The government’s ban on 59 Apps may be part of the economic ‘boycott’ of China, but the reason given is ‘security concerns’. In other words, even if there had not been the standoff with the PLA on the Indo-Tibetan border, these apps needed to be removed from general use. Other countries, too, are contemplating similar bans, particularly the US. There have been similar concerns about Huawei’s 5G technology. Indian experts from various fields have for long been debating the issue, even as the government was willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt. All of that is now moot, because that which is under suspicion will be the first to get the axe.
The point is that security concerns are a reason for a ban at anytime, as long as they are substantial enough. However, when it comes to applying economic pressure on China as a strategy to back down militarily, the approach will have to be less emotional and more considered. There is no point in doing that which will hurt Indians more than the Chinese. Deleted apps will be easily substituted, but it is ridiculous, as some are suggesting, that owners destroy or discard their Chinese smartphones, thereby causing financial loss to themselves. As Ladakh’s Sonam Wangchuk has suggested, it should be done progressively over a year, as alternatives present themselves.
It is to be hoped in this context that the enthusiastic rejection of Chinese investment and companies by various governments, as well as cancellation of projects, is being done under the Union Government’s advice. It has to be part of a grand strategy and not knee-jerk reactions by individuals seeking a moment in the limelight. It is very important that the interests of Indian companies that are invested in China, or in Chinese supply chains, do not suffer instead. It is obvious that almost the entire world, even the countries ‘benefiting’ from Chinese largesse, is now more inclined than ever to disengage from China as much as possible. India’s actions of standing up to China are being praised in many capitals of the world. This will, however, need to be a carefully calibrated effort, as and when alternatives are worked out. As many experts now assume, India will become more engaged with the western and liberal democracies in economic terms.
It must also not be forgotten that all this is possible if the Armed Forces can strongly defend India’s borders against the present build-up by China and Pakistan. The threat is to use this opportunity to sever J&K and Ladakh from India, which if acted upon could lead to nuclear war in the worst case scenario. So, all those pushing for war at the present should rein in their enthusiasm and allow the Prime Minister and his team to approach the challenge with a cold and calculated mind.