‘China’s advance in quantum technology, absence of its roadmap in India cause of concern’

Sushant Kulkarni
Lt Gen (retd) Rajesh Pant (left) at the event.

National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) Lt Gen (retd) Rajesh Pant said on Monday that China’s advances in quantum technology and an absence of roadmap on it in India were a “cause of concern”.

Lt Gen (retd) Pant was speaking at the inauguration of an international symposium on ‘Quantum Information Technology’ (ISQIT 2019) being organised in Pune by Defence Institute of Advanced Technology (DIAT), Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and Joint Advanced Technology Centre (JATC) of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

The four-day symposium, which will conclude Thursday, focuses on quantum technology - an emerging field that could transform information processing and confer big economic and national-security advantages to countries that dominate it.

Highlighting that there was a global race in quantum technology, Lt Gen (retd) Pant said, “My concern is China leading the race. Why am I saying this? Because it has established the first Quantum Satellite Network and distributed entangled photons between three terrestrial base stations separated by 1,200 kilometres. Quantum is at the heart of China’s 13th five-year plan. Chinese dominated in Quantum Computing patents in the last four years. They are presently building a multi-satellite quantum network national lab.”

He added that the US National Quantum Initiative Act has assured $1.2 billion and the European Union 1 billion euros towards quantum technology.

Referring to the situation in India, he Lt Gen (retd) Pant said, “We find a mix of investment from both the private and government sectors. We have companies working on Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), post-quantum cryptography and Artificial Intelligence platform on quantum. The DRDO is also doing very significant work as also the Department of Science Technology, which has launched a quantum-enabled science and technology project. But I find many gaps in the Indian scenario. There is an absence of a quantum roadmap. There is no visibility in the quantum efforts and successes, and there is a lack of required skill power. As the national cybersecurity coordinator this a cause of concern for me.”

Harping on the importance of quantum technology in the field of cybersecurity, Lt Gen (retd) Pant said, “India is targeting $5 trillion economy by 2024 for which we require a certain growth rate. We are facing some macro-economic headwinds. Globally, an average of 2.5 per cent of the GDP is being lost due to cybercrimes. This is where quantum computing, key distribution and cryptography will come into the picture.”

He added, “Before 1993... disaster management was being handled by the Ministry of Agriculture in India because disasters like famine or flood mainly affected agriculture. In 1993, there was an earthquake in Latur and we created the National Disaster Management Authority which now has a presence across the country. Are we waiting for a cybersecurity ‘earthquake’ to strike before we get our act together?”

DRDO Chairman, G Satheesh Reddy, who was also present at the symposium, said a committee comprising top officials from IITs, NITs, central universities and DRDO has been set up to look into various futuristic areas of research and identify corresponding institutions where the work is currently on.