NEW DELHI — An Indian traders’ body and the economic wing of an influential Hindu nationalist group called for a boycott of Chinese products on Thursday, after China foiled a bid to blacklist the head of a Pakistan-based militant group that claimed a suicide attack in Kashmir.
India and the United States said they would continue to push for UN Security Council sanctions against Masood Azhar, the founder of militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), and many Indians said their patience was running out with China.
The United States, Britain and France asked the Security Council’s Islamic State and al Qaeda sanctions committee to subject JeM founder Masood Azhar to an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze. China placed a “technical hold” on the request.
This was the fourth such block on Azhar by China, India’s second-biggest trade partner that said it needed more time to decide. Azhar founded JeM in 2000, and the group claimed a February 14 attack in Kashmir that killed 40 paramilitary police.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which represents 70 million traders, said it would burn Chinese goods on 19 March to “teach a lesson” to China.
“The time has come when China should suffer due to its proximity with Pakistan,” CAIT said in a statement. “The CAIT has launched a national campaign to boycott Chinese goods among the trading community of the country, calling the traders not to sell or buy Chinese goods.”
Pakistan has denied any role in the Kashmir attack.
Ashwani Mahajan, a leader of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch that has close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), invoked the “Father of the Nation” Mahatma Gandhi to call for Indians to boycott Chinese products.
“Taking a cue from history, best way to defeat China is #BoycottChinese and strong action from govt on trade front,” Mahajan said on Twitter, posting an image of a newspaper ad from 1921 inviting people to burn foreign-made clothes as part of a Gandhi-led protest against British colonial rule.
#BoycottChineseProducts was the second-highest trending hashtag on Twitter on Reuters India on Thursday.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed message seeking comment on the boycott calls.
Chinese products — from mobile phones made by companies such as Xiaomi Inc to toys — are ubiquitous in India and trade between the countries touched $89.71 billion in the year ending March 2018. The trade deficit widened to $63.05 billion in China’s favour, more than a nine-fold increase over the past decade.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley warned against any knee-jerk reaction.
“It’s a diplomatic issue, and India will take a decision after a careful thought,” Jaitley told CNN-NEWS18. “We’re not a small player on the global stage, but foreign policy issues are tackled in a measured way, not in a knee-jerk manner.”
A senior government official, who refused to be named citing service rules, said there has been a move to “restrict” Chinese imports but that India was not in a position to replace products such as electronics.
India’s trade ministry said in an email the country can’t take any unilateral punitive action against a fellow WTO member.
But weeks before a general election, India’s main opposition Congress party said Modi’s attempts to improve ties with China were not yielding results.
“Weak Modi is scared of Xi. Not a word comes out of his mouth when China acts against India,” Congress President Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Modi’s BJP replied: “Be assured that India will win the fight against terror.”