With the border standoff between China and India in the Doklam area escalating, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called for a boycott of Chinese goods. BJP state general secretary and Lok Sabha member Shobha Karandlaje said the party “will create awareness among the people about the problems caused by China at the border and the need to boycott Chinese goods.”
Such clamor by the BJP is not surprising, as the party itself always stirs up the flames of Hindu nationalism. But what is puzzling is where its confidence comes from.
Among China’s trade partners, India can hardly compete with the US, Japan, ASEAN or the EU. India counts for not much in the Chinese economy, while China matters a lot to the Indian economy. If India is really to boycott Chinese goods, China will not be affected much, while India is bound to suffer.
The vast Indian market boasts enormous potential, but its challenging business environment has daunted businessmen from all over the world. Before the BJP called for boycotting the Chinese products, some Indian organizations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had already launched similar campaigns. The ruling BJP did not take measures to control the situation but added fuel to the flames.
Chinese businessmen place high hopes on India and are interested in exploring the Indian market, but India only wants to turn these diligent businessmen into pawns to use against China.
Even before the Doklam confrontation, the economic cooperation between Beijing and New Delhi had been struggling.
In 2003, then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee proposed setting up a free trade zone along Tibet’s border with north India. But after many years, such an idea has been receded from the vision of the Indian leadership.
India fears that its economy will be hurt by Chinese products. India’s frequent anti-dumping investigations on China are an example. Since the 1990s, India has never stopped such investigations. In 2016 alone, India launched more than 20 anti-dumping investigations on imports from China. Such large-scale economic countermeasures have had an impact that far exceeded the economic sphere. India sees China as an enemy instead of a partner.
India intruded into Chinese territory this time in the name of “protecting” Bhutan, which is actually protecting the legacy of the British Empire.
Bhutan is trembling with fear about India’s “protection.” In the 1950s, India tried to make Bhutan a state of India. Later Bhutan gained pro forma independence as an appendage of India. This time, India trespassed on China’s Doklam area in the name of Bhutan, aiming to display its status as the South Asian hegemon and break off the development of China-Bhutan relations. In particular, India hopes to cut the connection between China and Bhutan in solving their border issues and prevent the two from establishing diplomatic ties, so that India can continue to bind Bhutan onto its so-called security interests. In addition, India may want to impede China’s rise by taking military adventures and surpass China as a rising power.
It is dangerous for the BJP to fan nationalistic sentiments through economic means. It will jeopardize Narendra Modi’s room in dealing with his country’s intrusion into another country.