India continues to rely on Chinese products to counter COVID-19

By GT staff reporters Source:Global Times Published: 2020/7/5 20:28:40

Workers fix oxygen cylinders at a railway carriage which was converted to a makeshift COVID-19 care center in Delhi, India, July 1, 2020. (Photo by Partha Sarkar/Xinhua)

As reported by media outlets around the world, India has recently become the fourth country in the world to surpass 600,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, leading to experts in China suggesting that the country could engage in deeper medical supply cooperation with China, if not for the hostility it recently adopted toward China and Chinese-made products.

Despite the media fanfare of "Boycott China" in India after the recent border clash and voices that encourage locals to buy from small businesses, Chinese industry experts said that India might still be receiving imports from China on practically every item for pandemic control supplies despite its low cost advantage.

"India lags behind China in terms of the production and product design of masks, thermometers and ventilators, while the country's inter-state tax system helped delayed efforts to catch up with China," said Bai Yu, president of the Medical Appliances Branch of the China Medical Pharmaceutical Material Association. "The machines that are used to produce these items also need to be imported, probably from China," Bai said.


According to media reports, face masks, ventilators, and traditional Chinese medicines are the three top items used to fight off COVID-19. In fact, exports of these items are growing rapidly; that is, they recorded a 300 percent growth in April alone, reported Xinhua in May.

In April, China exported 71.2 billion yuan ($10.1 billion) worth of COVID-19-related medical supplies to various countries around the world, including 27.8 billion face masks, 49,100 ventilators, and 73.41 million test kits.

However, the pandemic is getting more severe in India, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pictured in his visit to Leh over the weekend at a general military hospital that is being transformed into a COVID-19 treatment hospital.

Experts said that it is possible that COVID-19 could find its way into the Indian armed forces, although the armed forces are generally more capable to hold off the virus, due to their stricter management and monitoring. 

Dai Yonghong, director of the Institute of Bay of Bengal Studies at Shenzhen University, told the Global Times that animosity held by the Indian side has prevented the two countries' cooperation on medical supplies from going further.

"The tendency in India we see these days is to completely decouple its economic relationship with China," Dai said.

India had previously imported planeloads of medical supplies, including test kits and personal protective equipment, from China, but a chorus of calls to "Boycott China" and buy local has deterred many businesses from ordering products made-in-China. 

"After masks and ventilators are now being manufactured locally, we had last month (June) imported an Artificial Intelligence device on thermal scanning and facial recognition, high tech equipment that scan temperature and give access control at airport, railway station and malls," an India businessman told the Global Times on Sunday, noting that high-tech imports are one of the new trends in the fight against the pandemic as the country lifts its lockdowns in some regions.

"The value of these products is sizable, but not as much as compared with PPE and ventilators," the person said.

Bai noted that Chinese manufacturers may not favor India as their long-term market, citing Indian people's tendency of not wearing masks consciously and their reliance on government-issued masks.

"The Indian market is very small to the Chinese," an industry analyst in the pharmaceutical field, surnamed Wang, told the Global Times on Sunday. "China exported about $200 billion worth of medical supplies, whereas exports to India are $10 million," Wang added.

Newspaper headline: India relies on Chinese products to counter COVID-19


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