Welcome Remarks by Dr Arvind Gupta, Director VIF during the Book Release: Aatmanirbhar Bharat: A Swadeshi Paradigm, edited by Ashwani Mahajan

It is a matter of great pleasure far the VIF to organise today’s event to release the book Aatmanirbhar Bharat: A Swadeshi Paradigm edited by Sh. Ashwani Mahajan.

A timely book, it is a collection of essays by prominent economists, reflecting over the concept of Aatmanirbhar Bharat articulated by Prime Minister Modi in 2020 and assessing the achievements made so far in making India truly self-reliant.

I would like and thank Sh. S. Gurumurthy ji, Sh. N.K. Singh, Prof. Ashwani Mahajan, Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Prof Nagesh Kumar, and Dr. Shamika Ravi for participating in today’s ‘discussion.

The book has a foreword by Dr. Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghchalak RSS, emphasising the philosophical and spiritual dimension of Atmanirbharata in the Indian context.

Prof. Ashwani Mahajan has written a fine introduction in which he has explained how PM Modi’s concept of Aatmanirbhar Bharat is very different from that of self-reliance during Nehru’s time.

Reading this book, one can get a good sense of what Aatmanirbharta is and what it is not.

The concept of Aatmanirbharta, deeply rooted in the concept of Swadeshi, is a pillar on which the idea of New India, Bharat, will rest.

This is also an idea which will help India to navigate the highly uncertain world which is turbulent and volatile.

Aatmanirbhar Bharat implies making Indian manufacturing globally competitive, reducing excessive dependencies on imports, preventing deindustrialisation and building India’s strengths and capacities. Aatmanirbhar Bharat means leveraging India’s domestic strengths, encouraging indigenous entrepreneurship and innovations to compete internationally.

Aatmanirbhar Bharat does not mean autarky or closing India from the rest of the world. Aatmanirbharata means more and not less engagement with the world. But we will have to decide the terms of engagement in keeping with our national interests.

In 2021, the VIF had also published a book titled Aatmanirbhar Bharat: A Vibrant and Strong India, for which PM Modi had written a message. Sh Gurumurthi ji had observed in that book:

“Aatmanirbharta is the civilisational philosophic narrative of a people that recall and sustain their self-pride with course correction based on self-criticism”.

We have to make Aatmanirbharta a practical idea. While dependencies on the outside world cannot be eliminated entirely, reducing excessive dependencies is essential. That is the lesson of the Covid. Self-reliance or Aatmanirbharta will need to be achieved in the areas of energy, high technology, defence manufacturing, food, pharmaceuticals, critical materials, and even foreign policy. To take one example, we will need to rethink our approach to energy transition to net zero by reinvigorating nuclear energy which is clean, durable and in which India has inherent advantages.

Another area that we need to consider is the changing nature of work under the impact of new technologies like artificial intelligence, big data analysis, machine learning and the fusion of bio and informatics revolutions. We need to promote Aatmanirbharta in R&D and high technology domains without shunning beneficial collaborations.

We need to stem the brain drain that is taking place in these areas. Aatmanirbharta should create high quality jobs in the country as domestic production is ramped up. One way we can promote Aatmanirbharta is to improve the ease of doing business not only for foreign investors but for Indian businesses too. A lot more needs to be done in this direction.

This book raises many issues for debate and discussion. I now request the editor Prof. Ashwani Mahajan to introduce the Book. Thereafter I will invite the panellists to make their comments.

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