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Rather than bristle at Yiwu,Indian chambers of commerce must educate businesses about China

Written by The Indian Express | Published:January 6, 2012 3:03 am

Two Indian traders had been trapped and threatened,allegedly even tortured,for over 20 days in the eastern Chinese town of Yiwu,after their employer defaulted on payments. Their travails in Yiwu made bigger news when an Indian diplomat negotiating on their behalf was reportedly mistreated,so much so that the Indian embassy in Beijing issued an advisory to traders not to do business with Yiwu. When trade wrangles arose,they cautioned that “Indian businessmen/ traders can be illegally held under detention and mistreated by Chinese businessmen”. Meanwhile,a Yiwu local government website warned of “many Indian businessmen being involved in disputes”. The kidnapping and intimidation of the traders has to be condemned in the strongest terms. While Beijing did act in tandem with the Indian consulate,to redress the situation,it is hoped that harsh consequences follow for those who kept the Indian businessmen captive.

However,this unfortunate incident has no larger bearing on the flow of trade between India and China. It has swelled dramatically in a decade,from roughly $2 billion in 2000 to almost $70 billion now. The bilateral trade target is $100 billion in 2015. This exchange is valuable and,indeed,necessary and inevitable. China is the second largest economy in the world — and it would be self-defeating to frame this episode in nationalist terms,and attempt to cramp the flourishing commercial ties between India and China.

Also,it must be noted that even as trade between the two nations has exploded,the Indian private sector has shown little collective initiative in mediating this relationship. Unlike,say,Japan or the US,where industry bodies and chambers of commerce play a big part in dispute resolution,and in acquainting businesses with the Chinese ethos,India has not seen the same proactive effort by the private sector,to act in their own interests. It is unrealistic to expect the Indian government to mollycoddle businesses every step of the way,or bring entrepreneurs and traders up to speed on the work culture of every corner of a nation as large and complex as China. Bodies like FICCI and CII must take a cue from their American and Japanese counterparts,and invest greater energies in understanding China and schooling businesses.

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