The case for a US-India digital handshake

The United States and India have considerable scope and strategic imperative to deepen bilateral cooperation in the digital domain. Yet, for all both countries’ remarkable progress over the past several years in expanding their digital economies, there is a striking lack of alignment and engagement between the Indian and US governments on digital policy. In fact, digital policy has emerged as a key point of friction between the two countries, rather than a conduit for deepening strategic and commercial relations. 

The Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center convened a US-India Digital Economy Task Force to tackle these challenges. It brought together twenty-eight leading US and Indian technology policy experts and former policy practitioners, representing diverse voices across industry, think tanks, and academia. Over a period of three months, the task force convened several Chatham House Rule discussions about the opportunities and challenges facing the United States and India in the digital domain. While this report draws on the deep expertise of the task force members, it is written out of those Chatham House Rule discussions and does not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the task force members or their affiliated organizations. Task force members also participated in their personal capacities, with affiliations listed only for identification purposes. 

This report advocates for a US-India “digital handshake” to overcome substantive and institutional barriers in US-India digital economic cooperation. It recommends launching the digital handshake during President Joe Biden’s next visit to India, creating a US-India Digital Economy Ministerial to convene all key decision-makers, and defining five central workstreams for the ministerial: talent and innovation, resilient supply chains and manufacturing, tech for social good, data flows and digital commerce, and national security and law-enforcement cooperation. It also recommends the countries develop a US-India Digital Economy Advisory Board and Technical Advisory Committee to leverage the power and insights of the private sector. 

The South Asia Center is the hub for the Atlantic Council’s analysis of the political, social, geographical, and cultural diversity of the region. ​At the intersection of South Asia and its geopolitics, SAC cultivates dialogue to shape policy and forge ties between the region and the global community.

Image: US President Joe Biden speaks as he meets with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, September 24, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein