Washington: A day after saying there was no doubt in his mind that India’s ‘number one’ partnership in science should be with the United States (US), the Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar kicked off her official engagements in Washington DC with a meeting focused on technology in its various dimensions at the National Science Foundation on Monday.
During the interaction, Jaishankar met with high-level officials from the administration (including top White House and Commerce officials), academia (including university presidents) and industry. (including those representing the semiconductor, biotechnology and IT sectors).
After the meeting, Jaishankar tweeted, “I started my program in Washington DC with a panel discussion hosted by the National Science Foundation. Thanks to the director, Dr. S. Panchanathan, for bringing together an excellent selection of policy, research, industry and academia. The session, he added, covered “technology security, reliable research and talent development”. “Encouraged by the enthusiasm generated by the India-US partnership in these areas.”
Among the senior administration officials present at the meeting were Laurie Locascio, undersecretary of commerce for standards and technology and director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); Alondra Nelson, acting director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); and Tarun Chhabra, senior director of technology and national security at the White House National Security Council. Industry leaders included Jimmy Goodrich, vice president of global policy at the Semiconductor Industry Association, Dario Gil, IBM senior vice president and research director and member of the National Science Board, and Jason Kelly, founder and CEO. from Gingko Bioworks, an NSF-backed company, which initially also funded Google as a sign of its focus on innovation.
The meeting was seen as a sign of the multifaceted and forward-looking cooperation between India and the United States in areas that will define the future; these are based on a high degree of strategic trust and will have dramatic implications for national security, the economy and jobs, and cutting-edge innovation.
The Indian context
The meeting focused on national security and technology, workforce development for technology and economic security, according to a person familiar with the development.
Jaishankar first gave the background of India and its advancements in the fields of science and technology. The Minister also explained how India was focusing on technological development, whether through the Production Linked Incentives (PLI) scheme to boost manufacturing or the New Education Policy (NEP) to push the pedagogy of traditional ways of learning towards creativity and innovation. . During his travels to India, the minister highlighted his encounters with students and researchers who already held patents, which was quickly becoming a new measure of success in a hitherto ranking-driven society.
The minister, it seems, also talked about “trustworthy data” and “trustworthy scientific research” and how they could be a key driver of economic growth and innovation. Emphasis was placed on improving coordination with what India’s Ambassador to the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, who attended the meeting, called the “triple helix of innovation – administration, university and industry”.
On the American side, people familiar with the talks said, nearly all speakers emphasized the deep partnership that already existed in at least four aspects.
First, there was recognition of the partnerships that existed and were to come between the research institutions of the two countries. Knowledge partnership, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), is already a key feature of Indian diplomacy in the United States. Speakers highlighted the collaboration between Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and US institutions and highlighted the role Indians play in the US tech industry. For example, 40,000 Indian engineers are involved in the design of semiconductor chips in American companies.
The second emphasis was on the deep economic cooperation that scientific exchanges had brought about. The companies pointed to the huge research and development centers they have in India while acknowledging the potential of emerging technology areas, from artificial intelligence to quantum computing, areas that have been identified in the past by Jaishankar as the key frontiers of the future.
Discussions also focused on the talent pool, with representatives from academia and industry discussing the importance of enabling this talent pool to “catalyze two-way partnership and global innovation and growth”.
And finally, the strategic dimensions of technology were a theme in the conversations. The idea, participants suggested, was to develop “habits of cooperation” between India and the United States. This was already happening both bilaterally and under the Quad umbrella. In the bilateral framework, the United States and India announced in May the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET), “led by the National Security Councils of the two countries to expand partnership in critical technologies and emerging”.
In its March 2021 joint statement following the first Leader-level Summit, Quad had agreed to “begin cooperation on critical future technologies to ensure innovation is compatible with a free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific. and resilient”. A critical and emerging technologies working group was formed, with a focus on “technical standards, 5G diversification and deployment, horizon scanning, and technology supply chains.” In September 2021, the Quad countries announced a declaration of principles on the design, development, governance and use of technologies. And at the May 2022 Leaders-Level Summit, the four countries in the grouping said they will “advance interoperability and security through the signing of a new memorandum of cooperation on 5G supplier diversification and ‘OpenRAN’. They also released a statement on the Common Statement of Principles on Critical Technology Supply Chains.
“Partnership number one”
The minister’s meeting came a day after he said strengthening science and engineering was vital for India’s future and that this was recognized in India.
During a community event on Sunday, Jaishankar had said, “From PM (Narendra) Modi down, there is an effort to expand educational institutions especially in science and engineering to expand the looking at a domain like space. If you see the Covid period, it wasn’t that we were just happy to make vaccines, there was a spike in interest in the areas of health, pharma and science.
It was important for India to build “deep strengths, to have supply chains at home, to have patents, to have researchers and to have relationships with other countries like states. United,” Jaishankar said.
“Particularly in science and engineering, there’s no doubt in my mind that the number one relationship should be with the United States. It’s a country that has tremendous accomplishments under its belt. foundation on which American power is built. The Indo-American community can be a bridge,” he told the Diaspora in recognition of the role Indians are playing in STEM to give the United States its edge.