Of replicas and India's love for cheap goods
A Burmese market along the Indian border is fulfilling India’s demand for cheap goods. But security threats coupled with an increase in smuggling are affecting the business.
The 'friendship gate'
The market in Myanmar’s small border town, Namphalong, is situated right across the Indo-Burmese 'friendship gate.' Over 2,000 Burmese traders sell electronics items, garments, shoes, liquor and accessories here. Most of these goods are the Chinese replicas of famous western brands.
India looks east
Border trade between India and Myanmar was legalized in 1995. Lately, the Indian government has been promoting bilateral trade as part of its so-called 'Look East' policy. The opening of the Asian Highway 1, which connects India to its eastern neighbors, is seen as a step by New Delhi to increase trade with Southeast Asian countries.
Made in China
But what you find at the Namphalong market are mostly products made in China, except for Burmese teak and betel nuts. Trade experts say it is actually China which is selling its products to India whereas the Burmese are only working as middlemen. In the end, they argue, it is more profitable for China than Myanmar and India.
Demand and supply
A devalued Indian rupee coupled with a rise in inflation have led to an increased demand for cheap goods in India, which is fulfilled by the counterfeit products from China. These items are very popular all over India.
Most Burmese traders at the Namphalong market are ethnically Nepali. The Maoist insurgency in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, which is historically linked to Nepal’s own communist revolt, has had a negative impact on business in the city. Recently, the marketplace had to be closed after a bomb blast along the border.
The smuggling of drugs and guns from southeastern countries into India has led to tightened security along the Indo-Burmese border. This, too, is affecting the trading activities in Namphalong.