U.S. Courts India as Technology Partner to Counter China

US and Indian officials agreed on Tuesday to expand cooperation in advanced weaponry, supercomputing, semiconductors and other high-tech fields, as the Biden administration seeks to strengthen its connections with Asian allies and counter China’s dominance in cutting-edge technologies.

The deals followed two days of high-level meetings in Washington between government officials and executives from dozens of companies, the first under a new dialogue on critical and emerging technologies that President Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Tokyo in May.

Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, told reporters on Tuesday that the goal was for technology partnerships to be “the next big thing” in the US-India relationship after a deal 2016 on cooperation in nuclear energy. He described the effort as a “big building block of an overall strategy to put the whole democratic world in the Indo-Pacific in a position of strength.”

The deals will be a test of whether the Biden administration can carry out its “friendly welcome” proposal by shifting manufacturing of certain critical components to friendly countries. Biden officials have raised concerns about America’s continued reliance on China for semiconductors, telecommunications parts and other major goods. In recent months, they have clamped down on the sale of advanced semiconductor technology to China, in an effort to stymie an industry that the White House says could give China a military advantage.

Many companies have struggled to obtain the factory space and skilled workers they would need to move their supply chains out of China. India has a highly-skilled workforce and a government that wants to attract more international investment, but multinational companies looking to operate there continue to complain of burdensome regulations, inadequate infrastructure and other barriers.

Both Mr. Biden and Mr. Modi are also pushing for closer US-India cooperation in efforts to develop their countries’ industrial and innovation bases, Mr. Sullivan said.

The partnerships announced Tuesday include an agreement between the US and Indian national science agencies to cooperate on artificial intelligence and advanced wireless technology, as well as other areas.

The countries also pledged to accelerate their efforts to jointly produce and develop certain defense technologies, including jet engines, artillery systems, and armored infantry vehicles. The United States said it would seek to quickly review a new proposal by General Electric to produce a jet engine with India.

The officials also said they would work together to facilitate the construction of an advanced mobile network in India and would seek further cooperation in semiconductor production, including efforts to help India boost research and production of chips that would complement significant investments in industry in the United States. state

The new dialogue would include efforts to work through regulatory barriers as well as visa restrictions that have prevented talented Indians from working in the United States, the countries said.

But experts said India would need to continue reforming its permit and tax system to attract more foreign manufacturing companies. And the United States would need to reform restrictions on the transfer of defense-related technology out of the country, they said, if it hopes to work with India to produce jet engines and other advanced weapons.

Analysts also noted that many of the technology partnerships would depend on new connections between the countries’ private sectors, meaning deals could only go so far.

India’s frequent purchases of Russian military equipment and close ties to Russia also present another wrinkle to the planned partnership. But Biden officials said they believed the cooperation could hasten India’s estrangement from Russia, to the benefit of its relationship with the United States.

On Monday, Mr. Sullivan, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met with more than 40 business executives, university presidents and others, including executives from Lockheed Martin, Tata , Adani Defense and Aerospace and Micron Technology.

“It has the potential to take US-India ties to the next level,” Tanvi Madan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said of the initiative. The trick, she added, will be “to move from potential and promise to results.”

“Many of the decisions to collaborate or not will be made in the private sector, and companies will evaluate the business case as much, if not more, than the strategic case,” said Ms. Madan.

India has traditionally been known as a difficult partner for the United States in trade negotiations. In the talks the Biden administration is currently holding in Asia, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Forum, India has withdrawn from the trade side of the deal, though it has continued to negotiate in areas such as clean energy, supply chains and manpower. construction site. standards

But analysts said the Indian government was far more motivated by matters of national security and particularly tempted by the prospects of working with the United States to cultivate cutting-edge technology industries.

“We both have a common purpose here, which is the fear that China will eat our lunch in all sectors unless we find areas to cooperate and collaborate,” said Richard M. Rossow, senior adviser at the Center for Strategy and Development. International Studies.