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QUAD’s Shift In Mindset From National Indigenisation To Strategic Cooperation Signals Gain For India

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QUAD’s Shift In Mindset From National Indigenisation To Strategic Cooperation Signals Gain For India

From being at the margins of the technology policy agenda of several countries, semiconductors have become a primary focus area

Traditionally, the semiconductor supply chain has operated in the background, enabling everything from everyday appliances and devices to cutting-edge defence equipment. This complex and hyperglobal supply chain worked so seamlessly that its functioning got taken for granted.

This perception has changed in a matter of months. First, semiconductors became a domain of confrontation between the US and China. And then, the demand shock of COVID-19 led to a severe shortage of chips in automobiles, medical devices, and other sectors. And finally, fears of a Chinese takeover of Taiwan—which alone accounts for nearly 73 percent of the world’s global contract chip manufacturing—have made countries scramble for alternatives.

And so, from being at the margins of the technology policy agenda of several countries, semiconductors have become a primary focus area. Little wonder then that the first in-person Quad Summit meeting on September 24 had semiconductors on its agenda.

What Was Discussed At Quad Summit?

One of the outcomes of the first-ever Quad summit-level meeting on 12 March, 2021 was establishing a critical and emerging technologies (C&ET) working group. At the time, there was no common understanding of which technologies classify as “critical” and “emerging”. The technology cooperation plan appeared to be too dispersed to enable any concrete action.

Six months later, we have a much clearer picture. The Quad leaders’ summit identified four focus areas: 5G communications, technical standards collaboration, biotechnology, and semiconductors.

On semiconductors, Quad launched an initiative to “map capacity, identify vulnerabilities, and bolster supply-chain security for semiconductors and their vital components.” The summit fact sheet adds that the Quad partners should collectively support a diverse and competitive market for producing semiconductors. The last sentence is significant—it signals a shift in mindset from national indigenisation to strategic cooperation.

Here’s how.

Starting 2015, China’s ‘Made in China 2025’—a State-led industrial policy for technology, including semiconductor indigenisation—unsettled many democracies. In response, these countries started offering massive incentives and subsidies to attract local semiconductor manufacturing.

In February 2021, US president Biden signed an executive order to address the shortage. Earlier in April 2020, India launched its production-linked incentives (PLI) scheme to ‘crowd in’ investment in this sector. Then in June 2021, Japan formulated a draft growth strategy promising generous financial incentives to cutting-edge chip-making facilities. Despite these initiatives, semiconductor self-sufficiency remains a distant dream for all these countries.

The complexity and costs of the semiconductor supply chain demand a global supply chain. Rapid improvements in the processing capabilities of our devices have happened precisely because of a globally diversified semiconductor supply chain. This approach has allowed companies to specialise and excel in one or two stages of the supply chain, relying on companies from other countries for the remaining stages.

Semiconductor Industry Association, a prominent industry voice, estimates that a typical semiconductor production process spans 4+ countries, 3+ trips around the world, 25,000 miles travelled and 12 days in transit. To overturn the economic logic of comparative advantage, countries would need to continually divert their scarce resources to build and support indigenous semiconductor manufacturing.

This is why a multilateral approach such as the Quad’s Semiconductor Supply Chain Initiative makes sense. Instead of aiming for national self-sufficiency, Quad countries seem to agree now that they need to ensure redundancy in the global semiconductor ecosystem so that an adversary does not dominate it.

Multilateral strategic cooperation can achieve this goal. Using countries’ existing comparative advantages instead of duplicating them will lead to sharing costs and complementing each other’s strengths to accelerate innovation. It is in this respect that Quad is suitable for semiconductor collaboration. The US is a global leader in the semiconductor design stage. American companies also dominate two key stages upstream to the design process—electronic design automation (EDA) and licensed intellectual property.

Japanese companies enjoy a dominant position in semiconductor materials and chemicals used for manufacturing chips. Japan also leads the market in silicon wafers, substrates on which ICs (integrated circuits) get made. Australia occupies an important place in the broader electronics supply chain as it has access to critical materials and advanced mining capabilities. Finally, semiconductor design requires large numbers of skilled engineers, where India’s strength lies. Collectively, the Quad has most of the building blocks to make the semiconductor supply chain resilient and China-free.

Is This Supply Chain Initiative Enough?

Mapping the supply chain vulnerability should only be a first step of the collaboration. The grouping can directly bolster supply chain security in the following ways.

One, Quad can form a consortium aimed at building a diversified semiconductor manufacturing base. The consortium could create a roadmap for new manufacturing facilities across Quad countries. The focus should be to collectively have access to manufacturing at the leading-edge nodes (5 nanometres and below) and critical trailing-edge nodes (45 nanometres and above). The latter will continue to remain workhorses for automotive, communications (5G), and AI.

Two, Quad can sponsor new standard developments such as composite semiconductors and create one centre for excellence (CoE) in each Quad country in an area of its immediate interest. For example, Australia could host the CoE for new materials in electronics, Japan could host the CoE for silicon manufacturing equipment, and the US and India could host CoEs on specific fabless design architectures.

Three, Quad can facilitate strategic alliances between companies in each other’s countries. For example, faster visa processing and lower employment barriers for semiconductor professionals in Quad member countries could facilitate higher technology exchange and joint development levels. Removing technology transfer restrictions could make overseas licensing easier. Easing capital flows in this sector could again foster more joint development projects.

What Does India Gain?

India should use the Quad collaboration to get a Japanese or American company to manufacture semiconductors in India, even if it’s at a trailing-edge node such as 65 nm. Collaborating with partners would minimise the risk of failures while ensuring India’s core defence and strategic interests are secured.

Moreover, the AUKUS defence alliance has shown that the US is willing to share sensitive technologies with key partners, something it wasn’t amenable to in the past. This new technology alliance mindset should become the norm in Quad as well. India should push for the US to lower investment barriers and reduce export controls.

Apart from IC manufacturing, India should double down on its core strength. In a Takshashila Institution report titled India’s Semiconductor Ecosystem: A SWOT Analysis, we observed that India has an outright advantage in semiconductor design. The next step should be to encourage indigenous intellectual property creation. PM Modi’s meeting with the Qualcomm CEO is vital in this regard. With more multinational companies moving their cutting-edge semiconductor design to Indian offices, the Indian ecosystem will develop organically.

Finally, given India’s developmental challenges, its financial incentives for technology R&D are unlikely to match what richer countries can afford. In such a situation, India must adopt an allied approach to technology cooperation. For developing critical and emerging technologies, multilateral cooperation is a necessity, not a choice.

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INS Arihant’s Nuke-Capable K-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile ‘Ready To Roll’

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INS Arihant’s Nuke-Capable K-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile ‘Ready To Roll’


NEW DELHI: India tested its nuclear capable K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), designed to have a strike range of 3,500 km, for the second time in six days on Friday. The missile test, as the one conducted on January 19, was undertaken from an undersea platform in the shape of a submersible pontoon off the coast of Andhra Pradesh according to a report by Rajat Pandit of TOI.

The solid-fuelled K-4 missile is being developed by DRDO to arm the country’s nuclear-powered submarines in the shape of INS Arihant and its under-development sister vessels. INS Arihant, which became fully operational in November 2018 to complete India’s nuclear triad, is currently armed with the much shorter K-15 missiles with a 750 km range.

“The K-4 is now virtually ready for its serial production to kick-off. The two tests have demonstrated its capability to emerge straight from underwater and undertake its parabolic trajectory,” said a source.

India has the land-based Agni missiles, with the over 5,000-km Agni-V inter-continental ballistic missile now in the process of being inducted, and fighter jets jury-rigged to deliver nuclear weapons. But INS Arihant gives the country’s deterrence posture much more credibility because nuclear-powered submarines armed with nuclear-tipped missiles are considered the most secure, survivable and potent platforms for retaliatory strikes.

Once the K-4 missiles are inducted, they will help India narrow the gap with countries like the US, Russia and China, which have over 5,000-km range SLBMs. The K-4 missiles are to be followed by the K-5 and K-6 missiles in the 5,000-6,000 km range class.

The 6,000-ton INS Arihant, which is propelled by an 83 MW pressurised light-water reactor at its core, in turn, is to be followed by INS Arighat, which was launched in 2017. The next generation of nuclear submarines, currently called S-4 and S-4*, will be much larger in size.





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After Upgradation, Sukhoi Su-30MKI Indigenisation To Reach 78%

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After Upgradation, Sukhoi Su-30MKI Indigenisation To Reach 78%


India has received clearance to upgrade 84 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets, which will result in 78% indigenization after the upgrade

In a significant step towards bolstering its military might with indigenously developed technology, India is poised to witness its Russian-origin Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets evolve into a domestic platform. Speaking at a recent lecture.

The upgrade program is being led by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in partnership with the Indian Air Force and other partners. The upgrade is expected to cost US$7.5 billion.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) granted Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for the upgrade. The upgrade is part of India’s efforts to improve the capabilities of its primary fighter aircraft, it refers to as the “Super Sukhoi”.

This initiative is a part of a larger effort by the Indian Air Force to modernize its ageing fleet. Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari asserted the critical role of an offensive air force as demonstrated in current global conflicts and emphasized India’s move towards an indigenized arsenal. To this end, the IAF has been proactive, from upgrading its Mirage 2000 to enhancing its MiG-29 fleet.

In summary, the IAF’s commitment to updating their combat forces with the latest technology, including shifting to fifth-generation fighter jets, ensures operational preparedness and a strong deterrence capability. The gradual indigenization of its air fleet marks a pivotal shift in India’s defence landscape, reducing dependency on foreign imports and fostering technological sovereignty.





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Akash Weapon System Exports For The Armenian Armed Forces Gathers Pace

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Akash Weapon System Exports For The Armenian Armed Forces Gathers Pace


According to unconfirmed reports, Armenia is a top contender for an export order for Akash SAM system manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).

While there is no official confirmation because of the sensitivities involved, documents suggest that the order for the same has already been placed the report further added.
There are nine countries, in turn, which have shown interest in the indigenously-developed Akash missile systems, which can intercept hostile aircraft, helicopters, drones and subsonic cruise missiles at a range of 25-km. They are Kenya, Philippines, Indonesia, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Vietnam and Algeria reported TOI.

The Akash export version will also be slightly different from the one inducted by the armed forces. The 100-km range air-to-air Astra missiles, now entering production after successful trials from Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, also have “good export potential”, said sources.

Akash is a “tried, tested and successfully inducted systems”. Indian armed forces have ordered Akash systems worth Rs 24,000 crore over the years, and MoD inked a contract in Mar 2023 of over Rs 9,100 crores for improved Akash Weapon System

BDL is a government enterprise under the Ministry of Defence that was established in 1970. BDL manufactures surface-to-air missiles and delivers them to the Indian Army. BDL also offers its products for export.

Akash Weapon System

The AWS is a Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SRSAM) Air Defence System, indigenously designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). In order to meet aerial threats, two additional Regiments of AWS with Upgradation are being procured for Indian Army for the Northern borders. Improved AWS has Seeker Technology, Reduced Foot Print, 360° Engagement Capability and improved environmental parameters.

The project will give a boost to the Indian missile manufacturing industry in particular and the indigenous defence manufacturing ecosystem as a whole. The project has overall indigenous content of 82% which will be increased to 93% by 2026-27.

The induction of the improved AWS into the Indian Army will increase India’s self-reliance in Short Range Missile capability. This project will play a role in boosting the overall economy by avoiding outgo of precious foreign exchange to other countries, increasing employment avenues in India and encouraging Indian MSMEs through components manufacturing. Around 60% of the project cost will be awarded to the private industry, including MSMEs, in maintaining the supply chain of the weapon system, thereby creating large scale of direct and indirect employment.





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