Noted Pakistani foreign policy expert Uzair Younus has said that his first-hand experience of the expanding digital footprint in India during a recent visit to the country made him feel like he was visiting a state from the future.
Looking at the well-maintained dargah in his ancestral village, which is visited primarily by Hindus, he said that Pakistanis are being fed the “lies of hate for the sake of politics”.
Uzair Younus, the director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, made the remark in a podcast on a private YouTube channel named ‘The Pakistan Experience’.
In the podcast, he spoke of his experience during a recent visit to India, as well as the skyrocketing inflation in his homeland, India’s digital strides and communal harmony in India, among other topics.
The ‘Pakistan Experience’ is an independently-produced podcast.
Uzair Younus, director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, said there is an energy among the people of India.
“The Indians are brimming with energy. They exude positive vibes and an attitude that ‘this is our moment. If not now, then never,” Younus said in the video.
He said what gives Indians this attitude is the investment in the infrastructure in the country, as well as the efforts being undertaken to digitise the economy.
He also spoke about how impressed he was when he saw a cobbler in Mumbai offering a QR code scanner to his customers to enable digital payment.
“A paan shop owner also had a QR code scanner. Cash was not needed at all,” he said.
He said he watched in awe as people had kachoris at eateries and seem to leave just like that. Though he was initially confused why they were leaving without paying for their meals, it him later that they had done so digitally, he said.
“I was wondering why the shopkeeper was allowing his customers to leave without paying for their meals. Then I saw that there was a PayTm QR code and the customers were simply scanning the code to make the payments,” he added.
The foreign policy expert recalled that he asked his friend how the shopkeeper was keeping track of the payments received.
“What I learnt from my friend is that fin-techs have started selling smart speakers that are connected to the merchant’s wallet. While the merchant is busy tending to his customers, the smart speakers will make an announcement every time a payment is received,” he said.
To this, the show host quipped that Younis must have visited a state from the future. The foreign policy expert nodded in the affirmative.
He noted further that cash is still used in India, and cash circulation is, in fact, 13 per cent of the country the GDP. “While in Pakistan, it is 20 per cent,” he said.
“Pakistan doesn’t even have a 5G network, what Jio did there (in India),” the show host said
The Pakistani foreign policy expert said he was also impressed how everyone in India has zero balance accounts, UPI and mobile phone access.
He said, “Our generation had digitised IDs and passports but we didn’t take the next step. We lagged. We did it just for the sake of it.”
“The cost of sending money on UPI is zero because the Indian government provides for the necessary infrastructure. The Indian government mandates that every citizen with an Aadhar card should have the right to zero balance, zero cost bank account,” Younus noted.
He said it was like something new for him that people living in remote Indian villages have Aadhar, as well as zero-balance bank accounts.
“This is what the Modi government has done in India. He was criticised at that time and was blamed for wasting government money. People said that opening bank accounts with zero balance, with subsidies from banks, would result in nothing. But it has transformed lives,” he said.
“Government subsidies made digital wallets more popular, encouraged the delivery of services through digital means, reduced corruption and enabled more digital payments. Because now, you can not only open a bank account on an e-wallet but also avail insurance as well as credit,” he said.
“My paternal grandfather’s village, Ghed Bagasra near Rajkot, only has a population of 3000 but has access to 4G LTE,” he said.
“My father asked me to visit a dargah where my ancestors are buried. Even the flower shop next to the dargah offered a QR code to his customers,” he added.