India’s e-belt and road initiative for digital diplomacy 

News: In recent times, India has discovered that its homegrown digital solutions have furthered its development agenda. Moreover, it’s also argued that these digital solutions can also support India in widening its diplomatic efforts. 

India’s digitization journey

India’s digitization journey is taking a fast pace. It began in 2010 with Aadhaar to empower Indian citizens.  

As of 2021, India had issued more than 1.3 billion digital identity cards via its Aadhaar platform and over 1.1 billion digital vaccine certificates through its CoWin platform.  

India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) recorded 5 billion transactions in a month for the first time in March 2022. It crossed the $1-trillion mark in transaction value. 

How can India leverage its digital solutions in the form of digital diplomacy? 

Several countries want to either replicate the Aadhar model or take note of Aadhar technology to develop their own digital ID systems. For example, Sri Lanka aims to implement a digital ID programme modelled on Aadhaar. 

National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is assisting many countries to set up real-time e-payment systems. For example, Bhutan & Nepal has adopted UPI standards and UPI platform respectively. In April, BHIM UPI went live across the UAE. 

The Reserve Bank of India and Singapore Authority announced a project to link their respective fast payment systems.  

India’s Digital Infrastructure for Vaccination Open Credentialing (DIVOC), an open-source vaccine management platform has been leveraged by Jamaica, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines, to streamline their covid vaccination programmes. 

Indigenous digital systems interoperable between jurisdictions can reduce compliance and transaction costs 

Digital diplomacy can increase India’s soft power. For example, Estonia’s X-Road open software ecosystem which enabled cross-border data exchange with Finland has increased Estonia’s soft power. 

What are the key factors that have enabled India to emerge as a leader in this field? 

First, India’s IT sector has consistently remained a key driver of economic growth. In fact, India’s digital infrastructure is growing.  

Second, India’s strong political will and deliberative policymaking has steered the digital ecosystem. For instance, the MEITY’s Policy on Adoption of Open-Source Software, Policy on Open APIs, Policy for Open Standards, etc, has helped create digital public goods and infrastructure.  

Third, the government has adopted a participative approach in the initial decision-making for building such digital infrastructure as the digital world goes beyond traditional bureaucratic expertise. For example, an Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) Council which comprises experts from the bureaucracy and other expertise areas.  

India’s digital public goods-led diplomacy could play an instrumental role in an emerging new world order. The digital infrastructure in critical areas of the global economy will increase India’s resilience and extend its strategic advantage. 

Way Forward 

The geopolitical tensions mandate building resilience, for which a new form of cooperation is required. In this context, India can lay out its own digital ‘belt and road’ network. 

A parliamentary panel of India has already proposed to build an alternative to the SWIFT network. 

Source: The post is based on an article “India’s e-belt and road initiative for digital diplomacy” published in the Live Mint on 29th April 2022. 

Print Friendly and PDF