China will never treat India equally and therefore, New Delhi has to grow capability to became an alternative in the global supply chain, US-India Strategic Partnership Forum president Mukesh Aghi said.
In an exclusive interview to India Today while speaking from Washington DC, Dr Mukesh Aghi said that now was not the time to stop key manufacturing on account of essential parts coming from China since that would hurt the Indian and global economy.
“We are naive to think that China will treat India as an equal partner. China will never ever treat India as an equal partner. With the nation’s focus on the pandemic, China has become much more assertive and aggressive, trying to increase the sphere of influence. Look at what’s happening in the South China Sea, in Japan and what’s happening on the Indian border. India has to accept the fact that China will never treat India as an equal partner,” Dr Aghi said.
India, however, needs to buy peace till the time it does not become the manufacturing hub that Prime Minister Modi has envisioned, Dr Aghi said.
“India needs to buy peace for next 20 years in some way either with alignment or other fact. India needs 20 years of time to get his economic agenda right, get the quality of life of citizen up, get the per capita up, spend more in defense. India needs that, India cannot be at loggerheads with China which is both military and economically more powerful. I think the smart strategy would be is make sure we buy that time,” Dr Aghi said.
The USISPF president had recently written to Indian authorities when reports emerged that goods originating from China were held up at Indian air and sea ports.
“What we have written is that a lot of these goods are part of global supply chain and if India wants to become a player in the important global supply chain, it needs to figure out how these goods can move in and move out as a completed product. It does have an impact and and if you don’t do that, it sends a wrong message to the boardroom where they ask: can we have India as a reliable partner in the global supply chain,” the USISPF president said.
While Dr Aghi said that Indian citizens had the right to make the “democratic” choice of boycotting Chinese goods if they wanted to, Indian government should be careful and look at the larger issues he asserted.
“Well, we are democracy. And we are a noisy democracy. Citizens have to get the emotions out. So nothing wrong with that… Indian government has to be careful. While the government is trying to calm the situation down, it has a deal geopolitically, it has to economically, it has to deal emotionally. Government has to be the calming but calculating factor to ensure that in the mid to long-term, India’s dependence on China gets less and less,” Dr Aghi said.
On the issue of recent suspension of H1B visas by US government, Dr Aghi said that the business community is in touch with the Trump administration and has conveyed to them that they “oppose” the decision, “it does not make any business sense”.
“Absolutely, in fact, we at USISPF spoke directly with Jared Kushner, who is much more in favour of getting professionals coming to the US. We wrote to the President himself and the other organizations have written as well. So, I think the business community has reached out to the White House saying that it hurts their organisation, the US economy. It makes no sense to stop this visa,” Dr Aghi said.
Dr Aghi said that the USISPF has “recommended to the White House not to go beyond 60 days on this temporary suspension”.