An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 10 December 2002

The Indian Armed Forces are nearly 75% Russian equipped and supplied. We are of the view that this equation should not be suddenly disturbed. In this context President Putin’s recent visit to Delhi deserves careful analysis, especially since he tactfully conveyed as much during the visit.

While USA, France and Israel are making their pitch with Radars, Sonars. Helicopters, L 159 AJTs and Mirages and other supplies, India is doing some hard bargaining with Russia. If the media is to be believed then the Russians are packaging their deals for the Admiral Gorshkov and Nuclear Submarine with other military hardware as well, such as the MiG AT (AJT) etc..

Russian military hardware has come relatively cheap compared to the Western prices we have paid for our recent purchases from Israel, France and now from USA (advance paid for the Raytheon WLRs). Admittedly the systems from Russia were more rugged but have done us well, both in peace and war. Now with examples of cooperation in the Naval ships –– bristling with Russian equipment –– and the SU 30 MKI project which involves the Indian Air Force and DRDO –– both countries have shown how that aircraft may be on par with the latest F-18 and the Eurofighter.

These are unsung stories that must be sung loudly and such collaborations taken forward, so that India’s own Ordnance factories, industries and PSUs gain and contribute. More than that India and Russia are strategic partners, and we need not bully each other but get along on a higher plane, despite pressures from USA to forge strategic partnerships, which can also be looked at.

In fact Stephen Hedley USA’s Deputy NSA was here to convey such ideas and met with Ambassador Satish Chandra India’s de facto Dy NSA. As we report this Brajesh Misra India’s NSA and PPS to PMO is in Washington meeting with NSA Condalezza Rice. Ambassador Wisner was here too, as he is very close to the Administration and US Industry in USA. He has many Indian friends.

India’s soft spoken Russian speaking Ambassador to Moscow, Krishnan Raghunath, who was also India’s Foreign Secretary had recently stated that “It is clear India–Russia relations have a great deal of substance and are developing dynamically. They are time tested and contribute to peace and stability. It is recognized by both our countries that along with the political and strategic dimension, effective cooperation in the economic, technical and S&T fields is at the heart of the relationship. This not only helps the two national economies but the prosperity of our peoples”. 

We are aware that India’s strategy is never clearly charted and Ambassador Raghunath failed to comment on our military relationship so we go ahead to explain why India should ‘waltz with Russia and tango with USA’, the largest economy in the world.

The BJP Government has done well by any standards to keep India on the right lines, economically and militarily (by going nuclear), especially after 9/11 within the difficult and almost impossible circumstances of the coalition of 24 parties and keeping them together. This and Pakistan’s close relationship with USA and terrorism in Kashmir has sapped BJP energies. Now Gujarat is on the radar. Many Ministers like Dy PM L K Advani, Arun Shourie, Jaswant Singh both Rajya Sabha members and Prabhu performed well and have earned respect, but a number of them have been time passed and even obstructed. Regrettably, Defence Minister George Fernandes has India’s good at heart and the Jawans love him, but he has not been coherent in executing what he promised. Many large defence deals are stillborn like the AJT, Gorshkov, 155 mm Guns and the CDS issue remains in limbo. The Tehelka matter gave the MOD a bad name and he boldly resigned but PM Vajpayee took him back when people around him are still under a cloud.

As 2002 ends, India’s predicament to chart its future strategy is on cross roads as both Russia and USA are wooing India and hope their engagements move to closer ties and trade, to eradicate our poverty. The waltz is an easy dance. It is known as the ‘one two three step’ dance and you can even do it with your partner along the Danube or in the fields. The Tango is more complicated and needs a smoother floor, but not too difficult once you get the hang of the pauses and starts. Our relations with USA have had a number of pauses, sanctions and starts and yet the tango is the more graceful and sexy. Hence, metaphorically India can easily continue to Waltz with Russia with more grace and less strong negotiations. Putin came a visiting recently to explain that India can Waltz with Russia, buy and help sell its military hardware, invest the owing of India in Joint Ventures in Russia and join hands to fight terrorism, the scourge facing both countries, mainly from Pakistan and its Muslim neighbourhood.

At the same time without giving up its national interest India can easily learn to Tango with USA, the world’s largest economy and to raise its own half full economic cup with a momentum that only a Tango type of dance can offer. America is looking for a drive to invest its billions, now that China’s cup is getting full and since our tourism Minister has failed to make India a destination, our Finance and Economic Ministers can do so easily. The American dance floor is calling. ‘Strategea’ was a word coined by the Greeks to understand how to shape the future and India has to shape its strategy. Indian leaders will know how to do it, especially if they read the Arthshastra (Economy) or read Morgentheau the writer that Condelezza Rice appreciates.

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