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Role of Semiconductors in National Security

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  • September 26, 2022
    1115 hrs

    The Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) held a seminar on "Role of Semiconductors in National Security” on 26 September 2022 from 1115 hrs - 1330 hrs. Lt. Col. Akshat Upadhyay, Research Fellow, MP-IDSA, spoke briefly about the importance of the topic and introduced the Speakers. The Opening Address was delivered by Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General of MP-IDSA. The Panellists were Ms. Vrinda Kapoor, CEO 3rditech; Col. Anurag Awasthi (Retd.), Vice President, Indian Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA); Col. H.S. Sandhu, HQ Directorate General Information Systems (DGIS); Mr. Anshuman Tripathi, Member, National Security Advisory Board (NSAB); and Mr. Prashant Kumar, Scientist E, Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY). The Vote of Thanks was delivered by Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi, Deputy Director General, MP-IDSA.

    Executive Summary

    The world is now aware of the realities of the semiconductor supply chain owing to the Covid-19 lockdown, Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Taiwan crisis, making India's own growth highly vulnerable to disruptions in the semiconductor supply chains. India has done well in semiconductor design but more work is required in manufacturing, especially fabrication and assembly. The Indian Armed Forces must be aware of the ground reality while recognising Atmanirbhar Bharat. A vision of "technology should be developed for the sake of technology" is required, which will later translate into scalable and viable electronics products.

    The dual-purpose nature of semiconductor products ensures that they will always be useful for military purposes. Lessons can be drawn from China and its Military Civil Fusion ecosystem (MCF) in semiconductor research and manufacturing, where the military has both aided research and served as the first customer for semiconductor companies. India too has taken steps in the right direction. The Indian Government's semiconductor policy in 2021 is robust and well throughout. Furthermore, the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme will gain significant traction and generate domestic demand for electronic products. The Public- Private Partnership (PPP) model should also consider some ground realities regarding the future of semiconductor innovation, where silicon may be replaced with gallium nitrate (GaN) in the future.

    In terms of challenges in semiconductor supply chains, since no single country dominates all the stages of semiconductor manufacturing, geopolitical crises can put strain on supply chains. In terms of solutions for India, intellectual property on semiconductor research is primarily owned by the US and Europe. As a result, India must collaborate and form partnerships with these countries. Moreover, because Taiwan is under threat and the US is focusing on Taiwan, India must collaborate with South Korea due to its semiconductor capabilities rather than exclusively with Taiwan.

    The Indian Army relies on semiconductors for sensors (radar, telemetry, Electronic Warfare (EW)), communication systems (Combat Net Radio, 5G systems), computing, aviation and space, weapons platforms, cyber weapons, and autonomous systems. However, assessing transparency and hardware competence for military-based electronics products, which is currently lacking, is critical.

    India is one of the top countries in terms of publicly announced incentives for fabs. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is also focusing on qualified semiconductor manpower in order to make India the semiconductor manpower capital. The roadmap for skilling and empowerment is already being developed under MeitY's leadership. Furthermore, once India has established 3-4 fabs, supply chain and ecosystem issues will be resolved considerably. No country can be completely self-sufficient in terms of its electronic needs because all countries have dependencies. As a result, India should develop its own value proposition and participate in the global value chain so that, even if it is sanctioned, it will have some levers to pull to deter such sanctions.