Quantum Technology in Defence : Securing the Defence Arsenal of India : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects, Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and
developing new technology.

Key Phrases: Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology, Quantum Cryptography, Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX), Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO), Secure Communication technology, Cybersecurity in defence.


  • Recently the Indian army has started procurement of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology which has been indigenously developed by an Indian cybersecurity firm. With this step, India is all set to join the league of global leaders with indigenous and more advanced quantum communication technology in order to equip its Armed Forces with high-end defence.

What is Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) Technology?

QKD is primarily a mechanism to undertake secure communication with a cryptographic protocol involving various components of quantum mechanics.

  • Process Flow: The technology enables two sides to come up with random secret keys shared by both and known exclusively to them, so only they can use it to encrypt and decrypt messages, thus achieving a very highly-secure communication.
  • Key Sharing: The distribution of encryption keys is the crucial factor for this. Sharing of keys over the air or wired links requires encryption, which in turn requires encryption keys to be pre-shared. Thus Quantum-tech based communication offers a robust solution to sharing the keys securely.

  • Usage and Application: QKD helps in creating a non-hackable quantum channel for creating unhackable encryption keys between two points separated by a certain distance in terrestrial optical fibre infrastructure. These keys are in turn used to encrypt critical data or voice or video across the endpoints.
  • Advantages of QKD based communication:
    • Detection of Leak: It can detect any data leak or hacking or any such attempt
    • Predetermined Error Levels: It allows a certain degree of error level between the intercepted data.
    • Unbreakable Encryption: The encryption is unbreakable because data is carried via the photons.
  • Significance: Secure communications are vital not just for the defence and strategic agencies across the globe but also for various civilian applications.

Do You Know?

  • Quantum Key Distribution is only an application of Quantum Cryptography.
  • QKD and Quantum Cryptography are not the same.

Quantum Cryptography:

  • Quantum cryptography is the science of exploiting quantum mechanical properties to perform cryptographic tasks
  • The advantage of quantum cryptography lies in the fact that it allows the completion of various cryptographic tasks that are proven or conjectured to be impossible using only classical (i.e. non-quantum) communication.
  • Although Quantum Cryptography is mainly used in QKD applications, its other applications include:
    • Mistrustful quantum cryptography
    • Quantum coin flipping
    • Quantum commitment

Indian efforts in the field of QKD:

  • India has launched National Mission on Quantum Technologies & Applications (NM-QTA) to comprehensively address all these verticals and leapfrog India in this crucial & niche area of Quantum Technology as a whole.
  • Innovation for Defence Excellence’ (iDEX) under Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) has been working with startups and industry to leverage on the QKD.
  • Department of Defence Production, MoD, Army Design Bureau and the Indian Army Signals Directorate, which have contributed to the development of high-end quantum technology in recent years extensively.
  • Initiatives such as Open Challenge of iDEX has provided a launching pad to the startup ecosystem including the QNu Labs, the firm responsible for designing QKD for the army.
  • Similarly other premier institutions of the country such as DRDO, IIT Delhi, ISRO, C-DOT etc. are working in the field of QKD with encouraging results and success.
  • India’s Union Budget of 2020-21 saw the allocation of Rs. 8,000 crore towards the National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications.

Additional Information:

Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) Initiative:

  • iDEX is an initiative by the GoI aimed at modernization of the Defence Industry.
  • It was launched in 2018 within the framework of DIO (Defence innovation Organization).
  • iDEX aims to promote innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries (which includes MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes & academia) and then integrate the innovations with the armed forces.
  • iDEX will provide the engaging industries with funding and other support to carry out Research & Development.
  • iDEX will be funded and managed by the Defence Innovation Organization (DIO), and will function as the executive arm of DIO.

Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO):

  • It is a not-for-profit company as per Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013.
  • It was created by the defence PSUs HAL & BEL, to support the MoD.
  • It facilitates building the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem in Defence in India by implementing the iDEX framework.

Challenges before India:

  • Insufficient expenditure: Although in India both private and government sectors are working on leveraging Quantum Technology and its usages including QKD but investments are minimal as compared to its rivals China or the west.
  • Lack of Research and Development: India spends about 0.5% of its GDP on R&D in various fields. Also, most of the research is being done by publicly funded institutions and private players need to step in and spend on R&D.
  • Absence of Roadmap: Despite taking some initiatives in recent times there is an absence of a quantum roadmap and long-term vision. There is no visibility in quantum efforts and successes.
  • Lack of Skills: The Indian youth lacks skills and very few are skilled in Quantum technologies also the curriculums at higher education institutions are outdated and obscure.

Way ahead:

  • The Government should continue its policy of engaging private entities to expand the scope of research and development in the field of quantum technologies.
  • Reskilling of the youth needs to be done, New Education Policy may be a conducive force in achieving this goal thus NEP should be implemented with right intent.
  • Learning from China which is leading the race with its Quantum Satellite Network which can communicate over 1200Kms using QKD.
  • Government should leverage China's declining popularity among the western countries and should push for more FDI and investments.


  • India is the world’s largest defence equipment importer and is expected to spend around USD 220 Billion in the coming decade to modernize its armed forces.
  • Quantum technology and its applications such as QKD can help in achieving India’s goal of self-reliance and boost its defence capabilities and thus reducing its reliance on the west or other countries.
  • While India has come a long way in quantum technology since 2019, but in the AZADI KA AMRIT KAAL more needs to be done to bear the fruits of Quantum technology than only its quest to guard the nation using technology can be fulfilled.

Source: Indian Express

Mains Question:

Q. How can Quantum Technology be used in the defence sector? How can India leverage quantum technology in boosting and fulfilling its defence sector aspirations? (250 words).