Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday launched a scathing attack on the Narendra Modi government over the prevailing economic crisis and said that signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement will result in "untold hardship" for farmers, shopkeepers and small enterprises.
Addressing a press conference at Congress headquarters in Delhi, Gandhi said, "As a citizen and as a member of the responsible opposition, it pains me to see the Indian economy under siege. What is even more worrying is that the government is in complete denial."
"As economic decisions have not damaged the economy enough, it is now ready to deal a body blow to it by signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) - the regional free trade agreement of 16 Asian countries," she added.
The statement from the Congress president came as negotiations to finalise the long-overdue RCEP trading deal enter final stages. The RCEP is the world's largest trading deal spanning 16-Asia Pacific nations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is currently in Thailand on a three-day visit and will attend the RCEP Summit there.
Except India, all 15 RCEP member countries were on board in finalising the deal when leaders of the grouping hold a summit meeting on Monday in Nonthaburi. According to sources, PM Modi is likely to give India’s consent to the deal.
"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 said in an interview to Bangkok Post newspaper ahead of the RCEP summit.
The prime minister will attend the 16th ASEAN-India Summit, the 14th East Asia Summit and the third summit meeting of RCEP which is negotiating the trade deal. "At the RCEP Summit, we will take stock of the progress in RCEP negotiations. We will consider all issues including whether India's concerns and interests in trade in goods, services, and investments are being fully accommodated, during this summit," Modi said.