TODAY -

Despite India-China border disputes, trade dealings persist

RK Sinha *



Nowadays, India and China appear to have agreed to an unsaid pact that ensures their mutual business relations remain undeterred whether or not they find a solution to their complex border disputes. A few days ago, the 13th Corps Commander's military held discussions between India and China to end the persistent and growing tension on the LAC near Eastern Ladakh.

Although no progress was made in the meeting, the Indian representatives made constructive suggestions to resolve the deep-rooted issues in the disputed areas. It was said that these talks will continue further.

Recently, reports suggest that India-China mutual trade reached an all-time high of 90 billion rupees during the first 9 months of this year. This indicates a 40 % increase in comparison to the same period last year.

This information was officially shared by the Foreign Secretary of India, Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla. Therefore, it is pretty evident that business relations between India and China will only continue to strengthen and thrive, even if we are unable to arrive at a permanent solution to the border dispute.

By now, it has been made abundantly clear that slogans to boycott Chinese products will not accomplish the desired outcomes. Recall that the demand for boycotting Chinese goods at the nationwide level had gained momentum after violent clashes and encroachment by China on the Ladakh border.

The bitter reality is that India imports a large chunk of its electronic products and mobile phone components from China. The dependence of our pharma companies on China is very high. We cannot end this decades-long dependence in a few months by blatantly preaching slogans. Until we become self-reliant, India has no alternative than to continue its import of various products from China.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic provided the Indian pharmaceutical sector with a unique opportunity to make itself self-reliant. Despite India's pharma sector earning billions of rupees every year by selling its medicines in the country and abroad, about 85% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) that are used in the production of generic medicines are imported from China. API means raw material used to make medicines. The production of API in India is next to negligible. Even for the API which is made in India some of the ingredients required to make the final product have to be imported from China.

One should be made aware of the fact that the pharma companies of India always look towards China for the production of APIs. Any pharma company is identified only based on how many new life-saving drugs it can discover and successfully bring to the masses. It is a matter of great regret that our pharma companies have never displayed any eagerness or desire to make themselves at par with international standards. Their primary goal has always been to earn money and make profits. They usually do not believe in developing new medicines.

Indian pharmaceutical companies gained massive popularity by developing COVID-19 vaccines. In this respect, the entire nation is grateful to companies like the Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, Zydus Cadila Biologicals E, Gennova BioPharma, and Panacea Biotec. The Government of India, in the 1970s, had established IDPL (Indian Drug and Pharma Pharmaceutical Limited) only to develop APIs, but due to misgovernance and corruption, all of its factories in Rishikesh, Muzaffarpur, etc. have been shut down.

The magnitude of trade and the scale of business operations between India and China is growing exponentially, but India is not profiteering from it. We are facing a loss in the sense that we sell much less of the goods than what we buy from them. Our trade deficit with China mounted to ?29 billion till a few years back. Foreign Secretary Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla also believes that there is an immediate need to balance this trade deficit.

India should attempt to export whatever it can. Exports should be sold at the most profitable place and the best possible price, while we should also import the goods we need from countries which prove to be most economical. India should never import anything, from electrical decorative items to clothes and sculptures from China. This is because all of these can be easily manufactured by our cottage industries.

Currently, the festival of lights, Diwali, is around the corner. One may recollect that before a few years, on the occasion of Diwali, our markets used to be overflowing with Chinese crackers. However, the Indian government has declared the sale of foreign firecrackers, particularly Chinese firecrackers, illegal in local markets. This will aid in reviving the traditional firecracker industry of Sivakasi (Tamil Nadu).

India imports several Chinese-made goods, especially a wide variety of machinery, telecom equipment, electrical goods, toys, electrical machinery and equipment, mechanical machinery and equipment, project goods, organic chemicals, and iron and steel. On the contrary, India mainly exports iron ore and a few other minerals to China.

A conclusion that can be drawn from all these happenings is that the India-China trade will continue to prosper until we make ourselves self-reliant. Along with this, both countries will have to resolve the border disputes. The most comforting thing is that both the countries are at least talking to each other and this will go a long way.

Leaving all these differences aside, we have to keep one thing in mind, that in the midst of the ongoing conflict between India and China, we have to ensure that there is no injustice or atrocities of any kind with the Chinese-origin citizen settled in India. They have been a part of India for over 100 years. Thousands of Chinese citizens are active living in all the cities of the country. They may be a dentist, a businessman, or a working professional. Some of them are very renowned.

For example, the name of Prof. Tan Chung is known by the entire fraternity of Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. It was he who first established the Chinese department of Delhi University followed by Jawaharlal Nehru University. He kept reiterating that India and China should not delay much in resolving their border disputes. Without resolving these disputes, tensions will persist in mutual relations.

Dr. Prof. Tan Chung, who was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in the year 2011, has been of the opinion that both countries have to adopt a proactive approach towards resolving their issues. Prof Tan Chung's wife also taught at Delhi University.

His father Gurudev settled in India at the invitation of the famous literary poet and Nobel Laureate, Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore. It seems that for the time being, both countries will continue to hold discussions and trade together.


* RK Sinha wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a senior editor, columnist, and former MP
This article was posted on November 08, 2021.


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