Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
INDIA’ hysterical military stockpiling is alarming for the South Asian strategic environment. It made more than 10% of the global arms imports between 2000 and 2016. The upward trajectory in conventional and nuclear weapons is shaping the strategic behaviour of India’s neighbours. The terrifying reality about India’s weaponry is that it is entirely aimed at Pakistan. Though the deterrence stability exists between the belligerent neighbours, yet New Delhi’s weapon shopping spree and missile defence systems imports are perilous for existing strategic stability in the subcontinent.
The Indian ruling elite has been engaged in generating impression that it would contain China. Therefore, New Delhi announced Indo-Pacific strategy in 2016. It has been participating enthusiastically in Malabar Naval exercises since 1994. It successfully conducted intermediate range Agni-V surface-to-surface ballistic missile test. Perhaps, Chinese are not ignoring these developments. Realistically, with the current military capability, India could not destabilize Chinese defensive fence. India’s improving military potential, however, does cause insecurity for other neighbouring states.
Importantly, India’s indigenous missile defence program is encountering technological problems. Today, New Delhi immediate aim is to procure advanced missile systems from foreign suppliers to perfect its defensive missiles as well as advance Agni series. Precisely, New Delhi desires to restart its ballistic missile defence program on firm foundation. It’s because the Indian Comptroller and Auditor General in its report on July 28, 2017, exposed the limits or deficiencies of the Indian indigenous program “Make-In-India initiative”. The objective of the said initiative was to reduce India’s dependence on imported arms. The authors expressed dissatisfaction over the advancement of air defence system and development of missile shield.
The Comptroller and Auditor General report pointed out the failure of Akash a medium-range surface-to-air missile system designed to intercept enemy aircraft and missiles at a distance of 18-30 km. It reported, “The missiles fell short of the target, had lower than the required velocity, and there was malfunctioning of critical units.” It means state-run Bharat Electronics wasted 3,600 crores (Indian currency) over the development of Akash. The Bharat Electronics also admitted the 30 percent failure rate of the missile. It was reported, the Indian air force is reluctant to deploy Akash due to its technical faults and pressuring to purchase systems from technologically advanced nations.
The report has not only exposed the downsides of the Indian defence industry’s scientific development, but also undermine the hawkish leadership claims about the defensive fence of the country. The Defence Minister Arun Jaitley reacted immediately to prevent the political fallout of the Report. He assured the members of Lok Sabha, ‘the shortage in terms of arms and ammunition would be expeditiously made up.’ Ballistic missile technology and design trends are improving rapidly. India cannot modernize its ballistic missile without the external support. It has already approached Israel for assistance. Indian armed forces are already armed with Israel’s Green Pine radars and Arrow missile defence system batteries. Currently, it is negotiating with Tel Aviv to purchase two more long-range Phalcon Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS). Cabinet Committee of Security had approved deal for additional AWACS in 2016. India and Israel also announced to develop a medium range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM) system for Indian Army. Missile has a range of 50-70 km.
New Delhi had concluded a deal with Moscow to purchase the S-400, which is a robust anti-access & area-denial (A2/AD) asset. It is a four-generation advanced air and missile defence system, designed to protect high-value military, political, and economic targets from ballistic and cruise missiles, and air strikes. According to the Russian defence sources the S-400 deliveries to India are ‘likely’ to start by 2020. Despite cementing Indo-US strategic partnership, Moscow is using lucrative technology transfer and licensing options to protect its advantageous position in the Indian defence market. United States remains a giant in arms exports, globally. It holds the first place in military hardware exports to its allies. Washington is also striving to expand its military exports through new opportunities for sustaining its military industrial complex. Therefore, today, India’s defence market is very attractive for the American defence contractors. On May 20, 2017, Premier Narendra Modi government announced to spend $250 billion on the modernization of its armed forces over the next decade. Nevertheless, today, ‘India has become one of the largest importers of U.S. arms’.
Indo-US defence cooperation received boost during the last decade. In 2015, the New Framework Agreement (NFA) for the US-Indian Defence Relationship was renewed. The NFA has ‘facilitated a growth in US.-Indian arms sales, joint exercises, and military interactions.’ United States has been supporting indirectly India’s missile program. In 2004, India and United States signed agreement about space cooperation. Secondly, Israel cannot transfer missile material or technology to any other country without the prior approval of United States. Thirdly, United States facilitated India in securing the full membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime in 2016.
To conclude, India’s hysterical military build-up is perilous for the regional security. Its colossal investment in the ballistic Missile Defence System could dent Pakistan’s deterrence arrangement. It necessitates, therefore, Islamabad to advance its missile programme to sustain the credibility of its credible minimum nuclear deterrent posture.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
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Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal