Smita Purushottam, FOUNDER SITARA
Smita Purushottam served as Ambassador to Venezuela, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the Holy See. In Switzerland, she transformed the sleepy bilateral relationship which led to stronger partnerships in the vocational education, research and development, investment and financial sectors. After a very long gap, there were 3 Summits (Prime Minister-President visits) in rapid succession nearly co-terminously with her term due to greater realisation of the benefits of a stronger partnership with the world’s No. 1 power in Innovation, international competitiveness and environmental performance. She served in India’s missions abroad as Deputy Chief of Mission in the Embassy of India in Berlin, Minister (Political) at the High Commission of India, London, Counsellor for Economic and Commercial Affairs at the Indian Embassy in Beijing and at the Embassy in Brussels, and Language-trainee and Information Second Secretary at the Embassy of India, Moscow. As DCM, Berlin, bilateral relations greatly improved due to the keen understanding, wide contacts and extensive briefings provided by her. As Min (Pol), London, she handled responsibility for political affairs, interacted with the British Parliament including the Friends of India (Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem), and participated in the think tank community. She cultivated key allies in the British Parliament which helped to turn sentiment in favour of India. In China, she handled responsibility for economic and commercial affairs, while making friends, cultivating extensive contacts, and analysing key aspects of China’s development experience which she relayed back to interested departments and industry associations in India. She was the only female member, also from a developing country, of a China Economic diplomatic officers group dedicated to analysing the Chinese economy. In Brussels in the early 90s she handled responsibility for economic and commercial affairs and the EU and helped to launch the first Indo-Europe software alliance with Shri Dewang Mehta, President of NASSCOM, and worked on business development and aid projects like the ISO TQM project, the ACMA project for upgrading quality and management standards in the auto components sector, and many others. The importance of these sectors was just beginning to be recognised in India, and abroad India’s emerging excellence in these sectors was virtually unknown. She served also as Joint Secretary at the Foreign Service Institute & Integrated Defence Staff Headquarters(MOD); Director/Under Secretary (East Europe/Russia/Soviet Union) and SAARC, and Under Secretary (Bhutan). She was one of the few people who predicted that Glasnost and Perestroika would lead to the unwinding of Communist Party rule in the USSR. She spent a year as Fellow at Harvard during 2000-2001 where she prepared a paper “Can India Overtake China?” (2001), in which she compared the two economies and their respective reform experiences; analysed the ongoing reforms in the Indian economy focusing on the telecom sector, aviation, privatization attempts and IT, and recommended building a strong manufacturing sector, emphasised the importance of embedded technology, now called the IOT, and predicted the success of the telecom sector reforms. She attended courses at the National Defence University, Washington in July-August 2002 and at the Workshop on the Relationship Between National Security and Technology in China at the University of California, San Diego, in July-August 2013. She also attended the High-Performance Leadership course at IMD, Lausanne in May 2017. At the Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses (IDSA), she started (i) the High-Tech Defence Innovation Forum, since renamed as SITARA, and (ii) the Eurasia cluster. The Forum focused on developing advanced technologies in India. She created the Defence Innovators & Industry Association (DIIA, to give concrete voice to the ideas of the Forum. It was formed from her assiduously assembled network of top professionals in industry, and drew upon her ideas, initiatives and ground work. She pointed out the urgency of matching the advances in the science & technology field made by China, and her predictions regarding the increasing gap and need for action have been validated by current developments. She analysed China’s acquisitions of tech companies in particular in Europe and predicted its disruptive effects for Europe’s technological base and even EU unity. She is founder of a new Do Tank “SITARA”, a Science, Indigenous Technology and Advanced Research Accelerator, to bring increased vigour to the indigenisation of high-tech production and building a Science Nation in India. She is a member and Adjunct Professor of the Board of Studies of the Bhartiya Skills Development University, Jaipur/ Dr Rajendra and Ursula Joshi Foundation. BSDU is adapting the world-renowned Swiss vocational education system to Indian conditions, and bringing Swiss excellence, precision engineering skills, and values to India. It is part of her vision to take the Indian economy to an advanced, skilled and more equitable destination. Ms. Purushottam did her schooling in New Delhi, Moscow, and Geneva. She won a Fellowship for a PhD in European History at Cornell University in the same year that she qualified for the Indian Foreign Service (1980), which she joined, thus giving up a chance to do her PhD. Ms. Purushottam earned a Master’s degree (1st class) in History from Delhi University in 1979. She taught History briefly at Jesus & Mary College, Delhi University and joined the M.Phil. program at Delhi University in 1979. She speaks Russian, French and Hindi and once upon a time could read limited Spanish. She was selected in 1984 for a panel of Judges for books qualifying for the Hunger Media Awards awarded by a non-profit NGO affiliated to the United Nations. Ms. Purushottam has been published widely in reputed journals and newspapers in India and abroad, and has given several presentations on effective innovation ecosystems. Publications • “Chinese Takeaways for Building a High-Tech Defence Innovation Base in India”: Article in Book “Perspectives on India's Defence Offset Policy” 2014, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, Sage Publications • “Indigenous High-Tech Development”, SP’s Military Yearbook 2012-13 • “The Growing S&T Gap with China and How India Can Close It ”, ORF • “Technology as the Key to Power: What India can learn from China” in the book “Present Day China : A Net Assessment”, ORF • “Russia in India’s National Strategy”, IDSA Book • “Chinese Takeaways for Building a High-Tech Defence Innovation Base in India”: Lecture at “Swavalamban II” Seminar, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, 9-10 December 2011. • “Ukraine's flirtation with China and Russia's Response”, Issue Brief, November 4, 2011 • “Energy diplomacy and the making of Russia”, Business Standard, October 2, 2011. • “An Indo-Russian strategic partnership for the 21st century”, SPs Military Yearbook 2011-12. • "Report of the High- Tech Defence Innovation Forum-a Vision for an Indian Science & Technology Advancement Strategy (VISTAS)”, June, 2011 • “It's time for a National Technology Policy”, Business Standard, July 31, 2011. • “Independence Day Special 2011 Edition - India and Germany in Focus”, Krest Publications, New Delhi, July 25, 2011. • Interview, Chanakya, Civil Services Today, June 2011 • “Russia's Growing Engagement with Pakistan”, May 23, 2011 • “Will Defence Industrialization Help The Technological Upgrade Of The Indian Economy?”, Global Policy (London School of Economics affiliated) Journal, March 24, 2011 • “Russia between East and West: An insightful perspective from New Delhi”, CERENE, Greece, March 17, 2011 • “China Woos Europe: Next moves on the Eurasian Chessboard”, Global Policy London School of Economics affiliated journal, February 14, 2011. Today, with OBOR and the dawning Western realisation that they missed China’s strategic acquisitions in its early phases, this was prescient! • “The Sochi Summit: Fresh Moves on the Grand Eurasian Chessboard”, Issue Brief, August 27, 2010. • “A Growing Technological Gap with China?” Strategic Analysis, Vol 34 (4), July 2010, 496-503. • “Economic Crises, Currencies and Geopolitical Turning Points”, Issue Brief, June 14, 2010. • “Can India Succeed In Overcoming The Chinese Colossus?” Financial Express, July 2002 • “Copycats don't Catch Mice,” Financial Express, November 2002. • “Chinese Economic Reforms and their Relevance to India,” in Muchkund Dubey, ed., South Asia and its Neighbours(1998). • “Can India Overtake China?” Harvard University, 2001. • Articles in The Statesman between 1977-79.