Does India Need A National Strategy for Rare Earths?
Author: S. Chandrashekar
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At the global level the Rare Earth (RE) industry is in the mature phase. Growth of existing products that use RE will be mainly in large emerging economies like India and China. Through a policy of active intervention China has built up an extremely strong position in the global RE industry. India has no major presence except maybe in the raw material part of the global RE industry. Even here Indian capabilities have withered away due to China’s dominance of the industry and Indian inaction. In a few areas like permanent magnets, Indian organisations in the military/strategic sector have established some limited capabilities.
Though the global RE industry presents a fairly bleak picture as far as India is concerned, it does present India with an opportunity to take stock and come up with a strategy to deal with the RE and other similar problems that India may face in the future. India does have two major advantages in the RE industry. It has a large resource base in RE raw materials. It also has a large domestic market for both civilian and military products that gives it significant leverage if used wisely. India also has a reasonable R&D base especially within the mission organisations of the country. It however has major inadequacies in converting indigenously available knowledge and technology into commercially viable products and services. Though India has in place the institutions and infrastructure it is unable to link grand, national strategy to the more prosaic micro level industry and product development strategies that are the key to any national endeavour.
For a national level strategy to be successful India needs to understand in much greater detail the technology – product – market links in the various key industries likely to be affected by RE shortages.