A technician tests a touch-screen version of the Google Earth map software called TouchEarth on a large monitor prior to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 27, 2009. (Photographer: Adam Berry/Bloomberg News)

How Atal Bihari Vajpayee Saw Globalisation’s Opportunities And Challenges

Excerpt of a speech by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, at the India Economic Summit on November 26, 2000, in New Delhi.

The inevitability of globalisation is recognised by all.

However, during the last one year misgivings about the globalisation process have become more and more pronounced. This is evident from the increasingly vigorous protests in Seattle, Prague, Bangkok, Melbourne and even Davos!

Are these protestors a group of misplaced individuals? And what are they protesting against?

Some of the placard-wavers have cynically commented that they are against everything. But, a serious analysis of the protests will show that we cannot ignore the fact that there are many misgivings cutting across nations; that there are apprehensions which are shared across borders.

If it is so self-evident that globalisation leads to increased opportunities, enhanced growth and real income, why are these not being universally accepted?

Is it a communication failure? Is it merely an image problem?

Is it that governments are unable to ensure that the fruits of development percolate to the grassroots? Or, is it that globalisation is increasingly being perceived to be elite-driven, conferring benefits on large corporates while bypassing millions of poor and marginalised people? In India alone the number of such people is nearly 300 million.

We need to ponder over these questions and come up with acceptable, convincing responses.

The effectiveness of these responses would partially lie in accepting that while globalisation affords unbounded opportunities, these opportunities go hand in hand with obligations. The privilege of being a global player must be matched with the responsibility of making the process universally acceptable by making it universally beneficial.

We in India are conscious that the rapid changes brought about by technology and globalisation have to be addressed with care and caution.

We have to spread the benefits among all our people and manage the process of change with sensitivity. Government sees this as its responsibility.

How does business perceive its role and responsibility? What should be the concerns and obligations of industry?

Over the last three years, there has been enhanced partnership between government and industry not only in the economic sector, but also in the social sector. A lot more can be achieved by strengthening this partnership.

Today, at this Economic Summit that has brought together captains of international and Indian business, I would like to share some thoughts on what could be the obligations of industry.

  • First, and foremost, is that business and industry, especially the foreign investors community, must have a long-term commitment to India. This is the only way we can build trust and a sustained relationship.
  • Second, as government works to evolve a forward-looking Companies Act and Competition Laws, I seek from you a strong adherence to free and fair competition in the interest of consumers. Let us not follow the path of monopolies and cartels that serve the cause of few at the cost of many.
  • Third, today’s India wants to see the corporate sector implementing higher standards of corporate governance. Each Indian and foreign company has a duty to be transparent, just as governments - at the centre and in the states -- are trying to ensure transparency in policy-making. This is an issue that concerns small investors, minority shareholders and the investing public. High standards of corporate governance will enhance the people’s confidence in the private sector.
  • Fourth, I would urge you to invest more and more in human resource development. It would be beneficial in the long run to devote funds and time to training, re-training and education of your employees and their families. This will prepare them to meet the challenge of change which globalisation inevitably brings.
  • Fifth, remember that technology is driving change. With India’s outstanding scientific, technological and engineering talent, it will benefit everybody if you focus on research and development, innovation and technology building.
  • Sixth, consider India a profitable location not merely for out-sourcing of information technology services, but also for manufacturing. We have a strong manufacturing tradition; this will continue to exist. India seeks to be not only an IT hub, but also a manufacturing hub.
  • Seventh, be sensitive to environmental concerns. Insist on high standards of pollution control and ecological management.
  • Eighth, reach out to the rural sector not merely because it is large, but because the needs of rural India cannot be bypassed. The rural sector needs high quality products to derive the advantages of globalisation.

Finally, no government can alone meet the massive challenge of providing education and healthcare facilities to every family in a billion-strong country without all round cooperation.

Retrieved from the official archive for Former Prime Ministers Of India.