Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Tech Capability Gaps

Sometime back, while commenting on the BlackBerry encrypton controversy, Saubik Chakrabarti (IE 11 Aug.2010) had pointed out :

"...not all Big Brothers are equally capable. Some tech observers say BlackBerry does not pose a problem to some major countries because their security agencies are in the masterclass of decryption...

"This raises a question for India — a middling power with a self-narrative of technological capability. To what extent are India’s security services’ anxieties a reflection of their less-than-stellar technological capabilities? Do India’s espiocrats sound slightly desperate sometimes because at the high end of the national security business we have a capability gap just as we do at the low end (fighting Maoists with ill-equipped, lowly-paid forces)?"
This thought keeps coming back to me again and again, whenever I read something about India's efforts at absorbing technology, or when I compare it with the proactive way in which Chinese soak in advanced technology. While our neighbor is busy "digesting" foreign technology to create its own high-tech industries - aerospace, high-speed railway networks, communications and logistics - we seem to be busy tying ourselves in knots.

And now Obama is coming to help us with another knot - its called the End Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA).  This may effectively bar us from retrofitting and adapting equipment to our own needs without the Original Equipment Manufacturers' (OEMs) consent and participation for the entire duration of its service, which, in the case of the U.S. has almost never permitted.

This brings us back to Saubik's point about India's self-narrative about technological capability. For decades fooled ourselves into believing that our bureaucrats knew all there is to know about "indigenous expertise". Along the way we have stifled and red-taped not only public organisations like HAL and DRDO but also our best engineering schools.

And now its time to pay the price - in royalties and license-fees -  for our delusions and day-dreams.


Berry, berry complicated (Saubik Chakrabarti, Indian Express, 11 Aug.2010)

Threat to innovative fix-dependent system (Rahul Bedi, The Hindu, 3 Nov. 2010)

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