| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI Feb 27 Indian opposition candidate
for prime minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday the country's
millions of family-owned traders must learn to work with large
modern shops and online retailers, in comments that could signal
a shift in thinking.
Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party opposes a policy to allow
foreign supermarkets to open in India, which it says is a threat
to millions of grocery stores and traders who are a backbone of
the party's support.
Sketching out his economic views ahead of a general election
likely to be held in April and May, Modi declined to reiterate
that stance or oppose a proposal to allow foreign investment in
online shopping, which is growing rapidly in India.
Instead, he said small traders should put emphasis on the
quality of their products to compete better. He said they could
enter into contracts with big online retailers to create
"We should not worry about the challenges from global
trade," Modi told a meeting of the Confederation of All India
"The government should not look to curb online trade. We
should not worry about these things, our children have taken IT
to the world. We'll have to embrace it."
Modi, chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, is
campaigning on the back of a record of strong growth over more
than a decade in office. But he has given few details about how
he would steer the national economy, which has seen growth at
its slowest in a decade.
In some of the first detailed comments, the Hindu
nationalist also said India needed to cut red tape by reducing
the number of laws, and called on the foreign ministry to focus
on "economic diplomacy" to improve India's commercial standing
in the world.
"Times have changed, the core work of external affairs
ministry today is trade and commerce," he said.
In an effort to attract overseas investment and revive the
economy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh threw open the country's
$500-billion retail industry to foreign investors late in 2012.
That allowed companies such as Wal-Mart Stores and
TESCO Plc to own majority stakes in Indian chains for
the first time, pending approval by individual states.
This month, the newly elected BJP government of the western
state of Rajasthan became the second state government to roll
back the policy.
Fewer than half of India's 28 states have agreed to
implement the policy.
The traders had hoped Modi would vow to make opposition to
foreign retailers a part of the party's manifesto, which is due
to be released in the next few weeks.