Today, when the Chinese premier Wen Jiaobao has arrived on a three day visit to India, is the right time to consider the massive lead China has taken over us in various high technologies. In space, nuclear – both civil and military, super computer, telecommunications, power generation – conventional and renewable, ultra fast rail transport and cutting edge civil construction technologies, we are lagging behind China and what is causing greater worry is the fact that the gap is increasing day by day. India seems to be reconciled to the idea of bringing up the rear in this race with China which with the passage of time is turning into a non-race. We are condemned to be a mere exporter of high grade iron ore to that country, sourcing from it, among other things, high technology telecom equipments and power generating plants to meet nearly half of our requirement and in the process running a deficit of US$16 billion in an annual US$60 billion two-way trade, in other words, we import goods and services worth US$43 billion from China and export to it goods and services worth only US$27 billion. And the deficit is not going to go away soon; just one Indian company, of course one of the biggest in its field, Reliance Power has contracted to import from China power generating machinery worth US$8.5 billion over the next ten years. The Chinese edge is going to stay because their technology is among the best and the prices nearly half of the competition.
It does not have to be like this for ever because if China could do, we can also. But for making this possible, like them, we will have to be single-minded and extremely focused in our approach. If we put together our best scientific and technological brains and our top managers and give them adequate financial resources, also three to four years’ time absolutely free of interference from the bumbling bureaucracy, in all likelihood, they will come abreast with China in their chosen technological fields. For this, however, the government must have a clear vision and it must show sufficient leadership to get there. That we are a democracy should not be held out as an excuse for inaction, or, far worse, for confused action – two steps forward , three backward and four sideways.