More details of yesterday’s meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chief ministers of states are coming out. Interacting with the chief ministers on 27 April, the prime minister reportedly tried to motivate the states to attract investments by the more than 1,000 companies leaving China due to the devastation of the supply chains as well as questionable conduct of Beijing.
Earlier, the chief ministers of BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat had already instructed their respective ministerial colleagues and high-ranking officers to woo these companies, especially the Japanese and South Korean ones. Along those lines, Prime Minister Modi said yesterday that states should be ready for such investments as India, with abundant manpower skill and enhanced infrastructure, has the potential to become an alternative destination.
“As you all know, several industries will be exploring options beyond China after the coronavirus crisis. We all should work on a comprehensive plan for the possibility of investments in the states,” a source quoted Modi as telling the chief ministers via video conferencing.
What CMs told Modi about lockdown
Nitish Kumar (Bihar): Centre has to decide, we will follow
Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan): Leave the decision to states, should be lifted in a calibrated manner
BS Yediyurappa (Karnataka): Ease lockdown in green and orange zones
Vijay Rupani (Gujarat): Go for gradual withdrawal
Conrad Sangma (Meghalaya): Continue lockdown post 3 May with relaxations in green zones
Shivraj Singh Chouhan: lockdown in red zones with relaxations in other areas
Mamata Banerjee (Bengal): State govt drawing up a micro-level plan for phased lifting in green zones
Pinarayi Vijayan (Kerala): Wants partial lockdown till May 15 and a national policy in this regard
Hemant Soren (Jharkhand): Will take a call post May 3, won’t allow shops to open yet
Uddhav Thackeray (Maharashtra): Wants Centre to decide on migrants home
Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh): special trains to bring back 90,000-plus workers stranded in 21 states to the state
Pramod Sawant (Goa): Wants lockdown continued
The suggestion of the prime minister to the chief ministers to invite industries that are looking for alternatives to China follows his recent remarks that the country should become self-reliant to cope with the challenges like COVID-19. Modi turning explicit on the economic front marks his readiness to deal with the Chinese links to the pandemic.
Govt walks Chinese tightrope
India has had a blow-hot-blow-cold approach to China since the outbreak of COVID in Wuhan turned into a global pandemic. On the one hand, the Modi government let the Indian Red Cross Society accept PPE kits from Chinese concerns Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundation and also permitted the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to but the rapid antibody test kits from China. On the other, it tweaked the policy of FDI to change the rules for investments from bordering countries so that China cannot acquire Indian companies, buying out as it does to avoid attracting the attention of SEBI less than 1% of a firm’s stakes at a time.
Unlike US President Donald Trump and other global leaders, Modi has not used terms like “Wuhan/Chinese virus” to needle China. It has steered clear of WHO’s alleged subservience to Beijing. It is far from accusing China of unleashing a bioterrorist weapon on the world.
Yet, China has issued two threats to India. The first one is hollow: That it will block the supply of medical kits to India. Chinese products are not reliable anyway. The second one is serious. It may drag India to the WTO, which may or may not allow countries to work against free trade. This is where Sirf News columnist and Supreme Court lawyer Amitabh Sinha’s suggestion to form an international axis against China like the one against Iraq during the Gulf Wars provides a solution.