Amid the stand-off along the border with China, Power Minister R K Singh Friday said India would not import power equipment from its northern neighbour.
Addressing his counterparts from other states over a video conference, Singh said, “This is something we cannot tolerate that a country will transgress into our territory… we will not take anything from China and Pakistan. We will not give permission for import from ‘prior reference’ countries. We are affected. There could be malware or Trojan horse in those (imports from China) which they can activate remotely (to cripple our power systems).”
Prior reference countries are those from where imports require advance permission from the government. Such permission would not be available to either China or Pakistan, he said. The decision has been taken to protect the security, integrity and reliability of the strategically important and critical power supply system and network in the country, Singh said.
This is the latest such move taken by the government and comes close on the heels of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banning 59 Chinese mobile applications such as TikTok and WeChat, and Road Transport and MSME Minister Nitin Gadkari stating Chinese companies will not be allowed to bid for road projects and invest in micro, small and medium enterprises in India.
“We manufacture everything here. India imported Rs 71,000 crore worth power equipment, including Rs 21,000 crore from China,” Singh said at the state energy ministers’ conference chaired by him.
A week ago, on June 26, Singh had said a new duty structure for power equipment to discourage imports was being implemented.
Referring to the Centre’s efforts to curb imports from China, the minister said solar gear imports would be levied basic customs duty in the range of 20-40 per cent. Close to 75 per cent of India’s solar power capacity is built on Chinese solar modules. It is also one of the top-10 imported items from China.
Chinese banks and financial institutions have liberally given long-term credit facilities to India’s power companies to promote the business of the country’s equipment manufacturers and this has indeed worked for that country. Imports from China were worth over Rs 21,000 crore in FY19 and in excess of Rs 16,000 crore in April-December FY20.
It is not immediately clear if the Indian power producers, which have already tied up with Chinese equipment suppliers will get a waiver or a carve-out from the latest decision. About 9,570 MW of under-construction power plants — all from the private sector — have contracted with Chinese companies for supplying boilers, turbines and generators, according to official estimates figures.
In the last 10 years, 22,420 MW of super-critical power plants have been commissioned and of these 12,540 MW were built on Chinese equipment, including Adani’s Mundra and Tirora units, CLP India’s Jhajjar plant, Reliance Sasan and Vedanta’s Talwandi Sabo project. Other state-run power projects where Chinese equipment have been installed are DVC’s 600 MW Raghunathpur plant in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu’s 600 MW Mettur project and the 600 MW Kalisindh plant in Rajasthan.
Welcoming the move, the Indian Electrical Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (IEEMA) said the decision addressed its long-standing demand and would help in utilising the country’s “30-40 per cent excess manufacturing capacity”.
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