India sources supplies but not impressed with China on FDI

NEW DELHI: Behind the political bickering, India and China have quietly worked to facilitate supply of medical equipment seen as crucial to India’s fight against Covid-19. Between April 4 and April 19, as many as 24 flights from China – from various cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Xi’an and even
Hong Kong – carried 390 tonnes of medical supplies to India including RT-PCR test kits, rapid antibody tests, thermometers and PPEs.

Government sources here said 20 more flights have filed for permits from Civil Aviation Authority of China to carry supplies to India between April 21 and April 27. Among the consignees are Indian pharmaceutical companies, state governments and also groups like Tata,
Birla and Adani.

Meanwhile, after India tweaked its rules for
FDI, the Chinese embassy here said in a statement Beijing hoped India would revise relevant “discriminatory practices, treat investments from different countries equally, and foster an open, fair and equitable business environment”. With China in mind, the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) had made it mandatory for any country sharing land boundary with India to invest through the land route only.

The embassy said that the additional barriers set by Indian side for investors from specific countries violated WTO’s principle of non-discrimination, and went against the general trend of liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment. “More importantly, they do not conform to the consensus of G20 leaders and trade ministers to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open,’’ it said.

While China called for countries to work together to meet the economic downturn caused by Covid-19, and recalled Chinese enterprises “actively’’ donating to help India fight COVID-19 epidemic, official sources here said these were 2 separate issues.

Official sources said Jack Ma and
Alibaba Foundation had gifted equipment needed by India and that these had been routed through the Indian Red Cross just like any other gift from other countries. India is currently engaged with public and private entities in China to source the equipment which it needs.

State governments of
Assam, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan have been beneficiaries of supplies already received from China in the past 15 days. “Other major consignees of these goods were HLL, Imperial Life Sciences, Reliance, Matrix Labs, Invex Healthcare, Tata, Adani, Birla and Max,’’ said a source. To ensure that supplies coming from China are not of poor quality, the government is also using diplomatic channels to approach manufacturers who are qualified to export. India’s ambassador to China had said last week that India had ordered 15 million PPE kits from China.

On the issue of FDI though, India is unlikely to review its position anytime soon even as the Chinese embassy said here that China had driven the development of India’s industries, such as mobile phone, household electrical appliances, infrastructure and automobile, creating a large number of jobs in India.

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