Powell’s flying visit to Delhi and Islamabad where he conferred
major Non NATO Militay Ally status to Pakistan deserves our
had just announced that it would offer Air Base facilities to
Singapore Air Force and with a policy of reaching out it must be
appreciated that the non-alignment days were finally over. Gaining
in confidence India was poised to become a regional super power by
between the United States and India was rising with revenue inflows
from outsourcing and investments in the stock market increasing by
the day, while a healthier relationship on a military-to-military
basis was evolving so fast that the three services were finding it
hard to digest, and keep track of events in a joint fashion.
service deals independently with their US counterparts, almost in a
competitive manner. In the last year there had been exchanges of
over 300 uniformed visitors from both sides for meetings and
discussions to enable US–India military exercises and defence
exchanges, which were now becoming a monthly feature. The Striker
Units of the US Army were currently exercising in Mizoram at the
Army’s School of Insurgency which was a closed shop to foreigners
till recently, and the Chief of Army Staff Gen N C Vij had just
returned from a two week visit to US military establishments.
current Army exercises were revolutionary, as the US Special Forces
were showing off their world wide capability for mobility, equipment
and tactics. We hope that the Indian Army would also learn that good
Intelligence was the key to successful special operations.
Intelligence needs of the nation had not been addressed despite the
shortcomings found in the Kargil war and earlier operations. The
Indian Army’s Red Berets were forgiven but we have not forgotten
how in 1987 the LTTE butchered their paratroopers when they were air
dropped into a school compound in Sri Lanka where the LTTE leader
Vellupillai Prabhakaran was supposed to be operating. The Indian
Army’s first time special operations and foray into a foreign
country was a disaster with loss of over 1400 lives. The Indian Army
was also learning about rules of engagement from the US, a subject
sorely neglected by them in the past as it involved direction from
the political hierarchy.
the hey days of non alignment it was only the Indian Navy that was
permitted limited exposure to foreign Navies, though the MEA
Brahmins wrote reams and gave long speeches on non alignment and
frowned on such exchanges. The tables have now turned completely and
the Armed Forces were learning how much such operational exposures
contribute to their professional knowledge and morale.
recently concluded Air Force 'Cope India 2004' exercises held at
Gwalior in end February gave MiG 21s, MiG 27s , MiG 29s , Jaguars
and SU 30s pilots and technicians opportunities to pit themselves
against the US single seat air interdiction F 15 Eagles and compare
each others' prowess. The IAF Jaguars were set to fly to Alaska and these
exchanges were totally new for the IAF and Indian Army. Therefore the
media had gone to town to talk about a ‘strategic relationship’
evolving between India and USA.
raises a moot question. Where are US–India relations headed,
especially now that Pakistan has been conferred the status of a
major non NATO military ally, which will enable US to arm Pakistan
in exchange for bases? Geographically Pakistan sits astride the sea
and land oil routes of the Middle East and Central Asia. Hence
USA’s desire to be close to and support democracy in Pakistan.
Another long-term question that needs answering is whether India and
USA have any common interests, besides trade?
short answer is India and USA have mutual need for trade and
dialogue, but have little in common so far as strategic interests
go. In fact our interests clash. India was already a democracy so USA
was pleased, but it felt human rights were violated in Kashmir. USA
was keen Pakistan that got some concessions in the Kashmir valley but
India will never part with an inch of its soil or EEZ, and was
fencing the IBL and the LOC unilaterally. By end 2004 the
demarcation will be complete. USA wished to retain its base in Deigo
Garcia and greater presence in the Indian Ocean for non-proliferation and missile defence, which may not suit India.
and all its neighbours feel they can safeguard the Indian Ocean, and
silently the Indian Navy was being beefed up for this, though our
defence doctrine was still to evolve so that the Navy’s share of
the budget rises over the present 18%. China and Japan too felt they
must have a say in the stability of the region and safety of the oil
routes in the Indian Ocean, as it was their energy lifeline that
be threatened. India had signed a Defence Cooperation agreement with
Iran. A look at the map shows that Iran controls the mouth of the
Hormuz Straits and can choke the oil sea lanes quite easily. Yet for
the time being USA treats Iran as an enemy, and was wary of Indian
overtures to that country. India knows it will have
to import much needed gas from Iran, and can never annoy Iran.
afield USA had interests and now military presence in the Central
Asian Republics (CAR) with the aim of controlling the oil and energy
outputs from that region. In the long term if the area became
peaceful many oil and gas land routes could well pass through
Afghanistan and thence to Pakistan.
is no wonder then that USA feels duty bound to safeguard interests in these
two countries. On CAR Russia has a clash of interests with USA, and India will
have to balance sides. USA wants India to assist in its
fight against terrorism and send troops to Iraq sans UN mandates,
and though it was a tempting thought for economic gains, it was not
acceptable to Indians at large. USA wanted India to buy defence
hardware from the American Military Industrial Complex (MIC) but
India was tied to Russia and Israel and had yet to trust USA on
military supplies. USA believeed in preemptive defence and unilateral
action for the Proliferation Security Initiatives (PSI). India was
still to endorse such unilateral actions. USA had not accepted India
as a full-fledged nuclear power nor did it favour its seat in the
UN’s security council. The list could go on but the many arguments
put India in a spot, as good ties with USA were inescapable for
India’s economic growth.
this stage it is relevant to quote Lew Kuan Yew who built up
Singapore. He always advocated that a benign strategic relationship
with USA fostered better trade. Since sanctions were lifted in 1999
India’s economy was doing well and Lee is proving right. India
should maintain close dialogue and engagement with USA and ensure
USA’s Military Industrial Complex (MIC) comes to India as
collaborators, not suppliers.
like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Honeywell, all
multi billion dollar giants were wooing Indian companies like
Hindustan Aeronautics and Bharat Electroincs Ltd and DRDO to join
hands. When the marriages take place they should be on Indian terms.
The steps could open a huge new vista for the Indian MIC, which has
been the fiefdom of India’s bureaucracy.
bureaucrats never understood that in the age of technology RMA has
become the mantra, and now with the potent combination of Indian
military industry and Indian IT, India was in a position to
absorb the latest lethal technology from the West and adapt it for
exports. The US had imposed sanctions on India post 1998, but the
Pentagon had consciously encouraged the Israeli defence industry to
trade with India, and even cleared some sensitive technologies with
US patents, but now the US wants to make a dent into India directly.
$15 billion defence budget and the non lapsable fund of over $6
billion is mouth watering, though South Africa, India and Brazil
have signed defence agreements and our dependence on Russia and
Israel who know how to make deals with Indians, may make the US
involvement time consuming and challenging. The US companies are
impatient and have yet to learn how to do business in India. The US
is offering the PC 3 Orions and the E2C Hawkeye to the Navy, the F
16s to replace the MiGs and C 130Js to the IAF and now with the 15
day visit of the Army Chief Gen N C Vij who is keen to modernize the
Army, we can expect to see a lot of special forces equipment on
this relationship between India and USA is qualitatively different
from the days of the Cold War. These are not our words, but those of
US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and Indian Defence Minister
George Fernandes who uttered them at a joint press conference in
Washington. No one should be surprised, as India needs USA and vice
versa in the world arena of politics and for regional security and
are all heartening signs post 9/11, and USA’s war on terror has
forced President Musharraf to bow and break the hold of religious
fanatics and Muslim Jehadis within his national politics. He
has promised to change the way the ISI was running the state’s
policy of bleeding India with terror in Kashmir and crush sectarian
violence in Pakistan. In return USA wants India to extend its hand
and engage Pakistan in dialogue. It is now well established that
nations alone do not rise economically, but regions do as a whole,
and Musharraf made this point at the SAARC conference, which went
leaders too are grudgingly accepting this fact, and the cries of
war, which could put India and Pakistan back economically, were
receding. Cricket diplomacy was also fuelling hopes of
rapprochement. Very few have realized that this is possibly because
for the first time in decades the economic and national interests of
India are coinciding with the mid term strategic interests of USA to
prop up India as a regional power and to balance China in the long
feels threatened by China, which was making inroads into Japan, now
China’s second largest trading partner with $80 billion in trade.
The two-day Aspen Initiative Conference at Udaipur which included
Henry Kissinger followed by a round table meet at the USI,
reaffirmed these reasons, why India–US relations were warming.
interests may not coincide but both need each other as never before.
As a word of caution one must add that India had very warm and
enduring relations with Russia in all spheres especially defence,
but Russia was in difficult economic health, and for the present
heavily dependant on arms sales to China, India and Iran.
shown confidence that it can sustain that relationship, even as it
strikes a new chapter in its relationship with USA.