In an era where technology will shape future global equations and competitiveness among big powers, the result of three-day visit of national security advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval was a clear enunciation of the US’s commitment towards India on sharing the most critical technologies.
NSA Doval was able to leverage the global strategic relationship with US into enhancing Indian capacity and capability-building rather than merely creating diplomatic space. The two countries have decided, with specific deadlines, to collaborate on technologies that will shape the future in a globalised 21st century. Simply put, the assurances are among the biggest game-changers in the India-US relationship – following-on from the 2005 civilian nuclear deal, the 2008 exemption for India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and the 2010 support from then US president Barack Obama for India’s entry into NSG, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group, and permanent candidature to the UN Security Council.
Also Read | GE-414 military jet engines set to be manufactured in India
The biggest takeaway from the NSA’s visit is bilateral collaboration on building resilient semiconductor supply chains in India, with US supporting development of a semiconductor design, manufacturing, and fabrication of the ecosystem in democratic India rather than Communist China. Today, Chinese industry is facing a semiconductor crisis, and Russia is cannibalising cars of semiconductors to feed its mammoth military offensive into Ukraine.
India and the US, two global strategic and comprehensive partners, have tied up in future generation communications by collaborating on research and development in 5G and 6G and high-end open radio access network (RAN) architecture.
The two countries have also tied up on the final frontier, space, which will play a crucial role in deciding future wars with the Earth surrounded by dark, grey, and white satellites, just as global oceans and seas are circuited by dark, grey, and white ships. In the era of hybrid warfare where cyberattacks are part of the first wave of the adversary, the control over global positioning systems and satellites will be crucial to downgrading the military capabilities of the adversary by ensuring their delivery platforms go blind when the red flag goes up.
While India and US scientific agencies will tie up in frontier areas of artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and advanced wireless to build a strong ecosystem, industry, academia and government will facilitate collaboration in future technologies in India with the support of Washington. Though these are comprehensive and ambitious proposals, some similar initiatives in past, such as DTI, floundered on bureaucratic complexities in Washington DC and or lack of clarity on Raisina Hill. For example, the decision on GE-414 is a welcome step, but a number of questions on transfer and ownership of technology as well as on design and development capabilities need to be precisely addressed, especially in the most critical areas. One must remember how the Javelin anti-tank missile program was short-circuited in the previous decade.
The US granting of license to GE to manufacture GE-414 98 kilo newton thrust engines for the LCA program in India with 100% technology transfer is a big tangible, but the tie-up between the two natural allies on cybersecurity is an even bigger outcome. Today, Indian cyber architecture is under an all-out attack from China and its proxies with the government’s classified communication, power, communication, and health infrastructure under threat. It is important that India gets the latest US technology to firewall its infrastructure from Chinese hybrid warfare or else the country can be extremely vulnerable in a worst-case scenario. The intended collaboration on research and developments in the areas of maritime security and intelligence surveillance reconnaissance (ISR) in operations will make India more aware in the maritime domain and expand its footprint in the Indo-Pacific. The India-US ties have come a long when since the two launched Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) in 2004, just six years after US imposed sanctions on India for 1998 Shakti Series of nuclear tests at Pokhran.
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