AN INFLUENTIAL Indian traders body called yesterday (14) for a boycott of Chinese goods, to slap Beijing for blocking a move to put a Pakistani militant leader on a UN terrorist list following a suicide attack last month.
Regarded by Pakistan as its most reliable friend, China has repeatedly thwarted efforts to implement UN sanctions against Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the group that claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 40 paramilitary police in Kashmir.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which represents 70 million traders, said it would burn Chinese goods on March 19 to “teach a lesson” to China.
“The time has come when China should suffer due to its proximity with Pakistan,” CAIT said in a statement.
“The CAIT has launched a national campaign to boycott Chinese goods among the trading community of the country, calling the traders not to sell or buy Chinese goods.”
Mounting impatience with Beijing’s stance was evident on social media on Thursday (14) as #BoycottChineseProducts was the second-highest trending hashtag on Twitter in India.
The leader of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a group with close ties to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also called for a boycott of Chinese goods.
He also wrote to prime minister Narendra Modi recommending that India hit Beijing with higher tariffs.
“Government of India needs to take immediate action to raise tariff duties on all Chinese imports,” Ashwani Mahajan said in the letter.
“China, which is already under economic stress, thanks to trade war initiated by US and other trade partners of China, will definitely realise the implications of the unjust action of protecting terrorists.”
India’s trade ministry said in an email the country can’t take any unilateral punitive action against a fellow member of the World Trade Organization.
A senior government official, who refused to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media, said there has been a move to “restrict” Chinese imports but that India was not in a position to replace products such as electronics
Finance minister Arun Jaitley warned against any hasty reaction.
“It’s a diplomatic issue, and India will take a decision after a careful thought,” Jaitley told CNN-News18. “We’re not a small player on the global stage, but foreign policy issues are tackled in a measured way, not in a knee-jerk manner.”
With just weeks to go before a general election, India’s main opposition Congress party said Modi’s attempts to improve ties with China were not yielding results.
“Weak Modi is scared of Xi. Not a word comes out of his mouth when China acts against India,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter, referring to Chinese president Xi Jinping.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed message seeking comment on the boycott calls.
Renu Kohli, an independent economist in New Delhi, doubted whether any boycott would hit critical mass.
“It’s going to fizzle out sooner or later when the consumer realises that their pocket is being hit by costlier domestic products,” said Kohli.