How India is using technology as a strategic tool to advance its interests

In the current information age, technology has become a ubiquitous part of every nation’s society. Citizens are empowered in multiple ways, access to technology has improved, economic sectors in states are transitioning to a digital space, and technological developments have been regularly outpacing regulations and governance. This is an era when technology is becoming a strategic tool for nations to drive growth and protect their interests.

As a fledgling emerging technology powerhouse, India has the ability to leverage technology for the greater good. As seen over the past two decades, technology has simplified policy decisions and improved the quality of governance in countries. Accessibility, inclusion, and a level playing field are partly addressed by the use of technology.

It is time for the Indian government to start looking at technology and its adoption from a more strategic perspective. But how does India use “technology” to solve existing problems and try to use it as a forward-looking solution in key governance areas?

Technology assets in India

Frontiers of expertise and scale: India must focus on identifying and developing certain areas of technology that it has achieved and can have a significant global impact on. This could aid its technology exports and help expand its international digital and technology footprint. Low-cost telecom operations, renewable energy systems and digital payment frameworks can serve as demonstration areas that India can use as a soft power tool in the technology sector.

Skilled workforce in multiple fields: India should consider leveraging the country’s abundant domestic human capital to create a strong workforce in specific technology fields, which may prove crucial in the near future. The availability of low-cost labor must be leveraged to persuade technologically advanced countries to consider Indian labor as a contributing partner in some labor-intensive supply chains. Semiconductor design and IT services are areas that continue to require significant human resources, and India’s workforce has proven to be competitive in these areas.

Significant presence in international technology supply chains: Although India is a rising technological powerhouse, it has become indispensable in key areas of high technology. Due to India’s comparative advantage and expertise in specific processes, other countries are quite dependent on India for certain technology supply chains. This must be used to India’s strategic advantage and ensure it remains a factor in the international tech trade ecosystem.

research and development

Identifying key technologies or key areas in the technology supply chain to invest scientific and financial resources remains critical. The Indian government must consider broad collaboration with the domestic private sector to enhance research and match global developments in specific strategic science and technology areas. This could ultimately increase leverage through a dominant domestic tech sector.

Priority can be given to promoting research in technological areas that require India-specific solutions and are unlikely to be addressed by developed countries. Encouraging the use of open source technologies to foster innovation free from state interference, technological oligopoly and international politics can help India’s technological growth trajectory.

This will make the technology more accessible and more relevant to development challenges. In an uncertain geopolitical climate, open source technologies can also act as a force against the dominance of big tech companies and aiding technological sovereignty. It could also bridge the trust gap between the state and its citizens by addressing privacy and surveillance concerns.

While gaining a foothold in technological product development can create a zero-sum game between two or more parties, scientific knowledge in the field is itself a non-zero-sum game. The Indian government should prioritize improving the dissemination of technical expertise as part of its technology strategy.

global cooperation

The Indian government should not support isolationism, especially in the field of technology development. Collaborating in high tech to address existing bottlenecks in multiple supply chains must be one of the industry’s priorities. If India’s goal is to become a leading tech powerhouse, it must uphold the principle that “multilateralism is a necessity, not an option” when dealing with critical and emerging technologies.

Leadership talks can be held with fraternal multilateral organizations to forge technology partnerships. The Indian government should also take on responsibilities such as improving technology-related trade, facilitating technology transfer agreements between participating countries, and developing credible technology standards for critical and emerging technologies.

A good example is advancing the recently signed Indo-European Trade and Technology Council to build a strong technology trade infrastructure. The focus should be on removing export controls on key technology-related components and reducing import tariffs on high-tech products.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must also adopt a technology diplomacy approach, using science and technology as a source of outreach by appointing officials to lead diplomatic dialogue in the field.

A non-discriminatory data-sharing framework between countries could allow India to achieve digital integration on a global scale, as long as the relevant data does not violate India’s national security. This could include participating in multilateral technical data-sharing agreements, provided that the sharing of critical data that threatens its internal security is not mandated, and ensuring that India has access to similar data of other signatories.

Finally, nations can lead global efforts to develop generally accepted and legally binding instruments on technologies that threaten the security of all nations. India and its diplomatic partners could lead a techno-democratic coalition to prevent selective groups from taking control of specific technologies, especially those that could affect wars and conflicts and compromise international security.

In recent years, technology has become an integral part of international relations, foreign policy, military and defense. As an aspiring world power, India should focus on leveraging its advantages in technology to advance its strategic interests. This will benefit India and society in the long run.

Arjun Gargeyas is a research analyst at the Takshahira Institute. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this journal.

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