Context: The new technological war in the world necessitates India to look back at our core values and national interests.

Technological cold war

  • Unfortunately, just when Indian technology began to come into its own, the world slid into another cold war of sorts.
  • For decades, the US had been the undisputed leader of the tech world. However, with China’s emergence as a technology superpower, the world is no longer unipolar in the way.
  • India’s stance:
    • Given India’s liberal, democratic traditions, we are more naturally aligned with US values of AI development, especially on issues related to privacy and AI ethics.
    • India’s population demographics and history of economic development suggest that our path of technology development should adhere more closely to China’s.

Cold war and India’s Non-Alignment Policy

  • Cold-war period
    • Immediately following World War II, global politics was largely defined by events of the Cold War. 
    • The political ideologies of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America represented two ends of the spectrum of a decidedly bipolar world.
    • The consequent tussles between the two countries shaped much of the history of the second half of the 20th century.
  • Post-independence phase of India
    • From the moment India gained independence from the British, it remained ideologically distant from the great powers that dominated the global stage at the time. 
    • India founded and led the Non-Aligned Movement, whose aim was to maintain national independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity in the face of domination and interference by superpowers. 
    • As a result, in the early years, we were beholden neither to the USSR nor the US.
  • Cost of this ideological independence
    • Since India refused to take sides, many of the technologies that the superpowers shared freely with countries with which they were politically aligned were denied to us.
    • India had to build technology missions like our space project entirely from scratch, struggling to deal with the many crippling sanctions that were imposed on us whenever we demonstrated any sort of technological advancement.
  • Liberalization phase
    • It was only after the liberalization of our economy that we began to regain lost ground. 
    • The growth of the Indian software industry and more recently the radical transformation of our internal consumer market through the phenomenal growth of e-commerce has allowed us to once again get some prominence on the world stage.


Reasons why India will find it difficult to align with either of this era’s global technology superpowers

  • Territorial dispute with China
    • Given the ever-present reality of our territorial dispute in Kashmir (particularly relevant right now), any long-term cooperation between India and China seems highly unlikely.
    • We have also conducted an offensive against Chinese technology as well as telecom companies, culminating in India’s recent ban of 59 Chinese apps.
  • Data localization regulations targeted at US companies
    • India for a while now objected vociferously to the aggressive data practices of many American tech companies that operate in India.
    • We have almost simultaneously implemented data localization regulations targeted at US companies.

As important a market as India is, we will need to have tremendous fortitude to deal with the consequences that will inevitably follow.