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Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla

'Self-reliant' India can be global nerve centre of supply chains: Shringla

Shringla said the pandemic had caused countries to look at localizing their production and supply chains to mitigate the disruptive effects of the covid-19 crisis as well as other challenges

New Delhi: The novel coronavirus pandemic has given India the opportunity to be seen as a developing country with a demonstrated ability to take the lead in evolving regional and global strategies for recovery, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said Thursday.

Addressing the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi, Shringla said the pandemic had caused countries to look at localizing their production and supply chains to mitigate the disruptive effects of the covid-19 crisis as well as other challenges.

“A major economic opportunity for India will arise from the drive to diversify global supply chains. The attractions of investing in India are obvious. It is a major opportunity and needs to be grasped," he said.

“In the changed times, an integration of supply-demand basics with highly diversified value chains, emerging technologies and artificial intelligence, present us with an important opportunity. Conventional solutions to mitigating the risks of supply chain disruptions will need to give way to new methods which will involve increased use of innovative digital platforms and applications that have emerged in the last few years," Shringla said.

The comments come against the backdrop of countries looking to diversify supply chains and move production lines out of China given the disruptions caused due to the shutdown of factories and units when the SARS-CoV2 virus emerged in December. China has also been looked at with suspicion and blamed for not doing enough to arrest the spread of infections and not sharing information about covid-19 with countries. The spread of covid-19 has caused countries across the world to shutter businesses and close borders in a bid to arrest the onslaught of infections which are now inching towards the five million mark.

Last week India announced a 20 lakh crore stimulus package that included structural reforms in areas like agriculture aimed at attracting investments into the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a speech last Tuesday that the pandemic had taught India a lesson which was to ensure self reliance – i.e. ramp up domestic production and create supply chains to meet internal demands. At the same time, he urged people to buy locally made products that would in turn strengthen Indian industry and give rise to strong Indian brands that could then make a mark in the international market.

Though he stressed on self reliance, Modi underlined that this did not mean an isolationist or inward looking India. This message was again highlighted by Shringla in his own speech on Thursday.

“The idea behind self-reliance or Aatmanirbharta is not to turn the country inwards, or into an isolationist country, but to the contrary, it is to ensure that India can emerge as the global nerve centre of the complex modern multinational supply chains," Shringla said.

While India had made a name for itself in IT and IT enabled services as well as pharmaceuticals, the new measures outlined with the stimulus package will “open a large part of the previously restricted economic sectors to participation of private sector," he said.

For example, “the fundamental reforms in agriculture will empower our farmers, enable their integration in global agri-product value chains and significantly contribute to our national vision of doubling income of farmers by 2022," he said.

Preliminary assessments by Indian missions abroad had concluded that “there is a significant market for food, agricultural products and expertise in food-processing industries," Shringla said.

“Indian automobiles, particularly low cost automobiles, including 2 and 3-wheelers will have an augmented market in developing countries. Textiles, garments and consumer durable industries will have export opportunities as many markets look to diversify their sources of supply," the foreign secretary said. “Indian e-commerce, IT and IT enabled service industries have also demonstrated that they can work through a crisis of this magnitude. These are obviously the businesses of the future," he said adding: “Digital highways can be used to leverage our higher education capabilities through tele-education onto a much larger market."

Healthcare, pharmaceuticals, basic research in vaccines and in diagnostics besides devices and tele-medicine too was a major opportunity for India, Shringla said.

“This is an area where India has the ability to be a bridge between the developed and developing world and facilitating a two-way flow of information, products and expertise. It has institutions that can be seamlessly plugged onto class-leading global healthcare systems. These institutions are also able to facilitate the flow, in the other direction, to our development partners."

The Indian missions abroad were also noting areas that Indian exporters could fill in the supply gaps, Shringla said.

“We are in the process of identifying industries and businesses looking for alternative manufacturing locations. The idea is to provide such industries with a compatible business environment and a robust domestic demand which will aid investments into the country and generate local employment," he added.

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