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Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

India must try to expand its presence in global value chains: Shringla

Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s comments come amid many countries aiming to move production facilities out of China

NEW DELHI : India must take advantage of the opportunities offered by health security and related supply chains receiving top billing among governments worldwide in the backdrop of the covid-19 pandemic, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Tuesday.

This was in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plans of an Atmanirbhar Bharat or a self-reliant India with the foreign ministry “actively engaged in promoting India as an alternative manufacturing and innovation destination", Shringla said at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). His comments come amid many countries aiming to move production facilities out of China following the pandemic, which was first seen in Wuhan, in the Hubei province of China in December.

The covid-19 pandemic could accelerate the process that began last year with the rise of trade frictions between the US and China. Rising production costs in China had already led some companies to look at factories elsewhere. In April, the US had called for a so-called “Economic Prosperity Network" of like-minded allies for critical products.

“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 sectors such as textiles and apparels, gems and jewellery, and chemicals by scaling up production to cater to a wider demand both locally and globally," Shringla said, laying out a roadmap for Indian industry to plug itself into global supply chains.

“In the medium and long term, we need to move up the value chain in sectors such as electronics, pharmaceuticals, engineering and design outsourcing, where we are present but have the potential to do more," he said.

“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," Shringla said.

The foreign secretary underlined that “self reliance" was not about “self-centred arrangements" or “turning the country inwards", seen as a possible comment on policies practised by China and the US. Self reliance was not about reverting to “economic isolationism" and its “essential aim is to ensure India’s position as a key participant in global supply chains", he said.

“It is important to identify products and commodities where India has the ability or potential to expand domestic production and enhance global availability," Shringla said.

“I think there are some concerns that self reliance could mean that India will turn inwards," said Harsh Pant, a professor of international relations at the London-based King’s College.

“What India has said so far is that it is re-looking at the globalization framework and will integrate with countries that it is comfortable with and decouple from countries like China that it is not comfortable with," Pant said.

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