Event ReportsPublished on Mar 30, 2013
India's exports would go down if economic sanctions are imposed on Sri Lanka as sought by some people in Tamil Nadu, affecting farmers, manufacturers and suppliers in the State, says former President of the India-ASEAN-Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce.
India's trade diplomacy in South Asia
India's exports would go down if economic sanctions are imposed on Sri Lanka as sought by some people in Tamil Nadu, and it would adversely affect (sugarcane) farmers, manufacturers and suppliers in the State than the other way round, according to Somi Hazari, former President of the India-ASEAN-Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce.

Hazari said this while initiating an interaction on 'India's trade diplomacy with South Asia' at the Chennai Chapter of Observer Research Foundation on March 30, 2013. The Interaction witnessed a variety of perspectives with regard to India's trade relations with the countries of South Asia. Hazari briefed the gathering about the roots to India's trade relations with other South Asian countries. He also talked about India's 'Look East' policy, aimed at encouraging trade partnership with the East and South-East Asian region, too. In particular he focused on Myanmar. "Little is known about India's trade relationship with Myanmar," said Hazari. He listed the trade commodities and pointed out that much of the toor dal, which is an integral part of the day's staple diet in India, came from that country. He also pointed out how rich Myanmar is in terms of natural resources like oil and natural gas.

Hazari said that India's trade policy had been a lull but has looked up in recent times. The reason for a slow paced trade in the past can be attributed to the success of India's 1974 nuclear test due to which there was a suspicion among other nations about India's intentions. To further strengthen his assertion, there was a mention about India being given the status of an observer nation in the ASEAN for some time, prior to being granted admittance after ascertaining that India had no hegemonic intentions.

Talking about other nations in the South and South East of Asia, there was a brief about countries like Singapore, Japan, Vietnam, Maldives and Sri Lanka. There also was a discussion about Pakistan and the MFN (Most Favoured Nation) status that is expected to be conferred to India.

Hazari said that South Asian countries have registered a rapid growth whereas developed countries such as the UK and France have shown negative GDP growth and the US has just grown marginally. This being the case, Hazari's view was that India's trade relations with South Asian nations are very critical. Singapore has emerged as a major trading point and has a top position in service sector industries. Vietnam, on the other hand, has signed many treaties with India. It also has huge oil and gas deposits. Hazari also talked about Indian labour and how they are sought after by countries like Malaysia and Indonesia to upgrade their tea gardens, mainly because they are the cheapest in the region.

Hazari said Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are the two largest trading partners of India in South Asia. He said Indian exports to Sri Lanka are five times that of Sri Lankan export to India. On a question raised regarding the imposition of an economic embargo on Sri Lanka, Hazari replied that this would only hurt Indian exports. He also spoke about Bangladesh having vital trade interests with India and the construction of a feasible roadway transport system to enable smooth flow of trade within the two countries.

The discussion also witnessed talk about free trade agreements among the South Asian nations. There were assertions that if free trade agreements were to be put in place, it may boost up the GDP of individual member-countries by 1-2 per cent. Alongside these talks rose the MFN status and trade diplomacy with the neighbor Pakistan. There was cautious optimism on this score.

(This report is prepared by Ramalingam Va, I Year BA (Journalism & Mass Communication), S R M University, Chennai)

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