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How a chaotic 2020 will make or break India's Global Ambitions.

By Rattandeep Singh

 


2020 will go down in history as one of the most transformative years of the 21st century, not just for changing the Corporate landscape but also for being the landmark year when the global power balance began to shift on an accelerated basis, ultimately leading to a full-on economic disengagement between the world’s two largest economies (a phenomenon which has been dubbed as the new Cold War by some as well).


As the world wakes up to a more aggressive and belligerent China, all countries are re-examining their relationship with the Asian giant. The long held western notion that as china develops economically it will reform itself to become a more democratic and liberal society is rapidly unravelling, giving massive power and influence to china hawks around the globe.

In the past few months, the US has pursued a scorched earth policy with regards to china’s Wolf Diplomacy. It has blamed china for the not being transparent enough with matters related to the coronavirus, has aggressively lobbied allies to ban Huawei and ZTE, has closed down a Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas on espionage charges and has sanctioned various senior Communist Party Leaders for rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, apart from banning popular Chinese apps Tik Tok and We Chat.

The European Union has followed in the footsteps of the US, increasing scrutiny of Huawei, condemning the rights abuses in Xinjiang and anti-democratic measures being undertaken by china in Honk Kong.

Other countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Australia and Vietnam have grown increasingly wary of china’s aggressive territorial claims in the South and East China Sea.


With the western world now re-working its China strategy one country in particular is expected to be their Ace of Spade.

Yes, you guessed it right, its India.


India is not only the other Billion plus population country apart from china, but has a similar political system and also shares a lot of west’s concerns regarding china. From regular border skirmishes to an over 50 Billion dollars trade deficit, India has perhaps the largest strategic interests when it comes to dealing with China.

Till now India was wary of being used as a counterweight to china given that both countries share a long land border and have huge interests in the Indo-Pacific Region. But with diplomatic relations taking a turn for the reverse, India is now keen to be a part of a western coalition to rein in an ever-aggressive China.


One of such coalitions is the Quad framework. India has been long courted by the US, Japan and Australia to establish the so called Quad as a vehicle of military deterrence against China in the Indo-Pacific but India was quite reluctant so far, but under the present circumstances it is almost clear that India is now willing to hold full fledged military exercises under the Quad Framework.

Apart from holding joint exercises, The US is now willing to provide India with State of the art Drones, Missile Systems, Aircraft and other weapons, all aimed to boost India’s preparedness against china.


Even though India’s defence relationship with its anti-China allies is turning out to be quite fruitful, the economic relations have been rocky to say the least and present the greatest opportunity.

With companies re-thinking global supply chains as a result of first, the US-China trade war and now coronavirus pandemic, India needs to step up and woo these global firms to convince then to set up their manufacturing bases in India to effectively leverage its vast and cheap labour force. Along with this india needs to implement broad-based reforms in areas such as Land Acquisition, Tax Litigation and Labour laws.

Along with this we need a strong Export sector. As seen with the experience of China and ASEAN countries, Exports are one of the quickest ways to reduce unemployment and build up economic prosperity and distribute wealth more equally among the masses. To facilitate more export oriented Industries, India need to bring in more favourable Policy Incentives such as Interest Subvention schemes and Production linked Subsidies for both Domestic and Foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers. Along with these policy measures, Critical Infrastructure such as Expressways, Dedicated Freight Corridors and Inland waterways need to be built at an exponential pace to aid this economic transformation. With this India should increasingly embrace global supply chains and realise their importance in creating a world class manufacturing sector and strive to build industries which are internationally competitive and compatible with these supply chains.


Apart from Exports and global supply chains, India needs to train and educate its workforce with the latest technological skills in order to ensure that India doesn’t miss the fruits of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Even though the new National Education Policy is a step in the right direction, we still need to address infrastructural and other quality related bottlenecks to ensure a bright entrepreneurial workforce.

Under the present circumstances of absolute chaos and disruption, The world looks up to India to stand up and play its role to lead the world towards a multipolar future and all the above mentioned issues of policy reforms & incentives, Global supply chains, infrastructure and human resource development along with strong international cooperation will be the ingredients necessary to fuel India’s rise to its rightful place in the new world order.


To conclude with a one liner, “If chaos is a ladder then this is indeed India’s best chance to climb it and emerge as a powerhouse in the new world order.


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