On 6 May 2012,
the US Defense Secretary Mr. Leon E. Panetta addressed at IDSA in New Delhi. According to
him, the defence relationship has done much for ensuring security and stability
in the Asian region; various aspects of cooperation such as joint exercises and
the defence dialogue have resulted in closer co-operation and co-ordination in
areas ranging from fighting piracy and terrorism, to increased
inter-operability between the two forces which would be crucial during natural
disasters. With non-conventional threats becoming more the norm than the
exception, the US Defense Secretary listed out what he described as “new and
ever more complex threats” that the two countries were faced with, in
particular, cyber security and space security.
Cooperation in these areas, which revolve around cutting edge technologies,
would require a paradigmatic shift in the outlook of both countries which, at
present, still suffer from the occasional pangs of mutual suspicion and
distrust. A look at past collaboration in these areas will only bear this out.
Since the mid-1970s, because of India's nuclear policies, the US has always
been cautious in undertaking any technology collaborations or transfers with India.
Consequently, collaboration in space technology, which inherently is dual-use
in nature, has remained restricted to civilian aspects. Similarly, even though
the India-US Cyber Security Forum established in 2002 had a defence component
to it, with a Working Group on Defence Cooperation co-chaired by the US
Department of Defense and the Indian Ministry of Defence being one of its five
Working Groups, it was the least proactive of the Groups, probably because the
Armed Forces on both sides took up cybersecurity as a priority only much later.
Satellite navigation is one area where both the Indian and US militaries
could collaborate. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has an ongoing
GPS-Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) project, which is expected to yield
major benefits for the civil aviation sector. Since the currently used GPS does
not guarantee the availability of precision services during conflict
situations, it is important for India
to invest in space assets. India
is actually engaged in developing a seven satellite Indian Regional Navigation
Satellite System (IRNSS), which is expected to be ready in two to three years
and the United States
could work on compatibility and interoperability aspects of both these systems.
Also, as Mr. Panetta pointed out, joint military exercises between the
Indian Navy, Army, Air Force and Special Forces and their US counterparts
have been a highlight of Indo-US defence cooperation. Presently, the US Defence
Services have a Space Command to cater for requirements in space. Even if India
does not have a space command, it would be useful for the Indian military wings
handling space and cyber issues to gain exposure to the military space and
cyber architecture of the US forces as well as participate in tabletop
exercises, etc. Missile defence is another arena where the military
establishments of the two countries could develop joint programmes.
The success achieved by US drones in the Afghanistan theatre is noteworthy.
In addition to drones, the US
has developed or is developing various other robotic technologies that could
play a role in intelligence gathering, NBC defence, perimeter defence,
management of mining and anti-mining operations, etc. India's overall threat
perceptions and the geographical region where it is likely to engage in future
conflicts underscores that such robotic technologies could be useful as force
multipliers particularly under high-risk situations.
With cyberwarfare set to become a reality insofar as cyber commands are
being set up by many countries, and the surreptitious use of cyberweapons
coming to light with alarming regularity, the creation of international
standards and norms is essential to prevent the coming collapse of the
cyberspace from such onslaughts. As in the case of the other technologies,
collaborative efforts could accelerate the resolution of vexatious issues on
the technological side such as attribution. While deterrence has proved to be
effective in the nuclear realm, the nature of cyberspace has rendered it an
ineffective doctrine in this new domain. However, the march of technology could
turn these circumstances around, and both India and the US should work
together to ensure that cyberspace, like the other global commons, remains
open, secure and free.
Given the past experience of what were considered minor irritants, like for
instance piracy, mutating into major threats to global security, these new
arenas of potential conflict should be addressed with the urgency they deserve.
While legacy issues and bureaucratic intransigence have played havoc with
defence cooperation in other arenas, the lessons learnt could be used to
prevent cooperation in these new arenas from falling prey to those same
infirmities. The bottom line is that there is a severe ongoing global
competition to gain dominance in these new arenas, and while going it alone
might be the best policy, collaboration with clearly laid out guidelines and
end-goals is not without its benefits, in both monetary and strategic terms.
The writers are Research Fellow and Associate Fellow at Institute for
Defence Studies and Analyses, New