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16th November 2023 (10 Topics)

India, ‘killer robots’ and the China challenge

Context:

The global discourse on military applications of Artificial intelligence, focusing on the recent UN General Assembly vote, and India's evolving stance and strategic imperatives has drawn attention across globe.

International Discourse on AI in Military Domain

  • Global Concerns: AI, a major technological advance, raises challenges in responsible civil and military use. International focus on civilian AI is expanding, but military AI, especially autonomous weapons, creates divergent views among major powers.
  • UN Resolution: Recent UN General Assembly voting, with a vast majority urging action on lethal autonomous weapons, reflects international concern. However, major powers, including India, are both investing in and debating the legitimacy of autonomous weapons.
  • Complex Diplomacy: Diplomatic positions in the UN do not align with actual development. US, China, and India, despite votes, are actively engaged in AI military applications, adding complexity to diplomatic discussions.

Strategic Considerations

  • Military Autonomy Trends: Major Powers, including the US and China, are rapidly advancing AI for military autonomy. The US, with initiatives like the Replicator, emphasizes innovation and human control over autonomous weapons.
  • China’s AI Focus: China, centralizing AI in its military strategy, deploys AI for diverse functions. Its industrial capacity and state power enable swift development, challenging the US in the AI race.
  • US-India Dynamics: India’s negative vote at the UNGA reflects a pragmatic turn. To leverage the US partnership in AI, India must invest in national capabilities for defense and international norm shaping.

India’s Position and Future Strategies

  • National Security Balancing Act: India’s UNGA vote signals a balanced approach to national security, ethics, and global governance in AI military applications. Given challenges from China, India needs a robust AI defense strategy.
  • Investment Imperative: To benefit from the US partnership, India must invest substantially in core AI sciences, technological capabilities, doctrines, and institutions for effective AI integration in defense management.
  • Global Governance Role: Despite developing national AI capabilities, India should continue shaping international norms. Collaborating with like-minded countries, India can influence responsible military AI use and ensure human involvement.
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