India, US and Israel set to pursue defense innovation triad
Commentary: India, US and Israel Should Pursue a Defense Innovation Triad
The United States and India signed an agreement on September 3 to co-develop unmanned aerial vehicles under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, a bilateral defense trade and technology development cooperation mechanism. joint. Under the agreement, the US Air Force research laboratory will collaborate with the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization and the Air Force for “the design, development, demonstration, systems testing and evaluation âin order to co-develop the UAV prototype.
By capitalizing on this aerial drone deal, the United States and India can advance their common defense technology goals by involving a close military partner, Israel. If these three like-minded, tech-savvy democracies unite to bring their defense innovation communities together in Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv and Bengaluru, it will be a crucial step in materializing a new type of trilateral defense partnership.
The underlying assumption behind this potential collaboration is: with the breakneck speed of advancements in emerging technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence and quantum computing, individual national efforts to develop and adopt them do not will not go far.
The United States and India began defense technology cooperation in 2015 when they renewed the âFramework for the United States-India Defense Relationship,â a bilateral defense pact. As part of this agreement, they first explored core technologies, known as âpioneer projectsâ. The intention was to harness America’s advanced defense industrial base to India’s desire to achieve defense technology self-sufficiency through the “Make in India” campaign.
But despite their synergies, the two countries were unable to make this collaboration a reality as they discussed and explored many projects over the next few years, only to abandon them later. Some of the initial projects included the RQ-11B Raven unmanned aerial system, mobile hybrid electric power sources, and a helmet-mounted digital display system.
Therefore, the current air-launched drone deal is important as it marks the first time the two countries appear to have made progress beyond initial deliberations. It draws on the defense research establishments of the US and Indian governments to deliver the next generation combat capability.
Building on these advances in bilateral defense technology cooperation, the United States and India must seek ways to further leverage their partnership.
One way to do this is to set up trilateral cooperation involving Israel, with a focus on emerging technologies. Such a partnership would build on Israel’s strong bilateral military relations with the United States and India. US-Israel defense cooperation already includes a strong research and development component to innovate in terms of capabilities ranging from missile defense to anti-tunneling systems. Likewise, India and Israel have forged a solid commercial and R&D partnership in the field of defense, in particular the development and operationalization of the Barak-8 air and anti-missile defense system.
The trilateral US-India-Israel cooperation on emerging technologies will capitalize and develop these existing bilateral synergies. The focus on startups and in-depth defense innovation in Israel and the United States provides a clear path to initiate and nurture this cooperation.
The Pentagon tapped into innovations from Silicon Valley by creating the Defense Innovation Unit. He works closely with the tech industry and startups to prequalify, fund and develop emerging technologies including AI, Autonomous Systems and Cyber.
Israel has also created a thriving defense innovation base centered in Tel Aviv. This made Israel a technologically advanced military power and earned it the nickname of “start-up nation”.
India is following the lead of Israel and the United States in bringing in startups for defense innovation. As part of a new flagship initiative called the ‘Innovations for Defense Excellence’ (iDEX) program, India is asking its national ecosystem of startups, particularly in Bangalore, to arm the Indian military. with technologies such as soldier protection systems, secure hardware encryption devices, unmanned surfaces and underwater vehicles, and AI-based satellite image analysis, among others. It also brings business participation from the United States, as many Indian startups have investments from Silicon Valley VC funds like Artiman Ventures (Tonbo), Accel and IDG Partners (Axio Biosolutions) and WRVI Capital (ideaForge) .
It is possible to take this giant step by creating a startup corridor that connects the three innovation hubs of Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv and Bengaluru.
This corridor has the potential to cover emerging technologies such as quantum science, AI, drones, blockchain, autonomy and robotics, 5G / 6G, additive manufacturing, as well as battery technology and sources of energy. advanced feeding.
For many of these technologies, Israel and the United States are already at an advanced stage of research and cooperation, compared to India which is still discussing the implications of certain technologies like AI and quantum computing, and expanding its technological capabilities to others like robotics. . Their acquisition will increase the options for the Indian and American military in the face of an aggressive China.
Beijing has anchored its flagship national policies such as âMade in China 2025â on these strategic technologies. Beijing perceives them as multi-purpose, thus blurring the distinction between civilian and military applications. It has also partnered with Moscow to develop new technologies. As a result, the United States, with the largest defense R&D spending among democratic states, no longer enjoys the absolute technological lead it once did.
China’s determined pursuit of technological supremacy coincides with its confrontational attitude against its neighbors and adversaries, as seen more recently during the border standoff with India in the Himalayas and the escalation Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone violations. These developments force the United States to strengthen its existing R&D activities in emerging technologies by recruiting allies like India and Israel.
The idea of ââtrilateral cooperation is not new. In recent years, Native American diaspora associations and American Jewish associations in the United States have repeatedly advocated for the creation of a technology triangle between the three countries. Even governments have tried. In September 2020, Bonnie Glick, then deputy administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, mentioned that the three countries had explored initial cooperation in 5G communications technologies.
In this context, the three countries can initiate discussions for a formal collaboration between the Indian iDEX, the Israeli Defense Research and Development Directorate and the American DIU. They can then institute flagship technology programs to develop use case scenarios. Alternatively, they can establish a common group to identify and monitor emerging technologies, before deciding to collaborate.
To enable partnerships between these defense innovation ecosystems, the three countries can create a seed fund that provides seed funding for startup ideas, even before they reach the technological demonstration / prototype stage. The seed fund can take the form of a multi-year commitment from the three countries. An additional layer will be an academic collaboration between the main technological institutions of the countries.
Another way to forge collaboration between startups is to organize hackathons where teams representing countries will work on issues identified by their armies. There is a precedent for this. In 2008, the Indian and US armies organized an event called MAV08 in India to develop workable micro-aerial vehicle technology.
Such measures will facilitate collaboration in defense innovation.
The idea is not without challenges. One of the main obstacles is Israel’s and India’s defense relations with other countries. Among these are India’s Cold War defense ties with Russia. India has drifted away from Russia over the past decade, with Israel and the United States becoming the major arms suppliers.
However, New Delhi continues to purchase major equipment from Moscow, such as the S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile system. This purchase caused considerable irritation in Indo-American relations. India has explained the reasons for acquiring this system to the US government, but Washington clarified that New Delhi is not guaranteed to be granted a waiver under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions law, which imposes sanctions. to countries that engage in major transactions with Russia. security establishment. This issue is expected to generate friction, as delivery of the S-400 is expected to begin by the end of 2021.
Meanwhile, Israel’s defense ties with China and Pakistan may be problematic for trilateral cooperation. Israeli arms sales to China began in the 1980s and have flourished over the years. But in the late 1990s, the United States, concerned about China’s military modernization, began to veto those sales, including a very lucrative deal involving the Phalcon airborne early warning radar system.
In 2005, the United States showed resentment by imposing sanctions on Israel for the latter’s reported sales of Harpy drones to China. There have been no further sales in Beijing since then, but Israeli media have reported cases of unofficial and illegal sales to China. He also reported similar sales to Pakistan, despite the lack of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.
These defense links with other countries, neglecting the security interests of partners, can complicate any possible trilateral collaboration. However, a frank dialogue addressing these differences and developing a common understanding of the threat environment can certainly improve compatibility.
Today’s rapid technological advancements will ensure that the nations that exploit and adapt them will be ahead of their competition. Therefore, the United States, India and Israel must join hands to extend their advantage. The logic of undertaking such an effort becomes even more evident in the face of the challenge of a single COVID-19 pandemic, which has strained economies and resource mobilization and diverted many countries from their strategic goals.
This trilateral partnership is therefore promising to overcome these difficult times.
Sameer Patil is a member of the International Security Studies Program at Gateway House, a Mumbai-based foreign policy think tank.
The subjects: Global defense market