India, Asean should focus on resilient supply chains, sustainable recovery: Jaishankar
India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) should focus on cooperation to ensure resilient supply chains and sustainable recovery to address vulnerabilities exposed by the Covid-19 crisis, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday.
Businesses can also play a key role in forging new partnerships for collaboration in areas such as vaccine and pharmaceutical production to cope with the inadequacies in the global health system brought out by the pandemic, Jaishankar said during his virtual address at the inaugural session of the Indo-Asean Business Summit.
The business summit, organised by the external affairs ministry and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), saw envoys of Asean states and India’s ambassadors to the region participating in brainstorming sessions on strengthening business links between India and the 10-nation grouping in order to drive post-pandemic recovery.
The pandemic provides the backdrop for how most countries approach their economic policies and global outlook because it disrupted supply chains, impacted manufacturing, affected trade and “veritably ruined many services sectors”, Jaishankar said.
“From the prolonged crisis of the last two years, four areas have come into sharp focus for international business cooperation – resilient and reliable supply chains, health security, digital for development and green and sustainable recovery. They should constitute the core agenda for us,” he said.
He added, “Covid-19 has brought out many inadequacies in the global health system. Meaningful partnerships, sharing of advanced technologies, collaboration in vaccine and pharmaceutical production, capacity-building and transparency in health information are all part of the answers.”
Jaishankar also said that the uncertainties arising from Covid-19 cannot be seen as a one-time phenomenon, and countries will have to plan for the future. “A large part of the answers – both short-term and beyond – lies in diversification, expansion and transparency. De-risking our national economies will only be possible if we achieve a strong measure of success quickly in that regard,” Jaishankar said.
He added that while India’s “Look East” policy has matured into “Act East”, there is a need to re-imagine India-Asean cooperation following the pandemic. “There is no doubt that Asean is one of the major hubs for India’s global economic engagement. As it develops, it is natural that we would like to revisit the level of ambition that we have set for our partnership,” he said.
India’s success in developing the first DNA vaccine for Covid-19, its role as a major global vaccine production centre, and the Quad vaccine partnership could lead to significant benefits for countries in the Indo-Pacific region, Jaishankar said. At the same time, strengthening of digital connectivity with Asean and the larger Indo-Pacific has assumed greater importance, and India can offer science and technology-based innovations to help the region, he added.
Jaishankar said that the pandemic has given additional impetus to diversification of the global value chain, and India’s campaign for self-reliance will make it a trustworthy partner for global industrial resiliency. “At the same time, we need to take full advantage of building back better by ensuring a greener economic recovery,” he said.
He added that India has a strong record on climate action and an ambitious vision for renewable energy sources and green hydrogen. “It is important that we – India, the Asean and our relationship – we recognise that a different world awaits us. It is one that puts greater premium on trust and transparency, resilience and reliability, as also on choices and redundancy,” Jaishankar said.