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Remarks by External Affairs Minister at Growth Net Summit 2015 in New Delhi (March 26, 2015)

March 26, 2015

Hon’ble Members of Parliament,
Hon’ble Members of the Diplomatic Core,
Leading lights of the business community and academia,
Distinguished guests,

Namaskaar, and a very good evening to all of you.

  • It is a pleasure and privilege to be here with all of you today at the 3rd Growth Net Summit.
  • The new Government is completing 10 months in office and we are all witness to a renewed sense of aspiration, optimism and hope in our people. Armed with a historic mandate, reflecting the desire of the people to have a strong, stable and decisive government, the new government is striving to create a fresh environment of growth and entrepreneurship.
  • Underpinning these efforts is Prime Minister Modi's mantra of "minimum government, maximum governance”, a paradigm where government empowers and facilitates the realization of aspirations of the people by providing a conducive environment for such efforts to flourish, and where development is led by the vibrant energy of the people themselves.
  • This refreshing approach is in contrast to that of a heavy-handed, micro-managing state, followed during most of this country's post-independence period that led to market distortions, inefficient outcomes, and ineffectual implementation of well-intending schemes.
  • . Our focus is on empowering the people so that their dependency on the state is reduced over time. Consequently, the intent is to move beyond entitlements and focus on areas that can create economic opportunities and freedom for the people such as skill development, financial inclusion, social security and education.
  • All these efforts that we collectively as a nation make towards realizing our socio-economic vision for the future are set against the background of a rapidly globalizing world, where ramifications of one nation state's policy decisions often spill-over onto the rest of the world. It is no longer possible to remain isolated from the rest of the world and forge a meaningful economic development strategy.
  • Indeed, India's engagement, particularly economic engagement, with the rest of the world has grown and expanded significantly, and it is only natural that our foreign policy is such that it contributes substantially to the growth story.
  • The aim of our economic diplomacy is to protect and promote our economic and commercial interests abroad and to exploit the opportunities thrown up by the fast integrating world. In this emerging paradigm, the way forward for economic growth and development involves the forging of economic and strategic partnerships globally.
  • Our foreign policy and diplomacy that implements it are playing a crucial role in forging these partnerships. This was reflected in the recently held Heads of Missions Conference in New Delhi. The overarching theme for the Conference was "Diplomacy for Development: New Vision, New Vigour”. The Conference provided an opportunity for both an exchange of thoughts between the Headquarters and the Missions, as well as an interaction with players beyond the Ministry. India's development is the underpinning mantra of all actions of my Ministry, not just in an economic sense but as a larger concept of national rejuvenation.
  • Today, India is ideally placed to emerge as a powerful player in global manufacturing landscape and export markets using our unique advantage of 3D - Democracy, Demography and Demand. At the centre of this endeavour is the Make in India campaign. However, leveraging the 3D advantage requires appropriate public policy and also a positive external environment in terms of trade and investment opportunities.
  • The Commerce Wings in our Missions abroad are being re-energized as the focal point of commercial activity. The Make in India programme for instance, was launched and promoted with much vigour by our Missions abroad. At Hannover Messe 2015, the world’s largest industrial trade fair next month, India will take centre stage as the official partner country. This fair provides the perfect platform to showcase India’s engineering prowess and reinforce the Government initiatives like ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’ and ‘Digital India’.
  • Apart from activities that help bring exporters and importers together for mutual economic benefits, our Commerce wings are also playing a role in resolving trade disputes that sometimes arise. By enhancing and widening the available markets for Indian producers, as well as finding them new avenues to source supplies from, our Missions are making a direct and important contribution to the economic growth of the country.
  • Upgrading our physical infrastructure is crucial not only for direct productivity gains, but also in order to attract investors to set-up manufacturing units in India. Improving the business climate and making India a more attractive place to set up businesses has accordingly been one of the major thrust areas of our government.
  • Our Act East Policy is reflective of our desire to move into a more proactive and action-oriented phase of India’s Look East Policy. The success of this policy is evident from the close engagement we have had with the ASEAN countries in the last few months. I have myself visited Singapore, Vietnam and Myanmar and plan to visit Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia this year.
  • We have made special efforts to develop a coherent strategy on connectivity, particularly for linking ASEAN with our North East. On this we are working on both land and air connectivity. Our economic engagement with ASEAN has also been stepped up. Here our priorities are regional integration and implementation of projects in various sectors such as connectivity, energy, education, IT and culture.
  • We are committed to ensuring a governance and regulatory system that would be transparent, responsive and investor-friendly. The government has taken a number of steps in this regard. I would like to mention a few of them today:
    • Building a broad consensus on GST by working with the states. The GST Bill has been tabled in Parliament and is to be launched by April 2016;
    • Increasing the foreign investment limit in important sectors such as in defence and insurance from 26 to 49% and in railways to 100%;
    • Undertaking series of reforms to remove distortions in labour markets;
    • Fast-tracking of project clearances with direct monitoring by the PMO;
    • Putting in place a new monetary policy framework with the central bank focussing on inflation targeting as its principal task.
  • Many of these reforms reflect the cognizance of the fact that foreign investment, including from private sources, is crucial to fill up the savings-investment gap that India will encounter as it moves forward with an infrastructure push with industrial corridors and smart cities as important pillars. The concept of a smart city, for example, is based on creating ecologically friendly urban settlements that exploit technology to offer a more structured and healthy living environment.
  • All these are areas where we could benefit from collaboration and technology transfers. Indeed, India's foreign policy is gearing up for the tasks at hand. For example, we have recently signed sister-city agreements such as the Varanasi-Kyoto agreement, in order to fast-track modernization of our cities in the face of the challenges posed by rapid urbanization by learning from international best practices.
  • Another flagship programme that stands to benefit from such collaboration is the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. Announced from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day by Prime Minister Modi, the plan is to equip every household with toilet facility by 2019, Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary year. The implementation is to take an inclusive approach, involving the private sector, civil society, elected representatives, and all Indians and not just safai karmacharis.
  • An important aspect of creating a culture of cleanliness involves rejuvenation of our rivers. Action on cleaning of our holy river Ganga in particular cannot be further postponed. The river Ganga has a special place in our heritage and culture. The solution lies in creating a national character of cleanliness and hygiene but my Ministry has an important role in sourcing international experience and expertise.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and the Skill India Mission are two other endeavours to enable our youth to realize their potential. The Jan Dhan Yojana provides access to modern banking and financial instruments to the most vulnerable. The Skill India Mission aims at equipping the youth with skills that will enable them to access better livelihoods.
  • Further, with an acute realization that the 21st century will turn out to be a knowledge-based century, we are placing a high premium on scientific research. This is reflected in the Global Initiative of Academic network (GIAN) programme. GIAN is an ambitious initiative that will connect Centrally recognised institutions, notably Central universities, IITs and IIMs with the best scholars and institutions abroad. This will be beneficial in boosting research in cutting-edge technologies and building stronger academic networks.
  • Incorporating local bodies and state governments in our outreach to the world is part of a broader effort, in accordance with Prime Minister’s Modi's vision of co-operative federalism. To implement this vision my Ministry has created a "States Division” which is responsible for liaisoning with the states for all trade and investment related purposes. This will do away with the traditional one-size-fits-all approach and give a more local-needs based dimension to our foreign policy. We have also asked all our IFS officers to specialize in understanding the needs of two States of their choice.
  • Another reflection of the inclusive approach to development, wherein the state is just one of the multiple stake-holders, is our increasing interaction with the Indian diaspora abroad. Prime Minister has launched a new form, a higher level of dialogue with the Indian diaspora across the world. He has reached out to them, and they have reciprocated his warmth and friendship.
  • Our diaspora could be our most valuable partner in implementation of the flagship schemes of the Government be it Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, Clean Ganga, skill development, smart cities or GIAN. When I interact with our brothers and sisters abroad I always ask them to keep one foot in India and nurture their roots by supporting the development efforts of the Government.
  • I do not, therefore, need to emphasise that this government places high priority in bringing the Indian diaspora closer to India and Indian life, and in making them stakeholders in the nation’s future. The government recently merged the PIO and OCI cards, thereby extending a number of benefits to Persons of Indian Origin such as life-long visas. Our Diplomatic Missions worldwide are placing high importance on diaspora related activities. We are building a sustained, broad-based and substantive engagement with the diaspora.
  • Apart from a fruitful economic engagement with their country of origin, the diaspora also acts as a vehicle of India's soft power abroad. As you know, a major success of our diplomatic engagement has been the adoption by the UN General Assembly of June 21 as the ‘International Day of Yoga’. This important step underlines the immense possibilities for projecting India’s soft power abroad. The Digital Diplomacy efforts of my Ministry have also helped in projecting our soft power abroad.
  • In conclusion, let me re-iterate that our Government is committed to the motto of "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” that is taking everyone together in our common aspiration for India's development. Prime Minister himself has taken the lead in reaching out to the private sector, civil society, Indian diaspora abroad and foreign collaborators and investors and engaging all of them in transforming our country.
  • I believe all the luminaries present today have unique insights and perspectives that can help make this endeavour succeed. I hope the deliberations in this Summit will generate new ideas and fresh perspectives. With these words let me thank you all.

 

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