The decision also cements India’s growing stature as a country that is rock solid in its resolve to not only protect its own interests, but also to boldly ward off any attempts to being arm-twisted. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, New India reflects a new self-confidence.
India’s not joining RCEP was summed up by the PM himself: ‘Whenever I try and gauge India’s interest in light of her joining RCEP, I do not get an answer in the affirmative; neither Gandhiji’s policy of self-reliance nor my wisdom allows me to join RCEP.’ What makes this decision significant is that this has yet again demonstrated that the PM can go to any extent to safeguard the interests of farmers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), textile, dairy and manufacturing, medicine, steel and chemical industries. The PM didn’t compromise on it since the agreement didn’t seem to accommodate India’s concerns on issues like trade losses and dumping. India should not be party to any such international treaty that’s one-sided & against the interests of our farmers and entrepreneurs.
The Congress-led UPA government failed in safeguarding the interests of India. In 2007, it had already begun thinking of engaging in a regional trade agreement (RTA) with China. How this affected India’s trade with China is borne out by the fact that during UPA’s tenure, India’s trade losses with China grew 23 times — from $1.9 billion in 2005 to $44.8 billion in 2014. This hit indigenous industries hard.
An example of Congress’ history of compromising with India’s interests is the 2013 Bali Agreement. While participating in the WTO conference, then commerce minister Anand Sharma had weakened India’s stand on its provisions for agriculture subsidy and support prices to farmers. This could have created havoc for farmers, but for the timely intervention of the PM in 2014, who ensured that then commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman rejected the proposal.