Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
SINCE mid-1980s, India has been importing missile technology for advancing its ballistic and cruise missile inventories. In addition, the dual-use space technology imported for peaceful application has also used by India’s Defence and Research Development Organization for the development of short and long-range ballistic missiles. The positive trajectory of the Indian missiles program would be having serious repercussions for South Asian strategic environment in general and Asian strategic stability in particular.
India’s missile programme has evolved after many years of clandestine research and development. Indian scientists acquired specialized missile know-how from dual-use space technology, under the pretext of its peaceful application. The available literature on the subject reveals that thousands of Indian scientists have been engaged in fusing the foreign and domestic research and components for the development of strategic and tactical missiles in India. Consequently, today, Indian scientists are developing and conducting successful test of their indigenous ballistic and cruise missiles. Despite the claims of the Indian scientific bureaucracy that they are manufacturing missiles indigenously, many analysts believe that the Indian missiles program is very much dependent on the equipment supplied by France, Germany, Russia Federation, United Kingdom and United States.
The Indo-Israel Defence Partnership has constructive contribution in India’s armed forces modernization. India Defence Research and Development Organization and Israel Aerospace Industries have developed close working relations since 2006. The latter transferred sophisticated technology and equipment’s to India. Currently, New Delhi is negotiating with Tel Aviv to purchase two more long-range Phalcon Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS). The Cabinet Committee on Security had approved the deal for additional AWACS in 2016. The weaknesses in India’s indigenous missile program obliges New Delhi to approach its defence partner Israel to overcome the technological obstacles.
Since 1990s, New Delhi has been importing military equipment’s including missile related technologies from Israel. The leading Indian missile scientist, Dr. Abdul Kalam (latter became President of India) visited Israel in June 1996 and in the early months of 1997. He visited Israel to receive its assistance in the development of the Indian missile programme. He had shown interest in Israel’s developments in the surface-to-surface missile and theatre missile defence systems (Arrow) technology and components.
Recently, India and Israel announced to develop a medium range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM) system for the Indian Army. The missile has a range of 50-70 km. The missile is designed to defend against any type of airborne threat including aircraft, helicopters, anti-ship missiles, and UAVs as well as cruise missiles and combat jets within the range of 50-70 km. On February 22, 2017, India’s Cabinet Committee of Security, a government body headed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and responsible for military procurements, approved 17,000-crore ($ 2.5 billion) MR-SAM deal with Israel.
The MR-SAM would be manufactured in India and nearly 80% indigenous (Indian) content would be used in the manufacturing of the missile. Five regiments of the Indian Army would be beneficiary of this new Indo-Israel missile contract. The deal is for 200 missiles for five regiments, each getting 40 units. It was reported that: “The system will be based on the older Barak system of Israel, which is in use in India. It is being changed as per requirements.” Notably, Barak is a supersonic, vertically launched short-range air defence system, with an operational range of about 10 km/ 6 miles.
India secured the full membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 2016. The MTCR is a west-dominated cartel of 34 countries, which controls trade in missile and space technology.The cartel was established in 1987. Since then, the members of the MTCR have been maintaining a firm control over trade in missile and rocket components. Hence, the membership of the MTCR would be having a productive effect on India’s space and missile programs. It is because; being a member of missile club, New Delhi is having access to sophisticated missile technology. Moreover, MTCR membership allows India to export its own space and missile technology to countries that comply with the regime. To conclude, Indo-Israel missile deal supplements Indian military build-up. It also encourages Indian strategic competitors to refurbish their defensive capabilities. Thus, the lethal arms race between the belligerent neighbours taxes the regional prosperity.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.