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DAVOS: Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch to investors on Tuesday and said the government had rolled out the red carpet and was removing red tape. He also showcased India as a sustainable counterpoise to the US and China on the global challenges of climate change, terrorism and protectionism.
“Come to India if you want wealth and wellness. Come to India if you want health and wholeness. Come to India if you want prosperity with peace… You will always be welcome,” Modi said before a lunch with over 100 CEOs
Addressing a gathering of the global elite at the opening session of the World Economic Forum’s annual meet, which has a theme — Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World — the PM also made not-sosubtle references to America’s rising protectionism and regression on climate change under President Donald Trump, China’s stubborn defence of terrorists promoted by its partner Pakistan as well as its exploitation of the natural resources of its partner countries.
Modi did not name countries, but his 52-minute speech, sprinkled with quotations from scriptures, was a clear attempt to cast India as the big player which, unlike others, had consistently stood for a rule-based global order.
Like Chinese president Xi Jinping’s address last year, Modi’s speech seemed to attack the US’s recent retreat into protectionism. “Many societies and countries are becoming self-centred. It seems that globalisation, as opposed to its definition, is shrinking. Such misplaced preferences can’t be considered any lesser threat than terrorism or climate change. We must admit the shine of globalisation is fading,” the PM said.
But the policies of Jinping — who last year used the WEF to project China as the new champion of globalisation against the backdrop of neo-mercantilism in the US — also came under attack for China’s relentless hunt for natural resources in Africa and its backing for Pakistan, which has been accused by India of promoting terrorism. “Terrorism is a big threat but an even bigger threat is when you give definitions like good terrorism and bad terrorism,” Modi said, adding that the other big worry was radicalisation of educated youth.
Referring to the US, which pulled out of climate talks, and other developed countries which have failed to meet their commitments to help fight global warming, the PM said there was only talk of lower carbon emissions but there were few countries that were indeed offering resources and technology to developing countries to deal with the challenge. In contrast, he said, India and France had come together to put in place the International Solar Alliance.
While pointing out how there were few trade deals and tariff and non-tariff barriers were increasingly being used to block exports, Modi said overseas investments were also being impacted.
The comments came on a day when the US slapped higher import duty on solar panels and washing machines in what was seen as the latest move to restrict imports, especially from China.
In contrast, Modi cited recent data and surveys to suggest that India was open for business and added that his government’s policies had received widespread endorsement from international agencies, apart from support from the people.
While talking about the changes in India, he said by 2025, India would be a $5 trillion economy with Indian innovators becoming “job givers” as opposed to “job seekers”.
In his address, interspersed with “shlokas” and quotes by Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, Modi repeatedly referred to the Indian way of doing things — be it inclusiveness or environment protection. Despite charges against his government and party for promoting intolerance, a major thrust of the PM’s speech was to portray India as an open and inclusive country that could address some of the challenges and divisions in the world.
“India has always believed in values of integration and unity, ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, which means the entire world is one family. It is relevant to bridge distances,” Modi said.
In what was a reference to the UN, World Bank and IMF, the PM also called for a revamp of multilateral bodies, while asking countries to adhere to global rules.