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When it comes to technology, we depend on others, be it phones, cars, airplanes. Maybe 20 years ago, China was behind us, but now they are light years ahead of India. We are in a pathetic state.

In Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I couldn’t find a single Indian company. Out of some 4,500 stalls, about 2,000 were Chinese, about 1,000 US and then there were Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, but not a single Indian vendor.

That tells you a lot about the state of affairs here. And yet, we produce some of the best brains that design these devices that go into them. When are we going to wake up?

This was what Professor Arogyaswami Paulraj had said more than seven  years ago, Economic Times reported, April 04, 2012.The situation basically remains the same today.

He is not a communist, not an anti-national, nor a China agent. The Pollachi (Coimbatore)-born engineer served in the Indian Navy for 26 years. Then he became professor emeritus in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. He made pioneering contributions to the theory and development of what is called the Mimo (multiple-input, multiple-output) technology. Mimo lies at the heart of the current high-speed WiFi and 4G mobile phones. For that and other work in the wireless space, Paulraj won prestigious awards like IEEE’s Alexander Graham Bell Medal and the Marconi Prize, and  was inducted into the US Patent Trademark Office’s National Inventors Hall of Fame.

There is tall talk about India overtaking China, and comparisons are made in India about both.  What Paulraj said, and reiterated seven years later, recently,  puts things in perspective.

Paulraj, who established three research labs in India before moving to Stanford, has so far built and sold three technology companies and advises both the US and Chinese governments on technology policies.

Since wireless communication has become core to economies – with substantial national security implications – Paulraj has been closely involved in academic, industry and government discussions around it, and related technologies, particularly in the US, but also significantly in China.

Brain drain was once identified as a problem India faced. Now it is glorified as export of services, a major earner. Of course they are derisively called in some quarters as software or hitech coolies. 

His views, reviewed here, are hence worth a keen hearing.

India has a vast technology workforce working for multinationals such as Qualcomm and Huawei. There is fantastic amount of talent. I built and sold three companies, all of them had back-end centres in India. The best wireless chips are built out of India, because there is incredible amount of math that go in there.

This he he said in a recent interview to the same paper. (ET tech |  November 08, 2019.)

https://tech.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/technology/india-should-emulate-china-in-tech-transfer-ip-mimo-inventor-arogyaswami-paulraj/71964482

Congress made claims how from Rajiv Gandhi to PV Narasimha Rao to Manmohan, they had laid foundations for modernizing India. And now BJP, and Modi-led NDA, make tall claims, mouth big slogans, Make in India, Skill India etc, but reality is staring:

But they are light years ahead of India. We are in a pathetic state. Why?

We can learn about this from his observations. Another interview he earlier gave to Times of India(TNN | Oct 17, 2019)  amplified some of his views.

 Is it capital or government policy that is not helping India? What is the performance of IITs and IIMs?  Paulraj answers:

Clearly, the technology talent is here. The one thing that is missing in Bengaluru and Hyderabad is that it also needs skills such as marketing and product management. Those kind of skills, technically, are sitting in the headquarters (of global companies) and India units are only the tech shop.

Why are we at near-zero? There is no effective government policy. Technology is here, not because of IITs. In fact, most of the talented engineers come from often unknown engineering colleges.

What has been the  Indian government policy? And where does it differ from China’s ? After all, both operated in the same globalized market. Paulraj had said in 2012:

China’s  thinking is probably that they don’t want Chinese companies to adopt a foreign technology until their own technology has a reasonable user base. They will do it only on the basis of national interest.

Now he amplified:

India should insist that global companies transfer technology for hi-tech purchases and build local Intellectual Property(IP).

China never bought technology in general without demanding transfer of technology. It would say — I will buy this jet engine from you Mr Rolls Royce, the next generation of jet engine should have 5% of Chinese headquartered IP. You can start the company, fund it completely, but it is in our jurisdiction. That IP is part of the system, if not I will buy engines from GE. And, they would play one company against the other. All these companies, in order to get market share, would be ready. (ET)

 China never bought anything from the US without insisting that they want 10% of the IP in the product in three years. The IP must be from a China headquartered company. (TNN)

We have created no (such) mechanism in India, he says:

 In the last 25 years, we would have bought maybe close to $800 billion worth of high technology stuff, but we have got no transfer of technology.

He was candid, as the title of the report suggested: India should emulate China in tech transfer.

We have technology knowledge, but lack marketing knowledge, he says. But this is not exactly the case. The difference however is much more basic :

There is no dearth of marketing knowledge :  All our IIMs and IBSs (International Business Schools) are tuned and honed to serve foreign capital, i.e., the MNCs, and their compradors in India.  The media highlights how campus selections by MNCs are offering handsome packages to buy over our young talent, and make them to serve their interests.

What is missing is the political will to develop an independent economy.That has been the case whether it is UPA or NDA.

Swadeshi, Skill India and Make in India are in effect empty slogans and make no difference in this respect. Our talent pool is trained in the same pattern.

“We work for them (MNCs) for cents on the dollar ”

Indian compradors have no need to train them to serve Indian interests. “ We are all working for them (MNCs) for cents on the dollar,” says Paulraj. That is the mind set of the comprador.

Within Bengaluru there must be enough knowledge to build what Huawei has, but they are all sitting in American companies. India’s technology power can only come from India headquartered companies.

Even if there are 100 Intels in Bengaluru, it’s of no value to us. Mr Trump can shut them down tomorrow. Besides, we are all working for them for cents on the dollar. The real dollars are all sitting in the United States. We are a huge market. We have not used our market power. (TNN)

That is the difference between real independence and dependence. Compradors are happy with the latter.They don’t want risks.  

You can build anything in the world, but if the company is not headquartered here, then you have zero control. Any country gets influence, presence and strength if the company is headquartered there. On that count, in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) area, India virtually has zero market share.

One thing missing in India is venture capital. In this high risk business, 80% of companies fail, whether it is in China or in the United States. Technology companies fail because the market is so competitive. One out of ten companies succeeds and makes a whole lot of money; that is how the VC sustains.

Is it capital or government policy that is not helping India? Making VC money available has not happened and the government has failed with its policies.

What are the prospects? How is hitech education tuned for future? Paulraj answers these questions. 

 

What about the large Indian IT companies?

Indian IT firms have made enormous money through services. The hi-tech road is very risky.

How about industry-university collaboration in India? Do you see that happening?

I worked with Professor Anurag Kumar, Director of Indian Institute of Science on the 5G committee for India.

Kumar was talking to IIT directors on how to move the needle, as not one idea (in 5G) technology has come from India. The professors told him that what is missing is entrepreneurial zeal.

Paulraj does not say so, but crony capitalism thrives in India. We have IITs, IIMs etc to serve the MNCs and the cronies. And the government feeds them all at public expense.

Starting a company is very hard. These people are very comfortable, the government gives the money. In Stanford, I have to fight for every dollar to fund my students. Writing papers is easy, building prototypes and working with hardware is messy and difficult work. Frankly, not much is expected. Ultimately, if the systems are working, people are making money; they (Indian professors) would take risks. Today, the barriers are too high for them to take risks.

While India is seeking to curry favor with imperialism, US in particular,   China has chosen a path of independence, driven also by hitech. The difference between China and India is also clear from what Dr Paulraj says. Paulraj has been closely involved in academic, industry and government discussions around it, and related technologies, particularly in the US, but also significantly in China.

So his words carry lot of weight: Not only for policy makers but also academic leaders. India is bonded to USA which in turn seeks to pitch India as a rival to China. What are the future prospects ? This can also be seen from his words :

China’s tech advance is scaring the US, is the title of the interview he gave to Times of India(TNN | Oct 17, 2019).

In a discussion with geo-political and strategic experts organised by the Synergia Foundation in Bengaluru recently, Times reported, Paulraj focused on China’s extraordinary advances in technology.

His thesis is that economic power and global influence is increasingly linked to mass-market high technologies – like information & communication technology, pharma, robotics, industry 4.0, civilian jets. These are the greatest value creators.

“They create income, and help build a military which protects the economy.”

This, we may add, is different from a military that saps our economy, and serves foreign interests, i.e., imperialists, and their defence corporates, mostly of USA, Israel, France and also Russia.

India spends around Rs 4 lakh crore rupees a year on defence. And a big chunk of this goes to feed western merchants of death and their India compradors. Is this all for defending India or looting India to the tune of billions of dollars? Is this nationalism or something else?

The Union cabinet on November 20 last had cleared a two-year moratorium on spectrum payments that will give more than Rs 42000 crore to India’s three mobile companies, two of which (Bharti Airtel and Vodafone) were in huge losses and debt amid brutal competition and a business war by Ambani’s Jio, which is also rewarded now.

This after all the big and prolonged campaign on spectrum allocation scam.

But all this funding, in the name of defence and hitech, does not alter the state of dependence. It rather rewards the compradors.

 China sent thousands of scholars to the US to learn from it, Paulraj said : the largest group of visitors to his group in Stanford were Chinese. A lot of his students go and teach in China. “Nobody ever comes to India, but they go to China because the mechanisms to do that are there. China has sucked in knowledge.

China also started building universities focused on research, he said:  Some of those universities became so good that those like Stanford felt compelled to work with them.Not one top Indian Institute features in World’s Top 200. There is a big push now for so-called Institutions of Eminence including private universities in India. Modi govt. reinforced that.  But money alone can not help as seen from Saudi experience.

“The Saudis would come to Stanford saying we’ll pay you, we’ll spend billions to set up a university. We never went. But we opened a centre in Tsinghua University. We felt both could benefit,” Paulraj said.

Today, in the prestigious QS World University Ratings, Tsinghua is in the top 20, and there are 10 Chinese universities in the top 100, a list dominated by the US and Europe.

Paulraj said the quality of Chinese research papers are extremely good. And, he said, they are much more hands on, “they build stuff there.”

 All this focus on research into high technology has made China a leader in critical areas, and they are seen to be rapidly advancing in others.

Hitech advance of China: A factor for Trade war

What is going on is not mere trade war by USA. It is somewhat like sanctions, a war without arms to contain China, and India is sought to be roped in, as we can see: US projects, and comprador media trumpets, India as if it is a rival to China. But China is light years ahead of India.This can be seen from what Paulraj says:

The US is today looking at every angle to block China. It has created a list of Chinese companies that cannot get American components or technologies. Huawei is one of them.

The US government, Paulraj said, has thought of sending all Chinese students home. That has not happened. But Stanford cannot accept any more Chinese visitors. All grants given by Chinese companies to Stanford professors have been frozen; they cannot use them. China cannot invest in any venture capital fund that invests in American high tech.

“They are really building a Berlin wall between China and the United States,” Paulraj said.

 China never bought anything from the US without insisting that they want 10% of the IP in the product in three years. The IP must be from a China headquartered company.

 In wireless, Paulraj said, Huawei has become ‘the’ company in the world – the best technology, cheaper than the rest of the world. Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung are nowhere close.

 

(The arrest more than an year ago and prolonged detention eversince with false pretexts by Canada, of the CFO Ms. Meng Wanzhou of Huawei is part of this trade war that crossed all its limits, it may be noted. The detention was at US behests and with a US warrant – US is calling for her extradition too. After waiting for sometime, China retaliated by arresting Canadians including ex-diplomat Micheal Kovrig.)

In AI (artificial intelligence), China is beginning to dominate. In a typical AI conference, Paulraj said, 60% of papers would be Chinese, and the remaining would be from the US and Europe. The Chinese are also using AI in mass applications.

In quantum computing (QC), China is seen to be as good as or better than the US. QC can help crack encryption and which in turn has serious national security implications.

In supercomputers, China rules. When Barack Obama decided not to supply computer chips to China to build supercomputers, they built their own processors whose speeds, Paulraj said, are stunning.

In biotech, the Chinese are seen to have a lot more publications on a very powerful tool used called Crispr.

The US, Paulraj said, is mortally scared of these advances China has made.  (TNN Interview)

They are said to have been particularly unnerved by Chinese president Xi Jinping’s goal, set in 2015, that 70% of products in China should contain Chinese IP by 2025.

And hence the trade war, ever intensified.

India is being used by USA, it is being drawn to side with USA, in this trade-cum-tech war,  which  is not in India’s interest. This can be seen from the following self-evident report.

“China concerned over India-US closer ties”

That is the title of a PTI (Sep 24, 2019), report  ascribed to Subramanian Swamy, of BJP and close to the Indian establishment. Swamy, a Rajya Sabha MP, was in Beijing on a five-day visit on the invitation of the Tsinghua University, where he addressed a meeting on the progress made by China in the last 70 years. He also took part in the interactive meetings with Chinese officials and think-tanks, and with diplomats on both sides.

“There is a certain concern in China which we need to remove as to where India-US relations are moving in the context of what is happening between the US and China,” he said.

China is locked in a bruising trade war with the US since last year. The two top economies of the world were locked in a strategic rivalry as China is fast expanding its global influence.

Swamy, who has been visiting China and interacting with the ruling Communist Party officials for over three decades, said India should do take some confidence building measures to allay Beijing’s concern on India-US ties.

 “India, China relations are primary important. America is far away. And America has its own cost benefit analysis…

 “I think we must therefore ensure that our relations with China are healthy,” he said.

China’s concerns included India’s participation in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue involving the US, Japan and Australia as well as the Indo-Pacific concept and Beijing’s apprehension over its impact in the disputed South China Sea, Swamy said.

 Swamy of course mentioned India’s “deep concern”  that China is  supportive of Pakistan, even while they are sending terrorists to India”. But he has a solution:

Swamy said he has suggested to China to establish an India, China and Pakistan track-2 dialogue to discuss issues related to terrorism.

 “I suggested that there could be off the record meeting of the Indians, Chinese and Pakistanis because there was an admission that China is also suffering from Islamic terrorism. So we then have common interest there. It could be non-official, like track-2. They were enthusiastic about it,” he said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/china-concerned-over-india-us-closer-ties-subramanian-swamy/articleshow/71281230.cms?from=mdr

India, more so Modi  regime,  hobnobbed with USA Israel etc., and boosted Indian  Big Business  to emerge as a counter to China , as desired by USA, but this policy did not take off, given India’s perpetual policies of dependence. See this Times report:

No major ‘Make in India’ defence project has taken off in 6 yrs

Rajat Pandit | TNN |  Dec 2, 2019.

None of the major ‘Make in India’ projects in the defence arena, ranging from new-generation stealth submarines, minesweepers and light utility helicopters to infantry combat vehicles, transport aircraft and fighter jets, have actually taken off in the last six years.

These long-pending projects, collectively worth over Rs 3.5 lakh crore, are either stuck or still meandering through different stages, without the final contracts to launch production being inked.

TOI in October 2017 had done a stock-taking of six mega Make in India projects to find that bureaucratic bottlenecks, long-winded procedures, commercial and technical wranglings, coupled with lack of requisite political push and follow-through, continued to stymie their launch. Two years later, the story more or less remains the same for seven major projects.

The defence ministry says several measures have been taken to promote indigenous defence production, which include revisions in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) and FDI policy, simplification of “Make” procedures and offset guidelines, notification of the “strategic partnership (SP)” model and the decision to set up two defence industrial corridors in Tamil Nadu and UP.

In fact indigenous defence production has been India’s stated  goal for decades, including by the Congress regimes. Obviously it did not take off, despite Modi and BJP. What is common between the two regimes is a policy of subservience to imperialism, US in particular. India chose to be  with US and the results are there to see.

This is in contrast to the policy of independence pursued by China. Despite the same  world situation dominated by US, and imperialist globalization thrust by them, impacting on China, the latter asserted its way.

Paulraj’s narrative shows the gulf between them. India should emulate China in tech transfer, he suggested.

But given India’s aspirations to be a regional hegemon, not only in  South Asia and Asia-Pacific if possible, and India pursuing expansionist policies, such a turn as suggested by Paulraj is not being taken.

US trade war is hurting India too. Still India rather prefers to be subservient to US hoping that would help its aspiration to be a counter to China, as wished by the West and USA.

With such policies of dependence and subservience,  it is the the cronies who gain and join the lists of the richest in the world. And that is detrimental to India’s interests.

The pseudo-Left in India, aping their western peers, don’t see all this. Some of them see not a subservient but an imperialist India, and some others theorise how China turned social imperialist! They have their own dogmatism and have no regard for facts, seen by technocrats like Paulraj.   

(The author is a political observer who contributed to Countercurrents.org )


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