by G Harindra Kumar

As the monthlong standoff degenerated into a bloody fracas in mid-June, leaving 20 Indian soldiers dead alongside around 90 Chinese soldiers, according to a grapevine pick from Chinese social media circles. PM Modi was facing growing domestic pressure to boycott Chinese goods as part of a more general turn toward self-reliance which he named "Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan or Self-Reliant India". The first mention of this came during the announcement of the Coronavirus pandemic related economic package on 12 May 2020. Answering the clarion call of large scale boycott of Chinese goods and services, by mostly NDA supporters, the government on Monday banned 59 Chinese sourced mobile apps including Bytedance's TikTok and Tencent's WeChat in its strongest move yet targeting China in the online space.

India has grown closer to the United States over recent decades, both militarily and politically. Despite Trump's eccentricities and unreliability, PM Modi has pinned his hopes on President Trump to help him contain and reign in China and vice versa. There is a decisive anti-Chinese turn in Indian public opinion. India is the new nation to have joined such countries as Japan, South Korea and the United States as part of a select group of China’s rivals nations whose publics also have sharply negative views of China itself.

There is also a barrage of voices of naysayers who continually stymie the voices of bellicose public opinion who seek economic reprisals against the belligerent Chinese. Contrary to the opinions voiced by the typical left and left-liberals who are generally perceived to be the lackeys of the Chinese, India in the past have doggedly developed technologies which were denied to them due to international politics and predominantly American embargo regimes during the cold-war era.

According to a snap poll, 68.2 per cent people said that as a mark of protest, they will stop buying Chinese products, including mobile phones, TVs and electronic goods. However, completely cutting economic ties with China is not a reality, since India is one of the China's biggest trade partners. But India can hurt China if it makes the right moves. 

Here are a few illustrations of how India circumvented technology denial regimes by developing complex and sophisticated systems to fulfil its national objectives for science and technology applications for the nation:

Unable To Buy A Cray, India Builds Its Own Supercomputers

A US media report said the U.S. government's nuclear-proliferation fears over the sale of a Cray Research supercomputer (designated No. 1205) to Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore in 1993 had forced India to build its own high-performance systems -- which now compete with Cray machines and can be sold to any friendly nation of India. The US believed that the super-fast computing power of the Cray machine would be diverted to make nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. India has also launched a blueprint for a work-in-progress high-performance computing array which would rank among the top 5 most power supercomputing systems in the world.

Integrated Guided Missile Development Program

The United State's typical overbearing attitude to nations who seek to develop a national defence prerogative was given a setback when India embarked on its Integrated Guided Missile Development Program to develop state-of-the-art missile delivery systems to attain self-sufficiency in the field of missile technologies. Defeating several technology denial regimes initiated by the US, India developed most of the technologies both hardware and software locally to aid in the fruition of its quest to develop advanced missile systems. India will soon deploy a national advanced air defence system 

Cryogenic Engine Technology For Heavy-Lift Rockets

India is one of the top nations in the world which offers commercial launch services of satellites into space, its already a leader in the Nano and Micro satellites launch sector. However, this did not come easily for ISRO the nodal agency for space related activities to develop high-end technologies. Behind the success of the launch vehicles is nearly three decades of hard work in taming cryogenic technology (a critical rocket engine tech to launch heavier satellites into space) and an interesting history of this technology was denied to ISRO by the United States in the early 1990s, forcing it develop it on its own. ISRO had planned to develop a cryogenic engine way back in the mid-1980s when just a handful of countries — the United States, the erstwhile USSR, France and Japan — had this technology. To fast-track its development of next-generation launch vehicles — the GSLV program had already been envisioned — ISRO had decided to import a few of these engines. It had discussions with Japan, US and France before finally settling for Russian engines. In 1991, ISRO and the Russian space agency, Glavkosmos, had signed an agreement for supply of two of these engines along with transfer of technology so that the Indian scientists could build these on their own in the future. However, the United States, which had lost out on the engine contract due to its high-cost and other restrictive conditions, objected to the Russian sale, citing provisions of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) that neither India nor Russia was a member of. MTCR seeks to control the proliferation of missile technology. Russia, still emerging from the collapse of the USSR, succumbed to US pressure and cancelled the deal in 1993. But ever since the cancellation of the original Russian deal, ISRO got down to develop the cryogenic technology on its own at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre. It took more than a decade to build the engines and success did not come easily.


The aforementioned examples prove that India has the capability to develop indigenous technologies, all required is the right policy approach by the govt. Reform is the key to success, entrepreneurs should be given a free hand to conduct business and not shackled by archaic and restrictive bureaucratic red-tapeism. Revival of local industry should be the priority of the govt.

A hangover from Nehruvian ‘socialism’, little effort was made to modernise industries or develop contemporary consumer products. India’s industrial ecosystem was thus characterised by low productivity, poor quality and low technology, and was globally uncompetitive. India can learn from post-war Japanese success, other countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and China took took huge technological and industrial strides in the 1970s and 80s. They climbed the technology ladder in electronic goods, micro-processors, ship-building, energy systems, personal computers and automobiles.

Over dependence on the Public Sector undertaking (PSUs) for both commercial and strategic business has become a nightmare. PSUs have turned out to be inefficient and sluggish for the competitive globalised scenario. Getting rid of PSUs should be the govts top priority. India may well have missed the bus in many of these technologies, yet, if it is determined, self-reliant capabilities in most of the technology areas are well within reach. It is going to be a very hard grind though.

There is one singular certainty, India seems to work well when its back is against the wall.

Hari is a software professional who tracks military and aerospace issues closely