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Mainstream, VOL L, No 11, March 3, 2012

Need for Indo-Russian Partnership in BMD

Sunday 4 March 2012

by T.R. SUBRAMANIAN

China is rapidly developing its capabilities to launch anti-ballistic and anti-satellite missiles (ABMs and ASMs). This could tilt the regional balance in the not-too-distant future thereby endangering India’s security.

Against this backdrop it is imperative for New Delhi to enhance its defence potential and thus safeguard the nation from Beijing’s strategic weapons. It should not be taken in by China’s sweet-talk at the diplomatic level no matter what certain influential policy-makers who are soft towards our northern neighbour may say. However, India should simultaneously steer clear of any US-encouraged move to initiate a new arms race; that would result in the country consciously or unwittingly falling into the American trap.

In this context it is also worthwhile to recall that the dialogue with Weshington on this score in the recent past hasn’t yielded any successful outcome.

The hard reality is that the US is not in the least interested in equipping India with an independent Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD). That is because the Americans are reluctant to part with technologies and teach the Indian side the mechanism of dealing with critical systems. After all, the American establishment has never trusted and even today does not trust India on account of the latter’s fiercely independent positions in the international arena.

The basic aim of Weshington, therefore, is to strategically bind New Delhi and push it to the front ranks of the anti-China warriors. According to the US’ standard operational procedures (SOPs), India should be given some elements of the Defence without the ability to use the BMD on its own while bearing the full consequences of Beijing’s ire for having become, in the Chinese view, a junior ally of Washington.

This is where Moscow’s importance for New Delhi comes into sharp focus. Indeed striking a deal with its time-tested friend Russia is the best option for India to get a BMD umbrella.

Of course, these days when a sea-change has come about in global politics, there are no free lunches. Not without hard bargain can New Delhi hope to get the full range of radars and interceptors with all the necessary systems and know-how from Moscow. But in the end not only would India be sure to avail those without any strings attached, it would be also able to deploy the cover independent of any foreign control or supervision. (The phenomenal disinterested help to New Delhi rendered by Moscow in the area of defence during Soviet times cannot just be wished away amidst all the present-day transformations.)

What is more, the Indo-Russian partnership in BMD would not raise Chinese suspicions. Beijing would not be able to speak a word against India’s cooperation in this field with a state that is China’s major ally in the world today and which, unlike Washington, does not harbour any evil intention towards it.

It must be emphasised that Russia is the lone rival of the US in the spheres of design and production of ABMs and ASMs.

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