Interview with Indian MP Deepender Singh Hooda
The fourth edition of the Programme, hosted by the Spain-India Council Foundation in June 2015, brought four Indian MPs to Spain to learn about the country’s socio-economic situation. The Council Foundation, as part of its active communications policy, is publishing monthly interviews with those participants.
Deepender Singh Hooda is an MP for Rohtak. He is the Whip of the Indian National Congress (INC) party and leads its social media communications team. He is also a Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy and a Member of the Ad hoc Committee on Absenteeism of Members in the Parliament. He was first elected as an MP at the young age of 27 and served two terms after that. He is passionate about agriculture, energy, economic growth and employment, both in his constituency and at a broader national level. Hooda is an engineering graduate from Maharshi Dayanand University and has an MBA from the prestigious Kelley School of Business at Indiana University (USA).
- What was the image you had of Spain before taking part in the Leaders Programme? Was this your first time in Spain?
No, this is actually my second visit. I came over two years ago and took a tour of Andalusia (Seville, Málaga, Granada and so on). But that wasn’t an institutional visit, it was only tourism. I enjoyed it immensely and that’s why, when the SICF invited me to the Leaders Programme, I saw it as a great opportunity to come back and work towards stronger bilateral relations. My fellow countrymen do not know much about Spain. They have a positive image overall, but they are under the impression that it is a very traditional country. There is no recognition of the work being carried out by Spanish companies in sectors such as infrastructure, technology and innovation, among others.
-How has this image changed after the visit?
It has changed completely. During my stay I have been able to see how well the Spanish economy is performing, making the country a leader not only in the aforementioned sectors, but also in others such as renewable energies, pharma, urban planning and transport, which is one of the biggest challenges faced by India. Spanish and Indian companies are world leaders in some of these industries, and this is one of the reasons why there are great opportunities for cooperation. As for society in general, we have met truly modern and hospitable people, quite similar to my people. We must work to show that side of the country in India.
- Do you think there are opportunities to cooperate to strengthen ties between the two countries?
Of course, as there already are strong cultural ties. For example, flamenco and Rajasthani music have the same roots, which brings us together and opens a vast range of possibilities, but we must work together more closely to make them a reality. How should we do that? We must develop more top-level initiatives such as the Indian Leaders Programme, or even higher-level meetings between representatives of the two governments. Also, organising festivals and cultural events, more focused on society, has a great impact. Lastly, I would also like to emphasise the penetration rate and prominence of the Spanish language in India, where the Instituto Cervantes centre in Delhi has become the largest in the world, with up to 200,000 students every year.
- What opportunities does India offer?
Among many other benefits, India can offer an absolutely vast market. Also, the Indian economy is growing faster than any other in the world right now. As for demographics, the country is set to maintain those extraordinary growth rates because, by 2019, 80% of the population will be part of the workforce, and this represents an economic driver that cannot be matched by any other large economy. Spain has a golden opportunity to leverage this.
- What role can Spain and Spanish companies play in India’s development?
Spain has many assets to offer. I would emphasise the role it can play as a gateway to Latin America, where India has never had much of a footprint but which is starting to attract our attention. Through its contacts, trade agreements and as a geo-strategic location, Spain could be an excellent partner to help India roll out successful business links with this continent.
- Which measures do you consider a priority to strengthen Spain-India relations?
To begin with, we need a direct flight between the two countries. India is connected to the world’s largest economies and to other places in Europe such as Portugal, but not to Spain. Driving international mobility and academic exchange for students and professors alike is also crucial. India is globally recognised for the talent of its students and it would be highly beneficial to have more cooperation agreements between institutions to boost joint research. In the long term, this is an all-important strategy to connect the two societies on all levels. Lastly, I think it would be great to introduce Spanish as a third language in the Indian education system, as is already being done with German and Chinese.
- What message are you taking away with you from the Spain India Council Foundation’s Indian Leaders Programme?
An impression of Spain as a wonderful country which offers amazing economic growth prospects for India. Besides, Spanish society is quite similar to India’s: very modern and hospitable. I honestly believe that Indians travelling to Europe would find Spain well suited to their liking, but this is not known and we must spread the word.
That said, I could not highlight one single aspect of the Programme, as each and every meeting we’ve had has been remarkable, and I trust they will all soon bear fruit to help strengthen relations between the two countries. We are pleased to have had the chance to participate in activities such as those organised at the Ministry of Public Works, the Barcelona City Hall, Metro de Madrid and the opportunity to meet so many Spanish politicians, for instance at the Spanish Parliament.