Address(Excerpts) by Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar, Honourable Vice President at the inauguration of the renovated library of the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) at Sapru House, New Delhi on September 13, 2023.

New Delhi | September 13, 2023

My greetings to all of you!

It was very heartening, encouraging, when I noticed the introduction of each of you. The introduction was backed by solid foundation. You have forayed into critical areas as an expert. Congratulations!

I find the performance of the Indian Council of World Affairs has been much above the mark, much beyond my expectations, it has performed wonderfully. I got very encouraging reports; the kind of MoUs which you have had with the universities. The presentations made to me are encouraging and increase my knowledge of world affairs. They are very decisive, they are very thorough, very comprehensive. There will be greater expectations, more work allocation. If you don't do homework, nobody gives you additional homework but if you do your homework well then be ready to do more homework.

The occasion is indeed a milestone. When I looked around, it has everything of congeniality for the person who wants to know the facilities, there is no ostentation, there is nothing outrageous. All in sync with academic minds, a good atmosphere, one can be at peace with oneself, exploit one’s talent and potential, reach out to conclusion and formulation of his or her inclination. This has happened after 80 years, it was much needed. I am sure there will be footfalls, footfalls are not statistics, they are not miracles, we are not crazy about footfalls, we are crazy about those footfalls that matter, that can contribute to the larger good of the society and the country. So this establishment is now acting in a different way. I have no doubt Ambassador Thakur will take it to another higher level; that will happen.

Indian Council of World Affairs will now have to invent itself, you are the window to every citizen of the world and you are the window for every outsider to the country. We are one-sixth of humanity, so your job is twofold, you have to make aware the outside world, what is happening in this great country because India is in a defining moment of history. Certain things that are happening are beyond dream, imagination and conception of the outside world. They can never imagine that this could happen in a country that has diversity of religion, caste, creed, language and everything.

Let me give you two illustrations, I started my political journey in 1989, I was elected to Lok Sabha and was an Union Minister but what I saw then was that our foreign reserves was less than two billion, we could not take care for more than two weeks. In physical form gold had to be airlifted to be placed to two banks. And now foreign exchange reserves are more than 600 billion, that everyone should note. This is an achievement.

No one knows better than you about Fragile Five: Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia, South Africa and India.  Just a decade back, the economies of these countries were supposed to be the burden on the world. There was a need for upliftment and just imagine in ten years where we have come; from fragile five to being the 5th largest global economy. By the turn of the decade we will be the third largest economy. Now this impression, if it emanates from such an authentic body like ICWA, it will impact our Indian diaspora, it will impact global leaders because you are accountable for whatever you say and whatever you say is defendable, whatever you say is provable, this is only manifested.

One of the subjects is Digital Development in the country, the world is surprised at the kind of technology penetration this country has had. Everyone had to pay for service charges, to apply for government facilities, to apply for a passport. The long queues used to be there, you ask your elders, they would have to take half a day leave from office to deposit a water bill, electricity bill, now this big change has come but you are the authentic platform to indicate to the world that our accomplishment on a global horizon is 46% of the world. We are four times in digital transactions in the USA, UK, France and Germany, this if you say and someone does research seriously and goes to micro-level- it matters.

Come to the applicability and skills when it comes to use of mobile phones, computers. Per Capita Data Consumption in our country is more than that of the USA and China taken together. You have to take the world, you have to neutralize false narratives. When they talk of food scarcity in India; you have to tell the world that from 1st April 2020, more than 800 million people are getting free rice, wheat and pulses, and this continues. No one in the world can claim to have it.

You have to generate a perception about India that is in sync with the ground reality of today. 2200 million certificates of COVID vaccinations are digital. In all other countries they are on paper. Just imagine, what an accomplishment, what a feat!

You have to create a mechanism where, a senior diplomat once said, in diplomacy you win a point. If you score a point by argument, you lose the battle. So you as researchers will neutralize them by having an exhaustive input on a particular issue.

I had occasion to personally listen to what some of the global leaders in the world of science, heading organisations, have to say about this country. You will be surprised that they talked about us before we could talk. We should be taking the lead. We have to tell even our own people how effective, impactful and strong we are on the ground.

Shri Ajay Banga, World Bank chief, said about the collective achievements, there is vision of the Prime Minister, there is mission, there is passion, there is execution by the bureaucracy, and there is acceptability by the people at large. He said, "India has achieved financial inclusion targets in just six years which would otherwise have taken at least forty-seven long years." A man who is in charge of the World Bank, who has a global vision, who is accountable for every word he says, he is appreciating our country.

Someone here has to engage in that research paper, that India's financial inclusion started when we had those Jan Dhan accounts. There were critics, which are bound to be in every dispensation. They may be well motivated, they may be ill-motivated. But if you examine how the landscape of the country has changed, by financial inclusion, how many accounts have been opened, they run into more 400- 500 million. The impact is to the farmers; I am taking them as a category, because the farmer is in a village, the farmer is farthest from technology, I belong to a farmers’ family, so I know that. If in this country, three times a year, 110 million farmers can get money in their account directly… it speaks volumes, the one who is delivering is competent but the recipient is also equally competent. This is because of financial inclusion. Therefore this one statement can be the subject matter of a research paper. A comprehensive paper that will take us a long way.

Ajay Banga further said, “Ground-breaking measures taken by the central government, and the pivotal role of government policies and regulations is shaping the digital public infrastructure landscape.”

Those of you who have roots in the village, go to your village, the internet will work there, it will be better. In our country, development is not pyramidal, that the metro is rising and at the lower level no one is attending the villages. Instead in our country the rise is like a plateau. All things are rising. You have airports, you have rail infrastructure, you have road infrastructure, you have technological infrastructure, and you have health and educational facilities in the village. Then the World Bank Chief says, “India’s digital public infrastructure has held a transformative impact, extending far beyond just financial inclusion."

I want some of you to focus on this transformative impact, how it has changed lives of people, how they are beneficiaries and how India is a role model that can contribute globally for development of such infrastructure in other countries. That will happen, once there are effective people.

Anyone writing a research paper will have a meaning. But if that research paper is projected, by the Indian Council of World Affairs, its impact is going to be very different.

I went to the European Union as a leader of the Indian delegation in 1990.  The EU has four capitals, I went to all four capitals. Now if you examine G20, it has so many nations, but it also has the European Union. You can engage in research about the members of the European Union, who are part of G20 because of being a part of the European Union. What was the status decades ago?

A historic development, a milestone development is that the African Union is a part of G20. This is a great achievement. Another achievement on which study needs to be done is a corridor which goes from Bharat to Saudi Arabia, Middle East and Europe, when it goes up to Phnom Penh and Vietnam. Examine it in the context of what the others have done. Look at the corridor, the impact it will have, go into to the historical background that this corridor exactly was functional, thousands of years ago.

There is a war for which our Prime Minister has indicated two things, in the last 20 months. One, we are not in an era of expansion. That was a very strong statement that a sovereign nation cannot engage in expansion, which means you are making an incursion into the sovereignty of another nation. Second, war is no solution to a problem. Solution, resolution has to emanate from dialogue, debate, and diplomacy.

You are the most important part of dialogue, discussion and diplomacy. Those of us who act in Parliament, will be much wiser, if we are counselled by your inputs. Your inputs are bound to be very thorough, exhaustive at micro level, duly filtered. That is something ICWA has to do, I am sure it will do it.

Joe Biden, President of the USA said, "The African Union is a critical partner.” Yes! But this was released by Bharat, everyone agreed but no-one took initiative earlier. He further said, “You (PM Modi) are bringing us together, keeping us together, and reminding us that we have the capacity to tackle challenges together."

India's presidency at G-20 was a breakthrough. It generated global consensus. There was legitimate, rightful emergence of India as a global power. India's interests are dictated by the interests of its people. We never had a Foreign Affairs Minister who got so much applause for being forthright. The foreign minister has engaged into an activity that has resulted in the Delhi Declaration being totally consensual, which is in line with India's foreign policy, India's public stance. The orientation is organically evolved in our country.

I would urge all of you, you couldn't have had a more dynamic Director who will take the institute to a much higher level. I am sure over the next one month, she will prepare a vision document, and how ICWA has to be a bridge of dissemination and imparting of information within India, with diaspora and foreigners.

You have a big role to play. You are the most impactful ambassadors of this country. Let me tell you, we have to be on caution, कुछ लोगों का भारत के विकास को देखकर हाजमा गड़बड़ हो जाता है। You are discerning, and intelligent minds to counter it.

Narratives that are pernicious, sinister, and anti-national in character floated periodically. जब यहां दाल नहीं गलती है तो, you can go to Europe, you can go to the UK, there will always be some takers, because rise of this country, home to one-sixth of humanity is phenomenal and unimaginable, a global destination of investment and opportunity. Your role is sufficient in neutralizing such a crafted strategy only to taint, tarnish, demean, and decimate our Constitutional institutions.  It is with great pain, I indicate to you because you have to examine global affairs, proceedings of the Senate, Congress, House of Commons. In our own Constituent Assembly, there were dialogues, debates, deliberations and discussions but no disruption, no disturbance. Now, when India is rising, can we afford disturbance to be weaponized as a political power? We cannot. Now in the country, the wisest will come to know only about the Constituent Assembly, but you will have a view. You can pick up 20 countries, क्या वहां स्लोगन shouting होती है? या well में आते हैं? Placard दिखाते हैं?

Imagine, communication is so vital. One Nation, One Election is a concept, one may disagree to it, and one may oppose it tooth and nail. But to say we will not discuss it, this is not democracy. Democratic values plunge, the blossoming of democracy takes a big hit, when we get away from dialogue and deliberation. I cannot be happy presiding over the Rajya Sabha, what example are we setting for you? Each one of you has to engage in in-depth analysis of anti-national narratives and unwholesome parliamentary practices and generate an ecosystem whereby we fall in line. People will have their political views, we respect the other’s point of view, we can't immediately throw others’ point of view out of the window, but then there has to be discussion, debate, dialogue and deliberation. I look forward to the special session.

I end by congratulating Ambassador Thakur, for the MoUs in the Ministries, two of the ministries have written to me stating that they are delighted, surcharged and motivated by her presence. We will have a structured method of working, we are inviting interns in Rajya Sabha from all over the country, we started with the north east, with Sainik School, and we are looking forward to Ambassador Thakur’s suggestions.

Thank you so much.