The Minister for Information & Broadcasting Shri
Manish Tewari today delivered Fullerton Lecture at IISS, Singapore. Text
of the speech is as follows:
Honourable Dr. Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS, Asia, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to speak to this august gathering. In a short
period of time the Fullerton Lecture Series have established themselves as a
signature event. The galaxy of eminences who have spoken hear bears eloquent
testimony to the pre-eminent position of the IISS as one of the foremost
thought platforms of the world.
Let me begin from the beginning. What after all is the India story?
What are the contours and parameters within which we are trying to locate the India story?
What time frames are we talking about? Since its liberation in 1947, India has been
an unfolding tale of a million mutinies that have been imploding on its mosaic
on a daily basis. Zillions of ambitions and aspirations that bubble up every
day in the hearts and minds of more than a billion people who are the permanent
cast in this story. It thus becomes imperative to locate and anchor this milieu
in its broader historical context. Even a narrower focus on India's growth trajectory in the last one decade
would be incomplete and perhaps misleading if we do not take into account the
factors that have moulded and shaped the policies India has adopted as also defined
and determined the path it has trodden.
The idea of India
has baffled many thoughtful gentlemen in the past too. Prime Minister Winston
Churchill could not imagine that India was a single Westphalian
entity any more than the equator was.
Since Independence, the warp and the woof
of the India
story has been consistently woven by the Congress around a pluralistic society
aspiring for equity in the policy frameworks of governance. The India story has
been, by and large, consistent with this vision and understanding of India
since the Congress has been heading the government for almost the better part
of time over the past sixty six years except perhaps intermittently for
little over a decade when other political formations were at the helm of
the ship of state.
As we engage in this conversation a round of provincial elections are
playing themselves out concurrently and national elections are
scheduled for the April- May of 2014. However to discern the policy
priorities for a Congress government in its next term it is imperative too
first delineate the core contours that define India today.
rewind to 2004 and evaluate the past nine plus years of UPA's rule as
that is both the trampoline and the spring board for future policy initiatives.
(i) The first
contour of course is demographics. India is a young country with
increasing capacities both among its employable and the employed
population. When this dividend starts declining among some of the hyper powers
of today say by 2033 India
would just about be peaking and plateuing on this score.
(ii) The second is the increasing efficiency of its working
twenty one year old who started his career in 1991, now has 21 years of
experience in a neo-liberal economic order. They are now more than acquainted
with modern technology, foreign companies, and above all a market driven
(iii) The third is better companies. Indian
companies are increasingly becoming both capable and competitive.
The trepidation that our corporate institutions are archaic monolith's that
would collapse in the face of global competition has been replaced by a
sanguineness manifested by Indian corporations in a plethora of sectors.
They have not only become conglomerates but are rapidly acquiring companies
in the emerged economies also.
(iv) The fourth is an
increasingly robust financial order. India invests 35 per cent of
its GDP every year. Steps are being initiated to reinforce the financial
system by emulating best practices that the global financial system have on
offer. The objective being to convert good investment to GDP ratio into a
higher rate of GDP growth.
(v) The fifth is enhanced economic integration. India is now
engaging with the world in a humongous manner. Gross flows on the current
account are now 63.3 per cent of GDP and gross flows on the financial account
are now 55.3 per cent of GDP. This fructifies into cross border gross flows of
118.6 per cent of GDP. This makes India one of the more permissive
economies in the world. Engagement with the world brings in its wake a flow of
ideas that invigorates the intellectual landscape also.
(vi) The sixth is liberalism, democracy and a bottoms
up Public Discourse. A Liberal democracy that anchors both the rule of
law and an institutionalised judicial system Democracy ensures that
issues which resonate with an overwhelming bulk of the people engage the
collective energies of the policy community and liberalism ensures that there
is space for the last man in the last row to live his dream without fear of
discrimination or bias while the new media provides an opportunity to over 100
million Indians and growing the ability to articulate their views without let
Now let's turn to evaluating the performance of the UPA over the past
nine plus years. They are broadly five parameters on which any democratic
dispensation can be benchmarked. They are as follows;
Stability- Since entering an era of coalition politics in 1991 India saw a
fair amount of fluidity from 1996 -2004 an era that saw non-congress
governments and coalition’s at the centre. However if one was to
juxtapose those eight years with the nine plus years of UPA rule from the May
of 2004 till now you would discern that Political Instability as a thought,
construct or a concept has almost but disappeared from the terra -firma of the
Indian public discourse. This is the bedrock that has facilitated a silent
revolution of empowerment that has engulfed India over the past decade.
The specifics of which I would elaborate later in my presentation.
Cohesion- The idea of India
has been underpinned by the core values that constitute the philosophical
construct of natural rights and humanism. They are the fundamental freedoms of
thought, expression, religious beliefs, democratic choice and a variety of
others that fall within the remit of this overarching construct. The India that the UPA inherited in 2004 was scarred
by a state sponsored pogrom perpetrated against the largest minority in the
west Indian state of Gujarat. Coming on the
heels of the religious polarisation perpetuated in the late 1980’s and early
1990’s using Indian mythology as an anchor it put a severe strain on the
pluralistic ethos of India. One of the foremost tasks of the UPA
government was to reassure its citizen’s and especially the minorities that
there life, limb and liberty would receive the fullest protection of the Indian
state while persevering to bring the criminals who implemented this pogrom to
justice. For the true test of a democracy is not how you treat your majority
but rather how you treat your minorities. Over the past years the UPA
government has been successful in mitigating fear, maintaining peace and
mainstreaming the minorities. This has resulted in the dissipation of the
perception of a nation at war with itself. Again this has provided a fillip to
economic activity as both the people and the state have been able to
concentrate their attention upon bread and butter issues.
Security& it’s external linkages-India still faces serious challenges
to its internal security both in the North West from cross border state
sponsored terrorist activity as well as in the North East where ethnic
insurgencies receive external patronage. Coupled with this is the problem of
left wing extremism in central India
where the bulk of our natural resources are concentrated. The UPA government
through a combination of hard power and soft power initiatives as well as
capacity augmentation measures has been able to keep the security situation
stable despite grave provocations. The worst of course being the Mumbai outrage
of 2008 ironically whose fifth anniversary was yesterday. Unfortunately the
accused who perpetrated this assault continue to enjoy the generous hospitality
of our neighbour. With triple transitions coming up in Afghanistan next year
the security situation in South and West Asia requires responsible
engagement by all stakeholders. Similarly in the eastern theatre and the broader
Indian Ocean region the string of pearls and other such exotically disruptive
paradigms would only serve to make the global commons more volatile rather than
secure the global flows of goods and resources.
Development- In the past nine plus years the UPA government has built
up perhaps the most ambitious and holistic rights based social security
infrastructure. The Right to information, guaranteed 100 days of employment to
the rural poor, free and compulsory education to each child below 14 years of
age, the most comprehensive school lunch programme that feeds 120 million
children daily, food security for over 800 million people, forest rights to the
indigenous people and the overhaul of antiquated land acquisition laws the list
of initiatives is breath taking in the trinity of its scale conception and
implementation. All this was actioned without sacrificing growth. The UPA
government has delivered an average rate of 8.1 % GDP growth over the past nine
plus years. The mantra of equity with growth has been captioned and the talk
has beenwalked.This was
achieved despite the Arbitrage, Derivatives and leverages- the ADL cocktail of
2008 that mauled the neo-liberal economic order down to its very fundamentals.
After four stellar years from 2004 to the September of 2008 growth did
slow down in 2008-09, but India quickly rebounded from the slower growth
of 6.7 per cent in that year to record rates of growth of 8.6 per cent in
2009-10 and 9.3 per cent in 2010-11 respectively.
Unfortunately there was a yet another upheaval in the global
economy in 2011 on account of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and that
resulted in the subsequent slide in the global economic paradigms. Concurrently
India also had to confront domestic constraints on investment and consumption.
As a corollary growth declined to 6.2 per cent in 2011–12 and 5.0
per cent in 2012-13. The current account deficit widened to USD 88 billion
or 4.8 per cent of GDP in 2012-13 though indications suggest that we would
close the fiscal with a CAD of 3.8%. A sharp down turn in manufacturing growth
and a quantitative decrease in the services sector further decelerated growth
in the first quarter of 2013-14 to 4.4 %. India’s economic indices during
this period are not an exception but unfortunately the current norm. Most
developing economies have been hit by the phenomenon labelled as
the 'Great Descent'.
The silver lining however is the manifestation of the green shoots of
recovery in the badly-affected Euro zone economies.
Anticipation of an upward swing in the economic trajectory of the US,
coupled with the back benching of quantitative easing, has generated hope
of a gradual global revival. The Indian economy has also showed early
indications of recovery with an increase in exports in the second economic
quarter; reversal of negative growth in the manufacturing
sector, rise in freight traffic, a generous monsoon and a sharp increase in the
sown area which should fructify into enhanced farm output. Numerous reform
measures over the past one year should start fructifying from the second half
of the current fiscal translating into the expectation that the Indian economy
will grow at over 5.0 per cent and perhaps closer to 5.5 per cent in 2013-14.
Juxtaposed against global economic context even a growth rate of 5.0 per cent
should qualify for more than an E for effort. Our foremost policy priority
therefore, would be to return the growth trajectory to the commanding heights
of the previous decade by expediting pending financial legislation as well as
other policy initiatives which would ensure the top tracking of this process.
e) Foreign Policy- In the past nine plus years one of the significant
successes of the UPA has been strategic positioning of India’s
interests in the evolving churn of global developments. India has successfully
engaged with US, Russia, China, EU, Japan, ASEAN, other global powers,
multilateral institutions and its own region managing contradictions without
being overawed by the responsibility that the movement to multi polarity
portends. Notwithstanding the Asian rebalance, the continued emergence of China
as the lonely power or the tumultuous events in the Middle east the moral
imperatives that form the bedrock of our foreign policy have not been diluted
but tempered with the pragmatism of the times we live in.
In the past nine plus years the task of national reconstruction
has been almost frantic to say the least. Let me enumerate the steps
taken to improve the Indian financial architecture in this year itself. A
commission of theoreticians and practitioners has drafted a new Indian
Financial Code a legislation drafted to replace 50 existing laws governing
finance with a single concurrent financial statute. A brand new Companies
Act is now in place. Commodity futures are now dealt by the Ministry of
Finance. A new law has been promulgated establishing the Defined
Contributory Pension mechanism under a statutory regulator.
The obvious question that then begs an answer is what must be the policy
priorities of a Congress /UPA govt in 2014, if people do give us that
opportunity. Simply put it should translate into consolidating the
progress of the previous decade to build a state that is able to deliver
to the expectations of an empowered, ignited, transformed, connected but
a very restless young India.
The first and foremost task is to ensure that India transcends from a
low Middle income to a Middle Income country. This would require liberalising
our economy further to attract FDI/ FII inflows. This in turn means ensuring
that an environment is recreated where it is easy to do business and ensuring
that profit is not made to sound like a dirty word in our public discourse.
This is the only way to ensure that the ten million plus young people- the flower
of our democratic dividend are gainfully employed. Coupled with this is of
course a special emphasis too quickly put in place the remaining
building blocks of the financial edifice namely the Direct Taxes Code, Goods
& Services Tax legislation Banking and Insurance enactments DTAA's
TIEU's to name but a few.
The second is to build the Capacity of the state to be able to
effectively address, surmount and yet nurture the opportunities that emerging
frontiers have on offer. A State that can deliver public goods and
services efficaciously. The third is a concerted attempt to
completely overhaul India's colonial administrative system so that
vertical and horizontal avenues of talent intake are created at every level of
government. Perform or perish must be the new administrative mantra of India.
The fourth is the rewriting of a panoply of century old laws with an
expiry date to synchronise them with contemporary realities that adequately
empower the instrumentalities of the state to implement these covenants by
putting in place mechanisms that put a premium on both performance and
accountability. The fifth is to create capacity in the judicial system at
all levels to ensure that delivery of justice is efficacious and swift. The
sixth is to make it unambiguously clear to our public institutions
that policy choices and their execution are the eminent domain of
democratically elected governments. The seventh is to work for the reform of
global institutions to reflect current global realities and not the post
world war II power balance. The eighth is to augment institutional wherewithal
to protect our national interests both on land and the high seas from
state and non state actors. The ninth is to work with likeminded nations
prevent and pre-empt militarization of outer space. The tenth of course is to
redouble our efforts at global disarmament. in this context we welcome the
accord with regard to Iran's Nuclear programme. The last but not the least is
to fix our politics and regenerate a spirit of multi-partisanship on critical
policy issues so that our legislative institutions remain relevant to
underwrite this transformation.
As we look to the next two decades India requires space for
consolidation to action the above elucidated menu of priorities. That means
tranquillity on our borders, stability at home and an enlightened and secular
leadership that can engage at home and with the world in a spirit of
partnership and not demagoguery.
India’s path of inclusive growth rests on the principles of social justice
and equity, peace and harmony, pluralistic understanding of the social reality
and celebration of diversity. This
ladies and gentlemen in brief is a snapshot of the real India story.