New Delhi: India’s efforts to breathe fresh life into stalled global trade talks with a meeting of key trade ministers this week is yet another attempt by New Delhi to stamp its authority on the global economic stage, analysts say.
It is also being viewed as an attempt by India to make serious efforts to break the deadlock after earlier talks failed over sharp disagreement between the United States, New Delhi and China on the terms of a “special safeguard mechanism” to shield poor farmers against a price-depressing surge in imports.
Cynics say the talks, called by commerce minister Anand Sharma, are an attempt to deflect blame for a possible collapse of the World Trade Organisation’s Doha round, after years of being pilloried in the Western media over deadlocks.
But India’s globalizing economy gives it a growing interest in seeing a deal, too.
“India now has a place in the global economy because of the size of its economy and its population and that fact cannot be ignored. It must have a say,” said D.H. Pai Panandikar, president of private economic think tank RPG Foundation.
Robust economic growth of around 7% against the backdrop of a global slowdown has enabled India to attract fresh attention and clout.
New Delhi made its voice heard on global trade and climate change at a G-8 summit in Italy in July, a sign of growing diplomatic muscle and a new push from Asia’s third-largest economy to play a bigger role in global governance.
Backed by a trillion-dollar economy and impressive economic growth, India has been participating in several high-profile international forums such as the G-20 group of industrialized and developing nations and the Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) gathering of the world’s biggest emerging markets.
Analysts say now it wants to cast its influence wider.
“Well there is ambition - we did have economic growth which made us feel that we have at least arrived in Asia,” said Sudha Pai, professor of political science at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
US President Barack Obama has said tackling global challenges “in the absence of major powers like China, India and Brazil seems to be wrongheaded.”
India has also been a leading negotiator for emerging nations in the struggling Doha round of talks and its effort to protect poor farmers has been one of the stumbling blocks to agreement.
Analysts say they see some change in attitude after a new government was sworn in with a wider-than-expected margin in May and Sharma was named as the new commerce minister.
“I think for the first time India is taking a somewhat proactive role and is now keen to see conclusion of the Doha round,” said T.K. Bhaumik, a trade commentator and economic adviser from the JK Organisation.
“India willing, some breakthrough is possible at this meeting,” Bhaumik said, referring to the meeting which includes the five biggest players in the Doha round - the United States, the EU, Brazil, India, China - as well as other key WTO members.
This week’s gathering is the first major meeting of trade ministers on the Doha round since July 2008, when nine days of intense negotiations ended in failure.
“This meeting is a clear signal to the whole world that India is very keen to resume engagement in Doha negotiations and India is also keen on an early conclusion of the Doha round,” said Amit Mitra, secretary-general of the influential lobby group the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.