Jaishankar bats for domestic production over unchecked globalisation

Jaishankar bats for domestic production over unchecked globalisation

‘To foster tech growth, nation must seek more start-ups, supply chains and jobs to be created internally’

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought India’s capabilities and need for more domestic production rather than unchecked globalisation, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said on Tuesday, speaking at a technology summit, where he said that to foster technology growth, the nation must seek more education, skills, start-ups, supply chains and jobs to be created internally.

“I would say the big takeaway from the COVID, to me, is an argument for shorter supply chains, more national capacities, and I’ve always felt we have neglected the domestic supply chains and deeper strengths…. I do think, for example, even in health, years of a certain kind of economic logic caught us in a situation where we were unprepared with basics when the COVID hit us,” Mr. Jaishankar said at the Global Technology Summit in Delhi organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and Carnegie India. However, that growth in Indian health technology in the past two years had been “incredible”.

Mr. Jaishankar said it was not possible to ignore “politics” when it came to opening markets to other countries and said there was no need to be “defensive” in the debate between “protectionism vs globalisation”.

“The globalisation advocates, the Great Gurus pretend almost as though politics doesn’t exist, that we’re all the same. [As if] Nobody has an agenda, and we’re only there for more greater global economic activity. Now, reality has come back to bite all of them. Because, you know, the last few years people have had to accept that, national competition, advancement of national ambitions, all these things are very much a reality, despite economic globalisation,” he said.

In the past few years, many countries have criticised the Indian economy for not opening up for imports, particularly after the Modi Government failed to agree on terms for a mini trade deal with the U.S., and walked out of the 15-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership of Asian countries that included China. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Aatmanirbhar Bharat (Self-Reliance) initiative”, launched in May 2020, after the beginning of the pandemic, was also perceived internationally as a protectionist move.

Domestic supply chain

“The idea that you should be so open to the world, that other people can come and operate in your economy, on terms which are advantageous to them, because that’s supposed to be how a global economy works, to my mind, is ridiculous,” said Mr. Jaishankar in a counter, adding that when “people talk about supply chains, I would say first of all, look at our domestic supply chain, that should be our first responsibility.”

Speaking at the same conference, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson lauded India for strides in technology, and said the Indian talent and U.K. innovation made the two countries “natural partners”.

“Already we are working together on many fantastic projects from the U.K. India partnership on 5G and telecoms to the U.K. start-ups who are working with Indian giants Tata Group, Godrej on the green technology that will help power our countries to net zero [carbon emissions],” Mr. Johnson said, adding that after the U.S. and China, the U.K. was the only country to have produced 100 “unicorn” start-ups valued at over a billion each.

Technological collaborations

In their interventions at the launch of the two-day summit, both MEA adviser Ashok Mallik and British High Commissioner Alex Ellis also pointed to the importance of technological collaborations between “trusted partners” in the post-COVID era, using the joint venture between the U.K.’s Astra Zeneca and India’s Serum Institute of India (SII) to produce the Covishield vaccine as a prime example of a joint success.

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