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Indians vow to boycott Chinese goods after deadly border clash

Indian Border Security Force soldiers guard a highway leading towards Leh, bordering China, in Gagangir on 17 June 2020.
Indian Border Security Force soldiers guard a highway leading towards Leh, bordering China, in Gagangir on 17 June 2020. © Habib Naqash

India plans to impose higher trade barriers and raise import duties on 300 Chinese products, as calls for a boycott on its neighbour grow louder following the death of 20 Indian soldiers in a border skirmish in the disputed Himalayas.

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The national railways has joined the campaign, scrapping a 2016 signalling contract with a Beijing-based firm.  

The government has ordered a state-run telecom utility and other private companies to procure locally-built equipment instead of using Chinese firms, as the border clash took a bizarre turn with Indian citizens smashing household goods with "made in China" tags.

The decisions will affect business worth almost 8.9 billion euros, Indian officials said.

Late Monday, Chinese and Indian soldiers fought for hours with fists and spiked clubs in Galwan Valley, which lies between China's Tibet and India's Ladakh, with some reportedly falling off cliffs into a river.  

An Indian army convoy makes way towards Leh, bordering China, in Gagangir, 17 June 2020.
An Indian army convoy makes way towards Leh, bordering China, in Gagangir, 17 June 2020. © Habib Naqash

At least 20 Indian troops died, with Delhi saying there were also Chinese casualties.

It's the deadliest clash between the neighbours in almost 60 years. 

Each side accused the other of cross-border intrusions.

'Fight with wallets, not bullets'

Sonam Wangchuk, an Indian engineer who lives in Ladakh has emerged as a key figure in the cross-border tension, having previously campaigned for Indians to fight Beijing with “wallets” rather than “bullets”.

“I don’t think we should be emotional and break things. That makes it into a joke," he said, urging his compatriots to keep up economic pressure on China "for two to three years".

Trade between China and India was worth 78.4 billion euros in the financial year ending March 2019, with the balance tilted in China’s favour.

New data shows India’s trade deficit with its larger neighbour was around 42 billion Euros, with eleven percent of imports coming from China.

Boycott Beijing

The Confederation of All India Traders, which represents 70 million businesses, hopes to shave off 12.5 billion euros from India’s import basket by enforcing a ban on Chinese household goods -- from refrigerators to washing machines.

“We plan to intensify our boycott campaign of 3,000 Chinese products spanning 450 categories,” a confederation spokesman added.

On Wednesday, Chinese smartphone manufacturer Oppo cancelled the live online launch of its flagship model in India, following a public protest outside China’s fortified embassy in India’s capital.

Echoes of 1967

Monday’s incident was the worst clash since similar skirmishes in 1967, which came five years after a China gave India a bloody nose in a brief but brutal war. Delhi then accused China of occupying 38,000 square kilometres of territory in Aksai Chin.

The Communist state still claims 90,000 square km in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

The campaign to boycott Beijing has drawn Bollywood actors such Milind Soman and Arshad Warsi to the campaign, calling for Indians to delete their accounts on the short video app Tiktok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance.

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