China seems to have adopted an aggressive policy to become the major player in shaping the economy of the world in general and Asia in particular. So much so, that contrary to the Indian government’s claims, China today controls a large amount of the trade and economy in India, pushing goods and services, evading taxes, building supply chains, pushing workforce, grabbing land, linking sea routes to encircle India and even diverting international water resources. All these have been possible in the absence of a comprehensive China policy on India’s part to seriously restrict China’s bid to control India’s economy and frontiers. Too many Indian ministries and their departments work directly or indirectly with Chinese interest groups, almost all independently, giving China an upper hand in its dealings with India. While a comprehensive Chinese policy framework and regulatory system control India-China relations, India has no such system to prevent Chinese trade and economic expansion and geopolitical moves harming this country. This could possibly explain how India’s trade growth with China (driven by large imports) in 2021 could breach all records with regard to India’s international trade with traditional partners, including the US, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Switzerland, and South Korea. India’s imports from China in 2021 amounted to nearly USD 95 billion.
It was a year of record trade and import from China amid frozen India-China relations over Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh borders. Surprisingly, India’s commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said that there was no extraordinary increase in trade with China. The minister’s remarks came days after Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh criticised the government saying that while China was renaming places in Arunachal Pradesh and setting up villages in Indian territory, the government was still carrying on with a 100-billion-dollar-plus trade with China. Did the Union Cabinet discuss the alarming growth of imports from China at a time when the Prime Minister, defense minister, external affairs minister, and home minister are individually expressing concern over China’s strategic expansion in the region? Are trade and economy outside India’s purview of its strategic interest? Is the Union finance minister concerned about the latest report on massive tax evasion, estimated to be close to Rs 5,500 crore, allegedly by three Chinese mobile companies — Xiaomi, Oppo, and OnePlus— right under the nose of the income tax department?
India’s constant geopolitical and economic frictions call for a strong and comprehensive China policy. Instead, key ministries such as external affairs, defense, home, finance, industry and trade, telecommunications, and surface transport seem to be all operating in silos to make silent Chinese invasion in critical areas easier. This explains the telecom ministry’s yet uncertain attitude towards China’s controversial Huawei and ZTE which are desperately trying to supply 5G equipment to carriers such as Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea and state-run MTNL. Delhi is yet to implement any type of official ban on the Chinese companies, which currently supply a significant amount of equipment to India’s mobile providers. India is the world’s second-biggest market by the number of cellphone users. It’s time that India makes a clear and comprehensive China policy for the benefit of both nations.