Tech Diplomacy: US-India Collaboration And Its Ramifications In Pakistan

by Muhammad Shahzad
The advancement of technology has made the world a global village. Countries are now collaborating to develop and enhance technologies that can benefit their economy and security. The India-US Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) is an important collaborative framework focused on developing open, resilient, and secure technology ecosystems. It was launched in May 2022 during the Tokyo summit between President Biden and Prime Minister Modi. The goal is to expand cooperation in critical technologies like AI, quantum, biotech, 6G, etc. that will shape the future. It aims to build reliable and trust-based technology supply chains and infrastructure. There is a focus on developing tech cooperation consistent with democratic values and institutions. Working groups have been set up to implement projects under iCET in agri-tech, health-tech, aerospace, semiconductors, etc. A midterm review is planned in September 2023 to take stock of progress and maintain engagement momentum. An annual review will be done in early 2024 jointly by the National Security Advisers of both countries. iCET provides an umbrella framework to deepen India-US strategic technology partnerships for mutual economic and national security benefits. India currently lacks major chip fabrication facilities and relies on imports to meet over 90% of its semiconductor demands. To boost self-reliance in chip making, India has unveiled plans to set up specialized semiconductor fabrication units under the India Semiconductor Mission. Leading chipmakers like Foxconn, IGSS Ventures, and ISMC have proposed setting up semiconductor labs in India, encouraged by government subsidies and incentives. Vedanta Group and Elest have also announced signing MoUs with state governments to build semiconductor manufacturing plants. The central government has committed $10 billion in financial support for India’s semiconductor mission over the next 6 years. IIT Madras is also partnering with industry players to establish an Indigenous Semiconductor Chip Design Centre to develop homegrown chip designs. Initiatives like Chips to Startup are being launched to support Indian semiconductor startups with funding and infrastructure access. India is also seeking partnerships with nations like the UAE, Singapore, Korea, and Japan to gain expertise in chipmaking. However, challenges remain around ensuring sustainable demand, competition from East Asia, and gaps in the talent pool. The indigenous chip design and fabrication capabilities are a strategic priority for India – vital for its digital economy and technology self-reliance. But at the same time, it also presents a serious threat to regional stability, supply chain, and the emerging tech industry of Pakistan.

Implications for Pakistan’s National Security

Pakistan’s national security has always been a matter of concern for the country. The collaboration between the US and India on critical and emerging technology has raised some concerns for Pakistan’s national security. Artificial intelligence quantum computing and indigenous chip manufacturing have the potential to develop advanced weapons and surveillance systems. As the two countries work together to develop and deploy advanced technologies, Pakistan may face new challenges and vulnerabilities. India’s efforts to develop indigenous semiconductor chip design and manufacturing capabilities could impact Pakistan’s national security. India’s emergence as a chipmaking hub could heighten competition for Pakistan’s nascent electronics exports and assembly industry. India gaining self-sufficiency in semiconductor tech reduces prospects for cooperation with Pakistan. India’s military modernization and capabilities in areas like surveillance, communication, missile guidance, etc. could be boosted. As semiconductors, chips are the key components used across modern weapon systems from missiles, radars, and communications gear to aircraft, naval vessels, and artillery. Different types of chips like microprocessors, FPGAs, microcontrollers, ASICs, etc. They provide functions like computation, signal processing, control systems, navigation, etc. More sophisticated chip designs enhance capabilities like intelligence gathering, surveillance, precision targeting, command, and control for deployed systems. Advanced labs could help India manufacture radiation-hardened chips needed in some missile and nuclear applications lacking robust shielding. Domestic chip supply aids lifecycle maintenance and upgrades of long-range defense platforms as importing gets harder with time. But the degree of self-reliance depends on India developing full-stack capabilities spanning design-fabrication-packaging-testing of complex chipsets. Pakistan may need to increase its investment in critical and emerging technologies to keep pace with India. Additionally, Pakistan may need to develop new strategies for detecting and countering potential threats from India’s advanced technologies. This could include investing in its own AI and space technologies and indigenous chip manufacturing. Pakistan will need to evaluate geopolitical alignments with China, Turkey, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, and others to match any asymmetric chip capabilities India acquires. Pakistan will need to expand investments in chip design curricula at academic institutions to prevent a talent gap from opening up. The impact will depend on how much progress India actually makes, Pakistan will need a calibrated response to prevent India’s semiconductor plans from drastically altering strategic technology balances. The United States and India are both investing heavily in AI research and development, and are working together to create new AI applications for defense, intelligence, and security. This could give India a significant advantage in promoting terrorism in Pakistan, such as cyber-terrorism or cyberattacks. Collaboration in space technology to develop new satellite technologies could enhance both countries’ military capabilities. This could potentially enable the US and India to gather intelligence on Pakistan more effectively and exploit Pakistan’s cyber-security loopholes. Both are collaborating on 5G and 6G technology, which is expected to revolutionize communications and data transfer. This technology could also be used for cyber espionage and cyber attacks, which could pose a significant threat to Pakistan’s national security. Pakistan may need to increase its own investment in critical and emerging technologies, and close collaboration with high-tech companies like OpenAI, and Google,  to keep pace with India. Additionally, Pakistan may need to develop new strategies for detecting and countering potential threats from India’s advanced technologies. This could include investing in its own AI and space technologies, developing high-tech research and development centers, and collaborating with Japan, Korea, the US, China, and the Netherlands. A special curriculum should be designed to focus on AI, cybersecurity, and high-tech R&D labs.

Muhammad Shahzad Akram

Muhammad Shahzad Akram is a researcher at CISS-AJK. He holds an MPhil degree in International Relations from Quaid I Azam University, Islamabad.

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Center for International Strategic Studies AJK, King Abdullah Campus Chatter kalas Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir