Mr Rossow says India’s strategy has always been “pro-investment and anti-trade”.
Flagship government policies such as Make in India have aggressively courted foreign direct investment while seeking to boost domestic manufacturing.
To achieve this, India has erected trade barriers against competitors. In the past, western multinationals were the target. Today, China is seen as a rising threat.
The BJP used its budget last year to raise import duties on goods including sunglasses, cigarette lighters and fruit juice to discourage Chinese imports.
Mr Modi’s government has also spent the last four years defending India’s multibillion-dollar food-security programme, which many developed countries see as unfair.
Under the programme, the government heavily subsidises local farmers so they can provide low cost food for the poor.
But, the US and others argue it breaks World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules around subsidy limits.
Dmitry Grozoubinski, a former Australian negotiator at the WTO, thinks they may have a point.
“India is justifying its agricultural subsidies by claiming their poorest citizens can’t afford food, but they’re maintaining massive tariff walls that effectively prevent the imports that could bring prices down.”
He believes Mr Modi is just grandstanding to show support for the millions of farmers in India – a key voting constituency.
This also may explain why India has become such a troublemaker at the WTO over the issue, Mr Grozoubinski adds.
Indian trade representatives regularly use obscure legal precedents to stop the Geneva-based body from doing its job, he says, even trying to block rulings on entirely unrelated matters.
“Domestically it plays well for them to say we’re standing up for poor farmers and not letting western countries bully us,” he adds.
Trade flows and trade talks
As the fastest growing major economy in the world, India is unlikely to worry too much about such criticism. It’s managed to bring millions of people out of poverty since the millennium, although challenges remain.
There is, however, a risk that its protectionism could backfire.
Take the way that, last December, the government banned foreign retailers such as Amazon from striking exclusive deals with local goods sellers.
The move was viewed as a bid by Mr Modi to placate small traders, also a key voter base.
Analysts say the risk is that further protectionist measures could reverse the economic gains enjoyed by the country since liberalisation.
Ms Deveshwar says India will need to reform on trade if it wants to secure long-term prosperity.
“India hasn’t been able to tap into some of the trade opportunities that have opened up because of the tensions between the US and China, and you’ve seen other countries such as Vietnam come and take that market share.”
If the Congress party gains power in May, it is unclear whether it will seek to change India’s trade policy, and Mr Rossow believes a second term for Mr Modi will just mean more of the same.
“This government is all about trying to encourage investment and if it continues [in power], you’re going to see another big run at that.”
The Indian government did not respond to requests for comment on the issues raised in this article.