September 28, 2010

Role of Technology in India's Foreign Relations by Amb. B. Balakrishnan


Role of Technology in India’s foreign relations

Starting with the basic concepts of Technology and International Relations, we outline a conceptual framework showing the impact of technology on international relations, including the contest for power, dominance and control. The increasing importance of technology related issues in foreign relations of countries and on global issues such as climate change, energy and environment is outlined.

We review India’s technological development since independence, especially in strategically important areas. In particular some key recent technology issues that have become important in India’s foreign relations are analyzed. Some of the most recent challenges that have arisen in regulating technology, such as preventing access by terrorists, spread of mass destruction weapons, protecting intellectual property rights, are outlined. The importance of technology in international relations is likely to grow in future, posing challenges for India’s foreign relations.

MEA Distinguished Lecture Series on India's Foreign Policy
“Role of Technology in India’s foreign relations”
IIT Roorkee, 28 Sept 2010


Technology is as old as human civilization. Man has constantly tried to enlarge knowledge, and apply it in diverse ways to meet his needs. This practical application of basic knowledge is what we call technology. Throughout history, the search for knowledge and its application through technology have been important determining factors in the progress of human society. In the competition for dominance and control, societies which forged ahead in mastery of basic knowledge and technology were able to succeed, sometimes far beyond expectations.

This paradigm changing, force multiplying effect of technology has been responsible for major historical changes and relations among societies in the past. Examples are numerous. The discovery of agriculture allowed for the feeding of larger populations, and development of complex societies. The Mongols used a composite bow which was compact and more powerful, and could be used on horseback. Babur used cannons from Turkey to win the battle of Panipat in 1526. The impact of technology on warfare and military balance was particularly striking, allowing relatively smaller forces to prevail because of superior technology. This phenomenon continues even in modern times, when the first atomic bombs caused the immediate surrender of Japan.

September 16, 2010

The Evolution of India-Russia Relations by Amb. Ronen Sen





Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor Prof. Suranjan Das,

Mr. Rudrangshu Mukherjee,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am highly honoured to have the opportunity to address this distinguished gathering in the august premises of Calcutta University. It was India’s first English medium university, with an initial jurisdiction of almost subcontinnental proportions from Burma and the North-East through Bengal and the Indo-Gangatic plains and undivided Punjab to the NWFP and Baluchistan, and Ceylon in the South. It had a number of other firsts, including India’s first science college, first college for women, first art college, Asia’s first medical college etc. It was led by outstanding educationalists, like Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee; had illustrious faculty members, including Rabindranath Tagore, Sir C.V. Raman, Nilratan Sarkar, Sarvapali Radhakrishnan; distinguished alumni, such as Rajendra Prasad and Amartya Sen. In view of the University’s awesome reputation, and my poor academic record, you will understand my reluctance to reveal that I am an alumnus of this institution.

Given my last diplomatic assignment in the United States, I have been viewed, correctly, as a strong advocate of Indo-US partnership and, in particular, as one of the architects of the Indo-US nuclear deal. The longest association of my diplomatic career has, however, been with Russia. Some of the happiest and most challenging years of my life has been in Moscow.

I have spent more years in Moscow than in any other city, including my birthplace, Pune. I also happen to be the only Indian diplomat, so far, to serve in every diplomatic rank in our Embassy in Moscow, from that of Third Secretary to Ambassador, in the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s and, finally, in the ‘90s. My long experience does not imply that I am a specialist on Russia. I remain a student of developments in that great country. Today, I will share with you some of my personal experiences and assessments on Indo-Russian relations, which I am convinced deserves more public attention and discourse than it has in recent years.

Each of my assignments in Moscow happened to coincide with major transitional periods in our relationship with the former Soviet Union, and subsequently, with Russia. There was a major transformation of the Soviet policies on the Indian sub-continent from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. These evolved from seeking leverage in Pakistan through large-scale Soviet arms supplies to that country, and thereby revive its mediatory role between India and Pakistan, to one of strong support of India and recognition of our regional pre-eminence. This was manifested in the Indo-Soviet Treaty and the decisive Soviet role in countering US-China moves in developments leading to the liberation of Bangladesh.

September 13, 2010

Amb. Ronen Sen's Address at Jadavpur University


Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor Prof. Pradeep Narayan Ghosh;
Hon’ble Professor Radharaman Chakrabarty, President of
the Jadavpur Association of International Relations;
Distinguished Members of the Faculty;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to have the opportunity of addressing you at this highly reputed centre of learning in the fields of engineering, science and arts. I am aware that your university has one of the best departments on political science and international relations in our country, and that I am speaking to a knowledgeable and discerning audience.

I have been asked to speak to you this afternoon on our efforts in sensitizing US interest groups to appreciate India’s concerns and priorities, and to what extent this was a manifestation of a successful public diplomacy exercise abroad. Before I come to this subject, I would like to make some general observations.

In one sense, the term “public diplomacy” is an oxymoron, a fundamental contradiction in both conceptual and practical terms. Each country seeks to pursue its own national interests, while preserving its independence of action and autonomy in decision-making. Ultimately, however, the most effective diplomacy is aimed at an optimal balance of maximizing its national security or socio-economic development objectives, while minimizing the corresponding dilution of national sovereignty. No amount of rhetorical posturing can alter this basic reality of international negotiations. This applies to all countries, large or small, though of course in varying degrees, with the rise and decline of the economic and strategic strength of individual countries or of regional groups. Concepts such as national autonomy or complete self-reliance have always been divorced from realities. This is all the more so in the process of globalisation, not only of markets but of global threats posed by failing States, religious extremism, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change, pandemics and so on.

September 7, 2010

India’s Engagement With A Resurgent Africa: Amb. H.H.S.Viswanathan

Lecture at Central University of Jharkhand
By Amb. H.H.S.Viswanathan
7 September, 2010

Historical links
India and the African continent have been linked for centuries through trade, commerce and travel across the Indian Ocean. There are historical evidences of well-established Indian settlements in the coastal regions of Africa and some Indian connections even in the hinterland. Many Indian plants are of African origin, millet being the prime example of a crop which travelled all the way from West Africa to India. The great Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama took the help of two Indian sailors in his first and subsequent voyages to navigate him from East Africa to Calicut.

With the advent of Colonialism, the traditional trade was disrupted. However, contacts continued to flourish through other ways. Indians were taken in large numbers to the new colonies to work on the plantations, for the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway and as subordinate staff in the colonial administration. Today there is a very large Indian diaspora in Africa of about 24 million ie. more than 2million. Some Indian enterprises have been there for a very long time, like the Chellarams in Nigeria started their business in 1923.

September 6, 2010

Prospects and challenges for a resurgent Africa- Amb.H.H.S.Viswanathan

Prospects and challenges for a resurgent AfricaLecture at Ranchi University by Amb.H.H.S.Viswanathan.

Image of Africa in the past

Africa has been in the news in a very positive way in June and July this year because of the FIFA World Cup. It was a proud moment for Africa for having organized one of the best, if not the best ever, World Cup. Players like Drogba and Gyan became household names. We marveled at the meticulous organization of the event. But Africa, unfortunately, has not been getting such positive coverage traditionally. In fact, the awareness about Africa is both low and distorted. It is depicted as a Continent of war, disease and poverty with no hope of progress. Hardly any of the success stories of Africa would be reported. It is true that Africa, as a continent, has had more than its share of misfortunes. There have been historical reasons for this. Today, we see a new resurgent Africa. In my presentation, I will go into both these aspects.

India Builds Asia's Largest Film School

Film City, a state-government run enterprise, stretching out on 400 acres is known as Mumbai’s green lung. During the monsoon months, thickets and trees turn into a deep green and grass sprouts wildly all around. Whistling Woods International (WWI), a 20 acre film school (billed as Asia’s largest) , is set amidst this sylvan terrain. It regards itself as the third real film and media studies centre after the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune and the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in Kolkata.

WWI is a recent creation. Established in 2006 by one of the best known producer-director-screenwriters in the industry, Subhash Ghai, it is a complete film school, offering a two-year course not just in film, television and media arts but in broadcasting and media management as well. It covers direction, production, screenwriting, editing, cinematography and sound recording and design. There’s an MBA in Media and Entertainment as well, a part-time screenwriting course, a school of animation and an actor’s studio.

September 1, 2010

Revealing India – Cinema with a Purpose

A group of men walk towards a young boy being carried by his father. As the boy notices that the men are Muslim, he frantically rubs the stripes off his father’s forehead, trying to conceal their religious identity from the hostile group. Another clip reveals a woman questioning why she has to feel incomplete without a man. These aren’t scenes from an Oscar line-up with themes of terrorism, gender equality or the intricacy of human relationships. These are excerpts from regional Indian films that reveal an India far removed from popular perception created by commercial Bollywood films. The themes and messages are very close to not only the film makers’ hearts, but a reflection of the reality in different regions of India. There are a thousand movies produced in this country annually. To most of us this would translate to Bollywood, as the Hindi film industry is popularly known, churning out a majority of these films. However, Anu Radha’s ‘Cinema with a Purpose’ reveals the lesser known facts about the film industry outside Bollywood, which in fact dominates 70 percent of the film production in India.

It would be unfair to say that Bollywood only produces big budget commercial fare with a focus on style rather than substance. There is a lot of originality and experimentation within Bollywood today, but ‘Cinema with a Purpose’ suggests that regional cinema has long been ahead of Bollywood when it comes to realistic or controversial themes. The documentary is peppered with excerpts from Tamil, Bengali, Telegu and Marathi films that focus on everything from communalism to hierarchical relationships in society. To believe that these cater to a well educated or urban niche audience is also a misconception. Interviews with film makers and actors like Nandita Das and Amol Palekar reveal that regional film festivals are well attended by a cross section of rickshaw pullers to local homemakers to students. These films run for a considerable time in theatres with their inspirational messages and a reality that many in the audience have experienced.

Asian Film Critics bowled over by Hyderabad Film City

The group was invited and hosted by Public Diplomacy Division of MEA in connection with the Netpac film festival. ( At Fancy Street, Ramoji Film City)

Ramoji Film City, an hour’s drive from Hyderabad, is a total package. Vast (it sprawls over 1666 acres) and monumental, extravagant and flamboyant, it appears to be, at first a collection of sets for cinema. In the words of its founder, Ramoji Rao, “it is a gateway, a one-stop shop for directors, providing every single item they may ever need… All you have to do is walk in with a script and walk out with a canned film.” And every in-betweens can be found right here.

The world’s largest studio, according to the Guinness World Records, there’s not a service Ramoji Film City does not provide: production paraphernalia, audio and video post-production (the audio lab is particularly remarkable, with its data-base of sound effects and its networked sound facility), film lab, high-end technology, state-of-the-art cameras, set design, costumes, props and, above all, locations. There’s enough infrastructure here to host 200 productions a year and an unlimited number of TV programmes. Ramoji Rao, owner of Eenadu TV and its twelve channels, says his offerings are far cheaper and more productive than any in Mumbai, and there’s scope for growth.