The above headlines appeared on the front page of the front pages of newspapers on July 2. The day before it was ‘Virtual strike: India bans TikTok and 58 other apps with Chinese links’. A few days earlier, it was reported that some equipment imported from China is being held up at customs. Yes, when the country is at war (too strong a word) with a neighbour, these measures are justified but premature and alarming statements, without analysing the consequences, are not in order. We must critically examine the ongoing trade, import of domestic and industrial products and the method of tendering, bidding and execution of projects in the country. We cannot become emotional and abruptly stop all activities involving China and start burning Chinese goods. The loss will be ours.
Instead, I would love to see the headlines like ‘Our IT boys and girls develop software/apps to replace TikTok….’, ‘Indian Companies take up the challenge and are gearing to handle all infrastructure projects in future’ and ‘the Government will help all ongoing projects having Chinese participation, including those in the private sector, to get completed soon’
There are a large number of ongoing megaprojects and also with MSMEs; in some cases, only advance payments may have been made, in some cases, the machinery must be ready for shipment or may be in transit, in some cases there may be joint ventures with Chinese investors in MSMEs and in other instance, Indian workers may be stuck in China and Chinese in India; some may be waiting for flights to resume so that they can travel and finish respective assignments. Indian businessmen must be having cordial and friendly relations with their counterparts which is the only way to do business, having faith in each other. If these ongoing projects have to end abruptly, losses for Indian businesses are likely to be much higher than for the Chinese. The announcements should be made for only future projects that no joint venture with Chinese partners would be permitted, but all help will be rendered to accelerate completion of ongoing projects to reach an amicable logical conclusion. This will be coercive diplomacy to send a strong signal and message to China that it will not be business as usual. Of course, if any project is at a tendering stage, Chinese participation can be banned.
There was a small news item that someone threw stones at a Chinese restaurant. I do not know about Indians settled in China but we know that there are plenty of Chinese families settled here for generations, now Indian nationals. They are into the business of restaurants, leather goods manufacturing and other trades. Because of their Mongolian features, they stand apart, this should not build up any hatred towards them. Fortunately, with the other neighbour Pakistan, this does not happen; even trade continues despite skirmishes at the border.
For any sensitive and strategic technology, our country is not and cannot be dependent on China or for that matter on any other country. This only proves that given the mandate and the resources, the country is capable of developing requisite technology; this is not done as there is a cheaper option to buy in international markets.
In the present scenario, it is so heartening to read another headline ‘L&T flags off the final assembly of Cryostat for $20-bn fusion reactor’. ITER (InternationalThermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is International nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject. Located in France, it is the largest international technology demonstration project. The project is funded and run by seven member entities—the European Union, India, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and the United States. The EU, as hosts of the ITER complex, is contributing about 45 per cent of the cost, with the other six parties contributing approximately 9 per cent each. India became an ITER Member in December 2005. Its share in the project’s value is 9.1%. Presently Indian nationals account for ~ 4% of ITER personnel. India is fully responsible for the ITER cryostat, cryolines and cryodistribution, in-wall shielding, secondary cooling circuit, diagnostic neutral beam, and ion cyclotron power sources. The cryostat is the largest stainless steel high vacuum pressure chamber weighing a few thousand tons and costing more than Rs 1000 crores During the flag off ceremony, the Chairman of L&T said ‘it is a moment of pride for India and L&T’, while initially it was considered as too risky. Bajaj scooters and TVS are other examples of excellence; about 20 years back Chinese started flooding the market with two wheelers, in particular, in the South East Asian countries; now Bajaj and TVS have driven them out and have become the biggest suppliers of two wheelers in the world.
Any challenge can be met by the scientific and technical community of our country once the goal is defined and the requisite sources are allocated.