Why India Cannot Afford to Repeat Its Nuclear Weapons Mistakes with AI


05:20 AM

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Why India Cannot Afford to Repeat Its Nuclear Weapons Mistakes with AI Blog Image

Why in News?

  • As India is going to host the GPAI summit next week, all current discussions on the geopolitics of Artificial Intelligence inevitably goes back to the nuclear experience. 
  • Given its complex nuclear history, India has an opportunity to reflect on and apply lessons from its nuclear journey to address the challenges and opportunities presented by AI.

Similarities Between Nuclear Revolution and Ongoing AI Revolution

  • Severe Implications
    • Despite the inherent differences, there are several similarities between the nuclear revolution, marked using atomic bombs in 1945, and the ongoing AI revolution.
    • Both revolutions have profound implications, with AI being seen as having the potential for even more sweeping and transformative impacts on the economy, society, and polity.
  • Similarities in Governance Challenges
    • Issues surrounding AI governance are very similar to those faced at the beginning of the nuclear age.
    • Common challenges include managing the geopolitical implications, preventing misuse, and establishing international norms and institutions to govern AI.
  • Calls for Military AI Regulation for Both Revolutions
    • Like the nuclear era, there are calls for regulating military uses of AI, including proposals for a freeze on research and development until a better assessment is conducted.
    • Despite these concerns, rapid advances in AI continue, mirroring the historical trajectory of nuclear technology.
  • Domination Race in AI Discourse
    • The US and China, akin to the US-Soviet dominance in the nuclear era, are central figures in the discourse on AI.
    • Agreements between the US and China on AI are deemed critical for managing the technological revolution.

Steps Taken (or in Consideration) to Address AI Governing Challenges

  • Efforts to Manage Competition
    • The US is taking steps to manage competition in military AI with China, including initiating discussions on regulation.
    • Efforts include imposing restrictions on advanced chip supply to China, aiming to slow down AI development.
    • Proposals of Setting Up International Norms and Initiatives
    • There is a proposal for international norms to address potential negative consequences of the AI revolution on the lines of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) established for nuclear energy regulation.
    • The idea of an ‘International Agency for Artificial Intelligence’ (IAAI) andinitiatives like the Global Partnership for Artificial Intelligence (GPAI)have been proposed.
  • Building Coalitions and Military Deterrence
    • The US is focused on building like-minded coalitions to discuss AI development and manage its impacts.
    • Initiatives like the GPAI, comprising 28 members, are part of broader efforts, and alliances are being strengthened for military deterrence against Russia and China.
  • Global Partnership on AI (GPAI)
    • It is a multi-stakeholder initiative which aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice on AI by supporting cutting-edge research and applied activities on AI-related priorities.
  • Launched in June 2020 with 15 members, GPAI is the fruition of an idea developed within the G7.
    • At present, it has 29 members and India is also a member of this initiative.
    • Its secretariat is at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
  • Recently Held London AI Summit
    • The core idea of the summit was to harness the potential of AIfor new knowledge, economic growth, advances in human capabilities, and problem-solving.
    • A discussion paper was released by the British government which highlighted the risks associated with AI, ranging from the spread of disinformation to potential misuse for harmful purposes.
    • The British PM emphasised the need to address these fears directly, assuring people that their safety will be prioritised while seizing the opportunities for a better future that AI can offer.

Lessons for India from its Nuclear History to Dealing with AI

  • No Need to Repeat Disarmament Idealism
    • India's historical stance on "time-bound elimination of nuclear weapons" led to significant political, economic, and technological costs.
    • The lesson for AI is that India cannot afford a similar idealistic posture; there is a need for pragmatic and strategic thinking from the outset.
  • Build Momentum in Partnerships, especially with the US
    • India should learn from past missed opportunities in its partnership with the US on critical technologies, as seen in nuclear cooperation.
    • It is crucial to capitalise on the current momentum in India-US collaboration on AI and emerging technologies for strategic advancement.
  • Avoid Exceptionalism and Third Way Temptations
    • India's historical tendency to pursue a third way or exceptionalism in technological development has posed challenges.
    • The lesson for AI is to recognise the universality of science and technology, avoiding posturing that hinders international collaboration.
  • Enhance the Role of Private Sector
    • Building domestic AI capabilities is vital, with the private sector playing a central role, as demonstrated by the evolution of AI in the West
    • Unlike the government-led progress in nuclear and space during the 20th century, AI is primarily driven by the private sector in the West.
    • India needs to facilitate a larger role for the private sector in AI research, development, and innovation.
  • Need for Urgent Reforms: The recent efforts by the government to open the science and technology sectors are welcomed, but urgent and comprehensive reforms are necessary to enhance India's position in the global AI landscape.


  • The disarmament idealism of the kind that animated India’s approach to nuclear weapons is fortunately not India’s policy when it comes to AI.
  • The importance of pragmatic approaches, leveraging international partnerships among other things must be key considerations for India's strategic approach to AI development.
  • Given the strategic importance of AI, India cannot afford to repeat its nuclear weapons mistake with AI.

Q1) What is Geospatial Artificial Intelligence

It is the application of artificial intelligence (AI) fused with geospatial data, science, and technology. It is used to accelerate real-world understanding of business opportunities, environmental impacts, and operational risks. It is transforming the speed at which we extract meaning from complex datasets, thereby aiding us in addressing the earth’s most pressing challenges.

Q2) What is random forest technology?

It is a commonly-used machine learning algorithm which combines the output of multiple data to arrive at a result. Researchers use historical data collected from various air quality monitoring stations in a city and apply the random forest algorithm to predict the Air Quality Index.

Source: The Indian Express