The Centre is considering a proposal that will allow states to become ambassadors of their own products and services, which they can directly market to foreign countries.
A proposal permitting states to open desks in countries of their choice is with the ministry of external affairs and a decision is expected soon. Such an idea was suggested by Narendra Modi in a pre-election speech and the MEA is amenable to it. Modi had also criticised the then ruling UPA for not responding to a similar recommendation.
The PM, sources close to him told HT, is now keen to take the states on board and wants them to have a say in deciding ties with countries that they share borders, or cultural and commercial affinity with.
“Japan may have an interest in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu which have emerged as auto hubs of India. Indonesia also expressed interest to explore opportunities to invest in the rubber plantation and mining industries in Odisha because of their strong cultural ties. The intent is to allow states to grow, which would lead to overall progress of the country,” a Union minister said on condition of anonymity.
Despite all this, the minister said, any policy shift will not undermine the Centre’s supremacy in deciding foreign policy. “We are here to create tailor-made policies and guidelines according to the requirement of the states and help them attract investment in areas of their strength,” a government source said.
The PMO has advised the MEA that states understand their needs best and India’s foreign policy should take this into account.
The Centre is also studying how states have partnered with different countries and their regions in the past. Goa had a relationship with Hawaii in the field of tourism while South Australia signed a sister-state agreement with Tamil Nadu in 2006. The PM wants to give a big push to all such associations, sources said.