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1 March 2009,

Founders’ message: Why we began

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Welcome to Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. We are a foreign policy think tank in Mumbai, the first established by two women, to engage India’s leading corporations and individuals in debate and scholarship on India’s foreign policy and the nation’s role in global affairs. We are membership-based, independent, non-partisan and not-for-profit.

Many ask us, why locate in Mumbai? Because it is India’s most international, cosmopolitan city, one with historical links to the outside world. Mumbai is also at the heart of the changing international matrix – globalisation, terrorism, energy, environment, innovation, technology, nation-building and the new geoeconomics. And it is home to the country’s leaders – corporate, financial, media, artistic and technological. Mumbai is, as our logo and brand depicts, the gateway to India and our face to the world.

As that gateway re-opens wide to the world, it brings in more talent and entrepreneurship. It also brings in the complexities of a globalising environment, absorbed by a country that is moving from tradition to modernity at an unprecedented speed and scale. India is on a new and ambitious path – economically, socially, politically and geopolitically. The country is now at a pivotal point in history, and has started to play a transformative role in global affairs.

The world too, is at a pivotal point in history, presented with extraordinary opportunities but also confronted by extraordinary problems. As the familiar orders – political, economic, security – convulse, unable to match the needs of the contemporary world, a new order is taking shape. Ahead lies a time where nations, states and businesses are re-ordering themselves, sometimes resulting in conflicts, but more often creating a grouping of new winners. India is creating its place in this new order. This is why we need an independent foreign policy think tank that is both India-based and India-focused.

An opening has already been made by India’s dynamic business community, whose success around the world has put the global spotlight on India, giving the world’s businesses and governments a new view of the country and a heightened desire to engage with it. As India’s businesses expand overseas, they inject a new vitality and pragmatism into her traditional foreign policy.

They are an invaluable asset to India – a friendly, productive, on-the-ground presence in foreign lands. The technology sector, with its clientele based largely in the United States, catalysed the new relationship between India and the U.S. The dramatic U.S.-India nuclear deal has been the outcome of much such intangible bridge-building. If India can contribute to bringing Africa into the global logistics chain, it will be because Indian business there has been directly engaged with people in those countries for decades, employing them in factories and businesses, and imparting new skills. Indian business is interacting productively with China too, investing in building their educational capacity from English-language teaching to writing software code for a global market.

The emergence of Indian business on to the global scene runs parallel with the emergence of the Indian diaspora onto the political scene in their adopted countries. They are now a powerful source of global influence and goodwill towards India. Through Gateway House, our website, scholarship and discussion fora, they too can engage in India’s foreign and economic policy debates, and bridge the gaps in understanding between India and the world as no others can.

Our scholarship reflects our view of India – open, global, innovative and a positive influence in a complex world. Our scholars cover new subjects such as geoeconomics and space technology – cutting edge not just in India but globally.

For those who wonder: Gateway House is not a lobbying organization. India has many of those, in the form of chambers of commerce, various associations, advocacy groups and the 2 million non-government organisations. Rather, our goal is to create public awareness and debate and make policy recommendations flowing from serious scholarship in international affairs.