Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

The India-US ICET: Transformative Impact On Bilateral Relations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ICET

Mains level: India-US relations and technology cooperation, Significance of India


Centra Idea

  • Earlier this month, the U.S. and India inaugurated their initiative on critical and emerging technologies (ICET). The promise of this initiative, if fulfilled, could have a transformative impact on India-U.S. relations. On the eve of the dialogue, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval said that the big need was to convert intentions and ideas into deliverables. This is where there has usually been a slip.

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  • India’s attempts towards US Technology Parallels: Since the 1960s, India has made many attempts to jump on the U.S. technology bandwagon.
  • Failed because of mismatch: But all of them have failed, primarily because of the mismatch between the two countries on the purposes for which they collaborated.
  • The ICET is perhaps better positioned: Unlike the earlier iterations, it comes at a time when India, too, has developed technological and managerial capacities and is emerging as a major economic power.


What is Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (ICET)?

  • Launched by PM Modi and President Joe Biden: The ICET initiative was launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden in May 2022.
  • Goal to elevate and expand Indo-US Partnership: strategic technology partnership and defense industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses, and academic institutions of the two countries.
  • Directly monitored by PMO and White house: The Prime Minister’s Office in Delhi and the White House in Washington will oversee and direct the ICET.
  • Six focus areas of co-development and co-production: Strengthening innovation ecosystems, defence innovation and technology cooperation, resilient semiconductor supply chains, space, STEM talent, and next generation telecom.

American aid so far

  • Significant role in India’s development efforts and quest for technological capability: A major driver of the process was the Cold War which persuaded the U.S. to provide sweeping assistance in a range of areas to India. While the Soviet Union emerged as a major player in areas like steel, heavy electricals, petroleum and mining, the U.S. focused on modernising engineering and management education, science and technology (S&T), and agriculture.
  • Nuclear energy cooperation: US helped build India’s first reactors for research and power. An entire generation of Indian nuclear scientists were trained in the U.S., including some who subsequently helped in making nuclear weapons.
  • Aid in Education in initial phase and vice versa: The massive aid provided by the U.S. to modernise Indian education, especially engineering and management, should have led to a growing industrial sector, but the Indian economy stalled in the 1960s and India ended up with a system where IIT and IIM graduates ended up benefiting the U.S. economy.
  • Aid in agriculture: The one area in which India did get lasting and important benefits was agriculture where American S&T helped trigger the Green Revolution and end an era of food shortages.
  • Gandhi-Reagan Science and Technology Initiative: The Gandhi-Reagan Science and Technology Initiative led to the 1984 India-U.S. MoU on sensitive technologies, commodities and information.
  • New American willingness to promote Indian S&T and the arms industry: In 1987, the U.S. agreed to assist India’s Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) programme and allowed the sale of front-line GE 404 engine to India.


Current Status

  • India has steadily advanced in status as a friend of the U.S. and has purchased U.S. weapons and systems worth billions of dollars.
  • It is now deemed to be a Major Defence Partner, though not a Major Non-Nato Ally, a much more useful designation that Pakistan still retains.
  • The course has not been problem-free witness the pressure India faced under CAATSA and on account of its oil trade with Russia.

Ambitious goals

  • Great deal for India: The ICET has set up a range of ambitious goals which mean a great deal for India. Some of them are aspirational, others political. A few are over the top, such as the belief that the U.S. will help India to develop advanced jet engines.
  • Licence for jet engines: As of now, all that is on the table is the possible licence manufacture of GE-404/414 engines for the LCA. This is not new. But cutting-edge jet engines are the crown jewels of the U.S., which the country will not part with.



  • After presenting the Union Budget, the finance minister said in an interview, “This is a golden opportunity for India. We should really not miss the bus this time.” The remark is truer of the technology and industrialisation bus that the ICET could be.

Mains question

Q. What is Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (ICET)? Highlight the significance of ICET for India while noting down the American cooperation so far.

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