Ahead of Doval-Sullivan talks, think tank suggests areas of tech cooperation

Updated on Jan 25, 2023 08:56 AM IST

Days before Ajit Doval and Jake Sullivan are set to meet for the first high-level ICET dialogue, authors associated with Carnegie India have released a paper with suggestions for both governments

HT first reported about Doval’s proposed visit to the US for the meeting on January 31. (HT PHOTO)
HT first reported about Doval’s proposed visit to the US for the meeting on January 31. (HT PHOTO)

India and the United States (US) should institutionalise an annual dialogue between the national security advisers (NSAs) of both countries to take forward the initiative on critical and emerging technologies (ICET), set up an advisory council for the initiative, concentrate on four or five areas of cooperation, create an ICET fellowship to encourage research and connector fund to support the ecosystems in both countries, and create a bilateral regulatory sandbox to help increase trust between the two countries, a key policy think tank has suggested.

Days before India and America’s national security advisers, Ajit Doval and Jake Sullivan, are set to meet for the first high-level ICET dialogue, authors associated with Carnegie India, which has been closely involved in discussions on the issue, have released a paper with suggestions for both governments. The paper focuses on three particular areas of cooperation — quantum, semiconductors, and commercial space.

HT first reported the news of Doval’s proposed visit to the US for the meeting on January 31.

In the paper written by Rudra Chaudhari, Konark Bhandari, and Ashima Singh, the authors have focused on administrative mechanisms, and practical ideas to advance science and technology research and cooperate in the three domains.

The paper is based on extensive unofficial discussions that the think tank has had with policymakers and representatives of industry and academia on the mechanism.

ICET is a product of an understanding between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden when they met in Tokyo in 2022 on the sidelines of the Quad Leaders Summit.

Also Read:NSA Doval to visit US for first ICET dialogue on January 31

In a statement, the government of India said then: “Co-led by the National Security Council Secretariat in India and the U.S. National Security Council, ICET would forge closer linkages between government, academia and industry of the two countries in areas such as AI, quantum computing, 5G/6G, biotech, space and semiconductors.”

The piece begins with suggestions on the administrative mechanisms to take forward the mechanisms — an annual “outcome oriented” dialogue with “a clear sense of achievable action points” at the level of NSAs and another dialogue at the level of deputy NSAs of both countries; an advisory or steering committee composed of outside experts and industry representatives that meets virtually every month; a monitoring mechanism at the level of deputy secretary in India’s NSCS and director in the US NSC to record impact; a friends of ICET track 1.5 dialogue mechanism with a focus on technology research and outreach that meets annually.

Key to all of this managing expectations, with the paper suggesting policymakers “earmark four to five critical areas of cooperation that will drive the administrative effort supporting the iCET”.

In terms of research innovation and harmonising research initiatives, the think tank suggests that ICET impact officers “track the various sets of projects on emerging technologies across different ministries and agencies”.

It also proposes an ICET research and connector fund and a regulatory sandbox.

Explaining its rationale, the paper states, “There is a clear realization that there is a need to better understand the regulatory architectures in both countries across different domains of technology…A bilateral regulatory sandbox— testing regulations in a controlled environment with key stakeholders—can be crucial to increase trust and help coordinate incentive schemes between both countries.”

And in terms of specific areas of collaboration, the think tank offers ideas in three areas.

The first is quantum technology which needs stronger academia-industry collaboration; greater Indian investment in hardware capabilities; research centres such as IIT-Madras joining the IBM Quantum Computing Network to access industry expertise; and Indian and American universities working in the domain sharing syllabi.

The second is semiconductors where the paper both points to the need for the development of ancillary industries beyond the focus on fabs, and suggests a joint roadmap for semiconductor industries.

“Investment policy/incentive scheme synchronization for chips between Washington and New Delhi could be a great starting point to enable friend-shoring.”

To leverage Indian talent, the paper says that New Delhi will have to build trust as a provider in the global supply chain and “place an emphasis on quality control, verification measures, and transparency in the manufacturing process”.

It also points to the need for trade relationships since both domestic demand and export-oriented models will be critical for India’s semiconductor plans to fructify.

And the third area is commercial space where it points out that globally, countries are waking up to the fact that having space capabilities will be key to maintaining supremacy, and domestically, India’s space sector has seen commercial activity. In terms of areas of collaboration, it suggests greater government-to-business and business-to-business partnerships in commercial space.

“One such area could be space situational awareness, which essentially entails keeping tracks of space objects in orbit. Given that the United States has long been a proponent of the sustainability of space activities, this would be a good starting point for cooperation, since there are a few Indian companies that have developed strong capabilities in this area.”

It also argues for the need for the US to ease export control measures and suggests possible funding mechanisms that can be used to invest in Indian companies.

Laying out an ambitious goal, it says, “There is hope that India could build a commercial space cooperation with the United States similar to the one that Washington has with Tokyo.”

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    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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