Archive for December, 2017

SIPRI DATA Russia accounted for 68% of India’s arms import during 2012-16 as compared to 14% from the US & 7.2% from Israel

Russia and India are taking steps to address the perceived drift in their relations. High level visits are continuing. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov visited Delhi earlier this month for Russia-India-China trilateral meeting. Russia’s deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin is visiting India on Saturday for a high level comprehensive review of Indo-Russian relations. While both sides have taken steps to diversify bilateral relations, the most substantive part of the strategic partnership still remains the military-technical cooperation.

The Indo-Russian Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRGCMTC) is the apex institution for reviewing and guiding the military technical cooperation between the two countries in entirety. Jointly headed by the deputy prime minister on the Russian side and the defence minister on the Indian side, it is supported by two working groups and seven sub groups. In the recent past, the two sides have concluded agreements on the supply of S-400 air defence system, construction of frigates and the manufacture of KA-226T helicopters. An Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) on the manufacturing of Russian KA-226T helicopters through the joint venture route under ‘Make in India’ programme has also been signed. As per the IGA, 60 helicopters will be manufactured in Russia and 140 in India.

Despite the diversification in India’s defence procurements, Russia remains and will remain a critical supplier of defence equipment to India for a long time. According to SIPRI, Russia accounted for 68% of India’s arms import during 2012-16 as compared to 14% from the US and 7.2% from Israel. While these figure are based on estimates by SIPRI, they capture the trend reasonably well.

The nature of bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries has undergone positive change in the recent years. There is now a greater emphasis on joint design, development and production of high-technology military equipment. The production of Brahmos cruise missile by an Indo-Russian joint venture (JV) company Brahmos Pvt Ltd is an example of successful Indo-Russian joint R&D and production. The JV has an authorized capital of $250 million with Indian equity share of 50.5% and Russian share of 49.5%. The highly potent cruise missile can be fired from ships, submarines, aircraft and land. On November 22, the air version of Brahmos was tested from SU-30 MKI fighter aircraft.

The Indo-Russian defence cooperation is not without problems. The Russians are anxiously watching India’s diversification efforts. The 2007 Inter-Governmental Agreement on joint development and co-production of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) has made little progress. There appear to be some misgivings about the project on the Indian side. According to media reports, the Indo-Russian joint venture to manufacture a medium airlift military transport aircraft has not made progress. The delays in the procurement of spare parts from Russian manufactures and the high prices is a perennially sore issue for Indian consumers.

Yet, there is considerable untapped potential in Indo-Russian defence cooperation. New ideas should be tried out. Can, for instance, Russia help in the further improvement of India’s indigenously developed light combat aircraft, Tejas? Can the two sides cooperate on manufacturing submarines? Despite setbacks in some areas, fresh avenues for cooperation are worth exploring.

Time is ripe to involve Indian private sector companies into Indo-Russian defence joint ventures. The ‘Make in India’ programme can be leveraged to do so. Two major military-industrial conferences of Indian companies and Russian OEMs have been held in Delhi and Moscow in 2017. The conferences discussed life cycle support to Russian platforms and how the buyer-seller relationship can be transformed into a partnership for the joint production of advanced defence systems. The Russian side showed interest in forming joint ventures to localize manufacturing spare parts in India.

India and Russia are strategic partners of long standing. The defence relationship should not be limited to the narrow technical aspects only. Fortunately, the scope of Indo-Russian defence cooperation has been widened to include high level military exchanges and joint exercises between the armed forces of two countries. Joint naval exercise were held in Russia’s Far-East in 2016 and between the ground forces of the two countries in Rajasthan in 2015. For the first time, joint tri-service INDRA exercises were held in Vladivostok in October 2017. Though belated, these are welcome developments. The Indian navy with Russian help can also gain some experience in operating in the Arctic Sea. Deeper defence and security cooperation with Russia is good for India as it enhances India’s strategic choices. The scepticism about Russia, prevalent in a section of Indian strategic circles, is unwarranted.

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BOOST TO DEFENCE By joining Wassenaar, India has joined a global regime of nations that produce advanced capabilities

The 23rd Wassenaar Plenary session held in Vienna on December 6-7, chaired by Permanent Representative of France to the UN Jean-Louis Falconi, concluded with the admission of India into the club of Participating States (PSs). This important decision confirmed India’s progress in meeting membership criteria.

The Wassenaar Arrangement has been established in 1996 to contribute to regional and international security and stability, by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies. The PSs are the world’s leading producers of advanced military capability, most of whom are industrial and technology partners with the US and its defence industries.

The PSs have agreed to maintain national export controls on items included in the Wassanaar Arrangement control lists (wassenaar.org/). These controls are implemented via national legislation and are guided by agreed-to best practices and guidelines.

All PSs have agreed to report on transfers and denials of specified controlled items to destinations outside the Arrangement, and to exchange information on sensitive dual-use goods and technologies. The Wassenaar Arrangement organisation seeks to complement other multilateral control regimes such as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Accordingly, it pursues regular technical-level dialogue with these regimes to optimise national expertise and avoid duplication.

By joining Wassenaar, India has joined a global regime of nations that produce advanced capabilities and agree to prevent the transfer of military equipment that they develop and produce to terrorist groups and organisations, as well as to individual terrorists. Most PSs and their domestic industries contribute to the US military-industrial complex as partners with US industries. These partnerships are critical in advancing our development and production of cutting edge capabilities.

Having in place government policies and procedures, such as those agreed to within this regime, enable industrial relationships. India will soon see the benefit of its membership in relation to enhancing its indigenous defence research and manufacturing efforts.

Notably, as a member of the PSs, further progress on the levels of US technology that can be shared with India, and India’s ability to be a significant defence exporter, will be seen. The Government of India should be commended on this transformational development, which can be seen as a crucial building block for to the enhancement of India’s indigenous defence manufacturing goals.US industry looks forward to advancing industrial partnerships with India’s defence sector.

‘Despite Threats From China & Pak, Hardly Any Funds Given’

New Delhi: A parliamentary committee has slammed the government for simply not doing enough to ensure military modernisation despite India being confronted with a clear and present “collusive threat” from China and Pakistan.

The Indian armed forces continue to grapple with critical operational deficiencies on several fronts, ranging from submarines, fighter jets, howitzers and helicopters, to even basic gear like new-generation assault rifles, machine guns, bulletproof jackets and helmets.

But the Army, Navy and IAF hardly got any funds to undertake concrete modernisation in the 2017-18 Budget, with the Rs 2.74 lakh crore defence outlay working out to just 1.56% of the projected GDP, the lowest such figure since the 1962 war with China.

The parliamentary standing committee on defence chaired by Major General B C Khanduri (Retd), in two reports tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, criticised the government for neither providing adequate funds for proper military modernisation, nor fast-tracking defence procurements to plug operational gaps.

Overall, the Army, Navy and IAF just got 60%, 67% and 54% of the funds they had sought for modernisation this fiscal. The committee expressed concern over the “adverse and cascading effect that the deficiency of funds” would have on their operational preparedness.

To make matters worse, the defence ministry (MoD) continues to flounder to properly plan and spend even the allocated funds. “Underutilisation of funds highlights the loopholes in the planning and budgetary exercise undertaken by the MoD. Also, persistent failure to utilise the allocated funds has contributed to reduction in the MoD’s budget allocations by the finance ministry,” said the panel.

The persisting critical operational gaps have adversely affected the country’s defence preparedness. At least 45 fighter squadrons (18-21 jets in each), for instance, are required by the IAF to tackle the two-front scenario. But it’s making do with just 33, which will go down to 19 by 2027, and 16 by 2032 due to retirement of older jets.

The Rs 59,000 crore contract inked for 36 French Rafale fighters in September 2016 in itself will do little to arrest this alarming drawdown. “The issue of depletion in squadron strength has been taken up repeatedly by the committee over the years. However, no concrete measures seem to have been taken (till now),” said the panel.

The Navy, in turn, has just 13 conventional dieselelectric submarines, only half of them operational at any given time since they are 17 to 32 years old, apart, of course, from the newly-commissioned INS Kalvari.

Moreover, the force has a shortage of 61multi-role copters needed on warships to detect, track and destroy enemy submarines, as well as at least a dozen minesweepers. “It is disheartening to find out that repeated delays have become an inherent part and parcel of ship-building projects,” it said.