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14 March, 2016 09:12 AM Source: Financial Times - Sri Lanka
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday claimed India doesn’t follow “beggar thy neighbour” policies and has never tried to gain in trade at the expense of its partners.

Modi’s comments, apparently aimed at dispelling accusations that India unduly pushes its weight as a bully of smaller nations in the region, was made at the inauguration of the two-day ‘Advancing Asia: Investing for the Future’ conference organised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in New Delhi.

“We have never tried to gain in trade at the expense of our partners. We do not follow ‘beggar thy neighbour’ macro-economic policies. We have never undervalued our exchange rate. We add to world and Asian demand by running current account deficits. We are therefore good Asian and good global economic citizens, and a source of demand to our trading partners,” said Modi, who was the Chief Guest at the opening.

The Indian Premier’s observation is also noteworthy in the context of its plans to forge an Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with Sri Lanka.

The conference had participants drawn from Asia and outside including a Sri Lankan delegation led by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and comprising Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran, three other senior officials, Institute of Policy Studies Executive Director Dr. Saman Kelegama and Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Immediate Past Chairman Suresh Shah.

Though he didn’t directly refer to the impending deal with Sri Lanka, Modi’s comments could allay fears among certain sections within Sri Lanka which are vehemently opposing the ETCA despite Government assurance that country’s best interests have been looked into.

During his speech Modi also told the conference, co-chaired by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, that India had a number of cooperative initiatives in Asia.

“We are transforming the ‘Look East Policy’ into an ‘Act East Policy’. Our approach to cooperation is based on flexible geometry. We have integrated in different ways and at different speeds with our neighbours in South Asia, our partners in ASEAN, and our partners in Singapore, Japan, and Korea. We intend to continue doing so,” the Indian Premier said.

“We all want Asia to succeed. I firmly believe that India can contribute to Asian prosperity and development by being economically strong. Amid global problems, I am happy to say that India is a haven of macro-economic stability and a beacon of hope, dynamism and opportunity,” Modi said.

With the IMF regarding India as the “bright spot” and the fastest growing major economy in the world, Modi said he viewed this achievement as a “great privilege and, at the same time, a major responsibility”.

He also emphasised that India had dispelled the myth that democracy and rapid economic growth could not go together. India’s growth rate of over 7% is being achieved in a country that is also a vibrant democracy. Modi also shared with the conference participants some of India’s key achievements in the recent past and priorities for the future.

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