Twelve days following the Ides of March, few had any inkling that March 27, 2019 would portend a watershed in India’s strategic trajectory. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a ten minute televised address in Hindi, emphatically declaring that India has become “a global space power” after a successful anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test had just propelled the country to the ranks of the US, Russia, and China.
Science & Technology
On October 7, 2014, India’s aspirations of becoming a global leader in the manufacture and operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs; commonly known as drones) for civilian use were seemingly crushed overnight. The Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGCA), India’s civil aviation regulator, issued a short public notice that prohibited any non-governmental entity in India from launching UAVs for any purpose whatsoever due to safety and security issues until regulations were issued.
We live in the age of artificial intelligence (AI) that has provided us with immense processing power, storage capacity, and access to information. The exponential development of technology gave us the spinning wheel in the first, electricity in the second, and computers in the third industrial revolution. In 2016, the World Economic Forum called AI “the fourth industrial revolution” that has radically transformed the way we live, work, and connect with each other. However, it has also given us regulatory challenges such as data ownership and labor protection.
After the first metro project in Kolkata, it took two decades for India to plan and execute its second metro rail project in Delhi in 2002. But afterwards, there was a surge in metro rail projects across Indian cities. In the past decade, more than thirteen cities in India have sanctioned for metro rail systems and many more states are still vying to seek clearance from the central government for metro rail projects.
Nearly fifteen years ago, the former head of India’s Central Water Commission warned that “hydro-politics is threatening the very fabric of federalism” in the world’s second most populous country. Virtually all the subcontinent’s major rivers, including the Indus, the Ganges, and the Brahmaputra, are the subject of some level of contention. But while these international transboundary waterways receive most of the attention, it is India’s internal water wars that may well be most significant for its future.
Why do the lights go out more often in some Indian states than others? While India has recently seen great gains in generation capacity and rural electrification, many utilities are still trapped in a vicious cycle of underpayment, underinvestment, and dismal performance. The effects are huge: in 2010 the World Bank estimated the cost of electricity shortages at 7 percent of India’s GDP.
In early November, a Russian news website claimed that the Indian Navy allowed a US technical team to inspect the Russian Akula-Class nuclear submarine loaned to India in 2012. Although the report turned out to be false, the issue raised eyebrows in strategic circles, for two reasons. First, it brought into focus Indo-Russian cooperation in the domain of nuclear submarines. India is the only country in the world to have operated a nuclear submarine on loan from a nuclear-weapon state and Russia is the only such state to have leased one.
In summer 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered the inaugural speech for the launch of Digital India, his program to “transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.” In the speech, Modi announced that “IT + IT = IT” or, as he elaborated, “Indian Talent + Information Technology = India Tomorrow.” Modi went on to say that technology is the most important thing India should teach its children.
Cities are increasingly seen as sites of strategic action on clean energy and climate change. The United Nation’s 2015 Sustainable Development Goals includes an explicit urban goal for the first time, and the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement enables new spaces to promote climate outcomes in national development contexts. The attention on cities in the energy-climate nexus is particularly timely for India, which is projected to account for a quarter of the rise in global energy use by 2040. This growth is driven in large part by the country’s ongoing economic and social transitions.
It has been nearly one year since India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued its draft drone guidelines. Given the criticality of these regulations in shaping a relatively young industry in India, several industry bodies and start-ups had provided feedback and pushed for timely action. That drones have tremendous practical applications can no longer be disputed. Some of India’s start-ups are revolutionizing drone applications in areas as diverse as disaster management, precision agriculture and crop insurance, mining, infrastructure projects, and land records.