Free Indo-Pacific will require “unprecedented convergence” of US, allies: Top defence expert

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Updated: Jul 22, 2020 3:08 PM

Speaking at the 'Indian Ideas Summit' organised by the US-India Business Council (US-IBC) on Tuesday, Vivek Lall, chief executive of the General Atomics Global Corporation, also pointed out that the global defence industry was adopting new technologies at a rapid rate, which needs better synergy between the governments and the industry to avoid obsoletion.

Indo-Pacific, india US ties, Indo-Pacific region, US defence sector, US-India Business Council, Indian Ideas Summit, General Atomics Global Corporation, gloabl defence industry, Mark Esper, ladakh, south china seaAt the US-IBC Summit, Lall also called for a new export control technology and release philosophy in the defence sector, attuned to the fast-evolving market trends. (Representational image)

A top Indian-American executive in the US defence sector has said that a free and open Indo-Pacific region will require an “unprecedented convergence” of the collective defence industrial bases of the United States and its allies.

Speaking at the ‘Indian Ideas Summit’ organised by the US-India Business Council (US-IBC) on Tuesday, Vivek Lall, chief executive of the General Atomics Global Corporation, also pointed out that the global defence industry was adopting new technologies at a rapid rate, which needs better synergy between the governments and the industry to avoid obsoletion.

Regardless of whether or not international supply chains shift in the coming years, Asia will always remain at the heart of global trade and the Indo-Pacific region will continue to lead in most macroeconomic indicators vis-a-vis trade flows, net investment flows, and real GDP growth, which will all contribute to human development and post-pandemic recovery, said the Jakarta-born defence expert.

Nearly two-third of the world’s oil shipments transit across the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Eight of the 10 busiest container ports are in the region. Thirty per cent of global trade transits the South China Sea, including USD1.2 trillion annually bound for the United States.

”Safeguarding all of this depends on security across that entire region, and especially in the maritime domain,” Lall, one of the highest ranking Indian-American officials in the US defence industry, said. Lall said it was encouraging to see the US government, its partners and allies across the Indo-Pacific region recognising persistent threats and continuing to invest in defence technology development, and their commitment to sustain collective readiness.

“So, the real question isn’t how can we afford to safeguard and secure this region” The question should be, how can we afford not to? And we see that countries across the region understand what is at stake and are responding accordingly, from Japan to Korea to Taiwan to Australia and of course, India. And we have a meaningful role as an industry in delivering greater capability, more affordably, and more quickly than ever before,” Lall said.

”Achieving this future and safeguarding a free and open Indo-Pacific will require an unprecedented convergence of the collective defence industrial base of the United States and our partners and allies,” he said.

China has been fast expanding military and economic influence in the Indo-Pacific region, triggering concern in various countries of the region and beyond. China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. Amid China’s renewed military assertiveness in eastern Ladakh, US Defence Secretary, Mark Esper on Tuesday said, “We firmly believe no single nation can or should dominate the public commons, and we will continue to work alongside our allies and partners to support a prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific for all.”

At the US-IBC Summit, Lall also called for a new export control technology and release philosophy in the defence sector, attuned to the fast-evolving market trends. “We need an export control/technology release philosophy that is more attuned to the fast-evolving market trends and fully considers the availability of similar products in the global marketplace,” he said.

California-based General Atomics is one of the world’s premier research corporations in energy and defence. It also provides research in nuclear physics, aircraft, drone and wireless technology. Lall noted that accelerating technological innovations across the globe in the last few years was leading to compressed timelines towards obsolescence and development timelines adapting. There is now a greater emphasis on rapid prototyping and delivering incremental capability faster to the warfighter, he said.

The software industry has used this concept for years for the benefit of its end-users, he explained. ”While we as an industry are rapidly adapting in innovative and creative ways to meet the challenge, these forces and speed will strain the defence acquisition systems of the United States and other countries,” Lall said, adding that international cooperation between governments and the industry spanning the entire acquisition lifecycle will become even more essential for the health of collective defence industrial base.

”As we seek to improve and upgrade specific capabilities with certain partners and allies, we should also ensure that a certain amount of capability is releasable to them from the outset. This can be done in a way that balances the need to protect some sensitive technology, but sharing other technologies while they remain relevant or before they become obsolete,” he said.

”Ideally, we should do this before such technology is offered to our partners by a competitor country, which then crowds-out US equipment or precludes US interoperability,” Lall said. He said recent statements of Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord and others, signalling a desire to open the envelope on the export of military technologies within the next six months was an important step towards implementing the 2018 Conventional Arms Transfer policy.

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