Defence Technologies Key To India’s Security
Primary key to India’s emergence as a successful global power lies on the ability to acquire and imbibe superior defence technologies in the knowledge-based society of the 21st century.
The resources of the West, both human and monetary, are overstretched in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yet, to protect their national interests in Libya, they could deploy adequate aerial assets in support of the rebels without committing ground forces. Spare boots-on-ground are just not available with the western powers due to the dwindling population and ageing society. Also, in the context of the recession back home, the domestic constituency will not permit involvement in a new theatre of war.
Despite all odds, due to the superiority in cutting edge defence technologies, the West led by America still manages to successfully call the shots in Libya, Syria or in creation of South Sudan. Sudan is the second (primarily) Islamic country that split. Pakistan was the first post WW-II.
The extraordinary natural wealth bestowed on Islamic countries by way of oil and gas could have easily been used in the seventies to create knowledge-based Islamic societies. By the dawn of 21st Century, the huge Muslim population of 1.3 billion could have influenced the world without firing a single shot! A near perfect combination of profitable use of natural resources and adequate boots-on-ground within a knowledge-based society could have lent an edge to the Islamic countries. This was not to be as the Islamic fundamentalists consider society based on knowledge as un-Islamic.
The superior technologies resulted in assassination of Osama bin Laden by SEAL without Pakistan being any wiser despite large presence of troops. Similarly, to nominate Osama’s successor, the members of the Shura Council in Al Qaeda could not hold their meetings at one geographical location lest the Western intelligence agencies managed to locate, track and eliminate.
At the same time, for the West, the inability to deploy adequate troops despite superior technologies continues to create stalemate in Afghanistan and Iraq. India luckily boasts of technology—savvy young demographic profile that holds the ability to combine cutting edge technologies with adequate boots-on-ground.
Another vital aspect is that if a nation faces governance deficit (as India indeed does) as well as defence technology deficit, then an external power can support the groups of disgruntled elements inside the country with the help of aerial platforms and by creating no fly zones as in Libya or Syria.
China’s equipping Pakistan with highly sensitive technologies against India, as also China and Pakistan equipping Maoists and the insurgents with far superior assets than the Indian Police, therefore, needs to be countered shrewdly and swiftly.
These rapidly advancing technologies are available with the West (including Israel) led by America alone. Today the Russians collaborate with the West in the quest of superior technologies.
India is not only located in the arch of terrorism but also faces authoritarian regimes in its vicinity. There is a natural contradiction between the Islamic fundamentalism nurtured by Pakistan Army through its intelligence outfit ISI or a single party communist dictatorship of China vis-à-vis India’s multi-cultural multi-party democracy. Pakistan desires to carve out three Pakistans out of the Union of India while China wants to unhook the entire Northeast. In fact India’s geographical location is a major irritant to the Islamic fundamentalists as it disallows them to create a Caliphate running from Central Asia to West Asia and East Asia without discontinuity.
The Chinese and Pakistani authoritarian systems have more in common with each other than with India. Their alliance against India is therefore natural. If the Indian model succeeds, the Pakistani or Chinese model of extremism or totalitarianism will feel the heat. Jasmine Revolution is a pointer. Therefore, every effort is being made to thwart India’s success story in multiple ways.
There are strong Chinese and Pakistani lobbies or sympathisers working inside India to impede mutually beneficial Indian association with the West, lest New Delhi leapfrogs the technological gap.
The Chinese used every card in their kitty to disrupt the nuclear deal with the West. Their greatest fear is if India and the West join up on multiple levels and New Delhi receives cutting edge defence technologies, it will race ahead in Asia within the next fifteen years.
New Delhi’s politico-military objective should be to lead Asia as a powerful democratic entity by creating strong alliances with the Western democracies without losing autonomy. This is doable! Gains will accrue to both sides at multiple levels.
First, the West led by America is attracted to the huge Indian market, both in defence and the civil sectors. With ban on transfer of sensitive defence technologies by the West to China and the ensuing recession, India remains the most lucrative market. If handled diligently, huge benefits can accrue to the Indian Armed Forces modernisation programmes. It can be a ‘win-win’ situation for both.
Second, with rising China, the Western alliance accepts the fact that Indian support is vital to contain the authoritarian threat. Otherwise, the balance of power may tilt in favor of China. Similarly, China and Pakistan with expansionist designs will perpetually remain ‘bad news’ for a multi-cultural democratic setup like India. It is time we accept this reality. In Asia, therefore, by design we should ensure that the balance of power remains in our favour.
This calls for a certain degree of cohesion between the West and India across the spectrum, which Beijing and Islamabad or their lobbies inside the country are trying to scuttle. Indian democracy is an attractive alternative role model in Asia that needs wings to propel itself in the lead role with the help of deep transfer of defence technologies.
Third, after an extraordinary military build up by China in Tibet, New Delhi now belatedly accepts its folly of lagging behind in developing infrastructure on our side of the border. With quick thinking and decisive approach this can be rectified. Induction of heavy-lift helicopters and transport planes for mobility of troops, early warning systems and deep offensive capabilities both with the help of missiles, UAS and latest fighter aircraft etc can remedy the imbalance. To secure the borders with China requires massive dose of cutting edge defence technologies, which only the West can provide.
Today, there exists a vast synergy of purpose and many commonalities between the West led by America and a democracy like India surrounded by authoritarian regimes. In addition, the Western powers are in slight decline, while India is rising. This changing equation allows New Delhi to maintain significant autonomy in action.
With a resurgent economy, India has plenty of eggs and to maintain its strategic autonomy it can spread them intelligently in different baskets. In a manner of speaking, if the basket is big, put two and if the basket is small, put a single egg. Of course, where there is no basket, offer yours for the others to put their eggs in. Some countries in Central, West and East Asia will find this last option attractive. The perpetual internal chaos in the Indian democracy by default generates a subtle soft power that attracts many in Asia!
However, let there be no illusion in the PMO and MoD that a country that spent billions of dollars in research in developing cutting edge defence technologies will transfer it for peanuts. Despite the pull of the strong economic card held in the arsenal, New Delhi cannot attract sunrise technologies unless it offers alluring incentives.
Hike the FDI in joint ventures to a minimum of 49 per cent. Permit import of technology against ‘offsets’. Defence Public Sector Units should be privatised on the lines of Maruti-Suzuki to optimise efficiency. Induct reputed private sector companies in a full-fledged manufacturing role. Provide incentives to Indian and foreign companies to set up R&D centers in India. New Delhi’s red tape is legendary—we need to reduce it by at least sixty percent. With revolutionary march of technology, no single vendor or a country can be self-sufficient. Therefore, encourage the Indian Defence Sector to join the global factory chain with friendly countries.
In simple words, in an era of knowledge-based societies, there is imperative need to shed the “Clerical Mindset” an unfortunate legacy of the British Raj!
By Bharat Verma
Bharat Verma is Editor, Indian Defence Review