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NSA Ajit Doval Lays Foundation For A New Indo-US Security Paradigm

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Washington DC: When strategic allies meet early on in the new year, they set the agenda to deepen security cooperation, this is what India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval did on his much-awaited official visit to Washington DC from January 30 to February 1, 2023. His key interlocutor was the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

During his visit, the two sides shared a frank assessment of their core concerns, from China’s role in the Indo-Pacific to Ukraine, Afghanistan and concerns on the growing terrorism and a failing Pakistan were on the menu, besides setting direction on cooperation of critical technology and cyber security, cementing a robust security and defence partnership.

Despite a huge generation gap, both Doval and Sullivan have something in common both are sharp, direct and enjoy the unflinching confidence of their bosses, the US President Joe Biden and Indian PM Narendra Modi; and their body language reflected that like mature partners, they agreed on some areas and on some issues their perceptions differed.

Doval is a veteran of such talks and the former Indian spymaster understands the topography of Washington well he did provide an extensive outreach on the security landscape from India’s lenses and how the two sides can cooperate with each other to tackle some of the future security challenges through cooperation in space, cyber security, defence and intelligence domain.

Doval is accompanied by senior Government of India officials as well as leaders of Indian industry.

During the visit, Doval interacted with the US policymakers and stakeholders across government, Congress, business, academic and research communities on a range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.

Apart from his meeting with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, he also met Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, Acting Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, key Senators and industry leaders. He is scheduled to meet Secretary of State Anthony Blinken later during the visit.

Together with NSA Sullivan, NSA Doval co-chaired the inaugural meeting of the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) at White House on January 31, 2023, translating into action the announcement made by PM Modi and President Biden during their meeting in Tokyo in May 2022.

Doval was joined at the launch by the Ambassador of India to the US, Taranjit Sandhu, Principal Scientific Advisor, Secretary, Department of Telecommunications, Chairman of ISRO, Scientific Advisor to the Raksha Mantri, Director General, DRDO, and other senior officials from National Security Council Secretariat and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. On the US side, NASA Administrator, Director, National Science Foundation (NSF), and Deputy National Security Advisor, amongst others participated.

ICET aims to position the two countries as trusted technology partners by building technology value chains and supporting the co-development and co-production of items. It also aims to address regulatory restrictions, export controls and mobility barriers through a standing mechanism. The US side also assured support to ease export barriers to India in a few critical areas, including through efforts towards legislative changes. Emphasis was placed on strengthening linkages between the start-up ecosystems and building innovation bridges in key sectors between the two countries, through expos, hackathons and pitching sessions.

Recognising the importance of quantum technologies, both sides established a quantum coordination mechanism with participation from industry and academia. In the field of semiconductors, the US supported the development of a fabrication ecosystem in India and encouraged joint ventures and partnerships for mature technology nodes and advanced packaging. It was agreed to constitute a task force involving India’s Semiconductor Mission, India Electronics Semiconductor Association (IESA) and the US Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) to develop a “readiness assessment” to identify the near-term opportunities and facilitate longer-term development of semiconductor ecosystems.

In the field of defence manufacturing, the two sides agreed to focus on the joint production of key items of mutual interest. The US committed to the expeditious review of the licence application submitted by M/s General Electric to produce jet engines in India for the indigenously manufactured Light Combat Aircraft. A new innovation bridge will be created to connect defence start-ups on both sides.

In the field of space, there was an appreciation of the opportunities offered by the opening up of India’s space sector and the contribution of India’s space tech companies in the US. It was agreed that ISRO would work with NASA on human space flight opportunities, NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) project, and STEM talent exchanges.
In next-generation telecommunications, given India’s cost-competitiveness and scale, both sides agreed to launch a public-private dialogue covering 5G/6G and ORAN using trusted sources.

During the iCET launch, a new Implementation Arrangement between the Department of Science and Technology of India and the National Science Foundation of the US was signed by the Ambassador and NSF director. This will expand the joint research in CET.

On January 30, 2023, an iCET Roundtable with the US and Indian industry at the US Chamber of Commerce was held. It provided an opportunity for sharing ideas for bolstering high-technology partnerships between the government, industry and academia.

Ambassador Sandhu also hosted a reception for NSA at India House at which Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, NSA Jake Sullivan, Acting Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, several high officials from the US administration, CEOs of advanced technology companies and funds, and heads of leading US universities were present.

The discussions during this visit form the basis for intensifying India-US cooperation in the cutting-edge sectors and are truly reflective of the maturity of the India-US comprehensive, global strategic partnership. Both countries have agreed to maintain sustained attention to achieve outcome-oriented deliverables within definitive timelines.

Besides the strategic takeaways, following was the outcome of their iCET discussions. To expand and deepen our technology partnership, the United States and India are launching new bilateral initiatives and welcoming new cooperation between our governments, industry and academia in the following domains:

Strengthening Our Innovation Ecosystems

Signing a new Implementation Arrangement for a Research Agency Partnership between the National Science Foundation and Indian science agencies to expand international collaboration in a range of areas — artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and advanced wireless — to build a robust innovation ecosystem between our countries;

Establishing a joint Indo-US Quantum Coordination Mechanism with participation from industry, academia, and government to facilitate research and industry collaboration;

Drawing from global efforts to develop common standards and benchmarks for trustworthy AI through coordinating on the development of consensus, multi-stakeholder standards and ensuring that these standards and benchmarks are aligned with democratic values;

Promoting collaboration on High-Performance Computing (HPC), including by working with Congress to lower barriers to U.S. exports to India of HPC technology and source code.

Defense Innovation and Technology Cooperation

Developing a new bilateral Defense Industrial Cooperation Roadmap to accelerate technological cooperation between both countries for joint development and production, with an initial focus on exploring projects related to jet engines, munition-related technologies, and other systems. Noting that US has received an application from General Electric to jointly produce jet engines that could power jet aircraft operated and produced indigenously by India, US commits to an expeditious review of this application.

The US will also enhance the long-term research and development cooperation, with a focus on identifying maritime security and intelligence surveillance reconnaissance (ISR) operational use cases. A new “Innovation Bridge” will be launched that will connect US and Indian defence start-ups.

Resilient Semiconductor Supply Chains

Enhancing bilateral collaboration on resilient semiconductor supply chains, supporting the development of a semiconductor design, manufacturing, and fabrication ecosystem in India and leveraging complementary strengths, both countries intend to promote the development of a skilled workforce that will support global semiconductor supply chains and encourage the development of joint ventures and technology partnerships on mature technology nodes and packaging in India.

A task force has been organised by the US Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) in partnership with the India Electronics Semiconductor Association (IESA) with participation from the Government of India Semiconductor Mission to develop a “readiness assessment” to identify near-term industry opportunities and facilitate the longer-term strategic development of complementary semiconductor ecosystems. This task force will make recommendations to the Department of Commerce and the India Semiconductor Mission on opportunities and challenges to overcome in order to further strengthen India’s role within the global semiconductor value chain, and will also provide input to the US-India Commercial Dialogue. The task force will also identify and facilitate workforce development and R&D;

Strengthening cooperation on human spaceflight, including establishing exchanges that will include advanced training for an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)/ Department of Space astronaut at NASA Johnson Space Center;

Identifying innovative approaches for the commercial sectors of the two countries to collaborate, especially with respect to activities related to NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) project;

NASA, with ISRO, to convene US CLPS companies and Indian aerospace companies to advance this initiative by next year;

Initiating new STEM talent exchanges by expanding the Professional Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (PESEP) to include space science, earth science, and human spaceflight and extending a standing invitation to ISRO to participate in NASA’s biannual International Program Management Course;

Strengthening the bilateral commercial space partnership, including through a new US Department of Commerce and Indian Department of Space-led initiative under the US-India Civil Space Joint Working Group. This initiative will foster US-India commercial space engagement and enable growth and partnerships between US and Indian commercial space sectors;

Welcoming the visit this week by the ISRO Chairman to the United States, as well as a visit to India by the NASA Administrator later in 2023. Expanding the agenda of the US-India Civil Space Joint Working Group to include planetary defence.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Talent

A new joint task force of the Association of American Universities and leading Indian educational institutions, including Indian Institutes of Technology, will make recommendations for research and university partnerships.

Next-Generation Telecommunications

Launching a public-private dialogue on telecommunications and regulations; and advancing cooperation on research and development in 5G and 6G, facilitating deployment and adoption of Open RAN in India and fostering global economies of scale within the sector.

The United States and India look forward to the next iCET meeting in New Delhi later this year. The National Security Councils of both countries will coordinate with their respective ministries, departments and agencies to work with their counterparts to advance cooperation and to engage with stakeholders to deliver on ambitious objectives ahead of the next.

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