India’s Finance Minister said that India has become so reliant on Chinese imports that even Hindu idols made from clay must be imported from China, India’s WION news outlet reported on Thursday.
Speaking at a video conference on Thursday addressing the Indian government’s new “Self-Reliant India” initiative to promote Indian economic independence, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addressed imports from China.
“Importing raw materials that [are] not available in the country and needed for our industries [is] not wrong,” she said. “There is nothing wrong in imports that would spur production and create job opportunities and it can be done definitely.”
“However, imports that could not bring benefits like employment opportunities and support growth would not help self-reliance and the Indian economy,” she asserted.
Sitharaman then pointed to the import from China of products native to India, such as the religious idols used to worship in the Hindu faith, India’s largest religion.
“Ganesha idols made of clay have been traditionally bought from … local potters during [the] Ganesh Chaturthi Festival every year,” she said, referring to the upcoming religious festival held in late August this year.
“But today, why [are] even Ganesha idols imported from China. Why … can’t we [India] make a Ganesha idol from clay?” she asked.
“Such a situation of importing things that are [traditionally] locally made and available should change and self-reliance is the basic idea behind the [new government initiative],” she said.
“Self-reliance was practised in India for [a] long [time], but it faded subsequently and now the [new government] initiative stands for local manufacturing,” she added.
In April, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that one of India’s most important takeaways from the Chinese coronavirus pandemic was the need to become “self-reliant” and less economically dependent on China. This inspired the “Self-Reliant India” initiative referred to by the finance minister on Thursday.
Indian citizens have supported Modi’s message since April when they began a call for a boycott of Chinese products that has gained momentum in recent days following a deadly border clash between India and China in the western Himalayas last week. On Wednesday, reports revealed that Indian customs authorities were holding back imports coming from China at major Indian ports and airports.