Tell us a bit about your new book India Wakes and what lead to writing it?
I derive my identity from Wings of Fire which has sold over a million copies. It has indeed been a transformational book for a lot of people. Since then I have been involved in five books with Dr. Kalam which initially were directed towards inspiring the Indian youth and later towards nation building. Dr. Kalam’s vision 2020 had become a sort of rallying point for Indian development.
Since then, I have written 'Squaring the Circle' to discuss the solutions of the unique Indian problems preventing our development. Post Dr Kalam, I wrote "India 3.0: The Rise of a Billion People" when I started seeing a new India emerging and discussed what a new India should look like. Taking the same thought forward 'India Wakes' discusses Indian role and influence in the modern world, undergoing an upheaval right now.
The book is about post corona virus, new world order. Did you start writing post March 2020. What kind of research did you do to bring out the book.
Bart Fisher (my co-author) visited India in August 2019. He was visiting India after a gap of over 10 years. So he was astonished when he landed at the swanky Hyderabad airport while expecting to see Begumpet airport welcoming him.
Then he felt as if he was driving in US when he took the Outer Ring Road (ORR). His entire trip since then was only about how a different India he has come into. So he said, seems like India has woken up. Bart Fisher is an authority and veteran in international trade. He was deeply involved in China-US trade negotiations and was foreseeing that US will decouple itself from China.
As any massive system once decouples itself from another system, to maintain its balance and stability it needs to couple with another equally big system. So he had come to explore how Indian companies can couple themselves into US companies, which are leaving China. This was how the book was conceptualized and started being written. We opted for a larger canvas, to give full picture of the history of India-China-US situation.
Without understanding history, we neither can comprehend present situation nor appreciate the possibilities of the future. We were almost done and going into editing for the publication of this book when the coronavirus pandemic rolled out. Whatever we predicted in the book, started happening extremely quickly.
We had given it a few years that these changes in world economy and international relations will manifest but due to the pandemic and Chinese hegemony, these transformations have happened very fast within few months.
Since the lockdown was underway, we got the opportunity to understand the fast-changing dynamics and incorporated the new developments in the book. This book therefore derives its uniqueness from its timeliness. A frame-work developed thorough research and diverse opinions has been presented as food for thought to the reader.
As you are from Hyderabad, tell us two things that an average Hyderbadi will have to equip himself to face the future?
I came to Hyderabad in 1982 to work at DRDL. Whatever I am, this city has given me, including my mentor Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Hyderabad is the best Indian city to live in. Hyderabad is full of entrepreneurs and hard-working knowledge soldiers. Lockdown period was used to complete public works. It has a thriving workforce of highest intellectual quotient.
I see a tide of unicorns coming out of Hyderabad in the post-corona economy. Pharma will be the new IT, so Hyderabad is already well poised to lead the future. Hyderabadi folks work hard and upgrade their skills.
Our companies must harbor some good technology partnerships with American companies and be the torch bearer of this economic transformation story. Bart and I will be more than happy to play a proverbial match-maker between Indian and American SMEs.
I understand that you are an accomplished scientist and someone who has travelled to China. What do you think are lessons that India can learn from China?
China is indeed a great country. It has been extremely successful in lifting its people from poverty. India can learn a lot from Chinese command and control mechanism to uplift people from poverty. However, China does have an arrogance about them and that is fine until it also gives due respect to India.
Whatever happened in Ladakh was proof that China does not treat us as an equal neighbour. China also did not behave how a superpower should have handled a border dispute by clandestine operations instead of using the diplomatic channels. Even now while their leaders speak peace, their army operates as night hawks. Indo-China relations have suffered irreparable damage and decades of confidence building came down crashing like a pack of cards.
Who do you think is the target reader of your book - policy makers, economists, or the aam aadmi?
This book is for every Indian – fed up with ideological rhetoric and bogus history. It gleans from a very wide range of perspectives from different vantage points and we have cited 800 references in the book, making it extensively researched.
An 'atma nirbhar' Bharat is our necessity at this time and not a marketing gimmick. If our economy has to survive, our consumption needs to be fulfilled without any imports. That itself is going to be both necessary and sufficient.
Many Indian industries, just like American companies, amassed lot of wealth by trading cheap Chinese products rather than manufacturing them indigenously. Our policy makers must show how to improve technology in our industry and make them world class. The era of cheap imports must end. A single point national interest above electoral politics has to be the focus of our political leaders.
Their bickering on every point, including how to deal with China is actually sickening. For the aam adami, we should buy Indian, be thrifty in these times of uncertainty and stay safe and healthy as that is also a national service. Every Indian must buckle up and work towards single minded national interest. Even small contributions like not using Chinese Apps and products is a valuable contribution. At times, guts are as powerful as the guns.