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AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.
What the Disengagement With China Means for Asian Geopolitics
Friday, February 19, 2021
What the Disengagement With China Means for Asian Geopolitics

C Uday Bhaskar, retired naval officer and Director, Society for Policy Studies, in Hindustan Times (February 16, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Vir Nakai)

What the Disengagement With China Means for Asian Geopolitics

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced the disengagement of troops by both China and India at the contested Pangong lake. This development is cause for modest satisfaction.

It is significant that China has agreed to pull back from a position of relative tactical advantage. Will the current disengagement and the acceptance of a temporary suspension by India of patrolling rights in one area lead to greater malleability in managing the Line of Actual Control (LAC) – remember China has been reluctant to clarify the LAC despite repeated Indian attempts – and provide a roadmap towards an agreed border? That would be the most desirable outcome, in which case the compromise by India would be a prudent political determination. An equitable and consensually settled border remains the Holy Grail for Delhi.

However, if this is only a brief pause for Beijing and President Xi Jinping as China prepares for a major political event — the July centenary celebrations of the Communist Party of China — and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) subsequently reverts to its pattern of territorial assertiveness. Delhi may rue the accommodations it has made in the disengagement process.

Whatever the outcome, it will have an impact on external interlocutors such as the US, Russia and China’s other neighbors. While Delhi’s resolve to resist Beijing’s aggressive bellicosity will be noted by the smaller nations, the Delhi-Beijing dynamic will also shape – and be shaped by – the US-China-India triangle. President Joe Biden has signaled that the US will hold Beijing’s feet to the fire over the Indo-Pacific and the principles of freedom of navigation and territorial integrity, with a continued focus on reinvigorating Quad. How China reads this message, and how it orients itself in relation to contested territoriality will shape many outcomes in Asia and beyond. Pangong is the bellwether.


If Not Now, When?: There Is No Option But Reforms
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
If Not Now, When?: There Is No Option But Reforms

Ruchir Sharma, Head of Emerging Markets and Chief Global Strategist, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, in The Times of India (February 16, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Pradeep Gaurs / Shutterstock.com)

If Not Now, When?: There Is No Option But Reforms

Many commentators complain that, with the pandemic-stricken economy “in the ICU”, now is exactly the wrong time to push painful reform. But if not now, when? Few nations ever accept harsh medicine unless they are forced to by a crisis. Reformers come out better in the end. Today, developed nations are offering stimulus packages to ease the shock of the pandemic, but they are running up debts that will slow growth in the future.

Meanwhile, India is one of the many emerging countries that, lacking the funds for more stimulus, are instead pushing reforms which are likely to boost productivity and growth. India’s reforms encompass the controversial agricultural reforms, the new privatization push, and the broad shift in spending away from subsidies and other freebies to capital investment.

Indonesia’s reforms are as ambitious, including looser labor laws, tax cuts, deregulation, and most recently a push to open up the financial sector. The Philippines lowered its corporate taxes from among the highest to among the lowest in Asia, and will emerge more competitive. Brazil, a chronic over-spender, has imposed caps on its deficit and is working to meet them by downsizing a wildly generous pension system and streamlining bureaucracy by making it easier to fire public workers and cut their benefits.

By comparison, there is nothing particularly harsh about how the Indian government is treating its patient. When the sugar rush of stimulus fades, the effect will not be felt equally. Nations that exercised restraint and prioritized economic reforms are likely to see their growth prospects continue to improve. Those that spend heavily to ease the pain are likely to pay for it in higher debts and slower growth. This was the lesson of 2008 and every major global crisis: Seize the opportunity to reform, or it will never happen.


States Must Not Clamp Down on Free Speech in Fight Against Fake News
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
States Must Not Clamp Down on Free Speech in Fight Against Fake News

Ameya Bokil, Srujana Bej and Nikitak Sonavane of the Bhopal-based Criminal Justice & Police Accountability Project in The Indian Express (February 9, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Sarabjit Singh/Tribune India)

States Must Not Clamp Down on Free Speech in Fight Against Fake News

The Covid-19 vaccine being administered by the government of India raises safety and efficacy concerns, stemming from a rushed approval process. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs has recommended that all state governments pursue criminal action against individuals and organizations spreading “unfounded” or “misleading” rumors that “create doubt” about the vaccine’s efficacy.

Given the government’s lack of proactive transparency on safety issues with respect to the vaccines’ approval, public scrutiny serves an important function. The evolution of a nebulous category of “fake news” has become the bedrock of curtailment of free speech. Where restrictions are vague, overbroad, and punitive, they create a chilling effect on free speech and have been held to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

A report has documented 55 instances of targeting of journalists during the lockdown. State governments have used the garb of epidemic disease control to prosecute persons for reporting on mismanagement of the pandemic, corruption and the lack of state support for migrant workers and others affected by the pandemic. The only purpose of these “fake news” laws has been to advance narratives of effective governance during the pandemic.

No democratic government can be considered effective if it fails to be transparent and accountable. Effective government function necessarily requires adequately engaging with and scientifically responding to both valid criticism and unscientific misconceptions to build robust public discourse. When criminal law is relied on to place gags on valid questions and there is a failure to communicate all necessary information to the public, the government violates the principle of informed consent – a crucial tenet of healthcare. “Minimum government, maximum governance” has unfortunately translated into minimum government transparency and maximum public penalization.


Zuckerberg Did Not Ban Trump To Save Democracy
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Zuckerberg Did Not Ban Trump To Save Democracy

Javed Anwer, technology editor, India Today, in Daily O (January 8, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Zuckerberg Did Not Ban Trump To Save Democracy

It is no coincidence that on the day US lawmakers formalized the election win of Joe Biden, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a ban on Donald Trump. It seemed like a principled tech CEO standing up to stop the abuse of his platform. But the reality is different. It is a move as self-serving and odious as it can be.

The ban on Trump has nothing to do with saving democracy, as Zuckerberg says. It is a volte-face, an attempt to change colors before the new US administration takes the power and goes after Facebook. For years, Zuckerberg and Facebook turned a blind eye to everything the ultra-right and Trumpists did. It allowed them to communicate, to meet together, run campaigns that have no place in a civilized society, and amplify hate posts. All in the name of free speech. Facebook allowed and defended its actions again and again when its platforms were used to distribute misinformation and fake news.

Facebook is all about convenience and profit. Like other tech companies, Facebook might have built its empire on grand words – bringing people together, free speech, community and all that nonsense – but it too is hollow like the rest of the Silicon Valley. It is not about principles. It never is. This is the reason why in India Facebook gladly allows some politicians to say whatever they want, even if these lead to the poisoning of society or harm to people. The company will continue to play pal with regimes, even if they use Facebook in a way it should not be – that is, until the winds change. And then Facebook and Zuckerberg bend the way the wind is blowing.


Do Not Gloat Over Disarray in the US
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Do Not Gloat Over Disarray in the US

Sandip Roy, radio host and novelist, in The Times of India (January 9, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer)

Do Not Gloat Over Disarray in the US

The images of rioting Donald Trump supporters running amok through the halls of the US Capitol were shocking. But many around the globe were surely smirking that the self-appointed moral policeman of the world not only had feet of clay but also wore Viking horns and furs.

Many parts of the globe from Chile to Iran know only too well that the United States happily jettisons its own pieties about democracy when inconvenient. Ever since the bitter elections and its chaotic aftermath, the US has been understanding the meaning of schadenfreude, the pleasure one feels in the misfortune of others. A Chinese state-owned tabloid put out side-by-side images of Hong Kong protesters storming the city’s legislature in 2019 and Trump supporters inside the Capitol building.

The Indian police have been accused often of watching passively when people were being beaten up by goons. We shake our heads when Trump tweets, “There are things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots.” But an Indian Prime Minister once seemed to downplay a full-on massacre when he said, “When a big tree falls, the ground shakes.”

What happened in the US might feel shocking but it is not so surprising. Trump’s election had given majoritarianism on steroids a new mainstream respectability. But we gloat at our own peril. While we point fingers, in the words of the poet WB Yeats, at what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards the Capitol to be born, we forget that this creature, pumped up by conspiracy theories, fake news, and nationalist resentments, is not unique to America at all. Neither is it just slouching anymore.


Seeing India and Pakistan History Through the Lens of Caste
Monday, December 28, 2020
Seeing India and Pakistan History Through the Lens of Caste

Faisal Devji, Professor of Indian History at the University of Oxford, in The Indian Express (December 27, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Seeing India and Pakistan History Through the Lens of Caste

What would the history of India look like if seen through the lens of caste? Banias changed India’s modern history was the development of the Indian National Congress as a mass organization under Mahatma Gandhi. The Kshatriyas displaced by colonialism had by then been replaced in politics by Brahmin lawyers and administrators. The first Bania to take power from the Brahmins who dominated the party, Gandhi gained for it the support of India’s traders.

If Gandhi’s rise to power signaled the emergence of a new national culture for Hindus, Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s rise accomplished the same for Muslims. The culture of learning and honor that had characterized the League’s Brahmin and Kshatriya elite was replaced by a Bania focus on contractual politics.

Religion has come to define national culture in both India and Pakistan, allowing different castes to identify with each other by excluding minorities. While Hinduism provides a home for many sectarian cultures in India, Islam in Pakistan is exclusive.

While Christians and Hindus are discriminated against and even persecuted in Pakistan, as Muslims and Christians sometimes are in India, they are not seen to represent any serious threat to Islam. This means that Islam comes to dominate politics in such a way as to obscure both caste and religious difference.

If the suspect religious minority in Pakistan is to be found within Islam, non-Muslim groups come to represent not religious but caste difference. Christians and Hindus also serve as repositories for the caste identities of Muslims, who escape their status by displacing it onto them. While caste differences in India are also displaced onto a religious minority, in Pakistan this displacement locates the minority within and caste outside Islam.

Caste really does allow us to see history anew.


Start Planning for the Great Indian Vaccine Challenge
Thursday, December 10, 2020
Start Planning for the Great Indian Vaccine Challenge

Chetan Bhagat, author, in his The Underage Optimist column in The Times of India (December 6, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Start Planning for the Great Indian Vaccine Challenge

Covid-19 vaccination will be a mammoth exercise, and preparation for this needs to begin now. For India, the magnitude of the task at hand is huge. Having a two-dose vaccine (such as the Moderna version) implies that 2.6 billion doses will need to be given across India. We are talking tens of thousands of trucks (with cold storage facilities) making millions of journeys across the nation around the clock. It also means having healthcare workers vaccinating Indians in every town and city.

This exercise, if not done smoothly, could turn into chaos – something that happens in India often. Instead, we want to show the world that when it comes to the crunch, India knows how to come together.

If we do our preparations right and set our priorities right, we can start in January 2021 and vaccinate a major part of the population by May 2021. We could, therefore, eliminate Covid-19 and be back to normal in terms of economic activity by June next year. If we do not plan or execute properly, we could lose another six to 12 months of economic activity, not to mention a lot more lives.

India can do this if we all work together. Sure, despite all plans, there will be hiccups, as expected in any massive exercise like this. However, we have to remain as one through it all. Non-partisan, non-argumentative, non-left or right. We just need to put our heads down and do the work until all of us are vaccinated. Executing this well will make Indians safe and bring our economy back. Let’s join hands and extend our arms to get the jab we have been waiting for.


May Diwali Bring Hope This Vile Year
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
May Diwali Bring Hope This Vile Year

Tavleen Singh, columnist, in The Indian Express (November 15, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Khokarahman)

May Diwali Bring Hope This Vile Year

This has been a vile year not just for India but for the whole world. Except perhaps for our old foe China from whence came the worst pandemic in more than a century. As someone who thinks of China as an evil country, it galls me that it seems somehow to be doing just fine. So we must hope that on this Diwali festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil, the gods hear our prayers and help us to banish Chinese soldiers from our territory. May the gods punish China by doing as much harm to its economy as has been done to ours and to the economies of some of the richest countries in the world.

Having got my bile against China off my chest, I feel good. Since it is Diwali, I am going to try to talk about things that may help us all get into a festive mood. What has cheered me up in these long months of lockdowns was the announcement of the New Education Policy. It will be a long while before Indian children in government schools get access to an education and not just literacy, but this policy is a step in the right direction. It is my hope that it will be the first step towards decolonizing a public education system that was created by our colonial masters. It should have been decolonized years ago and, if it happens now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be remembered in history for this.

Now it is time for Modi to concentrate on reviving the economy. His economic failures, that began with demonetization, should reduce any satisfaction he gets from his political successes. When I light the diyas this evening, I shall pray that we will not need masks this time next year.


A Long Way Since 1962: The Relationship with China has Changed
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
A Long Way Since 1962: The Relationship with China has Changed

Sanjaya Baru, Distinguished Fellow, The United Service Institution of India and the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, in The Indian Express (October 20, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: BMN Network)

A Long Way Since 1962: The Relationship with China has Changed

Fifty-eight years ago, Chinese troops entered the Indian territory to make a point. Historians and international relations scholars have spent half a century trying to explain that unexpected and first-ever war between the two Asian giants. The simple point that Mao Zedong tried to make at the time to Jawaharlal Nehru was that China did not regard India an equal. Fifty-eight years later, that is precisely the point that Xi Jinping has been trying to make to Narendra Modi.

In the 1950s, objective circumstances and material reality offered adequate reasons for Nehru to imagine that India was China’s equal and he, Mao’s. In 2020, Modi would be living in a make-believe world in case he harbored any such illusions. Xi wants him to get the message.

In the 1950s, and indeed till the turn of the century, there were good reasons for Indian leaders to view China as an equal. India under Modi finds itself in a better military and diplomatic space. The major power differential is economic and technological. Today, the Chinese economy is nearly five times the size of India’s in US dollar terms and almost two-and-a-half times India’s in purchasing power parity terms. In terms of Comprehensive National Power, which incorporates scientific and technological power and human capital formation, China out-ranks India many times over.

Xi’s confidence is based on the material foundations of Chinese power, requiring Modi to adopt a more cautious approach. For all the bravado of Modi’s domestic politics, he has so far walked a cautious diplomatic path, while keeping the powder dry. Modi cannot afford Nehru’s pretense for he can easily pay Nehru’s price. To regain global stature, India has to continue to focus on its domestic economic capability and human capital. There are no short cuts to global power and influence.


Digital Space as Sex-Crime Scenes – Call Social Media to Account
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Digital Space as Sex-Crime Scenes – Call Social Media to Account

Vrinda Shukla, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crimes Against Women and Children, Indian Police Service, in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, in The Indian Express (October 8, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Digital Space as Sex-Crime Scenes – Call Social Media to Account

With only three days to go before her wedding, the bride-to-be received a call from her fiancé. Nothing could have prepared her for what he had to say. Hundreds of links had suddenly appeared on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook flashing extremely obscene pictures of the woman. Thus began a terrible nightmare for the hapless woman, her sole solace the strength of character and commitment of the groom-to-be.

The couple approached the police. It was a classic case of revenge porn – an invasion of sexual privacy and a form of online harassment where the perpetrator, usually a disgruntled ex-partner, posts intimate photos, often to shame the subject. The consequences for victims can be extreme, encompassing honor killings, breakdown of relationships, destruction of reputation and career, and immense emotional trauma.

While the police may succeed in prosecuting the perpetrators of such crimes, it can do little to clean up the mess left behind on the internet, the root cause of the victim’s suffering. Reporting such content by victims to social media platforms is often of no avail. Facebook receives half a million reports of revenge porn each month.

The dissemination of such photos and videos deserves to be defined as a sexual violation. It will then be considered a serious offence and encourage victims to report such crimes. Demanding accountability from social media giants is more important. Several countries have proposed tough laws on the issue, including imprisonment of their executives in extreme cases of non-compliance of requests made by law enforcement authorities.

With India having the world’s largest population of young people vulnerable to new mutations of deeply scarring sex crimes, the public-interest litigation filed in the Supreme Court is critical to establishing an efficient mechanism to remove sexually graphic abusive content and to seek accountability from social media platforms.


With China as Backdrop, New Delhi’s Moscow Watch
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
With China as Backdrop, New Delhi’s Moscow Watch

Harsh V Pant, Professor of International Relations at King’s College London, and Director of Research, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), and Nivedita Kapoor, Junior Fellow, ORF, in The Hindu (September 22, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India)

With China as Backdrop, New Delhi’s Moscow Watch

As India-China tensions along their border continue to escalate, India pulled out of military exercises organized by Russia, where it was scheduled to participate alongside other Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states. While Covid-19 was cited as the official reason, the border situation with China likely prompted this decision.

In June, the Russian, Indian and Chinese foreign ministers met in Moscow after the violent border clashes between Chinese and Indian troops. The meeting ended with no communiqué. Moscow has been playing a quiet diplomatic role without taking sides. India and Russia are pragmatic players aiming to maximize strategic maneuverability. Both recognize the value of having a diversified portfolio of ties.

The combination of a changing regional order, closer Russia-China ties, and India’s alignment with the US and other like-minded countries to manage Beijing’s rise has the potential to create hurdles for India-Russia cooperation in Asia.

While India would like to secure Russian support in this changing Asian regional order, the latter has seen China become its key partner as relations with the West have hit a new post-Cold War low. India for its part has sought to include Russia in its vision of the Indo-Pacific that does not see the region as “a strategy or as a club of limited members”.

A world split into two blocs would be detrimental to the interests of both New Delhi and Moscow, making it imperative that contradictions in their respective policies are managed pragmatically while taking a long-term view of the strategic partnership. Although the evolving global order makes it difficult for India and Russia to pursue convergent policies, it does not preclude the relationship from retaining relevance. The strategic space both provide the other is critical and underscores the need to insulate their relationship from the vagaries of the international system.


Lotus to POTUS: How Kamala Harris Might Bloom
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Lotus to POTUS: How Kamala Harris Might Bloom

Chidanand Rajghatta, Foreign Editor based in Washington, DC, in The Times of India (August 17, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Lotus to POTUS: How Kamala Harris Might Bloom

Traditionally, American vice-presidents were considered so nondescript and superfluous that Thomas Marshall, the country’s 28th VP, joked about two brothers, one who ran away to sea, the other who became vice-president: Neither of them was ever heard from again. Franklin Roosevelt’s first veep, John Nance Garner, said the title was not worth “a bucket of warm spit”.

The choice of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate sends a different message. The US has had 45 presidents and 48 vice-presidents, none women. Only 14 veeps have gone on to become presidents, nine of them after the president’s death.

The Biden-Harris team offers a ticket to unprecedented history should it be victorious. Veeps go on to become presidents in the worst of circumstances, not necessarily in better circumstances. Biden himself, after serving two terms as Barack Obama’s veep, had to defer to Hillary Clinton’s bid for the party nomination in 2016, choosing “dignity over ambition” when he realized the odds were stacked against him. Harris, the first putative female veep of Black and Indian heritage, is viewed in some quarters as a possible regent under any circumstances for a man who would be the oldest president to be sworn into office – if he wins.


Prime Minister Modi has Chosen to Work in a Cocoon
Friday, July 31, 2020
Prime Minister Modi has Chosen to Work in a Cocoon

Tavleen Singh, columnist, in The Indian Express (July 26, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Office)

Prime Minister Modi has Chosen to Work in a Cocoon

Since the pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have rediscovered that he needs to make an economic course correction. He urged foreign investors to come and invest in India. He then boasted of how many reforms his government had made to make it easier to do business. He has not noticed that since he became PM an “inspector raj” has been unleashed that would drive away the most intrepid investors. The government’s own Invest India arm has identified 767 pre-operation licenses that an investor is obliged to get from 35 ministries before starting a business.

The prime minister has chosen to work in a cocoon since he first took the job six years ago. Those people who could tell him how often his officials make regulations that make it harder to do business have been kept at a distance. Those who would be able to tell him how many fine Indian companies face bankruptcy, only because his government refuses to honor its contracts, are kept even further away. Since the pandemic, the walls of Modi’s cocoon have been fortified so he works in a chamber that totally insulates him from reality.

It is time that he started listening to those who can really tell him how difficult it remains to do business in India. The Chinese virus and international disenchantment with China offer Modi a second chance to change course, and make the administrative changes that are necessary if India is to move from poverty to prosperity. He could begin by asking which inspectors and regulations can be thrown into the garbage bin. Once this is done, he should step out of his cocoon and listen to those already doing business in India and try and understand what it is that prevents them from doing it more easily.


Trump’s Anti-Student Salvo is an Attack on Liberalism
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Trump’s Anti-Student Salvo is an Attack on Liberalism

Bhaskar Chakravorti, Dean of Global Business and Executive Director of the Institute for Business in the Global Context at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, in The Indian Express (July 13, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Trump’s Anti-Student Salvo is an Attack on Liberalism

You may be among the 2,00,000 plus Indian students studying or planning to study in an American university. US President Donald Trump seems to have problems with “aliens” of many stripes. The latest anti-student salvo began with a White House proclamation to stop “aliens who present a risk to the US labor market”. Now we have guidance from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that will prevent all international students from getting or keeping a student visa if their classes are to be taught exclusively online.

The announcement risks making noncitizens of the US second-class citizens in digital classrooms. It eliminates the option of traveling to gain better digital access or time-zone synchronization. Those who are forced to return, must uproot themselves, face restrictions in travel, return to potentially unsafe conditions or carry unsafe conditions with them. The US has the highest volume of Covid-19 cases in the world.

So, why pick this fight? First, this is part of Trump’s push to get back to business-as-usual, a narrative essential for re-election. He’s been urging schools to re-open. The international student visa move is a way to strong-arm university administrations. Losing these students would mean loss of much-needed revenues for universities. Second, don’t forget the long-running China-as-enemy rhetoric. China is the biggest source of international students. A third reason has to do with the enemy within: liberalism. The three states that overwhelmingly benefit from international students – California, New York and Massachusetts – will, without question, vote for Joe Biden.

Finally, Trump knows his base gets weaker the closer you get to college. Sixty-four per cent of non-college-educated Whites supported Trump, as compared with 38 per cent of Whites with a university degree. Punishing colleges and “elitism” is a powerful part of the re-election narrative.


Defending Tech Sovereignty
Friday, July 3, 2020
Defending Tech Sovereignty

Arghya Sengupta, Research Director at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, and Lalitesh Katragadda, Founder, Indihood, in The Times of India (July 3, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Defending Tech Sovereignty

As Indian soldiers face the Chinese army in Ladakh, their courage in defending our borders makes our hearts both heavy and proud. However, as citizens, our actions belie our feelings. India’s trade deficit with China is US$48.5 billion, on the back of China’s near-complete domination of India’s consumer electronics market. The resulting economic upside is significant enough to fund China’s entire military expenditure on the Indian border. How do we face our soldiers and tell them that we are bankrolling the very peril that they are bravely pushing back against?

In this context, the decision by the Indian government to ban 59 Chinese apps including TikTok and WeChat is a significant statement of intent. Section 69A of the Information Technology Act allows the government to block access to any content on the internet if protection of Indian sovereignty requires such blocking.

While any direct connections between companies which own the blocked apps and the Chinese government are difficult to detect, by virtue of China’s national intelligence law every technology company in the country is under a legal obligation to “assist and cooperate with state intelligence”. Further, according to China’s cybersecurity law, all companies “must accept supervision from the government”. When that government wages war on India’s borders, a strong case exists to follow due procedure and block these applications.

Ultimately, in technology as in the economy, we need to learn from our soldiers on the front. We need to steel ourselves for a few years of hardship with knowledge and belief that we will overcome. If we don’t, our dream of a tech sovereign India will become like a TikTok video – short-lived and illusory. If we do, perhaps our foes may never dare to draw battle lines inside our physical territory.