(7) Transformation will occur if we work together – Ambassador Amit Dasgupta
Category: AMBASSADORS’ FORUM
22 March 2013 - His Excellency Amit Dasgupta, Indian Ambassador to the Philippines, was at the Asian Institute of Management last 20 March 2013 for the first Ambassadors’ Forum @ AIM for 2013. The talk, organized by the Center for Development Management and entitled “Managing Foreign Policy: An Indian Perspective” focused on India's foreign policy and Philippines-India relations.
India Foreign Policy
The first part of his talk centered on the work of a diplomat, and on what should be the priorities of foreign policy. Ambassador Dasgupta emphasized that Foreign Service policy’s priorities must be based on three core defining values, without which Foreign Service stands in a vacuum – secularism, pluralism, and democracy. He also stressed that foreign policy is intrinsically connected to domestic policy. This belief or principle drastically changes his job as foreign diplomat, he said. He has to be concerned about the international as well as domestic concerns of his country – terrorism, development (which involves health and education), energy and security. These are domestic concerns, but these are critical in pursuing his country’s strategic national interest.
India’s challenge in education lies in its changing demography; more than 65 percent of India is below 25 with a lot of young people with nothing to do. In educating these people, India would need 50,000 more polytechnic colleges, 1,000 more universities, and 3.2 million more teachers. India, the Ambassador stated, just doesn’t have the resources to establish new colleges and universities and hire millions of teachers.
One option, the Ambassador said, is to push the students to pursue education abroad. But other delivery platform can also be explored such as the grannycloud, a social innovation project wherein U.K.-based volunteer grannies read stories and teach the English language to children in remote villages in India. The grannies act as e-mediators engaging children at very early stages of reading. (This project was started in May 2009 by Dr Sugata Mitra, an educationist and scientist, best known for his book “Hole in the Wall”).
Another example is India’s 20-dollar tablet that was developed as a public-private partnership aimed at making computing technology available to students. He said that this innovative product has the potential to transform education in India. The Ambassador emphasized further the need to think outside of the box in trying to address problems in development. And India has a term for its people’s innovative spirit – jugar which loosely means “thinking of innovative ways to solve problems.” The Ambassador was thus confident that many more innovative solutions can be developed to address challenges in other areas such as terrorism and energy.
“I can’t say it’s a bad relationship, but I can’t say it’s good either.” That was how the Ambassador described the relationship between India and the Philippines. He added that it makes him sad whenever Indian people were asked about the Philippines, and they knew nothing about the country or its people. “How can India's 1.3 billion people ignore the fastest growing economy in the world?” The Ambassador asserted that it is time to develop the two countries’ government-to-government, business-to-business and people-to-people relationship by sharing knowledge.
One area where the two countries can work together is in health care. The Ambassador said that the Aquino Health Agenda (AHA) or the Universal Health Care Program cannot be successful if people who need medicines could not access it. There is a potential to increase trade with Philippines in the drugs and pharma sector, and the Philippines can benefit from Indian healthcare’s cost competitiveness.
The two countries, if they agree to work together, can also capture the vast global market in BPO, both voice and non-voice. The Ambassador said that the Indian IT sector is matured and is focused on non-voice BPO, and thus need not worry about the competition from Philippines becoming the world’s number 1 in BPO (voice). India’s Look East Policy and the FTA with ASEAN can further strengthen the trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. In the end, the Ambassador Dasgupta was optimistic that the two countries can create a relationship that is a “partnership for development.” India is committed to creating a robust relationship with the Philippines, the Ambassador ended.
Click here to visit the website of the Indian Embassy in Manila, Philippines.
About the Ambassadors’ Forum @ AIM
The Ambassadors’ Forum @ AIM is a venue for the professional exchange of knowledge and skills related to international development issues and trends. Its objectives are : (1) to broaden the regional and global perspective of AIM students taking up both the Master in Development Management and the Masters in Business Management, (2) to provide a venue for the exchange of information for foreign ambassadors in Manila, and (3) to educate the community at large on internal relations and development issues and trends as they affect the Philippines and the region. Through the forum, ambassadors and embassy officials have been invited to discuss their countries’ views on Asian issues including political regimes, economics, finance, trade systems, demographics and migration, climate change and energy, strategic security, and world view.
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