Interview with Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo, a participant in the 2015 Indian Leaders Programme
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.
Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo is an MP for Biju Janata Dal (BJD) from Bolangir (Odisha‐ Orissa). He was the youngest representative of Odisha’s Legislative Assembly and he is a member of the Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas and the Consultative Committee at the Ministry of Finance. His grandfather, Rajendra Narayan Singh Deo, was Chief Minister of Odisha. He graduated in Economics from St Stephen’s College in Delhi, began his career in investment banking and later worked in the energy sector.
- What was the image you had of Spain before participating in the Leaders Programme?
This is my third time in Spain. The first time I visited was during a family trip in 1998. I thought it was a beautiful country with many contrasts and I loved the Spanish way of life. The second time I came as part of an Indian delegation to participate in an event and I confirmed my initial impression. I thought: “Many more Indians should learn about the opportunities in Spain and take advantage of them.”
- How has this image changed since the visit?
It hasn’t really, I’m still in love with this country and its lifestyle. But I’ve had a chance to become more familiar with its governance and political administration as part of the Leaders Programme delegation, and that has changed my perspective.
- Would you highlight any specific aspects of the Programme?
Barcelona, for example, is a big city with a smart city model that combines technological progress and modernisation with the preservation of its historic identity. This is something we can learn from and take to India, as sometimes the level of development that demographic growth demands make us forget about preserving a city’s heritage; its essence. And in Madrid, for example, we met with high-ranking government officials such as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ignacio Ybáñez, and the Secretary General for Defence Policies, Alejandro Alvargonzález. This is a unique opportunity we would never have had outside the Indian Leaders Programme.
- In relation to the I Spain India Forum, where smart cities were discussed, what role could Spain and its companies play in smart city development in India?
Personally, I found the degree of technological development of Spanish companies truly surprising. I would cite as an example the visits to Indra and Abengoa, where we gained first-hand knowledge of the solutions they provide, which are in fact already in place in the Indian market. I believe there is a wide scope of opportunities for those companies in our country, and I’m certain that more and more companies will eventually follow suit in both directions.
- How would you describe Spain’s image among Indian society?
Spain isn’t widely known by Indians. Of course, they know Spain as a tourist destination and its traditions, but in terms of investment, business and bilateral relations, they know the UK and France much better. I believe a direct flight between the two countries would be a good starting point to change this.
- Do you think greater academic exchange would connect both societies and reduce stereotypes?
Certainly. We are talking about a relationship that goes beyond governments and institutions and which would strengthen ties between the two countries for years to come. Education and international mobility are some of the best platforms to get to know other countries and I believe we should work on that, for example through agreements to facilitate visa procedures. I believe that promoting Spanish as a foreign language would also be highly beneficial in terms of what it could entail for Indian students.
- As a member of the Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas of Indian Parliament, what do you think about the contribution of the Indian energy sector to bilateral relations?
India has ambitious objectives for the adoption of renewable energies, Spanish companies are world leaders in the sector and the Indian market is aware of this fact. From now until 2020 there will be amazing opportunities for all sorts of companies, and Spanish players have a competitive advantage as they are already closing many contracts in our country.
- What message are you taking home with you after participating in the Leaders Programme?
The Indian Leaders Programme is outstanding, I doubt any other programme can match it. The lack of awareness about Spain we have discussed, which is the starting point of this initiative, provides the structure for an excellent agenda. The work of the Spain India Council Foundation to show us Spain’s complexity is commendable and will certainly be of great use to all the parties involved.