In a previous article in ThePrint, we stressed that support for autonomy under Aatmanirbhar Bharat should not be interpreted as a return to protectionism. In his speech to the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Prime Minister Modi continued his commitment to the cause of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, which is to make India an energy multiplier for the global economy. The government has identified 27 sectors of champions that can be competitive globally through the initial hand posture. However, in sectors/industries where domestic capacity was lacking, dependence on quality and competitive imports is inevitable. That is where the role of free trade agreements comes in. On the other hand, India is at the end of the Asean Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement to which it joined in 2010. India`s total trade deficit with Asean increased from $8 billion in 2009-10 to about $22 billion in 2018-19. He added that India had recorded a trade deficit in all major trade agreements, with the exception of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). An interactive list of bilateral and multilateral free trade instruments can be find on the TREND Analytics website.  As other Asian nations move forward with a major new free trade pact, the country is unwise to look inward. It is a list of free trade agreements between two parties in which each party could be a country (or another customs territory), a trade bloc or an informal group of countries. “India should not consider catching up with free trade agreements without properly preparing agriculture and manufacturing,” said Biswajit Dhar, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University. A comprehensive analysis of trade between India and its key free trade partners, discussed above, shows a significant increase in trade since the agreements came into force.
SAFTA came into force on 1 January 2006 and, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, bilateral trade between India and other SAFTA member states increased from $6.8 billion in 2005-06 to $28.5 billion in 2018-19. India`s trade with SAFTA grew faster than its overall trade with the world. As a result, SAFTA`s share of India`s international trade increased from 1.6% in 2005-06 to 2.5% in 2018-19. At the same time, Indian exports to SAFTA countries grew faster than their imports from them, resulting in a significant increase in the trade surplus with these economies from about $4 billion to $21 billion.