THE CENTRE’S move to impose a licensing requirement the import of laptops and personal computers in early August invoked feelings of a pre-1991 era decision, with many in the industry inter- nally referring to it as a return of the infamous licence raj. With India gearing for the final leg of the G20 Summit in a few days, which will be marked by the presence of some of the most powerful world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, it was clear that the strat- egy needed a little bit of a rebranding. Enter “import management sys- tem”. On Sunday, The Indian Express reported that the Centre is conducting consultations on a new system through which it aims to monitor the sources from which IT hardware is being imported.On the table is a new pro- posal: introduce a condition that finished IT hardware such as laptops, personal computers and servers can only be imported from “trusted geographies”, a move aimed at curbing imports from China amid a deepening rift between New Delhi and Beijing.

The import restriction issue has come up in meetings between US and Indian officials after American companies including Apple, Dell, and HP urged the US government’s intervention to initiate a conversation with New Delhi to reconsider its policy. Last month, it was a key point of discussion during the trade ministerial meeting between the two countries.And when Biden lands in India later this week for the G20 Summit, he is expected to take up the issue yet again with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

From import restriction to import management
The licensing requirement is expected to be removed, and replaced with an import management system. However, New Delhi does not want to compromise on its aim of building India as an electronics manufacturing hub and at the same time, wants companies to establish new supply chains that are not as dependent on China.

By introducing a require- ment to allow imports of fin- is hed IT hardware only from “trusted” regions, it aims to achieve just that. After all, it is a strat- egy that the government has already isused in the telecom sector.

In June 2021, the Central government launched the ‘trusted telecom portal’ and signalled the implementation of the National Security Directive on Telecommunication Sector Under the directive, tele- com companies are mandatorily required to connect in their networks only those new devices which are designated as “trusted products” from “trusted sources”.

Post the 5G spectrum auction last year, operators like Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel have signed agreements with companies like Ericsson and Samsung, excluding Chinese majors Huawei and ZTE.

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