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Eye on China, S Jaishankar calls for diversification of supply chains

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: In his address to the Nikkei ‘Future of Asia’ conference on Thursday, foreign minister S Jaishankar mooted for diversification of supply chains from the current over-dependence on China. India, said Jaishankar, can “de-risk the global economy through more effective partnerships” calling for multiple engines of growth, in a multipolar and “rebalanced” world.

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“It is only with such redundancy that the world can face the next pandemic better than we are doing the current one,” he said.

The Coronavirus pandemic, he said, has upended the global conversation on globalisation with countries focusing more on strategic autonomy at least in critical areas of the economy and supply chains. “Trust and transparency” are foremost in the minds of countries after the pandemic. “It was bad enough to be confronted with shortages and disruptions; worse that they could become pressure points,” he added. This was a veiled reference to China’s coercive actions on supplies, both in the first and second waves of the pandemic.

There was also a suggestive reference to the fact that countries went into extreme nationalist modes during the pandemic. “Few practiced what they preach-ed. Some even stopped preaching altogether,” Jaishankar said. “Call it buying nationally, middle-class concerns, dual circulation of self-reliance — there is no question that many polities are seeking to hedge against excessive exposure internationally.”

Mr Jaishankar further said, “Meeting the health and medical requirements of the world effectively requires a mature recognition of the global nature of the underlying supply chains. … it cannot be addressed purely nationally. The answer to the pandemic challenge is to expand and smoothen the global flows, while creating confidence that the outcomes are for the benefit of the entire world.”

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Talking about a push for building capacities at home, Jaishankar said that trusted supply chains and improved global cooperation “can be facilitated by improved national capacities. So, if India is to make a real contribution to Asian and global economic recovery, it can start by helping itself more.”

The Indian government, he said, is working on removing “sectoral disabilities, creating economies of scale and ensuring efficiencies. By creating a level-playing field and encouraging a component eco-system, it will integrate India deeper into the global supply chain.” “Where the Quad arrangement is concerned, its agenda today covers vaccine collaboration, supply chains, amongst others,” he said.

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