February 7, 2024


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The signal from DC: Beginning of the end of technology denial regime for New Delhi

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first State visit to the US unfolded and he met President Joe Biden, the announcement of a mega deal between the General Electric Aerospace and the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the manufacture under licence in India of GE’s F414 engine for the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mk2 sent a clear message – the beginning of the end of the technology denial regime.

Besides jet engines, deals on procuring drones, a space mission and manufacturing chips in India are among the big-ticket announcements.

But the deal to manufacture engines for fighter jets is significant — GE’s F414 military aircraft engine powers state-of-the-art fighters like the Boeing Super Hornet and Saab Gripen.

The deal is expected to lead to transfer of at least 11 “critical” technologies to India.

For Delhi , that’s the most crucial part as it marks the beginning of the end of the technology denial regime.

Over the years, India was deprived of critical technologies and it became acute in the 1960s through the 1990s.

In 1974, after India’s first nuclear test, the Nuclear Suppliers Group was formed and India found itself outside the elite club.

After the nuclear tests of 1998, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee faced global opprobrium and the US led in criticising the Indian move to conduct the tests.

The Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbott talks led to President Bill Clinton’s visit in March 2000, and in the years that followed, the relationship strengthened and matured.

The George W Bush years saw the Indo-US nuclear deal, which elevated ties to a higher strategic trajectory.

In September 2008, after the NSG waiver to the Indo-US nuclear deal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “It marks the end of India’s decades-long isolation from the nuclear mainstream and technology denial regime.”

In June 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi  told the US Congress that India and the US have overcome “the hesitations of history”, and called for ever-stronger economic and defence ties.

Six years later, the jet engine deal and sharing of the critical technologies marked the end of the “technology-denial regime” and the overcoming of the “hesitations of history”.

The Initiative for Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET), which President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Modi announced in May 2022, and is led by National Security Advisors Ajit Doval and Jake Sullivan, got off to a start in January 2023 — and Sullivan visited India this month.

The initiative is looking at technologies to be shared in critical sectors such as defence, space, semiconductors, artificial intelligence, and  quantum computing

As Modi is in the US for his first State visit — he has travelled to the country seven times as Prime Minister — the initiative on sharing critical and emerging technologies between “trusted geographies” is going to be a key element of the conversation..