The Indian position, sources said, has remained consistent and at no point has there been any effort to shift goalposts so as to undermine or scuttle the larger process. New Delhi had already made its proposals much earlier in view of the concerns raised by various domestic stakeholders.
Those aware of the template and details of the going negotiations told ET that the Indian approach was best summed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself in his interview with the Bangkok Post November 2, where he said:
“We have put forward reasonable proposals in a clear manner and are engaged in negotiations with sincerity. We would like to see commensurate levels of ambition on services from many of our partners, even as we are ready to address their sensitivities.”
Modi also indicated India was in favour of a well-negotiated balanced RCEP. “Overall, we are clear that a mutually beneficial RCEP, in which all sides gain reasonably, is in interests of India and of all partners in the negotiation”.
India has been concerned over the RCEP turning into an instrument for cheap Chinese goods to enter India through ASEAN countries. To address these China-related concerns, India had made certain proposals in the run up to the Summit. This included a demand for a better deal trade-in-services and market access to Indian goods.
The RCEP stakeholders have remained split on issues raised by India and are looking at ways to grants some concessions which will help New Delhi make a favourable decision. The government, it may be noted, is taking a full-scale review of all its FTAs to assess both their impact and performance.