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Ladakh fallout: Amid battle cries, boycott calls, India begins to bleed China

Venkatesh Iyer

Bengaluru: The Elephant has begun to crush the Dragon—where it hurts most!

Starving the Dragon: The economic fallout of Chinese misadventure in Ladakh.

In a first major retaliation against an aggressive China, the Government of India has directed state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) not to use Chinese equipment in its up-gradation of the 4-G equipment in view of security concerns. The Telecom Department has also decided to rework the tender in this regard. At present, China’s ZTE works with BSNL.

Besides, the government would also ask private telecom operators as well to reduce their dependence on Chinese equipment. Bharati Airtel and Vodafone-India have been working with Huawei in their current networks. Interestingly, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already announced to kick out Huawei from 5-G rollout.

Official sources said the network security of Chinese equipment has always been doubtful. America had already smelt rat in 2012 and a US lawmakers’ panel warned of cyber espionage threats from telecom networks built by Chinese companies. It had also advised American companies to beware of Huawei and ZTE and look for other vendors.

The next in India’s firing range is a Rs 471 crore signaling project awarded by Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL) to China Railway Signal and Communication Co. Ltd (CRSC). The Indian Railway has decided to terminate the contract due to “poor progress”, official reports said.

This contract had been awarded in 2016 but only 20 percent of the works have been completed so far. Since the project is funded through the World Bank, DFCCIL is going to seek its approval before going ahead with the termination.

Meanwhile, Praveen Khandelwal, National Secretary-General of the  Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which represents over 40,000 trade associations and 7 crore traders, also gave a call to Indian citizens to boycott all Chinese products. He released a list of 500 broad category Chinese products to be boycotted and substituted with over 3,000 Indian-made products.

The list comprises products from FMCG, consumer durables, toys, furnishing fabrics, textiles, building hardware, footwear, apparels, kitchen items, and others.

He said the objective is to reduce the import of Chinese finished goods worth Rs. One lakh crore by December 2021. He also urged the Government to look into Chinese funding in various Indian start-ups, the recent stake of 1.01% by the People’s Bank of China in Indian-based mortgage lending company Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) and others.

There has been a tremendous outpour of anger in social media for the last few days, and many participated in a massive protest outside the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, supporting the boycott call against Chinese products. Some even threw and crushed their China-made mobile phones.

Of course it would take some time to reduce India’s dependence on Chinese exports. Some sectors could be affected in the short-term with the boycott of Chinese capital goods and their replacement with India-made ones. It could push up the production costs for some time. The impact would be especially noticed in smartphone brands like Xiaomi, One Plus Vivo (now, technically manufactured in India), and Oppo which constitutes more than 51 percent of India’s consumption.

But the boycott call is getting louder. Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh chief Dr. Mohan Bhagwat condemned the belligerent Chinese government and Army and paid rich tribute to all the soldiers, supporting the Swadeshi movement.

The RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) National Convenor Ashwani Mahajan supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for an “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” (Self-Reliant India) and urged the Centre to refrain from awarding government contracts and tenders to Chinese firms. He also urged celebrities, including cricketers and actors, to stop endorsing Chinese products.

Also, SJM has urged the Centre to cancel the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s 39% funded project awarded to the Shanghai Tunnel Engineering Co. Ltd (STEC) for a 5.6-km stretch in the proposed 82.15 km underground stretch of the Delhi-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) project.