Starting from the faceoff across the LAC, there have been cries for a “befitting response to China.” However, does not the banning of Chinese apps make India look reactionary rather than responsive?
As far as critical infrastructure is concerned, no nation is really secure unless it can make itself 100% ‘Atmanirbhar.’ There are always security risks in using hardware or platforms not made or controlled by us — especially when relations deteriorate, as with China.
Chinese app TikTok, at 610 million, has many more users in India than in the US or China — yet generates far less revenue than either location.
But revenue apart, the wealth and resource of the platform economy lies in data. That is the ‘embedded value’ — the real wealth of the platform.
China entered the digital world by putting up walls within the global internet years ago. It blacked out Google and Facebook, thereby creating a controlled environment in which homegrown upstarts could flourish.
India and China, however, are very different societies. This is battle of different ways of life. China is a surveillance state — India’s strength is in its democracy. To respond to China by becoming China is to hand over victory to the Chinese way.
India must fight back by first having stronger data privacy laws — strengthen and bolster the rights of its citizens over data.
① impose prohibitively high costs on data misuse and theft for all companies, and
② create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs to innovate and produce at costs that are globally competitive.
India is the 3rd largest manufacturer of pharma products in the world. There are many countries in the world that depend on Indian pharmaceuticals. Yet for API and intermediaries we are highly dependent on China. Cut China out of the chain and paracetamol would disappear from chemists’ shops. India needs to produce these ingredients for itself again at the least cost.
The world of capital is global in nature. As the economy recovers from Covid-19, raising funds from global markets is going to be important for companies. The Chinese example shows us how to bring in the concept of ‘Atmanirbharta’ — they used and built on ‘Parnirbharta.’
Tech-dependence is often unavoidable to stay in the race, yet robust testing is key — and that too is available from third parties.
Let us be ‘Atmanirbhar’ — but remember that Indira Gandhi’s call for self-reliance five decades ago created an inspector raj the country has still to recover from.
Neither was Rome built in a day, nor can supply chains — centred in China — be disentangled overnight. It is going to take time and effort. India needs to put in place long-term strategies to ensure that our businesses can flourish in a competitive environment.
Look around the world. India’s businesses and talent have it in them to be the best in class — give it room to breathe.
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