Weapons Sales to India will Erode Peace
Col (R) Muhammad Hanif
Russia already being the largest source of weapons sales and technology transfers to India, in the post- cold war and 9/11 scenarios, in view of its converging strategic interests with India vis-a vis in its policy of containment of China, the US is now racing to excel Russia in becoming the main source of sale and technology transfers of defence equipment and weapons to India. As part of that strategy, the US and India had signed an agreement of strategic partnership (10-year Defence Framework Agreement) in 2005 and a nuclear deal in 2008. In this 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 2012 the 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 its defence industry.
In the aftermath 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’, where both India and the US meet somewhere between the East sea of Vietnam and the shores of California. 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 the meantime, since 2013, China’s new leadership had started emphasizing on improving relations with India in a major way by offering heavy economic investments in that country and addressing its border dispute with India in a well-structured negotiations process. China’s this policy appeared to be more Asia centric to create conducive environment for peace, development and poverty alleviation in Asia by pulling India away from becoming part of tension ridden US policy of forming and strengthening alliance comprising the US, Japan, South Korea, some ASEAN member countries and Australia to limit China’s peaceful rise.
To remove impediments to the earlier offer of transferring US defence technologies to India as per DTTI, in 2013 former 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 relation to focus on the joint development and production of military technology. To implement this policy decision taken by both the top leaders and to counter China’s aforementioned new India friendly strategy, while John Kerry visited India in the First week of August 2014 for holding an annual strategic dialogue with its high mark of announcing India as an indispensible partner in 21st Century, declaring to open US investment in Indian defence industry and supporting India’s candidature for permanent membership of United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel also visited India in Second week of August 2014 with its inflection point of engaging India in deeper defence relationship including military exercises, defence equipment sales and also the co-development and co-production of the equipment by free exchange of defence technology based on the Indian decision to increase FDI in its defence industry from existing 26 percent to 49 percent. In this context, Mr. Hagel offered to 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.
While the US and Russia are selling military equipment and weapons to India for strategic and commercial gains, India is exploiting the situation for building a very large and modern Armed forces. Since the US and Russia have opened their high-tech defence and weapons markets to India, it is a great opportunity for India to gain conventional superiority over its neighbours in South Asia. It worries Pakistan the most because India’s military buildup on the pretext of so called China threat will mainly be used against Pakistan. By building a large and modern military might with the US assistance, India will become further arrogant and it will continue with its hegemonic policies in the region. In this scenario, India will not cooperate on resolving border disputes with China, Pakistan and other South Asian neighbours which will disturb South Asia’s delicate peace. In this context any future tension over Kashmir dispute could lead to a conventional war between India and Pakistan with the danger of its escalation to the nuclear exchange since long denial of the US and Western countries to sell high tech military equipment and weapons to Pakistan would weaken Pakistan’s conventional fighting capabilities as compared to India.
In the context of the likely erosion of conventional deterrence in South Asia due to the US military support to India, Mr. Modi’s statement is worth noting. During his visit to Indian Occupied Kashmir, addressing men of the Indian army and air force at his first halt in Leh on May 26, 2014, Modi called on the international community to unite in the fight against terrorism, which he said was causing more casualties among Indian troops than war. “The neighbouring country has lost strength to fight a conventional war but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism,” Modi said during his first visit to the region since taking office on 26 May.
Carried by: The Frontier Post, August 18, 2014.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer, and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.