India-US: The High Tech Boost

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    In News

    • India and the United States elevated their strategic partnership with the launch of an initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology or iCET.

    Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET)

    • About:
      • The iCET involves collaboration in a range of areas including 
        • Quantum computing, 
        • Semiconductors, 
        • 5G and 6G wireless infrastructure, and 
        • Civilian space projects such as lunar exploration.
    • Aim:
      • 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
    • Defecnce:
      • On the defence front, iCET aims to expand India-US cooperation in fields like artificial intelligence and military equipment
      • Industrial cooperation:
        • The iCET announced a new bilateral defence industrial cooperation roadmap that will be intended to accelerate defence technology cooperation.
      • Fighter jet engine production in India:
        • The USA under this has also agreed to produce a fighter jet engine in India for the indigenously manufactured Light Combat Aircraft
          • GE Aerospace has applied for an export licence for jet engine production and phased transfer of technology to Indian entities. 

    Significance

    • Depth to the relationship:
      • If implemented with speed and purpose, the bilateral Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) could lend a new strategic depth and breadth to the expanding engagement between India and the United States. 
    • Against the rising and assertive China:
      • Lending urgency to the iCET is the growing convergence of Indian and US interests in managing the security, economic, and technological challenges presented by a rising and assertive China. 
    • Reducing dependence on Russia:
      • India is also looking to reduce its over-dependence on Russian weapons and military technology and to produce more weapons at home in partnership with western countries.

    Challenges

    • Hurdles on Indian side:
      • The US has flagged the need for regulatory and policy consistency and overcoming tax and custom hurdles on the Indian side.
    • China factor:
      • The new initiative has also been criticized by China. 
      • China believes India is willing to ramp up its ties with the US to advance technology and attract more funding to replace its position in the global industrial and supply chains.
        • Though, iCET has no explicit reference to China.

    India-USA Relations

    • About:
      • India and US share values of democracy, rule of law, human rights, and religious freedom that bind the countries together.
    • Bilateral engagement:
      • India and the United States enjoy a comprehensive global strategic  partnership covering almost all areas of human endeavour, driven by  shared democratic values, convergence of interests on a range of issues,  and vibrant people-to-people contacts.
      • Regular exchanges at the leadership level have been an integral element of the expanding bilateral engagement.
      • Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, India-U.S. cooperation witnessed  intense engagement under various bilateral dialogue mechanisms in a wide range of areas including defence, security, health, trade, economic, science  & technology, energy and people-to-people ties.
    • Defence and Security: 
      • India-US defence cooperation is based on the “New Framework for India-US Defence Cooperation”, which was renewed for a period of ten years in  2015. 
      • In 2016, the defence relationship was designated as a Major  Defence Partnership (MDP). 
        • The MDP recognizes a shared desire to build a comprehensive, enduring and mutually beneficial defence partnership. 
      • Several defence agreements have been signed in recent years. These  includes:
        • Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Association (August 2016) 
        • Memorandum of Intent between the U.S. Defence Innovation Unit (DIU) 
        • the Indian Defence Innovation Organisation – Innovation for Defence Excellence (2018)
        • Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (September 2018)
        •  Industrial Security Agreement (December 2019);
        • Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (October 2020).
      • Bilateral military exercises and defence exchanges are important aspects of deepening military-to-military cooperation.
        • In addition to a number of service-to-service exercises, 2019 a tri-services exercise– Tiger Triumph– was conducted in November 2019. 
        • Bilateral and regional exercises include Yudh Abhyas (Army); Vajra Prahar (Special Forces); RIMPAC; Red Flag
        • In November 2020, the Royal Australian Navy joined the U.S.-India-Japan MALABAR Naval Exercise held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. 
        • Both sides have conducted a number of PASSEX with the US carrier groups in the Indian Ocean Region.
    • Quad: 
      • The four Quad partners (India, Japan, United States & Australia) first formed a “Core Group” in 2004, to swiftly mobilise aid during the joint response to the 2004 Tsunami. Since 2017, Quad engagements have increased and intensified.
      • In 2019, the first Quad Foreign Ministerial Meeting was held in New York (December 2019).
    • Counter-Terrorism Cooperation:
      • Cooperation in counter-terrorism has seen considerable progress with information exchange, operational cooperation and sharing of counterterrorism technology and equipment. India-U.S. Joint Working Group on  Counter-Terrorism oversees the expanding CT cooperation.
    • Cyber Security Cooperation:
      • The India-US Cyber Framework signed in September 2016, provides for expanding cooperation in the cyber domain.
    • Trade & Economic Relations: 
      • The rapidly expanding trade and commercial linkages form an important component of the multi-faceted partnership between India and the United States. 
      • The U.S. is India’s second-largest trading partner and a major destination for our exports of goods and services. 
      • Bilateral trade in goods and services stood at US$ 146 billion in 2019.
      • During the financial year 2020-21, India received the highest ever foreign direct investment amounting to USD 81.72 billion, as per data published by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. 
      • The US replaced Mauritius as the second largest source of foreign direct investment into India during 2020-21 with inflows of USD 13.82 billion. 
      • The US is one of the top 5 investment destinations for Indian FDI.
    • Energy sector:
      • India and the US have a strong bilateral partnership in the energy sector.
      • In 2010, a bilateral Energy Dialogue was launched. 
    • Science and Technology:
      • India-US cooperation in Science and Technology is multi-faceted and has been growing steadily under the framework of the India-US Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement signed in October 2005, which was renewed for a period of ten years in September 2019.
      • ISRO and NASA are working together to realise a joint microwave remote sensing satellite for Earth observation, named NASA ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR). 
    • Education partnership: 
      • It is an important pillar of India-US ties and both countries share strong linkages and a history of higher education collaborations.
      • The United States Educational Foundation in India (USEFI) was set up after a bilateral agreement on education exchange was signed between India and the US on February 2, 1950.
    • Indian Diaspora: 
      • About 4.2 million Indian American/Indian origin people reside in the US. The Indian Americans [3.18 million] constitute the third largest Asian ethnic group in the US

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] Discuss the significance of the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) in deepening engagement between India and the United States with a special focus on defence cooperation.