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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 35, August 15, 2009 (Independence Day Special)

Concern Over a Pernicious Agreement

Wednesday 19 August 2009, by Ashok Parthasarathi

A critical agreement finalised during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to India last month was the Indo-US End-Use Monitoring Agreement, or EUMA. It involves US Government inspectors continuously monitoring all hi-tech weapons and advanced electronic systems and equipment across a broad front imported by India from the US, to ensure that they are used by the Indian defence services and the Department of Atomic Energy and the Department of Space only for the purpose—”end use”—for which they are imported.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, in a statement in Parliament on July 21, said that signing such an EUMA was essential under US law for India to undertake such imports. He gave the impression that all that the EUMA does is to bring under one umbrella the case-by-case permissions for such imports India had been seeking and securing from the US Government from as far back as the 1990s. Therefore this was largely procedural in nature, he implied.

Simultaneously, the Minister indicated that thanks to two years of intense negotiations, the EUMA was uniquely to New Delhi’s advantage: the periodic inspections in India of all US origin hi-tech and defence equipment would be undertaken by US inspectors only at places and times “mutually agreed” upon, places and times specified by the Indian Government. But that is not what “mutually agreed” means. He emphasised that such a provision did not exist in any of the 82 earlier EUMAs concluded by the US and so this was a great victory for the Indian Government. What he did not say was that those 82 countries were those of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and US military allies.

Despite the Minister’s statement, followed by the Prime Minister’s defence of the EUMA with the US Government there are serious concerns about it among parliamentarians, the media and the military and scientific leadership on several counts.

First, no other country from which India has imported and is importing hi-tech defence and other equipment—be it France or other West European countries, South Africa, Israel or Russia—has ever asked for an EUMA, even when India imported state-of-the-art weapon systems. Here are some examples:

—The Sukhoi-30 MKI supersonic fighter bomber from Russia (especially tailor-made for Indian needs) which, apart from carrying a wide range of lethal conventional weapons in a tactical role, can carry nuclear weapons over a 5000-mile range, that is, to Beijing and Shanghai, (with mid-air refuelling) and is accepted even by the US Government as the best such weapon system in the world;

—The 90-mile beyond visual range air-to-air missile, also from Russia, which three former Chiefs of Air Staff have characterised as “the best such missile in the world”. They also acknowledged that it was India’s possession of the missile that “deterred Pakistan from using its Air Force in the Kargil War”.

—Then there is India’s first indigenous nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, which would have just been impossible to realise without the Soviet Union’s/Russia’s massive allround consultancy, technology transfer, technical services and training, technical “knowhow” and “show how” design of the submarine as a whole, and above all numerous operational “tips” based on 50 years of experience in designing, building and operating nuclear submarines. Although Soviet and Russian assistance was extended throughout the 25-year designing and building of Arihant, at no time did anyone in the Russian Government even mention any end-use restriction. And yet, if India were to import some incomparably low-tech electronic warfare equipment from the US, the US Government will demand the application of the EUMA.

Secondly, it is a matter of concern that under the EUMA India has to turn over to US inspectors not only the hardware and software of all US-origin systems and equipment purchased by India for their scrutiny, but also all data and information logs containing the entire history of the equipment as used by India.

Thirdly, for the computer software (so much of which is used nowadays in hi-tech defence and other equipment) in the US-origin equipment, Indian military and civilian computer scientists have often been able to develop modified software known only to India and so secure. However, when such equipment is tested and analysed using US simulators, the software becomes evident to the US inspectors. This will seriously compromise the security of the equipment and of the overall weapon system of which it is often “the brain”.

Fourthly, and extremely seriously, India is now fully aware that the end-use it is putting the US-origin weapon systems to and all the technical and operational data relating to it, particularly modifications and improvements India has made as collected by US inspectors, are passed on by the US Government to Pakistan.

When any “inspection” of a US-origin equipment at any Indian air/sea/army bases—which the EUMA provides for at the discretion of the US—takes place, the inspection team will consist usually of specialised technical and intelligence personnel from the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the US National Security Agency and, of course, the weapon-system supplier. Such teams come with sophisticated simulators to test the US-origin weapon systems and equipment under simulated battlefield conditions.

THEN, there is a much larger issue. The situation discussed above is with regard to various US-origin equipment incorporated into Indian aircraft, surface ships, submarines, tanks, artillery guns and so on. What will happen when the weapon system as a whole is of US-origin? India has already had a taste of that from its experience with the old troop and helicopter-carrying vessel USS Trenton, which was imported and inducted into the Navy as INS Jalashar. The US undertakes surprise inspections of any part of the vessel; studies all ship logs, requires a US Navy officer to be on board when India makes any modifications or improvements or even repairs to keep the old vessel going... And this for a 30-year-old helicopter-and-troop carrier.

Again such a background, what kind of EUMA will the US apply should India decide to purchase one or other of the two US-origin multi-role combat aircraft—the F-16 offered by Lockheed and the F-18 offered by Boeing—against the Rs 42,000 crores global tender floated by the Defence Ministry for 126 such aircraft last year? The conditions will obviously be far more stringent than the inspection methodology and coverage which apply to the EUM for individual weapons such as artillery and radar. What will the government do then?

It is important to also note that all the three defence service chiefs have vehemently and repeatedly, verbally and in writing, individually and collectively, conveyed to New Delhi at the highest levels their strong and total opposition to India entering into an EUMA with the US because of its serious national security-compromising character. But the Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by the Prime Minister, brushed aside these acute concerns and went ahead and approved the EUMA.

Then there is the issue of the penetration and suborning of India’s armed forces and civil services by US agencies at the operational level. The Indian Express (July 26, 2009) reported how the External Affairs Ministry had expressed concern over a recent senior-level inter-ministerial meeting convened by the Defence Ministry at which some Defence Ministry officials agreed to a purchase contract for US-origin arms in which, at the insistence of the US representatives, the end-use clauses were made extremely intrusive and stringent, and hence more objectionable than those framed under the joint EUMA itself.
The Prime Minister stated in Parliament on July 29 that “there was no provision in the EUMA to allow US inspectors access to Indian military sites and other sensitive installations.” But in the very next sentence he said: “Inspections if necessary (as decided by the US Government) would happen at a mutually agreed time and venue after a request.” The United States Government’s “request” [for inspection] is put forward by the US—and the Indian Government has got to comply.

With these numerous, wide-ranging and highly deleterious implications for India’s national security of the EUMA, it is imperative that the Government of India terminate the EUMA. If the Indian Government does not have the will to do so, it should at least announce in Parliament that the purchase of US-origin hi-tech equipment would be “purchases of very last resort”.

(Courtesy: The Hindu)

Prof Ashok Parthasarathi was the Science Adviser to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

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