Supply of Arrow System –– 

How Serious Is American Friendship?

An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 05 October 2002


Bush is hell bent to attack Iraq under his doctrine of ‘pre-emptive strikes. Indian Finance Minister Jaswant Singh during his recent visit to US has said that every country should be able to use pre-emptive strikes as an inherent part of its right to self-defence and it must not remain the prerogative of any one nation. "Pre-emption or prevention is inherent in deterrence. Where there is deterrence there is pre-emption. The same thing is there in Article 51 of the UN Charter, which calls it 'the right of self-defence. Jaswant Singh met US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Director of Policy Planning Richard Haass and discussed the evolving situation in Iraq and the Middle East with the US leaders at length. The minister said he was convinced that the US seeks a strategic partnership with India and pointed out that this was the message US President George W Bush conveyed to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee when they met in New York during the UN General Assembly’s Annual Session early Sep.

We have repeatedly indicated on this site in more than one article that compared to Pakistan, the Indian Armed Forces remain somewhat lulled as far as their nuclear capability is concerned. This could be because the National Security Adviser has enunciated a policy of NO FIRST USE and the three services are vying for control of their own nuclear force. On the other hand Pakistan would appear to be more nuclear ready as they have a ready to attack policy. It is in this context that last week’s statement by Lt Gen Pankaj Joshi, CIDS that India’s nuclear deterrent is not for mere show and the country as well armed forces are quite capable and ready to use it, should a need arise, is most welcome. We also take note of the Air Chief’s disclosure that a Tiger Force of Commandos is being raised to defend airbases which could well be a precursor of the formation of a Strategic Air Command, possible custodian of nuclear deterrent, one of the triad.

In a speculated scenario, should India attack Pakistan with some potency as opposed to some cross border attacks on Terrorist Training Camps, the situation could well turn into a war. If India covets some Pakistani soil it is quite possible Pakistan will try to retaliate in the Kutch region and attempt to gain advantage. If the Pakistani army does not succeed then there could be desperation and as predicated in exercises, President Musharraf with nothing to lose could well attempt to unleash a nuclear counter attack. It is with this in view that India is attempting to build its own Ballistic Missile Defence and has asked Israel to consider supplying the Arrow Missile System to mesh it with the Green Pine radar, Rajendra, Air Force ADGES and a command system. The Arrow has Raytheon patents and is a joint Israeli-US project, which will require that USA clears its sale. (See ‘India and the Arrow’ in "Whats Hot")

It is therefore, interesting that Ilan Berman, vice-president for policy at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC has written a piece in Jerusalem Post of Sep. 28, 2002, which recommends that USA must clear the sale. The piece is posted below:

"Let India Have the Arrow Too"

By Ilan Berman, Jerusalem Post 28 Sep 02

As another war in Iraq seems to approach, Israelis can feel considerably more secure from missile attack than they did in 1991, when 39 Iraqi Scuds landed in Israel. The reason is the substantial improvement in Israeli missile defenses, an improvement that other nations understandably are seeking for themselves. Among the first in line interested in Israel's Arrow Theater Missil Defense system is, not surprisingly, India. Though the debate over whether to allow the purchase to go forward has not been given much attention, it could have momentous consequences for both American missile defense plans and US strategy in South Asia. The debate first surfaced this July, when the Indian government citing ongoing tensions with neighboring Pakistan publicly floated a request to Jerusalem for the Arrow system.

India has good reason for its interest. Pakistan, thanks to Chinese and North Korean assistance, is fast emerging as a major missile power. According to recent reports, Islamabad's "Shaheen-3" rocket, touted as one of the world's most advanced missile systems, is about to enter testing by the country's armed forces. And in recent months, as tensions with India have escalated, Pakistan has conducted high-profile tests of its "Hatf-III" short-range and "Ghauri" nuclear-capable medium-range missile in an unmistakable signal to its regional rival.

For New Delhi, the lack of any comprehensive protection against Islamabad's burgeoning arsenal has made missile defense a top priority. Just days before stepping down, outgoing Defense Secretary Yogendra Narain publicly outlined his government's plans for a "sharp and visible" acceleration of anti-missile efforts. Domestically, this has taken the form of an ambitious program to develop indigenous defenses. And internationally, India has initiated a serious dialogue with its newest strategic partner –– Israel. The centerpiece of these discussions is New Delhi's acquisition of the Arrow, the world's only operational, fielded theater missile defense system.

BUT the proposed sale of the Arrow is politically contentious. The system, jointly developed by Israel with the United States, requires American approval for export to third countries. Pentagon planners, who view India as a critical component in Washington's planned international missile defense architecture, are pushing hard for the sale. Foggy Bottom, however, has other ideas. The State Department is concerned that a green light for the sale could ratchet up tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad, and might encourage a South Asian arms race. So US diplomats are now lobbying New Delhi to drop its bid to acquire the system. So far, the White House appears undecided on the Arrow issue. But Washington's wavering could turn out to have far-reaching consequences.

For one thing, other missile defense suitors like Russia are waiting in the wings. Russian President Vladimir Putin's upcoming December trip to India is expected to entail a major effort to expand the military relationship between Moscow and New Delhi. On the agenda are proposals for the construction of an integrated national architecture for India based
around Russia's S-300VM air-defense system. Such a development could decisively take India off the table as an American missile defense ally. Even more significantly, Indian officials are increasingly making clear that they view the Arrow issue as a barometer of the emerging strategic relationship between Washington and New Delhi. As one Indian policymaker recently put it to the Far Eastern Economic Review, "What does this new relationship consist of if the US does not deliver in areas of interest to India?"

A good question with important ramifications for the USA. Approval of the Arrow sale could put New Delhi squarely in Washington's corner, not only on missile defense, but on larger regional security issues as well. In addition, arming India with the Arrow given New Delhi's deepening ties with Jerusalem, could mark the start of just the international missile defense architecture that the Pentagon is hoping for. A perceived American ambivalence to Indian defense needs, on the other hand, could torpedo hopes for a warmer strategic relationship, much to the detriment of US plans in the Asia-Pacific. It might also strike a serious blow to the Bush administration's long-term plans for a layered global missile shield. For President Bush, arming India with the Arrow would go a long way toward making his campaign pledge to protect the US and its allies from ballistic missile attack a reality. With so much at stake, the decision should be an easy one.

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