Aside from the fact that the i960 chips were so basic that more advanced microprocessors could be bought in a store, the incident came even as China was laughing its way to parity with the US, easily circumventing American export restrictions while Washington slept at the wheel, to the extent of purloining classified information relating to Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and nuclear weapons designs.
Washington finally appears to have woken up to the Chinese threat and its misplaced mistrust of India that goes back generations. In an unprecedented engagement, top officials from the two sides are meeting this week to advance the US-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) aimed at overcoming residual wrinkles and developing an eco-system driven by mutual trust. Following up on the decision taken by President Biden and Prime Minister in May 2022, a delegation of top Indian strategic and scientific heads are meeting their US counterparts in Washington today to put ties on the next level.
The composition of the Indian delegation itself offers a clue to what is on the table. Led by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, it includes ISRO Chairman S Somnath, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister, Ajay Kumar Sood; Scientific Advisor to the Defense Minister, G Satheesh Reddy; Department of Telecom Secretary K Rajaram and Director General of Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Samir Kamat.
In support of the iCET, the US Chamber of Commerce on Monday held a roundtable with industry executives across the spectrum of advanced technologies, including semiconductor design and manufacturing, commercial electronics, advanced telecommunications, commercial space, aerospace and defense, and information technology services. With US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in attendance, officials and executives “discussed opportunities to promote development of critical and emerging technologies such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence,” the US India Business Council, which hosted the roundtable, said.
A key theme throughout the roundtable was how both governments could facilitate deeper alignment on technology issues, including encouraging semiconductor supply chain resilience. “iCET is about much more than technology cooperation, it’s a platform to accelerate our strategic convergence and policy alignment, ” US NSA Sullivan said, adding that Washington and New Delhi “want to establish a list of ‘firsts’,” — “firsts in removing barriers—on both sides—to enable greater ambition by all of you.”
According to the USIBC statement, NSA Ajit Doval and India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Sandhu highlighted India’s remarkable capacity for technology development and absorption, and emphasized India’s use of technology not only as an enabler of economic growth but as an instrument of social inclusion. Both officials spoke of the “natural complementary strengths of the Indian and American economies and the growing strategic convergence between both nations. They also emphasized India’s growing role a trusted supply chain partner and contributor in the global technology value chain, and underlined the importance of easing export control measures to facilitate technology access, co-production, and co-development between India and US.
Much of the growing engagement is of course driven by the dazzling heights the techies and executives of Indian origin have attained in the US, including heading storied tech companies such as Microsoft and Google. In one of the sessions, the roundtable discussed microchips as a critical technology and the important role the US-India relationship could play in building a reliable semiconductor supply chain, even as Washington has become leery of China.
“It is promising to see the US and India prioritize the necessary discussions and investments that will enable greater semiconductor leadership within and among partner economies. The US Chamber of Commerce, as a major advocate for the CHIPS and Science Act and now the host of the US-India iCET dialogue, is creating compelling opportunities for public-private partnership that will ultimately strengthen our economies. Micron looks forward to continuing to work with both governments, the Chamber, and industry as part of this key forum.” Sanjay Mehrotra, President and CEO of Micron Technology told the meeting.