Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Collaborating with the US on Defence R&D projects

I am getting tired of this nonsense from the mouthpieces and the talking heads.

There appears to be a concerted effort underway to solicit India's participation in American defence R&D projects. As some of you may be aware, a number of Indian expats work in this sector already and what is apparently being suggested is an expansion of such interactions.
Prima facie this may seem like a good idea, but you have to take into account the fact that places like DRDO are already losing manpower to the higher paying civilian software sector and any direct research arrangement of this kind will amount to the Americans effectively strip mining our intellectual property.

Please understand, in this kind of an arrangement, the employees will be Indian and they will have no IPR over their work. They will work under non-disclosures and for a fraction of the cost of American labour. This may seem profitable from the perspective of investors in US defense R&D for the reasons described below.

Firstly US defense R&D is without doubt the most advanced in the world. It is also frighteningly expensive both in terms of manpower and money. It is impossible for even a casual observer in the US to miss the fact that though the US has the highest number of science and technology graduates in world, numbering in the millions, it still imports a sizable number of high tech labourers from other countries each year. It is not like the US high tech labourers are unemployed either, the American unemployment numbers are actually quite low. So where does this manpower go? it can only go to one place - the US defense industrial sector. There is considerable expense involved in hiring people for these jobs in the US and salaries in this sector tend to be higher than the civilian sector. There is a natural imperative to keep the costs down.

Secondly, the US defense R&D sector is currently enmeshed in two main areas of activity; they are maintaining an absurdly obese nuclear arsenal and they are trying to develop disruptive technologies which will enable their side to prevail in various battle environemnts. The large nuclear arsenal will have to be restructured lest it sink the economy, and disruptive technologies are being viewed as the key American national survival, especially in a time when the US may need to fling its forces far across the globe to dominate key trade routes and natural resources, every American is aware of the costs of having troops in Iraq, and people are pushing hard for developing disruptive technologies.

Thirdly I am of the opinion that American policymakers are seeking ways of moving away from a carbon fuels dependence over the next decade. This transition will require the entire might of the American government and the full attention of their R&D sector. This kind of R&D activity will place considerable demands on money and manpower, drawing both away from the defense sector. This enhances the desire to keep costs down in the US defense R&D sector.

An outsourcing of R&D activity in certain sectors to a friendly country like India might help cut costs and free up American R&D manpower.

Again on the face of it, this may seem fine, and it is so long as there is something in it for India.

As the defense technology through such outsourcing will obviously not be shared. We need to have something else in return.

A few people might express a childish enthusiasm for bigger toy guns on spaceships and shiny new American airplanes but...

I do not have the authority to negotiate or comment in any level of detail on what India as a whole might want. That is solely the prerogative of the GoI... but incidentally, I seem to recall that Ambassador Saran had clearly said some things about the supply of nuclear fuels for Indian reactors and the reprocessing rights for imported fuel.


At 9:37 PM, Blogger mukunda said...

hi maverick,
1)where have you been along?My day at the office will not start without the daily quota of emails and your updates at the blogspot.
2)anyway what is the connection between shyam saran's statement regarding "reprocessing of uranium...." and outsourcing of defense R&D to India.

At 7:10 AM, Blogger maverick said...


I was entangled in other things.

Regarding Sri. Saran's statements, I don't want to comment further, he is the best person to talk about it.

All I want to say is that if there is to be US defense related R&D in India just like we have software related R&D in India, the price of the bride has to be paid.


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