Standing up to the bully

India must try to aggressively acquire a higher share of global trade by raising its competitiveness

AuthorPublished: 20th Jun 2020  12:00 amUpdated: 19th Jun 2020  7:57 pm

After the Chinese misadventure at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh region that claimed the lives of 20 soldiers, pressure is mounting on India to reset the ties and teach the hostile neighbour a fitting lesson. The growing public anger against Beijing’s territorial aggression and hegemony is understandable in the light of the deadliest border face-off. It remains to be seen how the Centre would handle the increasing chorus of demand for boycotting Chinese goods and raising barriers for their investments into the country. The bilateral trade relationship has grown multifold over the years and covers virtually every important sector. From electronics to toys, China is omnipresent in Indian markets. It is essential for New Delhi to raise the costs for Chinese territorial misadventures and hit where it hurts the most. Already, Indian Railways has terminated a Rs 471-crore signalling contract with China while state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has been asked not to use China-made equipment in its upgradation. Since the safety and security of mobile networks built with Chinese equipment will come under increasing scrutiny, private mobile service providers will be asked to reduce their dependence on China-made equipment. There are plans to raise import duties on around 300 products from China. The ball is now in the Chinese court to reassess its actions and take corrective steps to avoid serious impact on the bilateral relationship.

The latest trouble arose when the Chinese side sought to erect a structure in the Galwan Valley on the Indian side of the LAC, a move that was met with a severe pushback from India. At present, the balance of power equation is heavily tilted in favour of China but India has been quite assertive and taking fiercely independent positions at various international forums, much to the chagrin of Beijing. If the Chinese economy takes a bad knock as a fallout of coronavirus pandemic and India gets its act together, this balance of power equation has the potential to shift significantly. It is time for Indians to speak in unison, reflecting a collective resolve and support for a befitting response to China on the economic front, if not on the military front. India must try to aggressively acquire a higher share of global trade by raising its competitiveness. It now has an insignificant share in the world trade. If it is not careful, much smaller countries will further chip away. China is single-minded about attempting to block India’s rise as a major economic power. Given the position of the two countries in global trade as well as relative to each other, any attempt to impose a total ban on bilateral trade will hurt India far more than China.

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