IPRI – Islamabad Policy Research Institute

Dangers of Indo-US Defence Ties

In the post-cold war and post 9/11 environment and particularly as a consequence of its military disengagement from Iraq and in view of its planned completion of withdrawal from Afghanistan till December 2014, in 2012, the US had changed its military focus to Asia-Pacific region in a bid to counter rising China. And in this changed focus, the US saw India as a crucial partner. To move further in this context, now it seems to be the beginning of the redefinition of the Asia Pacific to the ‘Indo-Pacific’. This new ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept and policy was on demonstration in the recently held naval war games known as the Malabar exercise between the US, Japan and India serving to highlight yet once again, the US and Indian concerns on growing influence of China in the Indian Ocean, the East Sea of Vietnam and the Sea of Japan.

In view of its strategic interests linked with India in the context of its policy of containment of rising China the US signed a 10 year defence framework agreement and a nuclear deal with India in 2005 and 2008 respectively. These agreements gave India an access to the US defence market for purchasing high tech military equipment and weapons and sharing US nuclear materials and technology. In the light of Indo-US agreementsthe EU countries have started selling most modern military equipment such as fighter aircraft, missiles, naval vessels including submarines and attack helicopters.  These countries have also started nuclear cooperation with India.

Apart from earlier mentioned Indo-US agreements, with a view to advancing its commercial interests the US firms are also ready to bring in heavy investments in India’s infrastructure and industrial sectors.Apart from US commercial interests, the US’s strategic interests are of primary importance and for achieving those, as was stated by former President George Bush, the US is struggling to help India in becoming a major world power to contest rise of China. In nut shell it can be said that opening of the US and EU’s defence markets have provided a great opportunity to India to modernize its conventional and nuclear armed forces on the name of so called China threat and to help implement US’s China containment policy.

In the above context, in the last decade India had placed orders worth US $ 10 billion with the US firms to purchase defence equipment and weapons systems. Subsequently, to further deepen its strategic relations with India,in 2012the US had offered to share as many as ten technologies to India under the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI),although progress on that remained hampered due to India’s reluctance in increasing US share of foreign direct investment (FDI)in itsdefence industry.

To remove impediments to the earlier offer of transferring US defence technologies to India as per DTTI, in 2013former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama took the relationship to the next level when the two leaders decided to move away from the buyer-seller relations to focus on the joint development and production of military technology. To implement this policy decision taken by both the top leaders, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel visited India in August 2014. While they announced India as an indispensible partner in 21st Century they also declared to open US investment in Indian defence industry and supported India’s candidature for permanent membership of United Nations Security Council (UNSC).Mr. Hagel also offeredto India the joint development of seven defence technologies and as a first step,he offered to sell the state of the art antitank missile named Javelin along with transfer of its technology to India. So far this offer has been made only to India and to no other country.Moreover, according to Indian defence officials, India is also close to finalizing a US$1.4 billion deal to buy at least 22 US Apache and 15 Chinook helicopters, along with four P-8I anti-submarine warfare aircraft from the US.

The US strategy of according primacy to India in Asia Pacific and South Asia and opening of the US and EU countries’ defence and nuclear materials and technology markets to India will enable India to attain most modern military and nuclear capabilities on the pretext of countering China. However since India’s 80 percent forces are deployed against Pakistan it is crystal clear that India’s these superior military capabilities will be used against Pakistan in any future war due to Kashmir dispute. More over if India becomes a permanent member of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) the Kashmir dispute will become insoluble due to India possessing a veto power and chances of war on Kashmir will increase. Since the US and other western countries’ defence support to India will largely erode conventional balance in South Asia, in any future war between Pakistan and India, Pakistan’s nuclear threshold will be further lowered thus enhancing chances of a nuclear exchange. Any such eventuality will prove disastrous for South Asia and world peace. In view of such an evolving scenario this study suggests that while arming India the US abs EU countries should also sell and share high tech defence equipment and technology to Pakistan to maintain conventional balance to avoid possibility of a nuclear war. In this regard the US should also sign a nuclear deal with Pakistan to avoid erosion of nuclear deterrence in South Asia which is necessary for maintenance of peace in the region.


Carried by: Pakistan Observer, September 02, 2014.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer, and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.


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