International Relations

iCET: India-US Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies

The talks in Washington this week between India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his American counterpart Jake Sullivan resulted in the announcement of a new road map for deeper military and techno-economic cooperation between the two countries, known as iCET.

Background: The idea was first proposed at the QUAD summit.

  • The idea was first floated during a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) summit in Tokyo last May.

Ups and downs in US-India high-technology cooperation

  • First steps in India’s nuclear and space programmes: Cooperation in high technology has long been a focal point of US-India relations. In the 1950s and 1960s, significant contributions from the United States were made to India’s nuclear and space programmes.
  • Nuclear sanctions imposed by the United States and reduced cooperation: However, US nuclear sanctions imposed in the 1970s gradually reduced the scope of bilateral high-tech cooperation.
  • Cooperation on the civil nuclear initiative has been renewed: The historic civil nuclear initiative of 2005 paved the way for new technological collaboration.
  • Political ambiguity Bureaucratic inertia hampered the best use: However, residual barriers to technology transfer in Washington and Delhi’s political ambivalence and bureaucratic inertia prevented the best use of the new opportunities.
  • The iCET process and future opportunities: The iCET process, which will be monitored and driven from the PMO in Delhi and the White House in Washington, should improve the coherence of this round of India-US technological engagement.

What exactly is the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies?

  • Collaboration in emerging technologies: The iCET is a collaboration between India and the United States to develop important and novel technologies.
  • Collaboration areas include, for example: The iCET entails collaboration in a variety of areas, including quantum computing, semiconductors, 5G and 6G wireless infrastructure, and civilian space projects like lunar exploration.
  • Adding depth and breadth to an already growing partnership: The iCET’s goal is to increase technology interaction between the United States and India while also potentially adding strategic depth and breadth to their already growing partnership.
  • PMO and White House directly monitor: The iCET will be overseen and directed by the Prime Minister’s Office in Delhi and the White House in Washington.

The Importance of iCET in India

  • The significance of iCET in an assertive China: The growing convergence of Indian and US interests in managing the security, economic, and technological challenges posed by a rising and assertive China adds urgency to the iCET.
  • India’s alternative to reliance on Russian military technology: India is also attempting to reduce its reliance on Russian weapons and military technology by manufacturing more weapons at home in collaboration with Western countries.
  • Increase in India’s technological capabilities: The iCET would give India access to cutting-edge technology and expertise in critical and emerging areas.
  • Economic growth: Collaboration on new and important technologies can lead to more business between India and the United States, which can help the economy grow by bringing more investment and job opportunities.

Another area of focus is defence production cooperation.

  • The two sides are also interested in collaborating on defence production.
  • While much of this collaboration will need to be fleshed out in the coming months, Doval and Sullivan did announce one concrete step: the production of a fighter jet engine in India.
  • GE Aerospace has applied for an export licence for jet engine production and technology transfer to Indian entities in stages. Washington promises to process this application as soon as possible. This aligns well with Delhi’s plans to modernise its ageing defence industrial base.

@the end

If implemented with speed and purpose, the bilateral Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) could add new strategic depth and breadth to India and the United States’ expanding engagement.

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