On 5G, India’s message to China: While maintaining a functional and working relationship with China is important, India cannot allow a potential adversary to gain a foothold in its digital and communication infrastructure
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Last week, India decided not to include Chinese telecom companies in the 5G trials. This is the beginning of a process to slow down and halt China’s creeping influence over India’s vital communication networks. Predictably, Beijing has objected — but the Government of India’s decision, largely driven by China’s unthinking belligerence, is the right step.
In recent years, it has become clear that China wants a unipolar Asia. This has not only resulted in Beijing actively blocking the rise of other regional powers in the continent through diplomatic means, but undertaking aggressive military measures. India has been a victim of this mindset on a range of fronts — be it through Beijing’s alliance with Pakistan and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, its opposition to India’s entry in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, its active campaign at the United Nations against India’s moves on Kashmir, its explicit interference in neighbouring countries to undermine India’s influence, and of course, most significantly, military incursions across the Line of Actual Control. Don’t forget, Chinese troops are still in territory India considers its own, and the disengagement process has halted after the Pangong Tso deal.
In this context, while maintaining a functional and working relationship with China is important, India cannot allow a potential adversary — which has shown both the intention and capability of undermining India — to gain a foothold in its digital and communication infrastructure. India is better served being aligned with western democracies on the issue — and it is no surprise that there has been a vibrant debate in Washington and European capitals on the pitfalls of giving China such access to its networks. India, as a close neighbour, has the most at stake. And the message to China is consistent and clear — if you remain geopolitically hostile, don’t expect business concessions.