New Delhi: Once a key advocate of globalization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to have all but abandoned it. His advice to Indians yesterday to "buy local" is seen signaling a turn toward protectionism.
"Self-reliance" was mentioned at least 17 times during Modi's 33-minute address to the nation on Tuesday night, his third since imposing a nationwide lockdown to stop the coronavirus from spreading. While urging citizens to turn the crisis into an opportunity to grow local manufacturing capabilities, he said the state of the world today is a lesson for the country to become self-reliant.
"The corona crisis has taught us the value of local manufacturing, local markets and local supply chains," Modi said. "Local is not only our need it is also our responsibility. Time has taught us that we will simply have to make 'local' our life's mantra."
He said India was making personal protection equipment for frontline medical workers, something it had no manufacturing expertise when the pandemic hit India in March. Similarly, sales of locally made hand-loom garments rose after he earlier asked citizens to embrace 'khadi' as he had done.
"There could be a more explicit protectionist bent on the trade front in the near term as India shapes up to be more self-reliant," said Samiran Chakraborty and Baqar Zaidi, India economists at Citigroup Inc. The view was echoed by Rahul Bajoria of Barclays Bank Plc, who said it signals more measures "to protect and promote domestic manufacturing."
Despite the push for going local, Modi is known for patronizing foreign brands. He uses BMW AG cars for his official travel, and has tweeted in the past using an Apple Inc. iPhone handset. He was pictured sporting Maybach sunglasses while witnessing a solar eclipse last year.
K.S. Dhatwalia, a spokesperson for the government, didn't immediately reply to a text message seeking comments.
"Under Modi, India has become steadily more protectionist, and his speech made clear that this trend will continue," said Akhil Bery, an analyst with Eurasia Group.