What is India trying to achieve from a trade standoff with China?


Amid escalating border tensions, India is staging a trade war of sorts against China. But what the Narendra Modi government is trying to achieve from its measures against China so far, is anybody’s guess.

Yesterday (Sept. 2), the Modi government banned 118 mobile applications, including the wildly popular game PUBG, saying these apps are engaged in activities that are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state, and public order.”

This decision comes a month after the Indian government banned a host of other Chinese apps, and weeks following unconfirmed reports that the country was trying to phase out Chinese equipment in its telecom sector.

Some experts believe these moves are nothing more than knee-jerk reactions. And there are concerns that these policy changes, in fact, are hurting Indian industries that are heavily dependent on China.

In July, the Modi government fired the first salvo against China when it banned 59 Chinese apps, a move that trade experts in China called “too childish and emotional.”

Chinese social media users mocked India’s move. On the Chinese Twitter clone, Sina Weibo, a user wrote: “It’s so unfair I can’t find Made in India products around me. I am not happy…Same as the whole world.”

Indians, on the other side, trended #BoycottChina on social media for weeks and resorted to breaking and burning Chinese smartphones and televisions

That hardly changed anything for Chinese companies as brands from the country continue to rule the Indian smartphone market.

India has also resorted to some “juvenile” measures such as barring Chinese firms from investing in its highway projects and other key infra sectors.

However, given India’s dependence on the Chinese money, these measures seem nothing but impulsive reactions.

The ground reality of India-China trade

India imports more from China than it exports to the neighbouring nation.

Yet, one of the first moves that the Modi government made against China was to hike tariffs on over 900 items imported from the country into India. Experts believe that duty increases in a sporadic manner, without a well thought out strategy, will prove to be counterproductive.

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