India’s Strategic embrace of Artificial Intelligence

by Kallakuri Radhakrishna

As Andrew Ng stated, Artificial Intelligence is witnessing an early inning in India. It has a thoughtful government, and India can race ahead if it chooses to. Indeed, many experts view AI as much more like an internal combustion engine or electricity than a weapon, more in the form of an enabler with a host of applications. That way it makes it broader as compared to a fighter jet or a submarine. AI can be seen as an ultimate enabler.

Effectiveness of AI is dependent on the challenges of organizational adoption and implementation of technological innovation.

Scholarship on military innovation by Barry Posen, Stephen P. Rosen, and others shows that technological innovation alone rarely shapes the balance of power. Instead, it is how militaries use a technology that makes a difference.

If algorithms and collaboration at machine speed become fundamental to success on the battlefield, then expensive heavy weaponry platforms could become vulnerable to swarms of smaller automated platforms which are basically lower-cost weapons systems that are effectively networked together. AI could thus help bring quantity back into the equation in the form of large numbers of robotic systems.

If narrow AI is software from the perspective of military technology, it is software that requires substantial hardware for its creation. The associated hardware costs, especially for advanced narrow AI applications, are potentially significant.

Complex algorithms would require heavy computational hardware to train the algorithm. Thus leaderships driving AI research would have to invest in teraflops of computing power. Now as compared to battleships or aircrafts this generation of computing capacity is also hardware no doubt of a different kind. Rapid advances in AI through deep learning and neural networks over the last decade are thus correlated with advances in computing hardware.[1]

India with its historical expertise in mathematics and allied sciences combined with its massive manpower of Information technology professionals gives it a sound foundation to build for an AI-driven future. It would require extraordinary investments in the building of computational capacity and an urgent necessity for creation of organizational culture to imbibe those technologies into daily use.

“Data is the new oil. It’s valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity; so must data be broken down, analyzed for it to have value.” Clive Humby

For AI to master any field, it requires a massive amount of data to train on, the data has to be clean and in order for it to learn, as they say in data science cleaning and preparing the data is half the job done.

India a nation of billion people, a subcontinent with almost all the varied climatic conditions is a natural source of raw data, if handled properly DATA may become for India what petroleum is for say Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

India is poised to become a huge supplier of cheap data and it is very important to understand and anticipate for policymakers the “geopolitics of data”.

AI is one of the single biggest disruptive technologies, it’s just not retail and fast food joints but also high-end jobs such as investment banking, lawyers and surgeons whose jobs may get replaced or affected.

Moreover, if the computational power necessary to generate new, powerful algorithms prices out all but the wealthiest companies and countries, higher-end AI capabilities could help the rich get richer from a balance-of-power perspective. On the other hand, if leading nations fail to effectively incorporate AI, the potential for disruption would also be larger.

Yet the relative impact of technological change often depends as much or more on how people, organizations, and societies adopt and utilize technologies as it does on the raw characteristics of the technology.

The larger the change within the organization required to effectively utilize new technologies, the greater the bureaucratic challenges and, with them the likelihood that powerful countries will not have the organizational capability to adopt.

The colossal change in mindset and culture required from Indian organizations would need that kind of manpower which can trigger the forces necessary to overcome the internal bureaucratic challenges.

Successfully operating even semi-autonomous management systems is likely to require new occupational specialities and shifts in recruiting, training, and promotion to empower individuals who understand both operations and how particular AI systems function.

“The thing that’s going to make artificial intelligence so powerful is its ability to learn, and the way AI learns is to look at human culture.”  Dan Brown

Artificial intelligence in simple terms can be understood as the usage of computing platforms to simulate intelligence-driven aspects of human behaviour.

Seen from this perspective, machinist platforms when trying to understand and analyze masses of human beings are looking for cultural, linguistics and other such forms of such behavioural traits which give each of us their own unique geographical, regional and national identities.

Today we have reached the stage of Noo-sphere that is all-encompassing ideational space, which is superior to info-sphere where informational flow happens and the analysis of these flows gets you into noo-sphere. Info-sphere lies above the cyber-sphere where all digital infrastructure exists.[2]

All these new evolving techniques of machine learning, statistical methods and data mining are tools which allow the physical manifestation in the transition from infosphere to the noosphere. It is prognostic technologies, sentiment analysis techniques and mass behaviour predicting platforms such as EMBERS which are the platforms for the noosphere.[3]

In this perspective NATGRID, which is an integrated intelligence grid connecting databases of core security agencies of the Government of India to collect comprehensive patterns of intelligence that can be readily accessed by intelligence agencies should be considered as an extraordinary step taken by the Indian government.[4]

It is very important for critical data which gives away the psychological and cognitive traits of your people to be stored within your national territories.

Many of the sophisticated social sciences research in advanced countries were typically area studies, as it allowed that countries policymakers to better understand and create region-specific diplomatic tools.

In the AI era area studies will be oriented towards the accumulation of region-specific data sets, these specialized data will allow machine learning platforms to train on thus leading to automation of information spreading tailored specifically for those areas.

As Benjamin Franklin once quoted “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It is very important for India to create District Level Data collection and storage centres which will not only safeguard critical data but will also give the Indian Nation the necessary amount of training data to train its own machine learning-driven automated platforms. These nationalized data is the necessary foundation for the creation of Artificial General Intelligence which serves Indian needs.

In February 2019, Government of India’s Ministry of Defense established a high-level Defense AI Council (DAIC) under the chairmanship of Minister of Defense assigned with the task of providing strategic direction towards the adoption of AI in defense.

The ministry ordered to focus on the capacity building within defence machinery. The tasks range from the knowledge production in the form of data collection, patents to acclimatizing the personnel on-duty through internships, training programs and sabbaticals. Each Service Headquarter (SHQ) will be provided with a window of Rs 100 crores for AI-specific application developments from the ministerial budgetary allocation. The task force recognized AI as a ‘force multiplier’ and emphasized that all the defense organizations lay down their strategies of AI appropriation.

Artificial Intelligence market in India 2019 – 2025 (Source: Pheonix Research)

The Centre of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) in the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has also developed autonomous technology-based products. It has focused on the net-centric communication systems for tactical command control. For surveillance and reconnaissance purposes, CAIR has developed intriguing probes like snake robots, Hexa-bots, and sentries. It has a comprehensive library for AI-based algorithms and data mining toolboxes that can potentially be used for image/video recognition, NLP, swarming. However, in a data-based approach to artificial intelligence, efficient learner algorithms can only serve a limited purpose without the hardware that can collect and process a large amount of data.[5]

The AI-market for civilian purposes in the country is on the rise. For instance, India ranks third in G20 countries in AI-based startups. In June of 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled his “5-I” vision to maximize the societal benefit at the G20 summit at Osaka, Japan on digital economy and artificial intelligence.

The 5-I’s being Inclusiveness, Indigenisation, Innovation, Investment in infrastructure & International cooperation,[6] India should realize the dual-use nature of artificial intelligence and thus also open its market to AI investments in defense. The 49% cap on Foreign Direct Investments policy in defence should be revisited to account for this fact.

India’s efforts at AI R&D, particularly defense R&D, are comparatively nascent, and its lag in the field is expressly glaring when viewed with respect, to the size of its economy and defense needs. This is especially so when compared with the state of advancement of its peer powers or even some of the smaller powers.

In August 2016, Carnegie India published a research paper titled “India and the Artificial Intelligence Revolution”; the paper highlighted the fact that India needs to view AI as a critical element of national security in view of the advancement the world has achieved, and especially in view of neighbour China’s rapid progress in the field. The paper also calls India’s entry into the domain as “late”. With the obvious lag that India has had, the Carnegie India paper warns that India

May face a near-permanent disadvantage in the balance of power against China, with the impetus that China is providing to AI.[7]

In the case of technologies that diffuse slowly, the country that first implements will have a sustainable edge over its competitors. But when other countries can rapidly adopt new technology, the relative advantages of first diminishing.

The greater the hardware and compute costs associated with creating militarily-relevant algorithms, the higher the barrier to entry will be. Alternatively, once the algorithms have been created, they become software and can more easily diffuse.

This Algorithmic nature of Artificial Intelligence gives India a chance to play catch up with leading powers.

In the USA some part of elites wants to provoke conflicts or increase conflicts between different states and first of all to increase any kind of tension between BRICS countries, India and China in particular. From the point of national interest of India, we have to be progressive and strong first of all socially and economically and military as well. The integral part of this strength now is the practical capacity of the state to give adequate answers to the threats from Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence against national and international psychological security and to go ahead developing cooperation with all countries and doing all possible to prevent the global war

George Friedman in a very important speech at influential Chicago Council states:

“The United States has a fundamental interest. It controls all the oceans of the world. No power has ever done that. Because of that we get to invade people and they don’t get to invade us; it’s a very nice thing. Maintaining control of the sea and control of space is the foundation of our power. The best way to defeat an enemy fleet is to not let it be built. The way the British managed to make certain that no European power could build a fleet was to make sure the Europeans were at each other’s throats. We cannot as the first step send American troops, and when we send American troops we have to truly understand what the mission is, limit it to that, and not develop all sorts of psychotic fantasies. So hopefully we’ve learned that this time, it takes a while for kids to learn lessons, but I think you’re absolutely right, we cannot as an Empire do that, Britain didn’t occupy India, it took various Indian states and turned them against each other, and provided some British officers for an Indian Army.”.[8]

In the above-stated words by one of USA’s topmost geopolitical brains, it can be sensed of a larger reluctance to directly deploy troops to maintain its hegemony of power which opens a lot of geopolitical space for middle power’s like India to fill in. The American elite as inferred from the speech see a much more potency in sophisticated tools and techniques which are majorly psychoanalytical in nature.

Total number of Artificial Intelligence companies. India ranked fourth after the United States, China and Great Britain (Source: Wuzhen Institute)

Traditional forms of Psychological warfare has now been mastered by many countries, literature is very much readily available, but it is Artificial Intelligence which gives the tools to not only to conduct such cognitive operations with greater speed but for the first time it actually allows us to simulate the future based on current trends of mass behaviour.

 Artificial Intelligence which already is giving thinking capacity to automated weapon systems, will increasingly make wars more deadly as future warfighters will be emotionless machines fighting in an information environment.

Machine to Machine communications and how these self-learning platforms think will have to be intensely studied by subject matter experts as Psychological warriors will have to employ adversarial machine learning techniques to fight these kinds of war.

Indian strategic thinkers must understand the importance of Artificial Intelligence in waging Psychological warfare.

For psychological war to have an effect there has to be assets aligned to specific modes of strategic communication. In advanced psychological war domain actors, assets, associations need to have a technical and scientific mind-set.

These people whether tangible or intangible, singular or plural, state or non-state can be considered as the new power elite or information owning bourgeois different in thought and life from the land-owning bourgeois. This information owning class of intelligentsia have been successful in exerting control over other power structures. Advanced psychological war is fought in the bourgeoisie domain for the control of the interpretation of proletarian communication and thought.

Behaviour analysis of assets can give us a cumulative list of traits shown by active participants and associations. Using prognostic weapons intelligent analysis of future mass behaviour can be undertaken, sentiment analysis can help shortlist a list of agents who can then be deployed to speed up the cognition of mass in direction of a simulated pattern created by the analysis done by prognostic technology thus creating a constructed reality which can be superimposed on the targeted audience.[9]

To sum it up in October 2019 at the 41st DRDO (Defense Research Development Organization) directors conference in New Delhi National Security Advisor Ajit Doval said armies that were better equipped have always decided the destiny of mankind. “There is no trophy for the runner up. Either you are better than your adversaries or you are not there at all,”.[10]


There is a universal acceptance that Artificial Intelligence will fundamentally change the way we live, work and think. In the battlefield domain, it has not reached a stage which armoured tank had reached in the First World War, but it is slowly coming up.

The other important acceptance amongst established strategic thinkers is that more than a weapon, Artificial Intelligence is an enabler like electricity, many say it is the greatest enabler.

For India, Artificial Intelligence brings a huge set of opportunities as well as a colossal challenge. As we are one of the youngest countries in the world, manpower is our greatest strength, but artificial intelligence is fundamentally going to wipe out many jobs which are currently in existence, Indian nation which is reeling with a crisis of employment opportunities for its young population is as at a crossroad.

If we don’t embrace artificial intelligence we will fall behind the advanced countries, this time owing to the criticality of technology the capability and capacity lag may put us at a permanent disadvantage. It is important for India to cooperate with other advanced countries to bring in advanced Artificial Intelligence technologies to our beloved motherland and tailor it to our needs, particularly the expertise from these countries can be used to start massive re-skilling programs for our young people.

As most of the advanced countries are suffering from population decline these reskilled young Indians may move to those countries. Indian government should also think along the lines of the programs it started for Green revolution which made us self-sufficient in food production and white revolution which made us power in milk and allied products, to kick start a Data Revolution.

India has the required skillsets, people and a thoughtful government but the nation will have to make a great leap of faith and back itself up in the same way we had done in 1991 by embracing computer-driven technologies, new economic systems and opening up to the Globalized World. We may need one more 1991, the current government has the ability and belief to deliver it.


[1] Horowitz, Michael C. (2018) Artificial Intelligence, International Competition and the Balance of Power, Artificial Intelligence 1(3),

[2] Arquilla, John and Ronfeldt, David (1999) The Emerge of Noopolitik: Toward and American Information Strategy, RAND corporation, pp. 27-53. Retrieved from: (accessed 28/11/2019)

[3] Doyle, Andy and others (2014) Forecasting significant societal events using the EMBERS streaming predicative analytics system, Big Data 2(4), pp. 185-195.

[4] India Today (2019) National Intelligence Grid to be ready by early 2020. Retrieved from: (accessed 28/11/2019)

[5] Sinha, Ambuj (2019) Artificial Intelligence in military operations: Where does India stand?, Medianama. Retrieved from: (accessed 27/11/2019).

[6] Chaudhury, Dipanjan Roy (2019) PM Modi presents ‘5-I’ vision to maximise tech for social benefits at G20, The Economic Times. Retrieved from: (accessed 27/11/2019).

[7] Pant, Atul (2018) Future Warfare and Artificial Intelligence. The Visible Path, IDSA Occasional Paper No. 49, New Delhi:Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. ISBN: 978-93-82169-80-2

[8] Friedman, George (2016) George Friedman on the Global Crises, The Chicago Council of Global Affairs. Retrieved from: (accessed 28/11/2019).

[9] Pashentsev, Evgeny N. & Bazarkina, Darya (2019) Artificial Intelligence: New Threats to International Psychological Security, Sputnik International. Retrieved from: accessed 28/11/2019

[10] Sharma, Neeta & Srinivasan Chandrashekar (2019) ‘India Was Runner-Up in Defence Tech, No Trophy For That’: Ajid Doval at DRDO Meet, NDTV. Retrieved from: (accessed 27/11/2019).

(Image: Funding details for AI companies in India. Source: Factordaily)