RSS affiliate Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), the organisation that is at the forefront of the call to end India's dependence on Chinese imports by strengthening local manufacturing, says India has already demonstrated that it is capable of cutting down imports from China.
"It is true that today there is too much dependence on Chinese imports. But this is equally true that in the last couple of years, there has been some reduction in imports from China," Ashwani Mahajan, National Co-Convener of SJM points out.
Mahajan's logic is that there has been $8 billion fall in the import of electrical and electronic items from China in 2018-19. It declined further by another $1.5 in 2019-20, he notes. Interestingly, the import of iron and steel from China also declined by 12.3 per cent in 2018-19 and further by 22 per cent in 2019-20. The import from China of organic chemicals declined by 7.3 per cent and fertilisers by 11.4 per cent in 2019-20. Overall, in last two years, imports from China came down from $76.4 billion in 2017-18 to $65.3 billion in 2019-20.
"Imports from China, which were rising in leaps and bounds earlier have shown a significant downward trend due to anti-dumping duties on Chinese products, hikes in tariff rates on goods where our dependence on China is more, and imposition of non-tariff barriers by way of standards. Due to this, production of all these items has also increased in the country," Mahajan argues.
The flipside is that India still imported $65.3 billion worth of goods from China in 2019-20. Electronics, telecom equipment, chemicals, steel and other metals, machinery and parts etc continue to come from China. Further, a reduction in imports from China in itself will remain less meaningful unless alternate routes of Chinese products, Hong Kong for instance, are plugged. A general decline in demand could have also contributed to the reduction in imports, though to a lesser extent.
As part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Atma Nirbhar call, India is now attempting to encourage production of electronic items and basic chemicals that go as ingredients into the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals. The success of these initiatives will have a long-term impact on Indian imports from China.