NEW DELHI: Post-Covid India would almost certainly be a “more ambitious worthwhile place” to do business in, Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar said on Friday while inviting Japanese businesses to take the opportunities presented by the reforms India has recently unveiled.
Addressing an event organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Jaishankar said that the pandemic had expanded countries’ sense of national security to include in its ambit health security and economic security including resilient supply chains as integral elements of national security. The minister also released a report brought out by FICCI and the law firm Shardul Amarchand and Mangaldas titled ‘India-Japan: Time to Seize New Opportunities’ on Friday.
In his remarks, Jaishankar noted how the India-Japan relationship had expanded from being a government to government relationship based on Japan’s overseas development assistance to a business to business relationship between the people of the two countries. While the government to government relationship is “indispensible” the business to business ties had grown rapidly, he said. The ties had acquired “many more facets” with the “complexity and substance” reflecting the trajectory of the past 25 years, he said. That Japan was the only country with which India has a annual summit at the level of prime ministers and a “2+2″ dialogue at the level of foreign and defence ministers was a testament to how much more the two countries “were in sync” with each other’s views of the world, the minister said. The defence and security relationship had progressed remarkably well in a short space of time, he said noting that India and Japan had recently signed a logistics support pact. This was a “practical manifestation of our ability and intent to work together and I am very confident that it would both be a big plus for the evolution of the Indo-Pacific vision of both countries as well as adding to the stability and security of Asia,” the minister said.
An element of the relationship in its “evolution stage” was looking at working together in third countries, Jaishankar said. India and Japan were working together in Sri Lanka and were looking to extend this to Bangladesh and Myanmar, he said. This India-Japan cooperation was against the backdrop of China increasing its footprint in South Asia – seen as India’s traditional sphere of influence, much to New Delhi’s chagrin.
‘If I were to look a little beyond the horizon I would flag … the possibility of economic cooperation in Russia’s Far East and in the Pacific Island countries,” Jaishankar said. The Russian Far East borders China and New Delhi has offered $1 billion to Russia as a line of credit to increase development there. The region has seen an influx of Chinese nationals and investment something Russia is wary of, according to news reports. The Pacific Islands states are also countries where China has been trying to increase its influence. In 2018, Australia – which views the region as its backyard – had set apart $ 2 billion for infrastructure development in the region given the increased Chinese interest in the region.
On economic cooperation between India and Japan, Jaishankar said “ we have seen a visible increase in economic relations” with FDI from Japan going up and the number of Japanese companies in India also rising.
Referring to the report he released, Jaishankar said that for Indians the message from the report was that “we should not be benchmarking ourselves against ourselves. It is not enough to tell Japanese business that we were better today than we were six months ago. I think we need to realize that we are competing with the rest of the world and we need to think bigger, bolder, more strategically in an economic way.”
For the Japanese side, the minister’s message was on the importance of understanding “Atmanirbhar Bharat” or the roadmap for a self reliant India unveiled by the prime minister Narendra Modi in May.
“The thinking behind that is something that the Japanese should very easily relate to … the pioneer of ‘atmanirbharta’ in Asia in Japan,” the minister said.
India was trying to build up its manufacturing which would allow it to participate more effectively in global supply chains, the minister added.