New Delhi: Deviating from India’s official position so far of not criticising China for the spread of coronavirus, Union Home Minister Amit Shah for the first time mentioned the Asian giant’s role in the handling of the disease, but without elaborating much.
In an article published in The Times of India Saturday, which marks the first year anniversary of Modi government’s second term, Shah wrote: “The interests of farmers and businessmen of the country were protected by opposing RCEP, whose importance is further underlined by China’s role in the coronavirus situation.”
In the rest of the write-up, Shah did not mention China even once.
In the article, the home minister hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “amazing, unimaginable and praiseworthy” developmental journey of India in the last six years.
“Undoubtedly, the Modi government has bridged the gap of six decades in six years and has laid the strong foundation of a self-reliant India,” he wrote.
Shah wants to say India’s RCEP move is vindicated
Shah’s mention of China for the Covid situation assumes significance in the backdrop of tensions simmering along the India-China border in Ladakh, besides domestic pressure to ban Chinese products, especially after the coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan.
India, however, never officially criticised or blamed China for the outbreak. Even when US President Donald Trump and RSS-backed Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) labelled coronavirus as “Chinese virus”, India desisted from doing so.
In March, Chinese ambassador to India Sun Weidong had urged India not to call coronavirus “Chinese virus” and said “it’s not acceptable and detrimental to international cooperation to label the virus and stigmatise China”.
He even said India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar “agreed not to label the virus”.
Jaishankar, however, without mentioning anything about labelling the virus, said he and his Chinese counterpart discussed ways of working together in combating Covid.
Asked about Shah’s mention of China with regard to Covid outbreak, a senior BJP leader, who didn’t want to be named, told ThePrint the home minister wanted to say that “India’s stand on RCEP is vindicated after the coronavirus pandemic.”
“The whole world is protecting their farmers and domestic industries. When the PM spoke about ‘Atma Nirvar’ Bharat (self-reliant), the intention was to make India self-reliant. We have experienced difficulty of dependence on a few countries when our PPE stock didn’t reach on time. Some were even found faulty,” the BJP leader said.
“India has to ramp up its own domestic production,” he added.
Another BJP leader told ThePrint: “China is a big world power. There is no doubt about it. But today, China’s credibility as a super power has been dented. China should understand India is not the India of 1962. It has to change its perspective about India’s strength and leadership.”
Pressure to ban Chinese products
India’s recent decisions to block Chinese investments have upset the country.
In April, India revised its FDI policy to prevent “opportunistic takeovers” of firms hit by the lockdown. Beijing protested the move, saying it’s a violation of international trade principles.
In February, the Modi government in its budget raised the import duty from 20 per cent to 60 per cent on more than 50 items to curb Chinese imports.
In November last year, despite Chinese pressure, India opted out of the RCEP agreement, saying its key concerns were not addressed.
‘Modi govt has rectified historical mistakes’
Meanwhile, in the article, Shah wrote how the BJP-led central government has implemented every promise in its manifesto.
“Several historic decisions like abolition of Articles 370 and 35A in Jammu & Kashmir, paving the way for construction of Shri Ram Temple, liberating Muslim women from the curse of triple talaq and giving citizenship rights to deprived sections of society through CAA: The Modi government has rectified the historical mistakes after Independence,” he wrote.
“In the first year of the second term of the Modi government, many decisions were taken giving a boost to India’s economy in spite of the global recession. These include paving the way for FDI in civil aviation, reducing corporate tax, merger of banks, moratorium on NBFC loans, reforms in the Companies Act, easy loan arrangements for the development of MSME sector among others,” Shah added.
Shah wrote India succeeded in containing the Covid outbreak to a “great extent” by implementing the lockdown at the right time.
On the issue of PPE, ventilators and masks, the home minister wrote India is now able to mass produce them.
“… around five lakh PPE kits and 2.5 lakh N-95 masks are being made in the country every day. The indigenous versions of the ventilator are being manufactured by many institutions in the country at prices much lower than the market price. More than a million corona beds have been made available and we have also achieved a capacity of 1.5 lakh tests per day,” he added.
“Under Modi’s leadership, India is moving towards becoming a nation where equal and right opportunities for education, employment, medical facilities and advancement will be available for everyone. In the last six years, India is moving fast towards becoming a self-reliant nation by bridging the gap of six decades. Modi is the hero of this journey,” he concluded.