Tech­nol­ogy Vi­sion 2035 – What about de­fence?

The Tech­nol­ogy Vi­sion 2035 vi­sion talks about fu­ture tech­nolo­gies rang­ing from fly­ing cars, real-time trans­la­tion soft­ware, per­son­alised medicine, wear­able devices, e-sens­ing (e-nose and e-tongue) to 100 per cent re­cy­clable ma­te­ri­als among oth­ers which ma


The Tech­nol­ogy In­for­ma­tion, Fore­cast­ing and As­sess­ment Coun­cil (TIFAC), un­der the Min­istry of Sci­ence & Tech­nol­ogy, has come out with ‘Tech­nol­ogy Vi­sion 2035,’ iden­ti­fy­ing the chal­lenges ahead and how they can be dealt with through tech­no­log­i­cal in­ter­ven­tions while re­al­is­ing the dream of a de­vel­oped In­dia by the year 2035. It gives de­tails of 12 sec­tors and tech­nolo­gies that in some cases ex­ist but need to be de­ployed, some in the pi­lot stage that must be scaled up and tech­nolo­gies in R&D stage. The vi­sion talks about fu­ture tech­nolo­gies rang­ing from fly­ing cars, real-time trans­la­tion soft­ware, per­son­alised medicine, wear­able devices, e-sens­ing (e-nose and e-tongue) to 100 per cent re­cy­clable ma­te­ri­als among oth­ers which may be used in dif­fer­ent ar­eas to solve day to day prob­lems.

The doc­u­ment was re­leased by the Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi af­ter he in­au­gu­rated the 103rd In­dian Sci­ence Congress in Ben­galuru re­cently, promis­ing his govern­ment would “make it eas­ier to do sci­ence and re­search” in In­dia and en­vi­sioned a fu­ture in which in­no­va­tion makes lives of peo­ple bet­ter. In­ter­est­ingly, the doc­u­ment also talks of ‘Blue Sky Re­search’; imag­i­na­tion that may lead to re­al­ity through cu­rios­ity driven, paradigm shattering re­search – like vir­tual courts and dig­i­tal ev­i­dence, com­plex real-time dy­namic disas­ter man­age­ment re­sponse sys­tems, sens­ing devices to be able to feel the prod­uct on In­ter­net be­fore buy­ing it, ma­chines/ro­bots to con­nect all per­sonal and emo­tional needs, in­tel­li­gence ve­hi­cles to de­tect emer­gency sit­u­a­tions and take over the con­trol and in­ter­plan­e­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems and the like. Be­sides the key sec­tors like health, education, trans­port, en­ergy, food/agri­cul­ture and man­u­fac­tur­ing, the Tech­nol­ogy Vi­sion 2035 also men­tioned en­vi­ron­ment, in­for­ma­tion & com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies, in­fra­struc­ture, ma­te­ri­als, habi­tat and wa­ter as im­por­tant ar­eas where fu­ture tech­nolo­gies will be able to solve day to day prob­lems of cit­i­zens by bet­ter util­i­sa­tion of avail­able re­sources and skilled man­power.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, the first such doc­u­ment ‘Tech­nol­ogy Vi­sion 2020’ had come un­der Dr A.P.J. Ab­dul Kalam in 1996. It would be fruit­ful to list out how much we have ac­tu­ally pro­gressed un­der the first such vi­sion be­cause that would in­di­cate where the pit­falls and prob­lems are. But this takes us to the ‘Tech­nol­ogy Per­spec­tive and Ca­pa­bil­ity Roadmap (TPCR) is­sued in April 2013 by HQ IDS with a fore­word by the then De­fence Min­is­ter A.K. Antony. It lists out some 19 key tech­no­log­i­cal re­quire­ments: bat­tle­field trans­parency, com­mand and con­trol ar­chi­tec­ture, com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems, smart ra­dios, in­for­ma­tion dom­i­nance, elec­tronic warfare, nano tech­nol­ogy/mi­cro elec­tro-me­chan­i­cal sys­tems (MESM), ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and ro­bot­ics, chem­i­cal, bi­o­log­i­cal, ra­di­o­log­i­cal and nu­clear (CBRN) de­fence, minia­tur­i­sa­tion, un­manned sys­tems, ad­vanced weapon sys­tems – PGMs, air-to-air weapons, Hard Kill weapons, elec­tro­mag­netic pulse (EMP) weapons, adap­tive war­heads, weapon guid­ance, space-based radars, stealth, dig­i­tal sys­tems, adap­tive an­tenna sig­na­tures, SAGW, sen­sors, and sen­sor fu­sion. There is fur­ther elab­o­ra­tion in terms of avi­a­tion, land warfare and mar­itime. The TPCR cov­ers the pe­riod 2012-27. The ques­tion that arise here are whether a mere fore­word by the De­fence Min­is­ter on the TPCR enough to con­sider it a Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) doc­u­ment? If so, should the pre­am­ble not have listed out the fu­tur­is­tic threats in­clud­ing on­go­ing hy­brid and asym­met­ric wars? What about self-suf­fi­ciency in semi-con­duc­tors, com­put­ers and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment? What about ex­ploit­ing tech­nolo­gies like steer­able beam tech­nol­ogy, wide band/soft­ware de­fined ra­dios, net­work se­cu­rity, com­mon GIS, data fu­sion & anal­y­sis, al­ter­na­tives to GPS, dy­namic band­width man­age­ment, shoot­ing down UAVs elec­tron­i­cally or through other means, cam­ou­flage etc? What about ‘Blue Sky Re­search’ in de­fence? How about ‘Mind Con­trol’? Con­sid­er­ing that the TPCR com­menced 2012, what is the progress that is made in the last five years, if at all? The fact is that presently the mil­i­tary does not even have com­mon data struc­tures, sym­bol­ogy and in­ter­op­er­a­ble pro­to­cols; true ‘sys­tem of sys­tems’ ap­proach ap­pears decades away. The sta­tus of the mil­i­tary’s C4I2SR is nowhere near the re­quired. Even the map­ping re­quire­ments are decades be­hind sched­ule.

Does the MoD it­self have at­ti­tu­di­nal change to ac­com­mo­date the con­cept of NCW? Th­ese are hardly is­sues that the MoD should be gloss­ing over? Is­su­ing a TPCR by it­self is only a small part. A re­view ev­ery 3-5 years and pe­ri­odic cor­rec­tive ac­tions are must.

The views ex­pressed herein are the per­sonal views of the au­thor.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi de­liv­er­ing the in­au­gu­ral ad­dress at the 103rd Ses­sion of

In­dian Sci­ence Congress


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