By hurried military purchases, India gets into US trap, willingly!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
As a major blow to Premier Narendra Modi’s high-profile “Make in India” campaign to wean the country off imported arms, Washington has succeeded in coercing New Delhi to buy 37 military helicopters from US aerospace giant Boeing. India has done it only to be seen as a close strategic partner of USA and hoping that USA would make India, which hosted G4 in Washington (and not in New Delhi) supporting Indian case, a veto member of notorious UNSC.
And, as per US plan for South Asia, the military deal is expected to further entrench American presence in the burgeoning Indian defense market. The Indo-US deal for 22 Apache AH-64Ds and 15 Chinook CH-47F heavy-lift aircraft has been bottlenecked for years because of red tape and the Modi government having got majority in the parliament can also go further to “strike deals” with US military ware merchants. Of course, many arms mediators in India and USA would reap big financial benefits for the deal. By the huge purchases, India is also in a way working against building a sound manufacturing base in the country, making it an Asian super power to become the world’s fourth largest exporter after China.
Modi’s government surprised last year many by abruptly scrapping global bids to buy helicopters in favor of manufacturing them domestically. India also reversed two more proposals for buying transport aircraft and submarines and decided to make them at home. The state double speaks are not good at all.
Russia continues to be one of India’s most significant strategic partners and the biggest arms supplier, grabbing about 75 percent of its weapon imports. The remaining 25 percent is made up of the US and Western European countries, particularly France, Britain and Germany. Ironically, India’s helicopter deal with the US is in stark contrast to the one New Delhi inked recently with Russia, India’s largest arms supplier. Under the Russian agreement, both New Delhi and Moscow have agreed to manufacture 200 helicopters in India with Russian collaboration as part of intensification and diversification of strategic ties. The agreement is part of the ‘Make in India’ program.
One justification advanced by India for helicopter purchase is that it needs to the urgently modernize militarily and that negates the nationalistic aspiration to produce weapons locally as part of its self reliance policy. Interestingly, the contract comes at a time when Modi is on a visit to New York to meet US President Barack Obama. PM Modi hoped the deal would make Obama and US arms lobby that includes Israeli agents, happy.
Given India’s propensity for big-ticket defense purchases, American defense giants such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, are all too thrilled about the vast business potential in Asia’s third largest economy. Unsurprisingly, the US has now emerged as India’s second largest arms supplier
India cannot sell even dreams properly. India’s security interests are being advanced by sacrificing a solid domestic arms-production base because of the country’s dependency on imports from Russia and the USA. India is also thinking of buy terror goods from China too. The biggest gainer seems to be the USA. But the USA and India as “strategic partners” now try to promote capitalism in India for which both Congress party and BJP have laid strong foundations by selling public property belonging to common people worth $trillions.
The big-ticket purchase will take the tally of defense contracts won by American companies from India to US$10 billion over the past decade. The USA got the deal by a usual trick of price escalation strategy. Boeing corporation had threatened to ramp up the price after Sept. 30 forcing Indian government to go for the costly purchase.
Since Modi’s inauguration last May, his Hindutva BJP government has approved an assortment of military projects that had stalled under the previous Congress regime mostly over corruption scandals. New Delhi also lifted the cap on foreign investment in the defense industry to 49 percent and bolstered tie-ups between foreign and local companies. 54 percent of Chinese arms exports go to Pakistan. The veto member China with its enlarging economy, is India’s main worry and concern. Pakistan, with which it shares illegally Kashmir, is only a minor irritation for New Delhi. The overarching reason behind these multi-million dollar deals lies, they say, in geopolitical compulsions. India seeks veto almost everywhere when Indian side meets foreign side.
PM Modi has made the veto issue the thrust of his speeches perhaps hoping USA would feed veto a ever weeping India. India’s military spending in the draft budget for fiscal 2015 rose 7.7 percent from the previous year to Rs2.46 trillion.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India is the world’s largest arms importer, expects to spend US$130 billion over the next decade to upgrade its Soviet-era fleets of fighters, sea vessels and war machinery. The country’s volume of major weapons imports more than doubled between 2009 and 2013 during the Congress misrule.
The purchases may have augmented India’s defense capability, but it has scuppered indigenous research as technology has been imported rather than developed here. Modi’s ‘Make In India’ would have to be rephrased as ‘Make In India Abroad’