Calls in India to boycott Chinese goods after deadly border clash

18, Jun. 2020

By Atul Ranjan

NEW DELHI, NNA - Protests for a boycott of Chinese products are growing louder in India after weeks of a border stand-off erupted into a deadly brawl between forces of the two Asian powers in the disputed Galwan Valley in the Himalayas late on Monday night.

Angered by the deaths of at least 20 Indian soldiers and scores wounded, Indian businessmen, politicians, media groups and the man in the street are calling for tough actions against China and Chinese products.

Protesters in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru burn posters of Chinese President Xi Jinping after 20 Indian army personnel were killed during a clash with Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Galwan valley, on June 17, 2020. (PTI)
Protesters in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru burn posters of Chinese President Xi Jinping after 20 Indian army personnel were killed during a clash with Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Galwan valley, on June 17, 2020. (PTI)

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), an apex body of trading communities in the country, has renewed its campaign against Chinese products and called for a $13 billion reduction of imports by December 2021.

Additionally, the Indian government is reportedly planning to order state-owned telecom Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) not to use Chinese equipment.

China is one of India’s biggest trading partners. Despite years of on-off border tensions, Chinese investors and companies have been increasing their investments in India.

But Praveen Khandelwal, national secretary general of CAIT, said 70 million traders across India are bent on boycotting Chinese products.

“We can’t tolerate China aggression anymore,” he tweeted in the early hours of Thursday.

“70 million traders are well prepared to give a jolt to China by reducing its exports to India by $13 billion by December 2021,” he said.

Currently, India imports $70 billion worth of goods yearly from China, according to CAIT.

Ironically, the brutal conflict on Monday night apparently broke out during a meeting arranged to diffuse tension in recent weeks after both sides accused the other of incursions in a shared but undemarcated border high in the mountains between India's Ladakh and China's Aksai China near Tibet.

Initially, it was reported that three Indian soldiers had died in the violent brawl that saw the use of clubs, rods and rocks. An Indian commander was reportedly among the first to be killed.

Subsequently, news emerged that another 17 critically injured Indian soldiers tragically died after freezing temperatures had worsened their conditions.

According to local news agency PTI, the country’s Department of Telecom is set to order BSNL to avoid using Chinese telecom equipment in its 4G upgrade because of security issues.

The agency's report added that the department is also considering asking private telecom operators to reduce their dependence on China-made equipment.

Telecom operators like Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Vodafone Idea Ltd. have teamed up with China's Huawei Technologies Co. in their networks, while BSNL has been partnering with ZTE Corp.

Meanwhile, Chinese mobile phone brand Oppo cancelled the online launch of its flagship 5G smartphone in the country on Wednesday amid protests against Chinese products. Oppo, which ranks among the top five smartphone vendors in India, had planned to launch Find X2 smartphone on YouTube platform.

Demonstrators in the northern Indian city of Jammu burn a tire during a protest against China on June 17, 2020. (PTI)
Demonstrators in the northern Indian city of Jammu burn a tire during a protest against China on June 17, 2020. (PTI)

After hashtags such as #BoycottChineseProduct and 'HindiCheeniByeBye' began trending on Twitter in India, The Global Times, a newspaper supported by China's Communist Party, responded by tweeting, “India should curb ‘boycott China’ voices after border clash.”

“Blindly associating border issues with investments and trade is illogical. Both sides need to cherish precious development opportunities amid COVID-19 uncertainty,” it said on its Twitter account.

According to Biswajit Dhar, a professor at Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), there's a high degree of dependence of Indian economy on China currently, and reducing its dependency on Chinese imports won’t be easy.

"I don't think this going to be practical…we just won't be able to do away from the dependence on China in the short run,” Dhar told NNA Thursday.

“For doing this, we need an alternative source of supply which is not available, especially in sectors like electronics and pharmaceuticals,” he said.

Officially, China said it was not aware of any casualties on their side, although Indian media had reported at least 45 Chinese soldiers died or were injured.

While reiterating that China wants peace, the communist giant blamed India for the latest incident, saying Indian troops entered Chinese territory "provoking and attacking Chinese personnel".

The stand-off began in early May following a fistfight between the soldiers of both sides. In fact, border situations at several places have already been tense in recent months after India built a new road in Ladakh, along the Line of Actual Control which separates the two countries.

In retaliation, China built infrastructure and encampments along the disputed area which saw both sides deploying more troops recently.

Speaking on national television on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India wants peace too but would not compromise on its "integrity and sovereignty".

The president warned China that India would give a “befitting” response if provoked.

“India's integrity and sovereignty is supreme for us, and no one can stop us from defending it.”

China said the overall border situation is now stable and manageable. Senior army officials of both countries had scrambled to meet early on Tuesday to calm the situation at the border and talks are expected to continue.