 

He outlined some of the tools needed to attain these goals such as physical infrastructure, urbanisation, ‘smart’ cities, digital policies, and innovation push. “All these are needed to create energies and using these energies through technology which in turn results in delivery.” 

He said although primary education in the country has developed significantly, the number of premium higher education institutions had to increase, along with raising tertiary education and building vocational skills. 

He said that the Covid experience was revealing and instructive. The making of vaccines, achieving two billion shots, and the CoWIN platform — the organised digital platform which saw India through its entire vaccination process — he explained, are all “brilliant” examples of a more self-reliant India.

Changing mindsets

“If we apply the same mindset to our perennial challenges, we can come up with sustainable solutions for them. The Covid experience taught us that in times of stress not being Atmanirbhar can become a national security vulnerability issue. India, like large parts of the world post-Covid, is moving to a ‘just-in-case’ scenario and building the capacity to be self-reliant. India is working to enhance its domestic supply chain networks. Atmanirbhar Bharat is an economic outlook — it is national self-confidence. We need to utilise and leverage our connection with the world to build our indigenous capacities. We need to facilitate ease of doing business, and be a manufacturing economy, along with being a service economy,” he said.  

Dr Jaishankar’s address to the audience was followed by an interactive session, moderated by Prof Sourav Mukherji, Dean of Alumni Relations and Development, and faculty in the OB and HRM area, during which he took questions on a range of issues, from India’s foreign policy, his take on the Russia-Ukraine situation, the border tensions with China, the growing power of regional pacts and his own career path, from a diplomat to a politician. He spent a few moments dwelling on his stint with Tata Sons and spoke of the “immense learning.”

Jaishankar took a campus tour after his interaction with students, spending time at NSRCEL — the centre for innovation and entrepreneurial learning at IIM Bangalore. 

Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairperson, Board of Governors, IIM Bangalore, said, “I used to think that our top national priority was healthcare, now I think it is national defence and security. The impact of defence research will be crucial for our country. And the equipment to build that security has to be built in our country. India is blessed with the best institutes of higher education; the start-up ecosystem here is thriving. So, our future generation is well poised to make the dream of Atmanirbhar Bharat a reality.” 

Deans Chetan Subramanian (Faculty) and Rajendra K Bandi (Administration), and several faculty members were present at the interaction, along with students from IIMB’s degree-granting programmes. Col (Retd) SD Aravendran, Chief Administrative Officer, IIMB, delivered the vote of thanks.