by Tripti Nath in New Delhi,
Public memory is ephemeral, but not when it comes to the mid-June killing of 20 Indian soldiers in a violent face off with Chinese troops in Galwan, Ladakh, which one China expert said has made a deep dent in the minds of the Indians and might take a decade to heal.
The incident coincides with 70 years of diplomatic ties between the two neighbours, but instead of celebration it has turned into a major “China Quit India” campaign called by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) in 600 cities of this South Asian giant.
Disturbing images of iron clubs bristling with spikes and rods twirled with barbed wires reportedly used by the PLA soldiers on Indians, are still fresh in the minds of the Indian people.
.Such a “barbaric” treatment meted out to the Indian soldiers has created a “neither forgive, nor forget” feeling against the Chinese.
The “China Quit India” slogan is reminiscent of Mahatma Gandhi’s “Quit India movement launched on August 8, 1942, demanding an end to the British rule in the India sub-continent.
The CAIT’s mission to boycott Chinese goods is labeled as ‘Bhartiya Samman-Hamara Abhimaan’ (Indian prestige-Our pride) and has seven crore members who are traders.
The CAIT is determined to liberate India’s retail market from two decades long invasion by Chinese products and create instead a self-reliant Indian market.
The traders’ body ensured nearly a total absence of Chinese Rakhis on the recent Rakhsbandhan Hindu festival in which sisters tie sacred strings on brothers’ hand as a show of eternal love. This caused a loss of Rs 4,000 crore to China.
A top China expert has a doomsday projection for China. He does not see the anti-China sentiment arising from the Galwan incident dying down any time soon. “This is going to be long-term … a decade likely,” says Dr Srikanth Kondapalli, Professor in Chinese Studies in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.
A Defence Ministry document uploaded and later removed from the website of the Defence Ministry but put our promptly by the Congress in public domain, says under sub-head “Chinese aggression on LAC” — “while engagement and dialogue at military and diplomatic level is continuing to arrive at mutually acceptable consensus, the present stand-off is likely to be prolonged.”
Within a fortnight of the Galwan attack, the government hit China where it hurt them the most by banning 59 Chinese apps including the super popular Tik Tok, followed by banning of 47 more Chinese apps in July which is impacting consumer preferences.
The call for boycott of Chinese goods and strong resistance to China’s territorial ambitions is gradually gaining momentum in India and every second day the government is rejecting participation of Chinese companies in one project or the other.
In early July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an announced visit to Ladakh where he paid tribute to his soldiers and later met the injured in Leh military hospital. Addressing the troops in Nimu, he vowed, “Friends, the era of expansionism is over.”
India’s grand old party and the main opposition has not stopped pointing a finger at Prime Minister Modi for not daring to mention China.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in an unsparing tweet this week, said “Forget standing up to China. India’s PM lacks the courage to even name them.”
Within a week of the Galwan incident, the CAIC set ablaze Chinese goods in Delhi’s central business district Karol Bagh, one of the two major places from where traders source Chinese goods for sale elsewhere.
Encouraged by the celebration of Rakshabandhan sans Chinese Rakhis, the CAIT National President, Mr B.C. Bhartia and Secretary General, Mr Praveen Khandelwal have announced that all forthcoming Indian festivals including Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Navratri, Dussehra, Dhanteras, Diwali, Bhaiya Dooj, Chhath Puja and Tulsi Vivah will be celebrated using only Indian goods.
Noted strategic expert Colonel Anil Bhatt hailed the “China, Quit India” campaign as a “very good step.” He said “it is the people who are rising now and saying that enough is enough.”
“Economic retaliation of this kind is part of warfare. Don’t forget that the process of disengagement and de escalation is not yet complete. The kind of non firearm combat by our soldiers on the night of June 15-16 in Ladakh in retaliation to the killing of our soldiers has put the fear of God in the minds of Chinese soldiers.”
On a recent round of New Delhi’s famous computer goods market in Nehru Place, this correspondent found a discernible reduction in visibility and sales of Chinese goods. The traders said that these goods were not available in shops in Chandni Chowk and Karol Bagh also. Some reported a decline in sales of LED lights, microphones, tripod stands and Bluetooth speakers because people were reluctant to buy Chinese products.
The CAIT replaced Chinese rakhis and claimed that India succeeded in giving a huge blow to China.
The owner of a big stationary shop in Nehru Place was angry on being asked if they had Chinese Rakhis. “Why should we keep Chinese Rakhis when we have Indian Rakhis?”
Agreeing that consumer sentiments were linked to patriotic fervour, he narrated how a lady who came to buy a web cam insisted on a Japanese web cam. “She needed a web cam for her daughter’s online classes but outright rejected the Chinese web cam saying she will find a way out but will not let Chinese goods enter her house after what happened in Galwan.”
True enough, there are many like her who were happy to shun Chinese products.
Aasheesh Kumar Saxena, a 54 year old Noida based executive says he always checks before buying any product to make sure that it is not made in China.“If we have to hit them hard, we have to make sure that we don’t use their products. I did not buy an MI phone because it is Chinese. It is high time we give them a stern message that they can no longer trample on us. And don’t forget that their troops are in our territory in sizeable number. To reclaim our territory, we have to go to war. Even if a small percentage of Indians stop buying Chinese products, we will make a beginning which may turn into a wave later. We have to sustain the anti China campaign,” he told newsnexbd.com correspondent.
From late July people wearing masks that read “Boycott Chinese goods” became popular. “I am wearing it because I feel for our soldiers,” auto driver Arun Kumar Pandey said.
Mr Mukesh Goyal, an enterprising shop keeper who sells Feng Shui products in Delhi’s up street Khan Market said he was resolved not to stock any Chinese goods for Diwali, the biggest Hindu festival known as the festival of lights, and replicating Chinese goods.
Indians are now making the Chinese Wolu, a pot of nectar, a Feng Shui remedy for good health, in India, among others.
Professor Kondapalli agreed that the public reaction in the post-Galwan “is here to stay.” Professor Kondapalli’s jaw dropping observation is enough to rattle the Chinese. He told newsnextbd.com: “My hunch is that for the next ten years, it will be like this. We know what happened after 1962. The common public had a feeling of betrayal.”
The Chinese has betrayed Indian by attacking at Galwan, he said, adding the images of bodies of 20 Indian soldiers being taken to villages shown naturally evoked sentiment.
“The use of barbed wires and nails is simply barbaric and does not go well with the positive global impression of the Chinese being modern. Reports indicate that they are still in occupation despite the disengagement understanding. They are paying a price because they stand discredited “
Professor Kondapalli, argued “What we saw in Galwan was half war. It is the Chinese who first mobilised forces. The onus is on the Chinese. The anti China feeling came due to the virus in April-May and the border incident aggravated it.”
On banning of Chinese apps, he said that the External Affairs Minister had already warned them in May that if they don’t go back to the April 2020 position, there would be serious implications for bilateral relations which includes economic ties.
Tik Tok has revenues generated of 18 billon dollars through its operations and advertisements which is now gone. Banning of Tik Tok crashed the stocks of Tik Tok and had a cascading effect from global sentiments.
Strategic experts say that both India and China need to narrow down their differences to resolve the border issue.
Speaking on conditions of anonymity, a senior Delhi based Chinese scholar insists that the boycott of Chinese goods is affecting the daily lives of Indian citizens.
“China has not taken any counter-measures against so many actions by the Indian government. These actions are actually hurting the Indians who have to settle for non-Chinese poor quality electronic goods which are high priced. There is already inflation and scarcity. And what all can you stop from China? Your own Finance Minister said that deities of Lord Ganesha is coming from China. “
Speaking on the Atma Nirbhar Abhiyan (Self-reliance campaign) on June 25, Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraman slammed India’s over-dependence on China.
The Chinese scholar said that the Chinese companies are facing a hostile business environment in India and may even consider winding up operations. He said that this will strain India China ties in the 70th year of diplomatic relations. “It is suicidal for Chinese companies to do business in an unfriendly business environment dictated by political will. It is beyond their control and they may lose everything overnight.”
There are about 1,000 registered Chinese companies operating in India. Besides, there are another thousand companies who are working through agents and trade representatives.
At a recent webinar organised by the Institute of Chinese Studies, the Chinese Ambassador to India flagged significant imports from China. He said that “92 per cent of Indian computers, 82 per cent of TVs, 90 per cent of optical fibers and 85 per cent of motorcycle fibers are imported from China.”
Experts like Mr V.K. Mishra, Executive Vice Chairman of the Delhi-based India China Trade Centre, who has been tracking trade within Asia, recalled that twenty years back, the trade between India and China was less than one billion USD. “Today, it stands at almost 92 billion USD.”
Mr Mishra said that the disappearance of small items like rakhis cannot be judged to be having a trickle effect on bigger China trade. The major trade is electronic components coming from China and used in phones, laptops, computers, I-pads, cannot be stopped. Out of the 92-billion-dollar trade, 30 per cent in one year is these kind of electronic equipment of computers, LED panels.”
“We are heavily depending on China manufacturing system and we don’t have a choice. India’s reliance on these is almost 90 per cent plus.”
Commenting on anti-China sentiment, Mr Mishra said, “Indians are very sentimental but if there is a demand for any product, the supply has to come from somewhere.”
In recent days, the political reality in India is clearly not in China’s favour anything China as is evident from termination of contracts of Chinese companies in government projects. The most visible impact of the sentiment led to Vivo backing out of the title sponsorship of India Premier League in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
The United States consistent support to India is also strengthening India’s position.
State-run Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation (DFCCL) has decided to terminate a Rs 471-crore signaling-and-telecom work contract awarded to a Chinese company four years ago, citing the project’s overall lack of progress and the firm’s refusal to furnish technical documents.
In mid-July, the Silk Association of India demanded a complete ban on silk originating from China.