PM Modi’s tech nationalism: Redefining Bharat - Hindustan Times
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PM Modi’s tech nationalism: Redefining Bharat

Jan 25, 2024 07:28 PM IST

By aiming to make India a net technology provider, and bringing entrepreneurs and the national security system together, PM Modi has made this India’s moment

On January 22, from the steps of Ayodhya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on the young to write the new dawn of India while being inspired by thousands of years of our tradition. This is India’s time, he said. The powerful speech, in many ways, was a crescendo that he has been building towards for the last ten years — to build a proud and self-reliant India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of USA Joseph R. Biden, participating in a India-US Hi-Tech Handshake event at the White House in Washington D.C on June 24, 2023(PIB)(Authors)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of USA Joseph R. Biden, participating in a India-US Hi-Tech Handshake event at the White House in Washington D.C on June 24, 2023(PIB)(Authors)

PM Modi has spoken about our responsibility towards a new India and how self-belief is the first step towards empowerment. For India to be a net security provider to the region, we must first grow into a net technology provider. PM Modi has also fought a long battle — of passion, persuasion and policy — to evangelise technology in tandem with India’s growing geopolitical significance in the world. For the first time on the global stage, it is India’s moment.

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We have had the privilege of a front-row seat in this transformative journey, of watching this incredible leader champion the hopes and dreams of an entire generation to join him in that mission. We had the chance to watch Ministry of Defence create up their flagship Startup Innovation Program Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) and the honor to interact with and listen to PM Modi on several different occasions and this is just the beginning.

In the past, we have seen a very different India. An India which was figuring out its identity while coming out of an imperialist shadow, with negligent national pride, stifled bureaucracies and very few allies. An India where many generations grew up afraid of audacious dreams and bold visions. Like many in our generation, we grew up reading Tagore without an ability to relate to the sentiment of “tireless striving stretching its arms towards perfection”. Like the textbook Indian student with a foreign degree, we too faced the question of whether to stay back in the West after graduation or return to the motherland.

It was on a cold winter day, January 15 2020, that we first saw PM Modi. It was the Indian Army Day and we were some of the youngsters who were invited for tea to the Army Chief’s residence. It was a goosepimply experience, watching the President unfurl the National Flag while the Army Band played the National Anthem. But what perhaps moved us the most, was the sense of national pride of our Generals. Soon after, the PM walked upto us, the few youngsters and exonerated us — to do something and change India.

Growing up in a country where the military is not integrated into civil society, we never get the opportunity to experience the passion and quiet nationalism of the men and women who would take a bullet for the flag. By issuing the clarion call for Atmanirbhar Bharat, the Prime Minister opened up that opportunity — to interact with the military, to work with them, and be a part of that world.

And what a journey it has been. With a transformative and catalytic champion in the PM, the entire ecosystem has turned on its head. Wiping the slate clean and starting afresh, he has brought a candidness, honesty and boldness that was unheard of.

Three years later, 300 startups now work with the Indian military with close to 100 challenges being launched on an annual basis. For the first time, MoD is working with startups to develop technology and products. In 2021, this led to the launch of the Indian Semiconductor Mission’s start up program which is 10% of the $10-billion-approved by Cabinet. In addition, the 50,000 crore National Research Foundation proposal will now provide R&D funding to the private sector. For the first time in India, policy has created a mandate to invest in start-ups and small businesses, giving them the “escape velocity” to propel to the next level.

This is the beginning of India’s civilisational renaissance, a term best described as India’s techade. India has corrected course, from a tentative, meek player to having planted a flag of ownership in the global technology ecosystem. Starting with the launch of the initiative on critical and emerging technologies (iCET) with the US in January 2023 to the intensification of tech based climate diplomacy, from the successful landing of Chandrayan-3 on the south side of the Moon to the monumental success of digital public infrastructure (DPI), 2023 has been India’s year to emerge as a great rising power.

This sense of pride became a deeply personal, lived experience. In June last year, during the PM’s State visit to the US, one of us had the privilege to witness history in the making at the Tech Handshake Roundtable hosted at the White House. Walking into the White House, seeing the mighty Tiranga flying strong in Washington was an indescribable moment of nationalist pride.

Today, 75 years after Independence, the Prime Minister is responsible for the “liberation” of India- the freedom of mind, spirit, and aspiration. To borrow from the extremely eloquent Anand Mahindra, it is a restoration of an entire nation’s pride and belief in our capabilities. As PM Modi recently said in an interview with the Financial Times, India’s is truly on the cusp of a take off. This is Amrit Kaal, the beginning of India’s golden era. This is a realisation of the audacious dreams and bold vision that the Prime Minister seeded with the clarion call for Atmanirbhar Bharat, this is the moment where India “awakes to that heaven of freedom.”

Tagore finally resonates.

Vrinda Kapoor and Vinayak Dalmia are entrepreneurs who work at the intersection of technology and national security and have been closely engaged with Government of India in shaping a new tech ecosystem. They are also closely involved in iCET between India and the US.

The views expressed are personal

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