While other nations have gone for protectionism that could bring negative growth post pandemic, India has aimed at self-reliance and emerging as a new global power which primes it for positive growth.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the unprecedented challenges it has thrown up has made us realize the importance of local supply chains. Following global lockdowns, the production stands reduced to minimum forcing nations to generate production sources within to meet their demands. It has proven, once again, that self-reliance is not only a choice but the only available alternative for sustainable development. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech on12 May called for an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and clarified that it does not mean isolationism. While other nations have gone for protectionism that could bring negative growth post pandemic, India has aimed at self-reliance and emerging as a new global power which primes it for positive growth. The Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan target is to ‘build local get vocal reach global’.
Many scholars have once again questioned the future of globalization following the pandemic outbreak. Theories of ‘end of globalization’ or ‘de-globalization’ as also of ‘slowbalization’ and ‘glocalization’ are gaining momentum. It is pertinent to note that the origin of globalization is not traced to a specific time period as human civilizations have been interacting globally since time immemorial. Just as the question of its origin remains vague any conjecture about its end is also likely to vague as globalization can never really end till human civilization exists. However, there can be a change in the form or nature of globalization. Globalization is interconnectedness of the world both materialistically and non-materialistically. It is in the very nature of human beings to interact, as human civilizations cannot live in absolute isolation. There is a cyclical relationship between production, consumption and demand or choice. Growth in human abilities will always cause growth in production, consumption and broaden choices to negate shrinking of the world.
The Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan is a call for ‘Swadeshi’ which isn’t new in the Indian history. Launched in 1905 the Swadeshi movement aimed at producing goods locally and boycotting the foreign goods. While the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan harks back to Swadeshi it doesn’t entail boycotting foreign goods and services, rather it only implies reduced dependence on imports. The path for an Atmanirbhar Bharat will not be a smooth one; in a democratic country it can be construed as an ‘attack on freedom of choice’; it may even impact bilateral and multilateral relations in the post-pandemic world. The greatest loss India faced due to globalization was of talent that kept flowing out to foreign economies. But in a changed scenario where major powers are aiming at securing jobs for their own nationals, India will have the opportunity to utilize its best minds. However, this too can be seen as ‘restriction on the right to movement of people, goods and services’.
Second, the ‘global commons’ emanating collective responsibility will keep the world interdependent and interconnected. India is continues to face tremendous losses due to terrorism, climate change, pollution etc which will require global cooperation. The current pandemic itself necessitates global cooperation be it for medicines, PPEs or vaccine research. These global commons will never allow a responsible country turn isolationist - India in the least.
Third, Modi government introduced several policies with the aim of making Atmanirbhar Bharat. Even before this, programmes such as Skill India Mission, Made in India, Start-up Stand-up India, to count few, were making ground for self-reliance. To compete with global standards, India will have to develop finest skills for which an attempt was initiated by the Skill India Mission (2015) that aimed at producing a minimum of about 300 million skilled people by 2022 and generating 10 million jobs per year.
Lastly, the distribution of natural resources all over the world is such that every product everywhere cannot be of the same quality as production gets limited by geographical conditions. Hence certain level of dependence and reliance on other nations, for example for oil and petroleum, will remain till an alternative is discovered.
With major nations sealing borders and stepping towards isolation, finding a global market for local products is also crucial. The World Population Prospects 2019 showed that India will surpass China to be the most populous country by the end of 2027. As per the 25th report published in 2017 more than 50% of India’s is population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35; the average age in India in 2020 is 29 as compared to 37 and 48 of China and Japan, respectively. India will use this demographic dividend to increase production and consumption both. The beneficiaries of globalization will continue targeting developing nations for their market but with the global backlash building against China, India can replace it as the new trade giant especially among Asian and African nations.
The call for Atmanirbhar Bharat aims at shifting India’s dependence on other countries and in turn making it a major power. It aims at not only producing and consuming locally made products , but also exporting it. India’s demographic dividend makes it far more resourceful than other economies and infusion of better skills can give India an added edge. The current protectionism of the United States and the backlash against China will directly help the Indian case by opening doors of global markets for Indian goods. The first wave of nationalism won India freedom from foreign rule but the second wave of nationalism centered on an Atmanirbhar Bharat can make it self-reliant and thus independent in the truest sense.
(Ranjana Singh is Intern at A4N. Author is a Phd Scholar at BHU)