As Sino-Indian relations remain tense following lack of progress in talks on resolving the border situation in Ladakh, the government is placing visas for persons connected to certain Chinese think tanks, business fora, and advocacy groups under the “requirement of prior screening/clearance”.
An official note received by the Ministry of External Affairs lists “Entities of Concern” and states that “in order to closely monitor the activities in India, Visas sponsored by Entities of Concern shall require prior security clearance”. The “prior security clearance” in such cases will be given by the government in Delhi.
The note, received by the Ministry late July, states that the “Chinese government has built an outreach system comprising think tanks and business fora all over the world with an objective to influence sections in countries on strategic interest”.
Some of the entities, it states, made efforts “to influence policy makers, think tanks, political parties, upcoming leaders, corporate, academics and research entities etc” and are “also known to indulge in espionage”.
Measures on grant of visas would be similar to those for Pakistan. This step is seen to be linked to deteriorating ties between Beijing and Delhi following Chinese ingress at multiple ‘friction points’ along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
A government official told The Indian Express that tie-ups of various Indian universities and academic institutions, including IITs, BHU and JNU, are also being reviewed. According to the official, these activities are likely to be scaled down with exceptions made only for conduct of courses in Mandarin.
The official said a “360-degree review” of ties with Beijing has been undertaken at the highest levels in the government, which identified the import of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and drug intermediates from China for production of pharmaceuticals by India as a major area of concern. Any step by Beijing to reduce the flow of supplies of APIs can possibly lead to either shortage of certain medicines or increase in their prices, the official said.
Although recommendations made by a study group have been acted upon to reduce the API imports, it will be tough to overcome the dependency on China in the short-term, the official said. According to industry estimates, Indian drug makers source about 65 per cent of raw materials from China, worth around $3.5 billion.
In June, the government had banned 59 mobile apps including TikTok, UC Browser and other Chinese apps, calling them “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order”.
The steps, the signal
Ever since Beijing precipitated a crisis along the LAC in Ladakh, Delhi has been taking a series of measures – from reducing dependency on import of APIs to banning of Chinese apps to imposition of visa conditions. The government is sending a clear message that it cannot be business as usual if China does not back down and end the military standoff.