“What an amazing speech” was my immediate response as Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded his almost hour long speech at the World Economic Forum. Having been to Davos several times in the late nineties and having heard many world leaders, I thought this was one of the finest speeches I had heard in a long time. It was also a very proud moment to hear him speak in Hindi.
Here was leader who combined the depth and knowledge of Indian civilisation with the current day issues of climate change, terrorism and protectionism and rising national walls to slow down globalisation in the World. He forcefully made his pitch investments into India while talking of inclusive growth for every citizen of the country.
Very interestingly, the Prime Minister set the context of his talk at Davos referring to the last visit by an Indian PM to Davos in the mid-nineties when Euro as a currency did not exist, tweeting was done by the birds, Google did not exist, Amazon was a jungle and Osama bin Laden and Harry Potter was unheard of. That was the last millennium, he said where India was a US$ 400 billion economy.
Quoting frequently from the Upanishads, Vedas and ancient scriptures, he spoke about climate change and India’s philosophy of being in sync with Mother Nature. He spoke passionately about India’s target of 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022 and he proudly announced that in the first three years India has already achieved 60 gigawatts. This was India’s answer to contributing to climate change.
Though he did not dwell too much on terrorism, he spoke about it as one of the three challenges the World faces today, clearly stating that there must be no distinction between good terrorists and bad terrorists.
The 2017 speech of Chinese President Xi Jinping at Davos addressed the need for globalisation. Modi spoke about his concerns about how countries were turning towards protectionism using tariff and non-tariff barriers. This would hurt the process of globalisation he felt.
Singling out data as a major driver in the World that will offer solutions for technology driven transformation, he said that an underlying risk would be that whoever controls data may rule the world.
Modi spoke about the many achievements of his government at some length.
He spoke about foreign direct investment (FDI) and the fact that almost every sector in the economy are now open for foreign investors. He referred to the direct benefit transfer schemes in India as well as to the “Beti bachao and Beti padhao” scheme.
He also spoke about the removal of over 1400 laws that had slowed down progress and growth. He spoke about the youth of India getting unshackled so that they could find opportunities for growth and development.
PM Modi commented about the role Indian soldiers played in the first and second World Wars without any territorial or financial benefits and continue to play in the UN peace keeping forces around the World. He also referred to the over 150,000 lndian soldiers who lost their lives in the past century, defending the World. He also spoke about India being a good world citizen, helping Nepal, Yemen and many other nations in Africa. He emphasised that India has never had designs on the territory of any other nation.
PM Modi has put his best foot forward as a global statesman, positioning India amongst the leaders in world affairs. At the same time, he has talked about Indian youth ready to propel their country into becoming a US$ 5 trillion dollar economy making it the third largest economy in the World.
He spoke about the philosophy of his government outlined as reform, perform and transform. “A predictable, stable, transparent and progressive India will continue to be the good news in an otherwise state of uncertainty and flux,” he said.
As a consummate salesman, he ended by saying that if the world wants “wealth with wellness”; “health with wholesomeness” and “prosperity with peace”, come to India.
It is my view that the chairs placed at the “head table of the World” have now been vacated since the Second World War. President Trump is looking inwards and focusing on the US economy. Prime Minister Theresa May is struggling with her nation to contain the after effects of Brexit. Chancellor Merkel is busy trying to cobble together an alliance in Germany so that she continue to govern. Japan is tied down with an aggressive North Korea and an ageing population and President Putin is busy coping with a very weak economy.
China always loves a vacuum and is moving quickly, under the determined leadership of President XI Jinping, to try and occupy one of the chairs at the head table of the World.
It is now up to Prime Minister Modi to guide India economically, politically, socially and culturally to take one of the other chairs at the head table of the World. A place that has always belonged to India for many centuries.
India will need to understand and address the challenges the World is facing and begin to think beyond our own problems alone.
Only this thinking will truly position India as a global super power.
(The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here - Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.)