India's digital public goods diplomacy scores wins around the world
France likes its payment system, Saudi Arabia is close to co-operating, and the Caribbean is calling
India's government has announced that the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to share India Stack, making it the latest territory to adopt the collection of digital public goods the world's most populous nation has created as a means to assist development of government digital services (and its own diplomacy) around the world.
India Stack is based on the payment, identity, and data services India developed to power its own citizen-facing services. India's population recently topped 1.4 billion, meaning India Stack is proven to operate at a scale that can meet the needs of any other nation. India Stack also powers impressive services: the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) has brought electronic payments and banking services to even the country's smallest merchants.
In May 2022 India launched an initiative to share India Stack with other nations – an act of altruism, but also a strategy to spread Indian influence around the world.
As IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar put it today: "Prime Minister Narendra Modi … has always encouraged the offering of India Stack to countries across the globe especially to those that have been left behind in their digitalization efforts. With the help of India Stack … countries can climb up the digitalization ladder rapidly and transform their economies and governance."
India Stack therefore gives India a chance for deep engagements with other nations, and a different way of doing so compared to the economic and/or military ties promoted by China, the US, or Europe. And once a nation is talking with India about its digital public goods and government services, conversations about trade, defence, and other matters surely become easier to initiate.
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News that Trinidad and Tobago has signed up to share India Stack is therefore a sign India's digital diplomacy drive is working.
In the announcement of the Caribbean nation's participation, India's government also revealed "many countries like Mauritius [and] Saudi Arabia have shown interest and are at an advanced stage of finalizing cooperation on India Stack."
The announcement also lists other recent India Stack adopters, namely Armenia, Sierra Leone, Suriname, Antigua & Barbuda, and Papua New Guinea.
France, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Sri Lanka have separately agreed to accept payments made with UPI.
Trinidad and Tobago's adoption of India Stack brings to ten the count of nations on board with the effort. And India shows no signs of stopping, or slowing, its digital diplomacy effort. ®