Published On: Thu, Oct 27th, 2016

Chinese lantern vs. Indian Diya: Indians call for ban on Chinese goods this Diwali

DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 26: The Uri attacks in the tumultuous Kashmir region this past September has prompted reaction from the Indian side in various aspects; the surgical retaliation in Pakistan controlled Kashmir, ban on Pakistani artists, consideration to revise the Indus water sharing treaty and call for ban on Chinese goods since China, acting as the all-weathered friend for Pakistan in the background, has managed to keep India thinking twice before confronting Pakistan.

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Chinese lantern vs. Indian Diya: Indians call for ban on Chinese goods this Diwali

China which keeps a close tab on India’s growth economically and in other respects, has sought to impede India’s movement towards progress on the diplomatic stages. China blocked India’s entry into the elite NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) membership earlier in June and has repeatedly sought to deny India’s move to have Jaish-e Mohammad leader Masood Azhar listed as a terrorist by the UN, reportedly on Pakistan’s behest.

Although stopping trade with China is not a feasible action as said by Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last April, calls for ban on Chinese products have since been on the rise. The Indian capital has imposed a ban on Chinese made fire crackers during the Diwali festival after Kejriwal led ruling party AAP declared the ban of sale or use of Chinese fire crackers on Friday (Oct.21).

In the Indian state of Bihar, a village court banned the sale and purchase of Chinese made commodities in a district and declared China as being an enemy who supports Pakistan. Similar sentiments have poured in from many parts of India calling for ban on Chinese goods in the country with a trader’s association in Noida demanding ban on Chinese lanterns and lamps which is widely used as a substitute for the earthen pot ‘diyas’ used during Diwali festivities. “If China continues to support Pakistan, why should we support China? Our domestic manufacturing has suffered greatly because of the Chinese goods being dumped here,” Sushil Kumar Jain, district president of a local traders union told Times of India.

Here in the small hill town of Dharamshala, seat of the exile Tibetan government and home to the Tibetan leader Dalai Lama calls, ‘Ban Made in China goods’ has been a war cry over the few decades. Tibetan Youth Congress, who has spearheaded multiple campaigns in the past to go door to door and collect Chinese goods to burn ultimately as a sign of resistance against China, seems to have gained momentous support in the country these past few weeks, although in a separate and larger arena.

In Lower Dharmashala’s Kotwali bazaar, Pawan Kumar who has been selling earthen potwares and diyas since 1962 says although he does not know anything about the politics of the ongoing saga to ban Chinese goods, if it allows for his sale of earthen lamps to go up, he will not complain.

In the same market, Vikram Kharbanda, a second generation trader selling household goods told Phayul in fluent Tibetan that the goods in his shop are mostly Indian made with exception to some. “The majority of my customers who are Tibetans tend to be picky about the Chinese made goods, whether it’s plastic wares or cutlery products. Now, all my plastic products come from an Indian company in Mumbai. With exception to some Chinese goods like locks which are way cheaper than Indian made, most of my stock are Indian.”

Experts and observers say that such campaigns may merely serve to manage public expectations, larger and game changing implications can only be brought about by government’s dealing in the trade with the China, which does not seem likely to happen as China is still India’s biggest trade partner. The bilateral trade between the two countries according to Economic Times statistic is at 70.73 billion USD and India’s trade deficit to China has grown to 52.68 billion USD in the 2015-16 fiscal year.