Round Table Discussion on ‘Quantum Technology and the Changing Nature of Warfare’
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Quantum Technology (QT) is an emerging field of quantum physics and quantum engineering that relies on the properties of quantum mechanics, especially quantum superposition, quantum entanglement, and quantum tunneling. The development of QT is going to profoundly impact and has the capacity to redefine certain crucial sectors such as communications, defence, space, business, banking and society in general. QT with its ability to process and transmit vast amounts of unhackable data, navigation capabilities, improved sensing and metrology has the potential to revolutionize future warfare. The great powers are in race to develop QT to gain economic, defence and strategic edge over their competitors. The race to develop capabilities in QT has become as crucial as the nuclear race during the cold war. QT has the potential to provoke a new arms race. In particular, China and the US are heavily investing on the research and development (R&D) in cutting-edge technologies, including QT. However, China is the leading investor in this sector.

To dwell upon these issues, the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), New Delhi in collaboration with Synergia Foundation, Bangalore organised a Roundtable discussion on “Quantum Technology and the Changing Nature of Warfare” in New Delhi on 3 July 2023. Director, VIF, Dr. Arvind Gupta and President, Synergia Foundation, Mr. Tobby Simon delivered the welcome remarks and opening remarks respectively. It saw the participation of distinguished scientists from the government, senior members from defence services, representatives from private companies, startups and strategic experts. The participants deliberated up on a wide range of issues pertaining to the quantum technology and its impact on the future warfare, communication, its current status, identified challenges and suggested policy options in the context of India.

The panelists deliberated on the technological challenges and the way ahead in developing the Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology, which makes communication safe from hacking. It was pointed out that since most of the data is based on networks, hacking can bring a country to a standstill. Defence communications and critical infrastructure are equally vulnerable. QT gives a country the ability to totally cripple an enemy country by hacking its data and communication networks before or during a war. A country with QT gets ability to protect its aviation, defence, electricity, energy and other critical infrastructure from attacks by an enemy country.

Meanwhile, China is gaining momentum with huge investment in QT R&D, already leading in the development of quantum communications and total number of QT patents. It has harvested huge amount of global encrypted data and waiting for a quantum computer to decrypt the data. China has claimed that it has built the longest QKD network in the world of thousands of kilometers between Shanghai and Beijing. China is making strides in satellite-based QKD communication too.It has, thus, become highly imperative to reflect on QT in the paradigm of operational warfare.

In April 2023, the Indian government approved the National Quantum Mission (NQM) at a total cost of Rs.6003.65 crore from 2023-24 to 2030-31, aiming to seed, nurture and scale up scientific and industrial R&D in QT and their applications to create a vibrant & innovative ecosystem in the country. NQM has identified four Thematic Hubs (T-Hubs): i) Quantum Computing, ii) Quantum Communication, iii) Quantum Sensing & Metrology and iv) Quantum Materials & Devices, which will be set up in top academic and National R&D institutes on the domains. The participants discussed each of these vertical domains, implementation plan and the way ahead. The NQM is expected to accelerate QT led economic growth, nurture the ecosystem in the country and make India one of the leading nations in the development of Quantum Technologies & Applications (QTA). The Mission is expected to address the QT gap that exists with China. It is also expected to augment India’s ability to deploy QT for research, business and governance.

It was pointed out that the government agencies, startups, service providers and the academia need to work collectively to build a robust QT ecosystem in the country. It was suggested that Indian STEM diaspora has strong presence in the field of QT, which can be utilized through collaborative research work and knowledge sharing. It was noted that the cyber security professionals need to pay greater attention to the quantum threats. In this regard, the government needs to push regulatory mechanism for faster adoption to protect critical infrastructures and national interests. Importantly, India needs to create an extensive ecosystem for the development of quantum technologies. Suitable mechanisms to create synergies between government, academia and industry needs to be created. The needs of the Indian armed forces must be factored into right from the inception of NQM.

Event Date 
July 3, 2023

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