Report: India Slow-Walks Customs on Chinese Goods After Border Clash

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Published Jun 28, 2020 6:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

As tensions between Indian and Chinese border forces in Ladakh simmer, Indian customs officials have implemented 

“There is an internal instruction from customs to all custodians of cargo including port terminal, airport and all customs freight stations to hold all consignments which have originated from China,” the Chennai Customs Brokers Association said in a statement last week. “It prevails at all locations in India."

India has a $50 billion annual trade deficit with China, and some of its manufacturers are heavily reliant upon Chinese materials and components for production. "We extend our support to the government to make India self-reliant in the face of the recent tiff with China, but we should also keep in mind that we depend on China for a lot of key raw materials,” said Sharad Kumar Saraf, the president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), in a statement last week. 

The India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) has also objected to interruptions in the movement of goods from China. ICEA chairman Pankaj Mohindroo wrote in a letter to India's Ministry of Finance that "the logistics of seamless movement is in total disarray" due to customs officials' "refusal to clear followed by delays." Previously, many of these shipments were fast-tracked through Indian customs without inspection. 

The change has caught the attention of Chinese state media. On Thursday, state-run Global Times described it as a "stupid choice which will backfire," citing an academic expert from China West Normal University. 

The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also moved to require the disclosure of the country of origin for manufactured goods on the online Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal - a change intended to allow government purchasing agents to identify Chinese-made. One wing of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has called for similar labeling requirements for all online marketplaces in India.  

The anti-China trade measures follow after a violent clash between Chinese and Indian soldiers along the disputed border in Ladakh. In mid-June, a brawl in the Galwan Valley killed 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Peoples' Liberation Army servicemembers.