The tie-up between Reliance Jio and Qualcomm announced on October 21 is noteworthy at several levels. Its importance does not simply lie in the arrangement likely fast-tracking the realisation of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat by strengthening the five pillars — economy, infrastructure, technology-driven system, vibrant demography, and demand — that are to form the basis for creating an economically self-reliant India.
At a deeper level, the alliance between the Reliance Industries subsidiary and the San Diego-based semiconductor giant marks a significant milestone in the journey of Indian telecom towards emerging as a global leader in advanced 5G technologies. This signals to the rest of the world — especially the developed West — that India can now act as the pivot around which, going forward, all global 5G-related developments could take place. This is also a signal to India’s eastern neighbour China which has always been doubtful of India’s ability to make it big on its own steam in the hi-tech arena.
At a time, when much of the world is struggling to find an effective way to leverage the power of 5G, its roll-out in India next year — whose likelihood has increased through the Jio-Qualcomm deal — could hold vital lessons for decision-makers internationally on how this could be done in a manner that benefits people across socio-economic spectrums. What’s more important here is that this has been achieved without any involvement Chinese companies.
Over the years, China has managed to convince many countries that nothing can move in the technological world without it being part of the process. Beijing has often made it a point to stress on this dominant position.
In such a scenario, the Jio-Qualcomm deal is a bold statement made by two world-class companies of their intent to curb the Chinese aim to act as the controller of everything connected with 5G. Hopefully, this will help the Chinese to be more accommodative, in future, of the views and concerns of other countries.
Hitting Where It Hurts Most
A successful 5G roll-out in India on the back of indigenous technologies could hit the Chinese where it hurts most — the money it earns through being the global supplier of sundry telecom equipment. Once other countries witness what the Jio-Qualcomm arrangement has succeeded in doing in India, they would also be emboldened to display greater spine while dealing with China in aspects related to purchase of hardware from Chinese companies, some of which are believed to be closely associated or even an extended arm of the communist party in China.
The indigenous 5G development will embolden more nations to question China’s indispensability in this sector — this, in turn, will make China more accommodative in its trade dealings. If things move in this direction, one must not be surprised if Beijing’s seemingly intransigent stand in border issues with India move towards resolution.
Boost For ‘Make in India’
What could be China’s loss in terms of business could be India’s gain if the Jio-Qualcomm alliance is able to meet its potential of offering the people of this country a telecom solution that would allow every citizen, irrespective of their socio-economic background, to hop on to the digital highway.
The whole world would flock towards this ‘Made in India’ 5G solution if this hope is to turn into a reality. Jio’s success could lead to the creation of millions of good quality jobs in India, earn precious foreign exchange, and provide huge momentum to the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
In many ways Reliance Jio’s achievement is symbolic of a new India that is not afraid to dream big and work hard to realise it.
Sumali Moitra is a current affairs commentator. Twitter: @sumalimoitra. Views are personal.
Disclosure: Reliance Industries Ltd. is the sole beneficiary of Independent Media Trust which controls Network18 Media & Investments Ltd.