It is important for a country to be open-minded about its own record, said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during a session on his book The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World, at an event co-hosted by Symbiosis International and Pune International Centre, part of the Symbiosis International University Literary Festival, on Saturday.
“We need to relook the last 20-25 years and ask, ‘which parts have we got right and which we did not?” said Jaishankar during the online session. He was responding to a question by the moderator, former ambassador Gautam Bambawale, on whether India should be growing at a faster GDP rate so that the asymmetry with China — economically, militarily and otherwise — is reduced.
“I would definitely like to see India grow much faster and develop more capability, but not because we are competing with China. We have to do it for ourselves. In a sense, we are competing against everybody in the world….In the last 20-25 years, we have grown faster. But, we must ask ourselves, was that a long-term sustainable growth,” he said.
Jaishankar added that, in the past, India had tried to build on many sectors with solutions imported from outside, but the downside was that the country did not generate support systems or create employment.
“Normally, when a country grows or industrialises, it expands its smaller and medium-scale enterprises. In our case, they have been negatively impacted… We have not got the employment numbers which should be coming from that growth rate. We are not doing employment-centric growth. I would say. the trade arrangements and manufacturing strategy need to be adjusted and the employment centrality needs to be looked at,” he said.
Jaishankar also pointed out that reforms in India have included the financial, power and telecom sectors but lagged in terms of human development. It is in the fields of human resource development, mass housing and healthcare that countries such as Japan have scored over India, he said.
“The thinking of atmanirbharta (self-reliance) came to Japan 150 years ago. I am very glad that atmanirbharta is today the core direction of government policy. If we can make atmanirbharta the mindset of people and have confidence, but also pride in our productions, this country is capable of doing great things,” he said, citing the example of the country’s enterprises rising to the challenge of Covid-19.
“When the pandemic hit us, we had no PPEs and hardly any masks or ventilators. We produced it. Six months… and this country has risen to the challenge,” he said.
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