Building Nonalignment: Technological Interchange and India’s Third Five-Year Plan (1961-1966)
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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The role of ideology in the modernization of India has been closely studied. Less well understood is the role that technological knowledge and artifacts played. This dissertation studies the role of technology in the Indian nation during the early-independence period. Four case studies examine technologies that originated outside of India and were currently in various stages of indigenization. The case studies are: 1) American aid to the Indian Air Force after the 1962 Sino-Indian War; 2) Saraighat Bridge, the first permanent bridge built across the Brahmaputra River; 3) the Umiam Hydroelectric Project; and 4) Tarapur Atomic Power Station, India’s first nuclear powerplant. These case studies are centered around the period of the Third Five-Year Plan, which ran from 1961 to 1966. The socialistic plans operated on the principle that India could develop more quickly and equitably in the context of a command economy, rather than through free-market capitalism. The Third Plan was the most ambitious of them all, because it declared that India’s economy must become “self-reliant and self-generating.” The plan thus intended to launch India toward attaining economic and technological autarky, thereby securing its status as a politically nonaligned nation. This dissertation demonstrates how technological interchange took place during the Third Five-Year Plan. Because international technological interchange is the main theme of this work, foreign countries play important roles in the narrative. Even with contributions from the United States and other nations, India was short on resources and had to make do with what it had on hand. Programs for technological autarky met with limited results not only because of the shortage of material and intellectual resources, but also because certain technologies were too difficult to produce indigenously, and Cold War politics limited Indian access to these items. The legacy of technological change in India during the early independence period was mixed: certain technologies became indigenized, but others remained foreign. The incomplete nature of technological development, influenced by Cold War politics as well as resource shortages, prevented a complete industrial transformation of Indian society.