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Address by EAM at the Ceremony to Launch 1000 Integrated PhD Fellowships to ASEAN students at IITs

September 17, 2019

My colleague, Minister of Human Resource Development, Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank';
Secretaries in the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of HRD;
Director IIT Delhi;
Ambassador of Thailand,
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Distinguished academics, officials and friends;

I am delighted that you are able to join us at the launch of a platform for the largest capacity-building programme in the ASEAN-India partnership so far. Through the online portal that is being launched today, we open up India's most celebrated educational institutions—the Indian Institutes of Technology—to up to one thousand brilliant young students from our ASEAN partner countries, to carry out doctoral research in India.

As you know by now, the context for this event is the announcement by our Prime Minister at the 25th anniversary Commemorative Summit of ASEAN and India last year. I am indeed grateful to the Ministry of HRD for its diligent effort to implement the vision of our Prime Minister. And I am grateful to IIT Delhi—with which, I should say, I had a brief personal association—for their stewardship of the process to give shape to the vision of our Prime Minister.

Distinguished guests, friends:

Our partnership with ASEAN is built on a foundation of shared values, the most fundamental of which is the priority our civilizations attach to education and science. Our partnership with the nations of Southeast Asia have historically developed through a shared quest for knowledge. Even trade and political ties have followed the pathways and sea routes created by monks, saints and scholars. So it is only natural that in the modern age as well, knowledge remains the fundamental driver of people-to-people ties.

The other great force that continues to transform not just societies and economies, but even human behaviour, is technology. It is the reason that our world is changing today at a pace beyond our capacity to adapt to it. We know from the difficult history of the Asian people that there are serious consequences for societies that are not able to keep abreast with the pace of technological change, leave alone to be at the forefront of innovation. This is one of the reasons why our Prime Minister has consistently challenged Government and society to deploy technology, to innovate and to build a culture that rewards innovation.

This is also the underlying logic for us to offer this programme for upto 1000 fellowships to be offered to the best students from our ASEAN partners, to carry out their PhD studies at our IITs. We welcome students from our Southeast Asian neighbourhood to transform the world by doing research at our IITs on cutting-edge areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced manufacturing techniques, smart materials, efficient energy storage, targetted drugs, bioengineering and the like. At the same time, we also recognize that by broadening the base of our recruitment of doctoral-level students, we also widen the pool of research that is being carried out, thereby enhancing the global reputation of our IITs. In addition to the mutuality of benefit for both sides, this project has a third benefit: it helps the next generation of all ten ASEAN partners, and their Indian counterparts, develop new bonds of friendship. We hope that the next generation of new business ideas and exciting new technological breakthroughs will be launched from the platform provided by these fellowships, enabling research by Indian and South-east Asian students together at our IITs.

In this context, I would like to specially request the ASEAN Heads of Mission present here to partner us in publicizing this initiative, for it is only through our shared effort that we can ensure the success of this initiative. For our part, my Ministry will do its best to make this initiative accessible to all qualified students who have a specific research plan to pursue.


I would be remiss if I did not say a few words about IIT to this audience. We in India know just how highly our society values having a seat at IIT. It is quite easily one of the most difficult entrance examinations in the world; its alumni grace some of the finest laboratories, Universities and companies worldwide. The point that Director (IIT Delhi) made just now. I am therefore grateful to the IITs for their support for this initiative. Opening the doors of these most coveted, most sought after temples of modern India exclusively for our ASEAN partners, underlines the extent to which the Government of Prime Minister Modi wants to ensure that we "Act East" in every way, including to script a better future for all of us in our Asian homeland.

I thank you for your attention.

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