Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Data and a new global order


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Role of data in shaping the global order

Digital data revolution

  • The Industrial Revolution restructured the global manufacturing order to Asia’s disadvantage.
  • But in the ‘Digital Data Revolution’, algorithms requiring massive amounts of data determine innovation, the nature of productivity growth, and military power.
  • Mobile digital payment interconnections impact society and the international system, having three strategic implications.

3 implications of mobile digital payment interconnections

1) Symbiotic nature of military and civilian system

  • Because of the nature and pervasiveness of digital data, military and civilian systems are symbiotic.
  • Cybersecurity is national security, and this requires both a new military doctrine and a diplomatic framework.

2) Productivity advantage of data to Asia

  • The blurring of distinctions between domestic and foreign policy and the replacement of global rules with issue-based understanding converge with the growth of smartphone-based e-commerce, which ensures that massive amounts of data give a sustained productivity advantage to Asia.

3) India can negotiate new rules as an equal with US and China

  • Data streams are now at the centre of global trade and countries’ economic and national power.
  • India, thus, has the capacity to negotiate new rules as an equal with the U.S. and China.

How data shaped US-China relations

  • Innovation based on data streams has contributed to China’s rise as the second-largest economy and the “near-peer” of the U.S.
  • The national security strategy of the U.S. puts more emphasis on diplomacy than military power to resolve conflicts with China, acknowledging that its military allies have complex relationships with Beijing, as it seeks to work with them to close technology gaps.
  • China’s technology weakness is the dependence on semiconductors and its powerlessness against U.S. sanctions on banks, 5G and cloud computing companies.
  • But China’s digital technology-led capitalism is moving fast to utilise the economic potential of data, pushing the recently launched e-yuan and shaking the dollar-based settlement for global trade.

How global strategic balance will be shaped by data standard

  • China has a $53-trillion mobile payments market and it is the global leader in the online transactions arena, controlling over 50% of the global market value.
  • India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) volume is expected to cross $1 trillion by 2025.
  • The U.S., in contrast, lags behind, with only around 30% of consumers using digital means and with the total volume of mobile payments less than $100 billion.
  • The global strategic balance will depend on new data standards.
  • The U.S., far behind in mobile payments, is falling back on data alliances and sanctions to maintain its global position.

India’s role in digital economy

  • With Asia at the centre of the world, major powers see value in relationships with New Delhi.
  • India fits into the U.S. frame to provide leverage.
  • China wants India, also a digital power, to see it as a partner, not a rival.
  • And China remains the largest trading partner of both the U.S. and India despite sanctions and border skirmishes.

Way forward for India

  • India, like China, is uncomfortable with treating Western values as universal values and with the U.S. interpretation of Freedom of Navigation rules in others’ territorial waters.
  • New Delhi’s Indo-Pacific vision is premised on “ASEAN centrality and the common pursuit of prosperity”.
  • The European Union recently acknowledged that the path to its future is through an enhanced influence in the Indo-Pacific, while stressing that the strategy is not “anti-China”.
  • The U.S. position in trade, that investment creates new markets, makes it similar to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.


India alone straddles both U.S. and China-led strategic groupings, providing an equity-based perspective to competing visions. It must be prepared to play a key role in moulding rules for the hyper-connected world, facing off both the U.S. and China to realise its potential of becoming the second-largest economy.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥FREE for 24 Hours Prelims Notes
This is default text for notification bar