UK’s Huawei Slap Suggests That India Too Must Harden Stand Against China

UK’s Huawei Slap Suggests That India Too Must Harden Stand Against China

by R Jagannathan - Wednesday, July 15, 2020 12:29 PM IST
UK’s Huawei Slap Suggests That India Too Must  Harden Stand Against ChinaBy banning Huawei, India has nothing to lose.
  • If a smaller economy like the UK, already knocked out by Covid-19 and a pullout from the European Union, can write off £2 billion in order to teach China a lesson, so can India.

India’s bargaining position against a global bully called China has been strengthened by the United Kingdom’s decision to ban Huawei from all its 5G networks by 2027, starting gradually from this year. UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden told the British Parliament yesterday (14 July) that the country’s mobile providers must stop buying new Huawei equipment by December this year, and remove all existing Huawei-based 5G kits by 2027.

This changeover, attributed widely to Donald Trump’s campaign to bar Huawei and turn the screws on China, will come at a cost that is estimated at upto £2 billion (approximately Rs 19,000 crore). In the US, Trump’s adviser Peter Navarro has said that the administration was “just getting started” in actions against Chinese apps like TikTok and WeChat, apps that India has already banned on grounds of national security and privacy concerns.

What this proves are two things:

First, critics of India’s decision to use trade and economic levers against China are wrong. If the US and UK are willing to pay a big price for avoiding Chinese technology and apps, India can too. It is ridiculous to believe that the Chinese can do what they want on the border and we should do nothing to hit them where it hurts.

Second, the world is gradually waking up to the reality of Chinese aggression, and now regrets having given it a free pass to become a world power. It is now threatening almost every neighbour in Asia, from India to Japan to Australia, not to speak of the countries on the other side of the South China Sea (SCS).

During recent Chinese military drills in the sea, which China considers to be its private pond, the US sent two aircraft carriers there to drive home the message that the former’s claims will be contested.

For India, the message is clear. The world is now not going to allow China to do as it pleases just because it is the No 2 superpower with a nuclear arsenal to boot. This means India must harden its own stance on the border negotiations.

While it is likely that the Chinese have encroached on territory claimed by both sides by building military facilities and camps, our negotiating stance must now harden. We must demand that China go back to where it stood in early May. We should not feel pressured to yield territory or accept a de-escalation that will still leave Chinese military standing or camping on previously untenanted territory.

India must play for the long haul, even if it means allowing the current talks and stalemate to continue indefinitely. We must show no anxiety to yield merely to prove that our troops are disengaging.

India should not accept any more Chinese nonsense where they can constantly accuse us of encroaching on their territory, but, when asked to provide their claim lines, they don’t do so.

Put simply, the Chinese strategy is to constantly keep testing the limits of their boundaries based on how serious the response from India is. We have to stop this tactic forever by placing our demand in one line: show us your claim lines, and we will show ours, and then we can negotiate a truce based on give and take. The Chinese believe in only taking, not giving. Time to stop that.

The second thing for us to do is what the UK is doing. Give Indian firms a timeline in which they must reduce dependence on Chinese imports – which could stretch upto three years. If a smaller economy like the UK, already knocked out by Covid-19 and a pullout from the European Union, can write off £2 billion in order to teach China a lesson, so can India.

The loss will be spread over a larger population, thus reducing the effective per capita impact. Over the medium term, as domestic industry becomes more atmanirbhar, the gains in terms of local production and jobs will erase these losses.

Third, banning Huawei from India’s yet-to-start 5G race is a no-brainer. If the UK can incur costs to do so, we can do so without any cost, for Huawei has not been given any contract or even given the nod to bid for it. It is not to be trusted.

Gautam Chikermane’s ORG research paper on Huawei tells us that “in the light of China’s proclivity for state interference in corporate operations and the critical infrastructure Huawei deals in, the firm poses a security threat for countries with its presence. This threat gets amplified for India, when seen in the context of China’s anti-India stance on a range of issues, a Chinese law that binds corporations to collect and share intelligence, and the 3,488-km-long volatile India-China border.”

The point to underscore is this: you don’t negotiate with bullies or lapdogs of the enemy. You stand up to them even if one can expect to receive a blow for doing so. As long as there is no border demarcated, formally signalling an end to Chinese territorial claims, India has to whittle down Chinese trade. Even otherwise, India cannot be so dependent on Chinese imports. That’s bad for everybody, including China.

Xi Jinping, dubbed Xitler on social media, should back off or see his reign end in defeat.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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