Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday made a forceful pitch for foreign investment telling some of America’s top business and political leaders India has “what is needed to power the global economic recovery” from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic and there was a never better time to invest there.
It was time, the prime minister said to them, for India and the United States to work in partnership to play “important role in helping the world bounce back faster after the pandemic”.
“We have what is needed to power the global economic recovery,” Modi said, addressing the annual summit of the US-India Business Council (USIBC, a trade body)) virtually, pitching India as “a nation that you can trust”, in contrast, he did not say, with China, India’s rise means, he added, “a rise in global integration with increasing openness, a rise in your competitiveness with access to a market which offers scale”.
As countries and businesses around the world seek to reduce their dependence on Chinese supply chains, hit first by President Donald Trump’s tariffs and then by the Covid-19 epidemic, India is positioning itself as the alternative destination, seeking to fight off stiff competition from Vietnam, whose saturation points are much lower in every aspect than India.
Also read: ‘India, US need to focus on something ‘bigger’ as they talk trade’, says Jaishankar
The prime minister said the recent crisis — the pandemic, — had showed the world it needed to pay more attention to “resilience against external shocks” and not just focus on scaling up efficiency and optimization, bywords for the shift of supply chains to China. And with that he segued into “aatma nirbhar Bharrat”, his government’s new motto, stressing increased domestic capability for manufacturing, restoring the health of the financial system and diversification of international trade.
“There is global optimism towards India. This is because India offers a perfect combination of openness, opportunities and options. Let me elaborate. India celebrates openness in people and in governance,” the prime minister said, setting up a quick run-through of investment opportunities in India.
Modi spoke of opportunities in the “frontier technologies” of 5G, Big data analytics, Quantum computing, Block-chain and Internet of things; in the agriculture sector; healthcare, which he said was growing at 22% a year; in energy, as India evolved into a gas-based economy; in infrastructure; in civil aviation; defense and space; finance and insurance.
Investments are flowing in already. “Every year, we are reaching record highs in FDI. Each year is significantly higher than the earlier one. FDI inflows in India in 2019-20 were 74 billion dollars,” he said, adding, “This is an increase of 20 percent from the year before that.”
Even during the ongoing pandemic,” Modi said, to illustrate his point. “In the middle of Covid, India has attracted foreign investment of more than $20 billion between April and July 2020.”
While pitching India as a global powerhouse, the prime minister called for global economic growth to be “human-centric”, stressing a continuing theme for India. Last week, he had pressed UN member states to move towards a “new type of human-centric globalization”.
“I firmly believe that our approach to the future must primarily be a more a more human centric . Our growth agenda must raise the poor and the vulnerable at the core,”the prime minister said, adding, “ease of living is as as important s ease of business.”
At the same forum earlier, EAM S Jaishankar stressed the need for India and the United States to strive for something “bigger” even as they seek to resolve their trade differences.
While resolving these “pending problems”, the minister said, referring to trade issues, is important and central to the relationship, “but beyond trade there is a much bigger connect between our two countries … a sort of knowledge innovation.
Working together in their sphere, he added, “is what will set our relationship apart”.
Commerce minister Piyush Goyal had said, at the same forum Tuesday, that India and the United States were just some phone “calls” away from wrapping up a limited trade deal. And he had had gone on to propose a “preferential trade agreement” as the next step, as the two sides got down to working on a larger and more robust and enduring Free Trade Agreement.
The external affairs minister also spoke broadly of India-US relations, framing it in the larger contexts of geo-politics and people to people connections. He said the United States needs to “learn” to work with a more multipolar world, and go “beyond alliances”.
Jaishankar’s session partner on Wednesday was Mark Warner, the Democratic senator who is co-chair of the Senate India caucus, who forcefully proposed India joins the United States to form the core of the “Alliance of the Willing”, a loose coalition of nations to confront China’s predatory use of technology to dominate the world.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is in London, also appealed to India to do more against China. “India has a chance to take global supply chains away from China and reduce its reliance on Chinese companies in areas of telecommunications, medial supplies and others”
“India is in this positions because it has earned the trust of many nations around the world, including, the United States,” he added.
The secretary of state, who has spearheaded the Trump administration’s sharpening attacks on China, reiterated US backing for India’s ban on 56 Chinese apps, including TikTok, and conveyed his condolences once agains for the death of Indian soldiers in the Galwan clashes, for which the US had held Beijing responsible.
Pompeo reiterated US position on India generally. “We’re the oldest and most prosperous democracies in the world, and It’s important that democracies like ours work together. India is a rising U.S. defense and security partner in the Indo-Pacific.”