TiE welcomes Rajnath visit, suggests DARPA model for Indian defense R&D

Ritu Jha-

India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh will be visiting the San Francisco Bay Area next week after attending the fourth U.S.-India 2+2 ministerial dialogue in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin III will be meeting External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh in the national capital April 11.

The event will commemorate 75 years of diplomatic ties between the world’s largest democracies and reaffirm the importance of the U.S.-India comprehensive and global strategic partnership in ensuring international peace and security.

The 2+2 dialogue will also reaffirm the shared commitment of the two countries to a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

“The dialogue will enable both sides to undertake a comprehensive review of cross-cutting issues in the India-U.S. bilateral agenda related to foreign policy, defense and security with the objective of providing strategic guidance and vision for further consolidating the relationship,” Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for India’s external affairs ministry, said Thursday.

Bagchi added that the 2+2 dialogue would also give both sides the opportunity to exchange views on important regional and global developments and work out how to address together issues of common concern.

The State Department said in a statement that the 2+2 dialogue is an important opportunity to advance the shared objectives of both countries across the breadth of the U.S.-India strategic partnership and includes enhancing people-to-people ties and cooperation in education, building diverse and resilient supply chains for critical and emerging technology, scaling up action to prevent climate catastrophe and cooperation in public health, and developing a trade and investment partnership to increase prosperity for working families in both countries.

It is also a chance to highlight the growing defense partnership between the two countries.

The statement said the relationship between the U.S. and India is built on a foundation of common values and resilient democratic institutions, and the shared Indo-Pacific interests of a rules-based international order that safeguards sovereignty and territorial integrity, upholds human rights, and expands regional and global peace and prosperity.

In the Bay Area, Rajnath Singh will attend a community reception April 14. Details of the event are awaited from the Indian consulate in San Francisco.

Welcoming Rajnath Singh’s visit, AGK Karunakaran, president of The IndUS Entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley, suggested that India should scale up funding for defense research and development, currently carried out by the Defense Research and Development Organization, DRDO, by emulating American defense programs such as SBIR (small business innovative research) funding and DARPA grants for dilution-free R&D funding.

This, Karunakaran said, will drive innovation in India by university researchers and also help in the creation of more startups as well as precision-manufacturing companies.

A report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defense on demands for grants for the DRDO presented in Parliament March 16 had expressed concern at the lack of growth in percentage terms in funding for defense research and development over the past few years. ‘In fact, the percentage was 0.088 percent [of the GDP] in 2016-17, which came down to 0.083 percent in 2020-21,’ the report noted.

The report further said, ‘Analyzing the expenditure on R&D vis-a-vis total defense expenditure, it was found to be far less than other developed countries such as China, which is spending 20 percent, and the USA at 12 per cent of their respective budget on R&D in comparison to their defense budgets.’

The committee said given the current international scenario, where the threat perception is increasing with conflicts around the world, it is essential to keep national security interest paramount.

While TiE has not planned any reception for the defense minister in Silicon Valley, several TiE leaders have been invited to the community event with Rajnath Singh in San Francisco April 14.