Delhi hosts two-day INDUS-X Summit; will discuss strategic and security - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 20 February 2024

Delhi hosts two-day INDUS-X Summit; will discuss strategic and security

Initially greeted with little fanfare, the INDUS-X could eventually prove crucial for developing ways of deterring China

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 21st Feb 24


A two-day India-US defence cooperation meeting, called the India-US Defence Accelerator Ecosystem (INDUS-X), kicked off in Delhi on Tuesday marking a significant milestone in collaboration between the two countries in defence innovation.


Launched in June 2023 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US, INDUS-X has driven the expansion of bilateral ties in defence innovation. 


While being initially greeted with little fanfare, this US-India defence technology initiative could prove crucial for developing ways of deterring China. 


For the two-day INDUS-X Summit on Tuesday and Wednesday, stakeholders from both nations have converged in New Delhi to explore emerging opportunities and chart the future trajectory of US-India defence relations.


Organised by Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) under India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), and the US Department of Defence (DoD), in conjunction with the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) and Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM), the summit aims to drive strategic technology partnerships and defence industrial cooperation between India and the US.


There is much in common between the INDUS-X and a similar US-India cooperation initiative called the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) that was put in place during the presidencies of George W Bush and Barack Obama.


Like the DTTI, the INDUS-X is breaking information silos, building networks of cooperation and reducing bureaucratic and regulatory friction between the two defence ministries.


Two Washington-based scholars of US-India relations, Sameer Lalwani and Vikram J Singh, wrote last week that INDUS-X could become one of the most consequential US-India cooperation frameworks in the days ahead.


“INDUS-X has finally institutionalized a process that meets India’s decades-long demand for defence technology cooperation while advancing the Pentagon’s concept of integrated deterrence by bolstering Indian defence capabilities, diversifying supply chains and building trust for deeper operational cooperation between our two militaries,” wrote Lalwani and Singh.


Cooperation that was at one stage unimaginable – such as US Navy warships docking for repair at Indian shipyards – is already coming to pass. Joint training and multilateral exercises are growing in frequency and complexity.


The U.S. Department of Defense fact sheet on INDUS-X, which was released last June, speaks directly to the need to “expand the strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation.” 


INDUS-X stakeholders have outlined a collaboration agenda for advancing defence innovation between the US and India. This provides timelines and metrics for measuring progress in implementing collaboration initiatives envisioned under INDUS-X.


A “bilateral cooperation mechanism” is proposed for INDUS-X stakeholders to advance this collaboration agenda. This caters for “advisory oversight” which caters for a “senior advisor group (SAG) to assess the progress of the collaboration agenda and make recommendations to the defence establishments and other INDUS-X stakeholders for future work. 


The United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Carnegie India, USIBC, the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), and the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) will convene follow-on programming to drive implementation of the collaboration agenda.


Initiatives led by industry and academia cater for mentor-protégé partnerships for start-ups: Indian and US defence firms intend to identify opportunities to establish formal and informal mentoring for start-ups to assist with market access, business strategy, and technology know-how. 


There are “Accelerator Programmes for Defence Start-ups”, with programmes such as Hacking for Allies (H4x).


In this, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC), and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad, in collaboration with additional INDUS-X stakeholders, have expressed their intent to explore opportunities to provide start- ups with jointly defined problem sets, mentoring, and exposure in defence commercialization, business development, product refinement, technology advancement, funding opportunities, and more. 


INDUS-X seeks to build these links through three core mechanisms: enhanced information flows; cross-national social and commercial network development; and reduced regulatory friction to unleash private enterprise.


As the INDUS-X initiative continues to develop, it would be crucial for policymakers to understand its function, background and strategy. They would be looking to shape not only the trajectory of US-India relations, but also the future of integrated deterrence — particularly with regards to China — in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

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