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US courts India as technology partner to counter China

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Officials from the United States and India on Tuesday agreed to expand cooperation in advanced weapons, supercomputing, semiconductors and other high-tech areas as the Biden administration looks to strengthen its ties with Asian allies and push China’s dominance in the field. of advanced technologies.

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

Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, told reporters Tuesday that the goal was for technology partnerships to become “the next big milestone” in the US-India relationship following a 2016 agreement on nuclear energy cooperation. He described the effort as a “major fundamental part of an overall strategy to put the entire democratic world in the Indo-Pacific in a position of strength.”

The agreements will be a test of whether the Biden administration can realize its “friendshoring” proposal by moving production of certain critical components to friendly countries. Biden officials have expressed concern about the United States’ continued heavy reliance on China for semiconductors, telecommunications components and other key commodities. In recent months, they have restricted sales of advanced semiconductor technology to China in an effort to thwart an industry the White House says could give China a military advantage.

Many companies have found it difficult to get 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 keen to attract more international investment, but multinational companies seeking to operate there continue to complain of heavy regulation, inadequate infrastructure and other barriers.

Both Mr Biden and Mr Modi are also pushing closer cooperation between the US and India to build out their countries’ industrial and innovation bases, Mr Sullivan said.

The partnerships announced Tuesday include an agreement between the US and Indian national science bureaus to collaborate in 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 soon review a new proposal from General Electric to co-produce a jet engine with India.

Officials also said they would work together to facilitate the build-out of an advanced mobile network in India and seek new partnerships in semiconductor manufacturing, including efforts to help India strengthen chip research and manufacturing that will complement would form on large industrial investments in the United States. States.

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

But experts said India needs to continue reforming its licensing and tax system to attract more foreign manufacturing companies. And the United States should reform restrictions on transferring defense-related technology abroad, they said, if it hopes to partner with India to produce jet engines and other advanced weapons.

Analysts also noted that many of the technology partnerships would hinge on new connections between the countries’ private sectors, meaning the agreements couldn’t go that far.

India’s frequent purchases of Russian military equipment and close ties with Russia were also another wrinkle for the planned partnership. But Biden officials said they believe the cooperation could accelerate India’s exit 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 leaders, 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 “getting from potential and promises to results”.

“Many of the decisions on whether or not to collaborate will be made in the private sector, and companies will assess both the business case and the strategic case,” Ms Madan said.

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 pulled out of the trade portion of the deal, though it has continued to negotiate areas such as clean energy, supply chains and labor standards.

But analysts said the Indian government was much more motivated on national security issues, and especially enticed by the prospects of working with the United States to cultivate advanced technology industries.

“We both have a common goal here, which is the fear that China will eat our lunch across industries unless we find areas to collaborate and work together,” said Richard M. Rossow, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic Planning. and International Studies.

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