NEW DELHI: “India is not China,” Australian High Commissioner to India Harinder Sindhu declared on Wednesday.
Releasing a report titled India Economic Strategy to 2035: Navigating from Potential to Delivery on Wednesday at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi, High Commissioner Sindhu said that her government commissioned the report because “India matters to Australia,” and the key conclusion of the report “is that there is no market over the next 20 years that offers more opportunity to Australia.”
The 504-page report, prepared by Peter Varghese, former High Commissioner to India and former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, was submitted to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who commissioned it after his visit to India last year. “It is the most comprehensive report of its kind on the Australia–India relationship—it’s ambitious, future-focused and its 90 recommendations seek to bring about a step-change in the way Australia engages with India,” said Sindhu.
Flanked by the Director of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations Rajat Kathuria and the Director General of the Confederation of Indian Industry Chandrajit Banerjee, Sindhu said that “what makes the Strategy interesting and unique is how it departs from what I could call the ‘standard model’ of Australia’s economic engagement with Asian partners.”
From the 1950s onward, “this model worked on a near-perfect complementarity of Australia’s advantages and the demands of developing countries in Asia at the time, particularly in North and East Asia – Japan, Korea and, more recently, China,” she said. “Australia’s natural resources, technological expertise and innovation supported the rapid industrialisation of Asian countries which were manufacturing-led and export driven. This brought tremendous benefits to both sides as well as to global growth.”
But “an important insight from the Strategy is to remind Australians that India will not likely follow the same model. Put simply, India is not China,” she said. The advent of technology – artificial intelligence,3D printing, robotics – “has changed the face of manufacturing as well as the comparative advantages of lower-cost labour…So India is developing in a different global economic environment compared to that of other Asian giants. The shape of its economy will be different (and) Indian Government policy already recognises the importance of skilling and of supporting digital industries and startups,” she said.
Noting that in the two years that she has been in India, she had seen considerable changes, including the extremely significant introduction of the GST across India as well as other regulatory reforms, she said unlike the economic relationship with China, which was centrally driven, the report recommended working with individual Indian states, and identified 10 priority states and sectors to begin with.
The strategy recommends and recommends that Australia strives to lift India into its top three export markets, see Australian exports to india treble to around $45 billion, and investment to India rise 10 times to over the $100 billion mark by 2035. “But for the partnership to be complete, India also requires a strategy for Australia,” she concluded.