Ordinarily when one's predictions are promptly fulfilled, it becomes a time to gloat or pat oneself on the back, but when the prediction warned of imminent disaster to someone or some entity that one cares for, its happening is a cause for sorrow and not joy. Last week I predicted that India is in a Trishanku state with opposing forces suspending it in limbo. My concern was that Russia would permit the sale of its sophisticated weaponry to Pakistan. This week it has happened.
Russia announced that it will allow China to provide Pakistan 150 J-10 fighter planes. These contain the Russian RD-93 engine and earlier Russia had barred the transfer of technology. The move is a warning shot across the bow and if India chooses another MRCA instead of the Russian MiG-35, there is an implied threat of more arms sales to Pakistan. Russia also announced that the aircraft carrier Gorshkov (renamed Vikramaditya) which was to be delivered to India in 2008 will not be ready till 2010. India had planned to retire its only present carrier Virat in 2012 and is building one at home to be operational by 2012.
The 123 agreement with the US is in jeopardy and thus also the civilian nuclear pact, whose main purpose was to cap India's nuclear deterrence at its current qualitative and quantitative level by limiting fissile material production, any future nuclear tests, intrusive inspections and certifications, ban on fuel reprocessing and denial of enrichment and heavy water technology. A detailed analysis is available on the web in the writings of Brahma Chellaney, Bharat Karnad of the Center for Policy Research and M. Srinivasan, M. Gopalkrishnan and V. Prasad, Indian nuclear scientists. The other subtle intention of the US is to wean India off Russian arms and make it dependent on the US and in the process benefit America and its companies. Once India is locked in this position with its energy and arms supply, it will have no choice but to toe American dictates for fear of embargos and cut off of components of its military. The US has thus offered the PAC3 anti-missile system with its bogus successes, outdated F-16s and F-18s and this week offered something valuable, its Aegis defense system for Indian ships.
My other prediction that if India decides to scrap or abandon the civilian nuclear pact, sooner or later the US will retaliate in commercial trade including services, textiles, cut diamonds etc., to show its displeasure. When the spider said to the fly 'Walk into my parlor', Manmohan Singh rushed in where angels fear to tread. In the meantime, the gas pipeline deal with Iran was put on the back-burner by US pressure and the Defense Ministry has been stalling for years over the purchase of the 126 aircraft, as it did for submarines, howitzers and missiles. The DRDO development of Akash, Dhanush, Nag, nuclear submarine, Sagarika, Arjun, and most importantly Tejas has led to lack of replacement for the MiG-21s. These have been aging and their poor spare parts and the delay in making or procuring jet trainers may have contributed to their crashes with loss of life of pilots in a dwindling air-force plagued by diminishing squadrons and officer recruitment.
After a long delay, the Hawk trainers were bought from UK and the purchase of helicopters is still being foolishly postponed for use as a carrot for American concessions in the nuclear agreement, which are unlikely to materialize. Pakistan has acquired 75 new nuclear capable F-16s and will get 150 nuclear capable J-10s while India depends on aging Jaguars and Mirage-2000s, both retired from service by Britain and France.
The procurement of arms must always be from a source that is not only a reliable supplier, but also one with whom there is no likelihood of conflict in foreign policy. It is but natural that only a foolish country will supply sophisticated arms to another whose foreign policy is in major conflict with its own. The buyer has to understand the Caveat Emptor. The relatively non-aggressive policies presently of the EU and Russia make them the better choice. Israel despite its aggressive policy still fits the bill, as its enemies are no natural or primary allies of India. If one is constrained to buy arms from the US because of their sophistication or superiority, it is imperative that there be total transfer of technology. This principle should be followed even with the first group where feasible.
Buying arms from a source that is supportive of your enemy and with whom one has serious current or potential policy conflicts is to expose oneself to double jeopardy like the Enron employees who while holding jobs with the company were compelled to invest their 401K retirement plans in company stock. When the company went belly up they not only lost their jobs, but also their nest egg for retirement. Another important step would be better pay for DRDO scientists with promotion by merit and not seniority or nepotism, as is usual in Indian government enterprises.
As Bharat Karnad has repeatedly advocated in his writings to counter the mired strategy of the defense guru Subramaniam, the doctrine of MAD in nuclear weapons is becoming outdated. The destructive power of nuclear weapons has taken a geometric leap. The US, Russia, Britain, France and now even China have megaton thermonuclear weapons. These have become more precisely accurate and nations with such large nuclear arsenals primed for first use can easily destroy the outdated nuclear unassembled weapons of nations like India by a preemptive strike decimating most of them and command and control facilities, thus bringing about a psychological fear and logistical impotence with inability to retaliate. This is why the US and Russia have not brought down their weapons to below 2000 despite an agreement to do so. Britain and France are sitting pretty because they are assured a place under the US nuclear umbrella, as is Japan. Is anyone foolish enough to believe that the US would retaliate against Pakistan or China at risk to its own people, if India is nuked by any of those two?
Even the development of a credible missile defense has been designated as an aggressive step by the American realpolitik strategist Mearsheimer. This is why Russia when threatened by the US deployment of a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic withdrew from its missile treaty with the US today, as announced by Putin. For India to willingly neuter its nuclear deterrence by agreeing to intrusive inspections, cutoff production of fissile materials and give up future testing after failing to successfully detonate a fusion weapon in 1998 and only five tests, compared to several hundred tests by the US, Russia and China, is an act of national suicide by its inability to match the progress of China and its surreptitious nuclear and missile arming of Pakistan.
Thus India is better off buying the Russian MiG-35s to nip in the bud any further Russian benevolence to Pakistan rather than doing major air-craft deals with the US. This should not prevent buying token F-18s, P3C Orions, C-130Js or a surplus ship or two and certainly not prevent purchase of commercial jets from Boeing. The real problem with India is that most of our leaders are dumb and ignorant and a substantial number are heirs of the Jagat Seths, Amichands, Mir Jaffars and Mir Kasims who sold their motherland for the benefits of power or wealth.