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PM’s address at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit

india Updated: Oct 30, 2009 16:28 IST

Hindustan Times
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The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, inaugurated the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi today. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion:

“I am truly delighted to be back at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. I compliment Smt. Shobhana Bhartia for the dedication and commitment with which she has been organizing this event every year.

This year we will have an opportunity to hear the former President of the United States, George W. Bush who is a great friend of our country. We in India recognize the very important role he played in the fruition of the civil nuclear cooperation initiative. We are working now with our international partners to give a boost to our nuclear power programme. This will be an important contribution to our efforts to use cleaner fuels and thus combat climate change.

I mention this today because this day happens to be the birth anniversary of that great Indian scientist, visionary and nation-builder, Dr. Homi Bhabha. In concluding the civil nuclear agreement we sought to realize Dr. Bhabha’s dream of tapping the atom for the welfare of our people. It is only fitting that we pay tribute to Homi Bhabha’s genius at this leadership Summit.

In reflecting on what I should say today I was recollecting in my mind what my key messages were to you over the past five years that I have been regularly attending the Summit. I believe I had placed before you three related thoughts.

First, that our challenges in nation building are primarily at home. And that these are best addressed by ensuring sustained and inclusive economic growth and development. We do face external and global challenges. The global slowdown is a reality, rise of terrorism is also a reality and we have to face these challenges. But I sincerely believe that they are nowhere as daunting as the ones we face at home. If we get our house in order, if we can liberate each and every citizen of this free nation from the tyranny of poverty, ignorance and disease, there is no external challenge that we cannot overcome.

Secondly, I have said here before that our composite culture is based on our rejection of the notion of an inevitable clash of civilizations. Our philosophy of “vasudhaiva kutumbakam” has encouraged us to accept pluralism as the natural order of all civilized existence. Freedom, democracy, pluralism and secularism go together. You cannot have one without the other.

My third submission to you has been that we seek to live in peace with our own neighbourhood and with the world at large. We have always been and wish to remain good neighbours and good global citizens. I do believe our destiny is intrinsically linked with that of all our neighbours. We seek good relations with each one of them. I have repeatedly said that we see our security and prosperity in their progress and stability. We sincerely wish to resolve all outstanding issues with our neighbours through dialogue and in the spirit of partnership and friendship that should rightly characterize our relations.

As responsible global citizens we wish to be partners of all nations in humanity’s struggle for the preservation and protection of the environment and in giving meaning and substance to the notion of sustainable development. We will approach the international negotiations on global warming, climate change and carbon emissions as responsible global citizens. We will fulfill our obligations to nature and to humanity consistent with our commitment to the welfare and well-being of our people, and the poor of the world. Equally, we expect the developed nations, and those who have so far drawn unduly on nature’s bounty to bear their due share of the burdens as well. Ours is not an unreasonable stance. It is based on our worldview that the “whole world is one family” and on our commitment to the principles of inclusive growth and development.

These three messages are relevant to the theme of this year’s Summit as well. They will remain the three pillars on which the India of 2020 is built. 2020 is not far away. Our primary challenge in the next decade will be to sustain high rates of economic growth, to ensure that the growth process remains equitable, to invest in the education and health of every child and adult, to generate gainful employment, to build modern, efficient and environment-friendly infrastructure and to ensure that government and public services are efficient and responsive to our people’s needs and function transparently. We should aim to sustain annual growth rates of 9 to 10% per annum. We have to increase investments in physical and social infrastructure, paying particular attention to the needs of our agriculture and the transformation of our rural economy. The fact that our savings rate is as high as 35% of our GDP suggests that what I am saying, is a realizable goal. The challenge for political leadership, at the national, at the state and local levels, will lie in ensuring the realization of this outcome.

I submit to you that India cannot be built from Delhi alone. No doubt the Union government has an important developmental role, apart from its central role in providing national security. But with the growth of the market economy and with individual talent and enterprise being unleashed, no agenda for building a new India can any longer be imposed from Delhi. India lives in the States. The future of our country depends therefore a great deal on the quality of political leadership and of government at the State and at local levels. In this context, great importance attaches to the revitalization of the institution of the Panchayati Raj which was a dream of late Shri Rajiv Gandhi.

One of our biggest challenges remains the challenge of reducing regional disparities. Equally important is the challenge of ensuring the economic and social upliftment of our scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes, less privileged sections of society and religious and linguistic minorities. These challenges have to be addressed at every level of the policy pyramid.

Our Government launched a series of developmental initiatives since 2004. These initiatives are aimed at investing in rural and urban infrastructure, at guaranteeing minimum employment and generating maximum employment. These initiatives are aimed at improving access to and the availability of education and health care to all our citizens. These initiatives need to be carried for they seek to improve the productivity of our farm economy and the income of our farmers where 65% of our population depends on agriculture.

But for each of these initiatives to be successfully implemented we need pro-active and creative leadership at the State and district level. We need a more active civil society and media focus on the quality of governance at the State and district levels. Urban governance has to vastly improve to make our cities and towns meet the needs of a burgeoning urban population. We need a creative entrepreneurial class that can compete both at home and abroad without artificial props. A visionary national leadership alone cannot do much when the challenge of development is in the realm of policy implementation and where States must be active partners.

For us this challenge is compounded by the fact that our less developed regions are also the more populated ones. This has contributed to the persistence of poverty and to the problem of internal migration and it is also driven by sometimes law and order problems. In these States we need a forward looking, development oriented political leadership. We need a committed and pro-active civil service. We need an active civil society. We need a professional middle class. We need a combination of all these participants to transform our less developed regions and take them forward on the road to sustained development.

Sitting here in Delhi we can endlessly debate the qualities of national leadership. But real change in India will come when we get the right kind of state level and local leadership – a forward-looking, modern and compassionate leadership that strengthens the foundations of our great Republic. The focus of the debate on leadership for building a new India should, therefore, shift to the States.

While such domestic regional and local leadership will build the new India we aspire for, we also need in our region, in South Asia, an equally forward looking leadership. Each of our neighbours faces similar developmental challenges. Some of them face bigger existential challenges.

India seeks a neighbourhood of peace and progress. We wish our neighbours well. We would like to see them develop and wipe out poverty and overcome the burden of history and we would like to work with them to achieve these goals. India is always happy to extend a helpful and supportive hand to all our neighbours. We wish to see democracy take deep roots in all these countries so that the people of South Asia are truly empowered to take their destiny into their own hands.

We need a leadership in our region that can take a long term view and which has the courage to take bold decisions. We must not allow our past to limit our future. To paraphrase Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, we must not allow ‘narrow domestic walls’ to confine us to ‘the dreary desert sand of dead habit’. Instead we should dip into the ‘clear stream of reason’ and walk forward ‘into ever-widening thought and action’ so that we can build not just a new India by 2020 but a new South Asia.”