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Leveraging peace for profit

There is a common thread running through the four thought leaders who will be speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative business segment on Saturday.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2003 02:15 IST

There is a common thread running through the four thought leaders who will be speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative business segment on Saturday.

Interestingly, while two represent policy making at the highest level, the other two are well-known faces of contemporary Indian business.

Former Reserve Bank of India Governor and now Rajya Sabha member Bimal Jalan and Planning Commission member N.K. Singh, Reliance Industries vice-chairman & managing director Anil D. Ambani and Hindustan Lever Ltd chairman Manvinder Singh

Banga have one thing in common, they are known for their pro-growth imperatives.

Jalan, who recently demitted office as India’s apex banker, told the Hindustan Times that his focus will be on what happens after the guns fall silent.

He said: “In many ways the situation will be akin to what happened in Europe after the War.

I believe that there will definitely be a burst of economic activity.

And while SAFTA will exist in the interim, once trade is galvanised, then it will be beneficial for everyone.”

Jalan says that then this will not be a zero sum game, for it will percolate down.

In many ways, India’s hour has arrived. And while there may be a touch of hyperbole attached to that statement given that the fisc is rising, all macroeconomic indicators including the stock market are resonant.

With the prime minister indicating open borders and a single currency during his inaugural keynote at the summit on Friday, in many ways, he set the tone and tenor for the conference.

After all, he did not deal with politics, but reflected on the economic maturing of the region.

Hindustan Lever chairman Vindi Banga, a gold medallist from IIT and IIM, will take this same underlying ethos forward on Saturday by talking about “creating an unified South Asian market which will greatly increase our global competitiveness especially vis-a-vis China.”

With more than a sixth of humanity residing in this region, representing a marketer’s delight, this powerhouse has to be leveraged. Similarly, India’s technological skill sets have to be taken forward as we test new intellectual frontiers.

Both Jalan and Singh have over the years worked tirelessly for different dispensations to formulate policy which is beginning to pay dividends.

The peace dividend is what HT wants to highlight through this conference. But the bigger payoff is a free-trade area which encourages cross-border trade so that it jumpstarts economic upliftment of the poorer society.

Nandu K. Singh, however, will caution the audience during his speech when he highlights the volatility of politics and how it has an overhang in terms of investor perception. After all, if there is no peace, then investors who have other fish to fry will look elsewhere for returns.

Singh reckons that the biggest payoff of a peaceful subcontinent is a larger mix of foreign direct investment and portfolio investment.

And his argument is valid given that India and Pakistan have often stared at each other eyeball to eyeball.

Moreover, as India becomes an economic superpower, it shows the way to the rest of South Asia.

Vindi Banga, who is chairman for Hindustan Lever South Asia, underlines this when he says that economic development and inter-dependence will lead to peace and stability in the region. “India must lead the way”.

A similar message goes out from Reliance Industries vice-chairman Anil Ambani, an alumnus of the Wharton School of Business, who argues for collaboration to achieve energy security.

As the energy resources the world over are depleted, the subcontinent should show the way and in the main India in terms of attaining selfreliance.

Like Banga, he argued that India could lead the way since it had established and proven economic credentials.

Ambani said: “Everyone knows that India can play the leader of a South Asian federation. The key is to encourage dialogue and carry everyone with us. The changing dynamics of energy is what we need to focus on.”

First Published: Dec 13, 2003 02:15 IST