24th April 2024


India’s First Do Tank linking Tech and Geopolitical Power

Smita Purushottam

Smita Purushottam is the founder of the non-profit 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 had launched the High-Tech Defence Innovation Forum in 2011 but it was taken over after she left. Her inspiration is her late Father, Shri S.V. Purushottam, an idealist, brilliant and beloved by all Indian Foreign Service Officer, who passionately espoused his country’s cause and left behind an unfulfilled desire to make India a prosperous and advanced country. It was due to his urging that she took the test for the All-India services. Her Grandfather Shri Sidheswari Prasad Sinha, a genuine Freedom Fighter who gave up politics because of corruption and the loss of direction, also served as an inspiration in her early years. He was dedicated to building a prosperous, advanced India based on the principles of a largely free market tempered with enormous compassion, an India free from superstition and feudalism .

She served as Ambassador to Venezuela (Jan 2012 – Jun 2015), Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the Holy See (Aug 2015-Oct 2017). In Switzerland, she transformed the sleepy bilateral relationship with 3 Summits held in rapid succession due to realisation of the benefits of a stronger partnership with the world’s No. 1 country in Innovation, international competitiveness, vocational education and environmental performance. Concrete progress was achieved on black money and Swiss support for India’s NSG candidature. Several investment commitments from high-tech Swiss firms were received during her tenure.

She also 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 the Embassy in Brussels, and Language-trainee and Information Second Secretary at the Embassy of India, Moscow. She made unique contributions in her assignments. Her most formative experience was in China, as she had the opportunity to study Chinese economic reforms first-hand, which she relayed back to India. She was struck by the pace of progress and the enthusiasm for reform at all levels. 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 like China had. She emphasised the importance of embedded technology, now called the IoT, and predicted the success of the ongoing telecom sector reforms in India. Since then, her focus switched to China’s Science & Technology Advances and her publications focused on innovation ecosystems, including the highly sophisticated American ecosystem.

She served also as Joint Secretary at the Foreign Service Institute (MEA), New Delhi; Joint Secretary in the Integrated Defence Staff Headquarters in MOD; Director/Under Secretary (East Europe/Russia/Soviet Union) and SAARC, and Under Secretary (Bhutan) in MEA. She was perhaps one of the few people who predicted that Glasnost and Perestroika would lead to the unwinding of Communist Party rule in the USSR, which was ignored. She predicted the disruptive effects of China’s tech acquisitions spree and ODI for Europe’s technological base and even EU unity, all of which have come true (the article was rejected as too speculative at the time), and that China’s S & T advances contained a powerful challenge for India.

She also attended courses at the National Defence University, Washington in July-August 2002, and the Workshop on the Relationship Between National Security and Technology in China at the University of California, San Diego, in July-August 2013. She attended the High-Performance Leadership course at IMD, Lausanne in May 2017. She joined the Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi in 2010, as Senior Fellow where she launched the High-tech Defence Innovation Forum to promote high-tech indigenous science and industry, and also the Eurasia cluster to revive studies on this region. She attended a few business management classes at VUB, Brussels.  She was admitted with a full Fellowship for a PhD program at an Ivy league University – Cornell – in 1980 but could not join as she qualified for the Indian Foreign Service in the same year, after briefly teaching History at Delhi University. She was member of the Board of Studies and Adjunct Professor (without remuneration) at the Bharatiya Skills Development University, Jaipur, an organisation which she extended full support to during her stay in Switzerland. BSDU is adapting the world-renowned Swiss vocational education system to Indian conditions.

Ms. Purushottam has been published in newspapers and journals in India and abroad.

Sunday, 28 March 2021


Publications, Lectures and Presentations

Smita Purushottam




Seminars/ Presentations


  • Risks in India’s Dependency on Chinese Telecom, Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi, ICS-SITARA webinar, March 17, 2021
  • US-China Geotechnology Race, Foreign Service Institute, MEA, February 16, 2021
  • Making India self-sufficient in Defence, Covints Seminar, January 29, 2021
  • Acquainting Public with SITARA Work, SITARA webinar, January 26, 2021
  • Disruption by China in the Information Domain, Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies, MEA, October 20-21, 2020
  • SITARA and indigenisation, Connected India (Singapore group), August 30, 2020
  • Rethinking India, July 7, 2020
  • India’s challenge in Telecom Manufacturing and Export, Digital Users Group, August 28 2020
  • Co-chaired ISID seminar on Indigenisation, Gen Rajesh Pant National Cybersecurity Coordinator, Chief Guest, January 31, 2020
  • SITARA and High-Tech Indigenisation, Shiv Nadar University, January 30, 2020
  • Making Make in India Work, Innovation for Competitiveness, Xavier Institute of Management & Entrepreneurship, January 10, 2020
  • Indigenisation for National Security, Vibrant Gujarat Start-up & Technology Summit, December 13, 2019.
  • US-China Geotechnology Race, FSI in February 2020, May, 2019
  • Telecom indigenisation, Telecom Trainees Seminar, February 2019
  • Importance of Indigenous Technologies in enhancing Indian Defence Capabilities, January 2019, Army Tech Seminar
  • US-China Geotech Race, Institute of Chinese Studies’ All India Conference on Chinese Studies, Christ (Deemed To Be University), Bengaluru, in cooperation with the National Institute Of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru (NIAS), 15 November, 2018.
  • Inauguration and organisation of India Investment and Innovation Forum, IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 20, 2017.
  • Digitisation in India, Horasis, Interlaken, November, 2017
  • Business and Digitisation in India, University of Applied Sciences, Northwestern Switzerland, School of Business, February 14, 2017.
  • Make in India Workshop, Berne, Switzerland, December 5, 2016.
  • Ayurved workshops in Berne, Switzerland-2016-17.
  • Address at SIREN, Swiss India Renewable ENergy (SIREN) Symposium, Lausanne, Switzerland, 19-20 November, 2015.
  • Participation at various seminars and conferences in Switzerland.
  • Launching Defence Industrialisation in India: Lecture and Power Point at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, JNU, New Delhi, January 19, 2015
  • “Defence Innovation Strategy for India”: at “5th Meeting of High-Tech Defence Innovation Forum”, Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses, IDSA, New Delhi, November 26, 2014 – report to be published soon
  • “Elements of, and international perspectives on, an indigenous Innovation Eco-system”: 4th Meeting of High-Tech Defence Innovation Forum, IDSA, New Delhi, August 24, 2013.
  • “Building a High-tech Economic Foundation in India”: Mangalayatan University, Uttar Pradesh, India, August 31, 2013
  • 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.
  • “Technology as the Key to Power: Building a High-Tech Defence Innovation Base in India”: Lecture and Power Point Presentation) at Confederation of Indian Industry and Centre for Joint Warfare Studies (CII-CENJOWS) Seminar, August 26-27, 2011
  • “Prospects of a Russia-China Strategic Formulation to Displace US Global Dominance”; Lecture and Presentation at National Defence College (NDC), New Delhi, 25 April, 2011
  • “Innovation in the Modern Age”, Special Address at 3rd Indo-German Business Forum Dusseldorf, November 13, 2008
  • Speech on India and bilateral prospects in Braunschweig, Germany, 2008
  • “The Energy Scenario in India and Possibilities for Cooperation Between India and Germany”, October 16, 2008, Ihk, Nürnberg
  • Panel discussion on Space, organised by the German Foreign Ministry, Berlin, January 2007
  • Lectures at University Centrale, Los Andes University, Simon Bolivar University and other venues on India in Venezuela, 2012-2013.
  • Lectures on Germany, Global Currency issues, and Russia at IDSA -2010-2011
  • Chairperson of Session on ‘China’s Importance for Developing Asia: Trade and Investment Relations’, organised by RIS at IIC, 5 November 2009
  • Lectures to Defence Attaches, ASEAN diplomats and other groups during tenure at FSI – 2009.
  • Lectures on Indian economy before different audiences in Embassy of India, Berlin auditórium 2007-2008.
  • Lectures in China and organisation of several bilateral business seminars 1994-1997.