Mohammed Saqib, Secretary General, India China Economic And Cultural Council, says Indian industry is capable of replacing certain Chinese imports, but not all. He also says as of now, India is not in a position to replace Vietnam as (FDI destination) or other such nations.
Can Indian industry replace Chinese imports?
Certainly, Indian industry is capable of doing this, but not in all products. At least certain finished products of low technology can be quickly replaced—such as idols of gods, candles, toys, small household goods, etc. The annual value of these imports is $15-20 billion.
Do you expect stiff duties to discourage Chinese imports?
A blanket high tariff will not be good for India. We should categorise Chinese imports in three areas—low, middle, and high tech, and have a time horizon of three-ten years to achieve aatmanirbharta. In low tech, we can go for high duties immediately, but simultaneously opt for lower tariff on machinery imports and financial incentives to produce them domestically. Similarly, we need a time horizon for each category. Mindless policy announcement without in-depth study of our capabilities will harm the industry.
Is it more advisable for India to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)?
We missed a great opportunity (by not signing it). I think we are too late and unprepared for RCEP now.
Can India compete with Southeast Asian nations to attract FDI?
Firstly, I don’t think that there will be major investment outgo from China. Secondly, as of today, we are not ready to attract FDI, whether it is infrastructure, policies, or political will. As of now, we are not in a position to replace Vietnam as (FDI destination) or other such nations. COVID has spoiled it further.