As policymakers continue to discuss Aatmanirbharta as the way forward, it is imperative to emphasize that isolation is not the solution.

-By Rajesh Mehta & Shanayaa S. Suneja

“It is an unfortunate fact that we can only achieve peace by preparing for war.” – John F. Kennedy

In the wake of the war being waged by Russia, countries around the world have suddenly seen the need to step back and re-evaluate their internal and external affairs and their defense strategies. As reality moves further and further away from a free world, here are the lessons India should take home:

Military self-reliance

India is surrounded by nuclear giants – China and Pakistan. The hard truth is that to this day these countries continue to perpetuate a historical primacy of antagonism directed against us. Although India has a much stronger economic institution than Pakistan, China is a very different and invincible game. In such a scenario, the main advantage of the ongoing war is not to depend on a third country to support us militarily. In such a scenario, India must actively invest in strengthening its defense and broadening its military-strategic depth to counter future attacks from our neighbors. We are unfortunately the world’s second largest importer of defense technology, with 60% of our military hardware coming from Russia. We also require spare parts, as part of our own manufacturing process, from other sanctioned entities. In the midst of an anticipated Cold War and CAATSA, there is an overwhelming need to be independent regarding all stages of our artillery production plans. We need to restructure the focal point of the ‘Make in India’ movement to include defense and indigenous equipment as well. Diversion of our military imports to technologically advanced countries like France can be done to some extent. However, our primary focus must be to ensure that our wars of tomorrow can be fought with Indian equipment.

The current conflict has also exposed the utter ineffectiveness of the United Nations and the Security Council. The post-war era is expected to have reformed organizations with greater capabilities and capabilities to protect the world order. India should actively participate in the formation and reform of these institutions, in order to have a key role in all future discussions and negotiations.

trade relations

As policymakers continue to discuss Aatmanirbharta as the way forward, it is imperative to emphasize that isolation is not the solution. Rather than going back to a protectionist economy, our agenda should be to encourage globalization, expand trade and promote free trade agreements. The post-war future holds reformed alliances worldwide. These free trade agreements with the US, Canada and the EU, which have been sidelined for decades and debated for decades, urgently need to be accelerated to unlock the full potential of bilateral trade. It is important to ensure that trade agreements are drafted in good faith to expand trade across all sectors and strengthen our global alliances. India has the lowest average share of integration flows among its Asian counterparts; thereby shed light on the need to invest in developing better relationships with our immediate neighbours. In fact, South Asian integration is the future, with Asia’s share of global goods trade rising from 25 percent in 2000-2002 to 33 percent in 2015-17. India must jump on this bandwagon of Asian unification to strengthen its future economics and make the most of a young workforce and new market opportunities.

Supply Chains

The ongoing pandemic and current war have exposed the fragility of global supply chains and how sensitive they are to fluctuations. Even as the war progresses, the world expects another round of delays and protracted supply shortages. The car industry in particular faced new operational problems as a result of the war and the shortage of semiconductors continues to drag on. BMW and VW production was interrupted in European locations due to disruptions in the supply of components such as wire harnesses from Ukraine. This affects both the production of conventional cars and electric vehicles, with a significant increase in lead times. Ukraine and Russia are also major exporters of wheat, maize, sunflower oil, steel, palladium, platinum and nickel. As companies flee from the west and look elsewhere for their production needs, India must seize this opportunity. After all, this is our opportunity to emerge as a global exporter and anchor ourselves as a key part of Global Value Chains.


The crisis also exposed the reality of the state of the Indian education system. The 20,000 MBBS students trapped in Ukraine forced policymakers to turn their attention to the plight of young people who face a lack of affordable opportunities in the country. There should be a policy focus on creating sufficient facilities to enable students to pursue their higher studies in India by themselves and stop the brain drain. Reforming the education system to meet the needs of people of all socio-economic backgrounds is the need of the hour. It is only possible for our universities to become a match with international counterparts, if and only if the government encourages public and private investment in research and development in academic institutions. To improve the Indian R&D sector, good infrastructure such as laboratory facilities must be established.

Technology is the future

The current geopolitical battle has put the power of the Internet and technological innovation in the spotlight. Satellite imaging and installation of CCTV cameras proved to be a useful tool for self-defense. Investments in 3D drones, video and image recovery and analysis tools are needed to scan for threats and fend off impending attacks. GPS-guided weapons, combat networks, collateral damage estimation methods and the development of apps for more information exchange between civilians and hospitals should also be considered. India is seriously lagging behind in innovation, which means that there is now a need for imports. Innovation needs to be convinced from both an academic and production perspective, to bring us in line with global standards. There must be economic incentives for investment in research and development. The world saw serious turbulence in the former global financial order as Russian banks were kicked out of the SWIFT payment system and will now continue with Chinese Union-Pay. Policymakers expect the coming world to take the form of a non-dollar system, which will separate banks, fintech and lending from the rest of the world that clings to the dollar. In such a scenario, it is important for India to innovate and adapt to be prepared for what is to come.

(The authors – Rajesh Mehta is a leading advisor and columnist working on market access, innovation and public policy. Shanayaa Suneja is a researcher. Opinions are personal and not necessarily those of

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