US arming India into dependency

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The rise in US arms sales to India is being widely cited as evidence of the two countries' deepening defence relationship. But the long-term sustainability of the relationship, in which India is more a...

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Arming the Elephant

NEW DELHI – The rise in US arms sales to India is being widely cited as evidence of the two countries' deepening defense relationship. But the long-term sustainability of the relationship, in which India is more a client than a partner, remains a deep concern for Indians. Does the recently issued Joint Declaration on Defense Cooperation, which establishes intent to move beyond weapons sales to the co-production of military hardware,mark a turning point, or is it merely a contrivance to placate India?

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphThe factors driving the strategic relationship's development are obvious. Since 2006, bilateral trade has quadrupled, reaching roughly $100 billion this year. And, over the last decade, US defense exports to India have skyrocketed from just $100 million to billions of dollars annually.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphWith US military spending slowing and other export markets remaining tight, American defense firms are eager to expand sales to India, which is now the world's largest arms importer. And the political environment is amenable to their plans: India now conducts more joint military exercises with the US than with any other country.
CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphFor the US, displacing Russia as India's leading arms supplier was a major diplomatic triumph, akin to Egypt's decision during the Cold War to shift its allegiance – and its arms supplier – from the Soviet Union to America. The difference is that India can actually pay for the weapons that it acquires.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphAnd the bills are substantial. In recent years, India has ordered American arms worth roughly $9 billion. It is now purchasing additional US weapons systems – 22 Apache attack helicopters, six C-130J turbo military transport aircraft, 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, and 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers – worth $5 billion. The value of India's arms contracts with US firms exceeds that of American military aid to any country except Israel.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphNirupama Rao, India's ambassador to the US, has called such defense transactions "the new frontier" in US-India relations and "a very promising one at that." But, while it is certainly a positive development for the US, for India, it represents a new frontier of dependency.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphThe problem is that India's defense sector has virtually nothing that it can sell to the US. The country has yet to develop a credible armament-production base like that of, say, Japan, which is co-developing advanced weapons systems with the US. In fact, India depends on imports – not only from major suppliers like the US and Russia, but also from Israel, the world's sixth-largest arms exporter – to meet even basic defense needs.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphMoreover, India's leaders have not leveraged the bargaining power afforded by its massive arms purchases to advance national interests. They could, for example, try to persuade the US to stop selling arms to Pakistan, or secure better access to the American market for India's highly competitive IT and pharmaceutical sectors, which are facing new US non-tariff barriers.
CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphApplying the recent declaration on defense cooperation will not be easy. For example, efforts to identify specific opportunities for collaborative weapons-related projects are to be pursued in accordance with "national policies and procedures." But the two sides cannot truly "place each other at the same level as their closest partners" unless national policies and procedures – especially in the US – evolve sufficiently.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphSimilarly, the declaration merely reiterates America's position that it supports India's "full membership" in the four US-led technology-control regimes: the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, and the Australia Group. Given that US policy is to deny sensitive technologies to those outside these regimes, India's admission would make all the difference in facilitating technology sharing. But the declaration does not include any commitment from the US to expedite India's admission.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphAll of this suggests that the US is pandering to India's desire for a more equal defense relationship. It is willing to co-produce with India some smaller defensive systems, such as Javelin anti-tank missiles, in order to pave the way for more multi-billion-dollar deals for US-made systems. The Indian media are doing their part to strengthen the illusion of progress, latching onto the phrase "closest partners" in their acclaim for the agreement.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphThe irony is that, while America's pursuit of a stronger defense relationship with India is aimed largely at offsetting an increasingly assertive China, US President Barack Obama has charted a neutral course in Sino-Indian disputes. For example, the US has declined to hold joint military exercises in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China has claimed as "South Tibet" since 2006.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphAs it stands, the US sells mainly defensive weapons systems to India, while Russia, for example, offers India offensive weapons, including strategic bombers, an aircraft carrier, and a lease on a nuclear submarine. Would the US be willing to sell India offensive weapons – including high-precision conventional arms, anti-submarine systems, and long-range air- and sea-launched cruise missiles – that could help to deter Chinese military preemption?

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphAs US-India defense cooperation broadens, this question will loom ever larger.

Read more at Brahma Chellaney on on the lopsided US-India defense partnership. - Project Syndicate
 

Free Karma

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I dont think it's fooling everyone, even in the comments section of papers like ToI, where people tend be very naive, no one trusts them. It's just a matter of convenience. Everyone knows this the U.S and India.
 

Ray

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So long as India does not produce its own defence materiel, it will have to buy from elsewhere.

Given the finances and terms, it will go for the best available.

Buying the same equipment from a multiple countries only adds to the inventory & makes the battlefield logistic management more arduous and complex that loses on combat efficiency.

Call it dependency or whatever, it cannot be helped, till our own defence industry can produce comparibles.
 

asianobserve

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So when the USSR and later on Russia had a monopoly of the Indian weapons industry, there was no "dependence?" Now however that a lot of weapons are being bought from the Americans (but which is nowhere close to the level of the Soviets and Russians before) there is suddenly a "dependence." Excellent! BTW, was India able to stop the USSR/Russia from selling weapons to or sharing technology with China during those times of Soviet/Russian monopoly in the Indian market? And was India on equal terms with the USSR/Russia during the latter's heyday in India?
 

Ray

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So when the USSR and later on Russia had a monopoly of the Indian weapons industry, there was no "dependence?" Now however that a lot of weapons are being bought from the Americans (but which is nowhere close to the level of the Soviets and Russians before) there is suddenly a "dependence." Excellent! BTW, was India able to stop the USSR/Russia from selling weapons to or sharing technology with China during those times of Soviet/Russian monopoly in the Indian market? And was India on equal terms with the USSR/Russia during the latter's heyday in India?
I presume there was not the fear of sanctions then & so the 'dependency' could be ridden over.
 

cw2005

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I thought India has a long term strategy to produce military equipment that it needs. Based on this assumption, the only question to be asked is whether the current procurement policy benefits this long term goal. If it does and India has confidence to implement it, then buying from anyone is irrelevant.
 

Ray

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debasree

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bramha chelani is a foreign policy hawk everybody knows
 

astrafan

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Is the Law of Diminishing Returns at work here?
I'm blinking at why US got so generous, vis-a-vis, a recent 'approval' by their congress a list of hardware to India, about 90 IIRC.
Is India about to turn the nego. table in their favour, with multiple 'no, thank you'-s?
 

rvjpheonix

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So long as India does not produce its own defence materiel, it will have to buy from elsewhere.

Given the finances and terms, it will go for the best available.

Buying the same equipment from a multiple countries only adds to the inventory & makes the battlefield logistic management more arduous and complex that loses on combat efficiency.

Call it dependency or whatever, it cannot be helped, till our own defence industry can produce comparibles.
We have to depend on someone till we produce our own ware but dont you think we should depend on someone who is more dependable and does not have such a track record?
 

Ray

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We have to depend on someone till we produce our own ware but dont you think we should depend on someone who is more dependable and does not have such a track record?
Yes we must, but then there are so many considerations at play - cash, ToT, political considerations and so on.
 

nirranj

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And do the Recent Accidental deaths of some Important brains behind some of the Important Indigenous projects have some link with this dependency??!!
 

roma

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And do the Recent Accidental deaths of some Important brains behind some of the Important Indigenous projects have some link with this dependency??!!
can you name a few please ....thanks
 

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