Aatmanirbharta to strengthen India’s position in global supply chains: Foreign Secretary

The Economic Times, July 08, 2020

The idea of self-reliance or Aatmanirbharta does not mean seeking self-centred arrangements or turning the country inwards and its primary aim is to ensure India’s position as a key participant in global supply chains, pointed out Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla dismissing all claims that the policy will make India protectionist.

“The call for Aatmnirbharta is not about reverting to economic isolationism. Its essential aim is to ensure India’s position as a key participant in global supply chains. Through building capacities at home, we also intend to contribute to mitigating disruptions in global markets. It is important to identify products and commodities where India has the ability or potential to expand domestic production and enhance global availability. True, we cannot make everything – but we can certainly make many, many more things than we currently are,” Shringla suggested.

He was addressing the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India on Implementing the Vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat. The Institute has over 3.5 lakh members, of which 40,000 are based abroad.

The Abhiyaan is aimed at not only mitigating the socio-economic impact of the pandemic in the short term, but instilling confidence in Indian businesses and industries; making manufacturing globally competitive; integrating agriculture and small farmers with global food supply chains; and embracing both investment and technology, the Foreign Secretary noted.

Structural reforms and relief measures under the Abhiyaan cover every section of the Indian economy, including small farmers, migrant workers and labourers, agriculture, the MSME sector, small businesses, start-ups, industrial infrastructure, healthcare, and education, among others, he recalled.

Private sector participation has been given a big push in eight areas, including coal, minerals, defence production, civil aviation, power distribution, social infrastructure, space and atomic energy. “New Public Sector Enterprise policy will be a significant step in enabling private participation in a greater number of sectors. You would have also seen Government’s plans to invite private players to run trains on certain routes and modernize our railway stations. These are just a few examples opening previously restricted sectors to private participation,” Shringla pointed out.

The successful implementation of the vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat would take, as noted recently by Suresh Prabhu, MP – India’s Sherpa to G-20 – and Pradeep S Mehta of CUTS International, institutionalization of certain key principles, he said, adding, These include addressing basic needs of our people, ensuring equitable distribution of economic output, recognizing importance of labour and promoting labour-intensive industries, developing indigenous technology and decentralizing production processes. Interestingly, they also bring out that nature is to be utilized, not killed; ecological factors, balance of nature and requirements of future generations should never be lost sight of.

“As health security and health supply chains move up on the priority lists of the world’s governments, India must prime itself to emerging opportunities. Indian diplomacy will support this process all the way. This is in line with the overall vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, and the Ministry of External Affairs is actively engaged in promoting India as an alternative manufacturing and innovation destination. Our Missions are identifying export and investment opportunities for our businesses in various countries, and are working closely with industry associations. In addition, we are constantly engaged with global corporations looking to diversify manufacturing locations. The idea is to provide such industries with a compatible business environment, to leverage India’s domestic demand, and bring investment and of course jobs into our country.”

He informed, “A preliminary assessment by our Missions indicates that in the short term we can expand our presence in the global value chains in sectors where we have been traditionally strong. We can leverage existing capabilities in sector such as textiles and apparels, gems and jewellery, chemicals etc. by scaling up production to cater to a wider demand both locally and globally. In the medium and long term, we need to move up the value chain in sectors such as electronics, pharma, engineering and design outsourcing etc. where we are present but have the potential to do more. Eventually, we need to target high value added activities while continuing to build our lead position in basic manufacturing. We also need to work on development of technology and intellectual property across industries.”

COVID & DIPLOMACY: Referring to impact of Covid on diplomacy and conduct of face-to-face negotiations, the Foreign Secretary noted, “The pandemic has greatly affected our professional lives, and this applies to diplomatic activities as well. COVID-19 has disrupted diplomatic calendars causing almost all international meetings and summits to be cancelled. While face-to-face meetings with counterparts have traditionally been considered essential to resolve complicated issues or conduct difficult negotiations, diplomatic engagement cannot be allowed to stop in their absence. A crisis of this magnitude has required a coordinated global response, making sustained communication between countries all the more essential.”

The increase in tensions in different parts of the world, including on the Line of Actual Control between India and China, have only emphasised the criticality of continued communication, he said, emphasising on the need for uninterrupted dialogue notwithstanding the pandemic.

“Diplomacy has adapted to the new situation and gone strongly digital. Even though a few world leaders have recently restarted physical meetings, virtual meetings have been the dominant mode of engagement – and will probably continue to remain so till we get an effective vaccine. India has been at the forefront of such digital diplomacy. I had mentioned earlier how the Prime Minister quickly turned challenge into opportunity to start global conversations using virtual platforms. He also held, for the first time, a bilateral virtual summit with the Australian Prime Minister. In addition, he has spoken to counterparts from as many as 60 countries.”

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