Chinese imports stalled at India's ports and airports

Supporters of India's main opposition Congress party in New Delhi last Friday paying tribute to Indian soldiers killed in the border clash with Chinese troops. The violent clash has seen tensions impact bilateral economic ties.
Supporters of India's main opposition Congress party in New Delhi last Friday paying tribute to Indian soldiers killed in the border clash with Chinese troops. The violent clash has seen tensions impact bilateral economic ties.PHOTO: REUTERS

They are subject to intense physical checks as tensions spike after border clash, say sources

As tensions remain high along the India-China border, a fallout of the border row appears to be Chinese imports being stuck at ports and airports across India, where they go through intense checks.

Imports range from pulse oximeters to printed circuit boards, active pharmaceutical ingredients and chemicals for fertilisers.

It is understood that imports from China, valued at US$70.3 billion (S$98 billion) last year, have been subject to intense physical checks since tensions spiked following the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers in a border clash on June 15.

Associations representing different industries - from automobiles to phones, computers, electronics and agriculture - said they are getting distress calls from members. They have urged the Indian government to ensure faster clearances to prevent manufacturing disruptions.

"There are thousands of operators and thousands of importers who have been impacted. It's a very difficult situation," said Mr Pankaj Mohindroo, chairman of the  India Cellular and Electronics Association, which represents manufacturers like Taiwan's Foxconn.

The mobile and electronics industry - which includes manufacturers, brand owners and technology providers - receives US$1 billion worth of imports from China every week.

Mr Mohindroo said: "We were shut down for 60 days and we have reopened and restarted. Already we have lost 400 billion rupees (S$7.4 billion) of production in the lockdown. At the moment, recovery is not up to normal levels. We are at 40 per cent levels and a few raw materials have run out."

India imposed a shutdown for two months starting at the end of March, suspending economic activity to curb the spread of Covid-19.

"We have been assured by the government that there will be some action the next day or two," Mr Mohindroo added.

Those in the know said that checks of imported goods have been intensified.

"The official reason being given is they have some intelligence tip-off of contraband being imported into the country. But the objective is to make things difficult for Chinese imports," said a person with knowledge of the matter who did not want to be named.

 
 

A Customs official said on condition of anonymity that there was a security alert, leading to greater scrutiny of all paperwork against the goods being brought in.

"There is an alert in the system and we are checking what kind of goods are coming in and whether they conform to the laws of the land."

India and China had a strong economic relationship that was de-linked from border tensions. But their violent border clash has seen tensions impact economic ties. India on Monday banned 59 Chinese apps, citing security reasons. On Tuesday, a government minister announced that Chinese firms would not be allowed to bid for highway projects.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday exited Chinese social media website Weibo, five years after he debuted with "Hello China".

The economic measures have come even as India and China have held talks to reduce tensions along the Line of Actual Control, or the defacto border between the two countries. Yesterday, sources said that in military talks held the previous day, both sides "emphasised the need for an expeditious, phased and step-wise de-escalation as a priority" but noted resolution is a "complex process".

The managing director of Chakradhar Chemicals, Mr Neeraj Kedia, has been waiting to receive a shipment of chemicals used in the making of fertilisers since June 16.

 
 

Yesterday, he received news that the shipment is being released from Chennai port, two weeks after it landed there. Customs clearance usually takes three to four days.

"I am a little apprehensive of further imports. My next shipment is on the high seas," he said.

Correction note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct designation of Mr Pankaj Mohindroo. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2020, with the headline 'Chinese imports stalled at India's ports and airports'. Print Edition | Subscribe