By banning 59 Chinese mobile apps, the Narendra Modi government has made it clear that it is in mood to further placate the Xi Jinping regime. This decision, however, should be seen as just one of the first measures in confrontation with China. Many more, and much more substantial, measures need to be adopted to strengthen India.
The Ministry of Information Technology yesterday proscribed the apps, including TikTok, UC Browser, and Baidu map. According to an official press release, these apps “are engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”
The Ministry said that it had received many complaints from various sources, including several reports, about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms. These apps have been stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India. “The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures.”
So far so good. We, however, should not forget that this ban can be a necessary but not a sufficient condition in our fight against China. The need of the hour is economic revival: we must have economic muscle.
For economy is the sine qua non of war. This should be an axiom of any country’s foreign policy; as the Roman statesman and thinker Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) said the sinews of war are infinite money; and that’s not possible without a strong economy. It’s a time-tested truth which, unfortunately, has often been ignored by our politicians and policy makers. They have often privileged wishful thinking and platitudes over realism.
Jawaharlal Nehru was so mesmerized with the panchsheel bunkum and socialist twaddle that he almost blindfolded himself to the reality of Chinese aggression: 1962 was the denouement. Even Modi, the consummate practitioner of realpolitik, seemed to be have been besotted for quite some time with the grandeur of the India-China-led ‘Asian century.’ Nothing else explains his numerous meetings and summits with Xi.
But better late than never. Weeks after the government restricted the entry of Chinese investment, it has acted against Chinese apps. As mentioned earlier, this needs to be complemented with solid steps to revive the economy so that sinews of war get strength; and this can happen only if the government starts a comprehensive economic reforms programme in earnest—and start now.
A couple of points need to be made here. First, economic revival takes time; even with the most revolutionary of reforms and with the best of intentions, the desired fruits cannot not be savored in a short span. So, the opening up of the economy has to begin at once.
Second, reforms are the only option; there is nothing else that can be done to make the economy stronger. Liberalization—or liberalization 2.0, the 1991 version being liberalization 1.0—is Hobson’s choice.
The powers that be should never lose sight of the fact that the ban on Chinese apps, campaigns against Chinese goods, promotion of domestically manufactured good, etc., can help the economy only to a certain extent. At best, they can be force multipliers; the force, however, can only be liberalization.
May the force be with us..