India's Trade Overview



The history of human civilisation owes its richness to trade and interactions with other cultures. The Indus Valley Civilization (one of the first human civilisations of the world) for instance, indulged in fostering long-distance trade in order to procure resources like gold, silver, pearls and tinted gems. Caravans of merchants travelled far and wide in order to indulge in trade with Persia, Arabian Gulf, China & Mesopotamia. A few centuries down the line, Silk Route became a prominent trade route. It lasted between 130 B.C. and 1453 A.D. and connected China and the Far East with the Middle East and Europe. Everything from silk and spices to techniques for making glass & gunpowder traversed from the East to the West. So significant was the origin of gunpowder, that it aided nation-states to gain advantages in war and metamorphosed the geo-political landscape of the regions along this course.

Over the years, as world trade prospered and explorers, scholars, conquerors and merchants criss-crossed the globe, stories about the mystical land called India began to do the rounds. Christopher Columbus, the fervent Italian voyager, sailed all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, hoping to find India. While he had little luck in his endeavor, Vasco da Gama became the first European to set his foot on the Indian soil. Subsequently, the marvel and mysticism about the wonders of India began spreading to the West just like the aroma of its spices, enticing ambitious trading companies such as the British East India Company to come to the country. Cotton and silk goods, indigo, and saltpetre, were some of the items that earned admirers in the West, who developed a penchant for these exotic goods. The avarice of the British for lucrative profits saw the rise of colonialism.

Major developments like the genesis of capitalist model of development and industrial revolution occurred during this period. Focus started shifting to manufacturing as much and as quickly as possible in order to bolster trade, and maximize profits. Technologies such as Henry Ford’s assembly line production, the invention of power loom and the introduction of railways began to gain currency so as to expedite trade. However, this was just the precursor of the friction that was to follow, with devastating effects.