Tu-22 M3M line for China, Admiral Joshi, General Bikram

Holidaying from blogging for the month of December, except three things steamed me up, enough any way for me to write this.

1) A knowledgeable friend called to say China had bought off the entire production line of the  Tu-22M3M — the latest variant of of the ‘Backfire’ strategic bomber from Russia for $1.5 billion, just $500 million more, as he reminded me, than what India will be paying to acquire the Pilatus propeller-driven trainer aircraft from Switzerland. This little snippet for anybody who doubts that India is getting things strategically so horribly wrong!!

2) One can’t but admire CNS, Admiral DK Joshi, for standing his ground and not backing down when NSA Shivshankar Menon called him out on his forthright statement to the press that the navy had practised actions to thwart the Chinese Navy acting as if South China Sea was China’s sea and boarding Indian warships plying those waters on duty protecting Indian energy assets owned jointly with PetroVietnam, and that the navy would carry out those actions if bothered in any way.  This when NSA was playing the usual Indian sap talking of how such statements hurt “Chinese sensibilities”. Boo-hoo!! No doubt the Admiral was pressured to retract his statement or at least to say what he had said was distorted by the media — which he didn’t do but which was Menon’s position in Beijing that the Press had “misled” the Naval chief, as if Joshi is some babe-in-the-woods. MEA, followed up by wagging a school-marmish finger urging the military to show more restraint!  And the NSA and MEA are tasked to protect Indian national interest?!!!

3) In contrast to the CNS there was the army chied, General Bikram Singh, around the same time exulting about India-China relations being “absolutely perfect”. OH!!! May be the rest of us are missing out on a crazily unobvious development! It seems he was trying to compensate for Joshi’s straight talk with the normal mealy-mouthedness  expected of military-men. What’s with Bikram Singh? Was he punch-drunk when he said it? Or, distanced from reality? Or, most likely embellishing an MEA script given him to read? In the event, one wonders if Bikram Singh remains the Public Relations colonel at heart that he was during the Kargil border conflict?

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, India's China Policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Military Acquisitions, South Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Tu-22 M3M line for China, Admiral Joshi, General Bikram

  1. noodles says:

    yep, let’s incite them more. china needs to be handled with care, and not by “steamed” up words….. and abt the tu-22…. sounds doubtful, besides, are you saying we dont need a basic trainer?

    • Need to differentiate between govt and military, the latter giving off hard signals, leaving the govt to use language it believes best serves the purpose of the moment. Have you heard PLA Generals talking the Bikram lingo? No, for good reason.

      Trainer aircraft are important. I tried to juxtapose the Chinese selection of the Tu-22M3M vs India’s Pilatus or, if you will, the MMRCA!! Tell me which AF seems more strategic-minded, and what role MMRCA will perform that the Su-30 and Mirage 2000Hs can’t?

      • Abhinav Sharma says:

        Hmm Rafale will perform the same role as Su-30 and Mirage 2000H but in a more efficient manner. Do note that Su-30 has a huge radar cross section plus as of now it lacks AESA (may get them after Super 30 upgrade but only 80 are getting upgraded in a fleet of 270) but still operating Su-30 is costlier than Rafale, while Mirage 200H (2000-5 after upgrades are done) lack in range, payload capacity, airframe hours and even after upgrades will have inferior avionics to Rafale.

      • India has jointly developed with Israel an AESA radar for LCA that is 4.5 generation and as good as any in the world — refer my earlier posts on this — certainly not inferior to Rafale’s. The Mirage upgrade should have been done with this radar rather than paying France good money. There are always more economical options, but IAF as I have stressed over the years is fixated not on retrofits to improve performance but on buying newer platforms for only marginally better capability.

  2. shalesh jain says:

    What we need is a more strong and credible nuclear deterrent beyond the 20 kilo-tonnes that India has always boasted.. .Atleast a few mega-tonnes integrated with the functional nuclear triad..Take back your no first use policy..Let us give Chinese taste of their own medicine…Arm The Vietnamese with Prithvi nuclear missiles, technologies and then be a part of great strategic tamasha… 100 billion $ bilateral trade projections. …We are fooling ourselves.

  3. SOS says:

    What do you expect General Bikram to do? Raise war hysteria in public, in media. To satisfy hawks like you. Will it help matters if he says China is enemy number 1. I am sure given your infinite wisdom, even you would agree that the Chiefs would have an accurate assessment of Chinese capabilities. If they soft peddling the issue there must be a valid reason. And where’s the harm in it? In any case why should they be answerable to you for their statements? Calling the COAS distanced from reality is I feel a very immature statement from a man of your stature.

    • ‘Am not sure what the brouhaha is about! Bikram could have chosen to say nothing at all, assuming the govt wanted him to. COAS could have responded with more reserve’. I mean what’s there to say after “absolutely perfect”?

  4. Rajat says:

    What we need is a stronger national security policy. Voicing out concerns may have one sound like a patriot but it never helps. What’s needed is capability to do than to talk. Government and Military leaders should work on making our military stronger and not make sensational statements on tv.
    See the Chinese, they never talked while they were making themselves strong. Even now, they talk less and do more.
    It seems that you just wanted to regain popularity after a months absence.
    Not impressed this time.

    • Stronger, MORE SENSIBLE, national security policy is what I have been advocating for what — some 30 years now! The trigger for this blog was COAS’take on Inida-China ties, not something I dreamt up.

  5. Radhika Mandal says:

    On the contrary, Sir, I found the General’s remarks more mature & weighed than the Admiral’s. The military must be subservient to the polity, since the latter is elected by the people of the nation. Military leaders must not emanate signals which are not in line with the political stand. We are not Pakistan. We have a responsible Armed forces. Let us respect them for that.

    • Please refer to above responses. I haven’t raised the Q of subservience, merely unnecessary interjections. Service chiefs may be good at their jobs, not so much at articulating their thoughts. And if Bikram actually believes what he has said, we may be in more trouble than we think.

  6. Abbas Haider says:

    General Bikram Singh may carry the legacy of a Public Relations Colonel when he interacts with media. But I am sure that behind this sweet facade is a seasoned Indian Army soldier, preparing & training hard for the challenges ahead. As long as the punch is intact, it really doesn’t matter whether he is sweet or nasty when he speaks.

    • My blog was not in reference to the COAS’ many admirable traits no doubt but simply on his needless interjection, whether at MEA or govt’s behest or on his own initiative, not sure, in his ga-ga discription of Sino-Indian ties, which are more testy than anybody can recall in a long time.

  7. biju says:

    What purpose will it serve by upping the ante with China? six decades of callousness and lack of strategic vision cannot be undone by bravado. So is it better to be quiet and prepare or as you suggest create a din while being un prepared? May be the Gen has thought this through while you havent!!!!

  8. simon says:

    playing to the galleries and shooting ones mouth off is easy espesially when one is not accountable. Generals I suppose dont have the luxury that an armchair strategist can afford.

  9. Nath says:

    The problem with arm chair strategists is that a) they feel that they are Mr Know All, b) Free advice when none is warranted, c) The grapes are sour kind of a feeling when opinions other than the one supported by them are expressed d) Freedom of expression is only for them, e) not wanting to check before they write anything and everything and f) lacking even the basic understanding of realities and changes that take place on ground. They also feel that Service Chiefs don’t know anything unless they say something to please the arm chair strategists ears. This genre needs to grow up.

    • Some arm chair strategists have a better ‘batting average’ than the Govt and the military, and have packed enough credibility for the Servies to have picked up and implemented a thing or two over the years from the so-called arm chair strategists (ACSs). ACSs may benefit from the ‘distance’ that service chiefs cannot muster from their posts. If ACSs get it consistently wrong, they have their reputation to lose. When the Govt and the Military get it all wrong, the country has to pay. Usually, very dearly.

  10. Christopher Thomas says:

    In a way it is good that General Bikram Singh is not courting controversy by passing loose statements to the media. There is a lot to do to improve our defense preparedness, especially modernization, making up ammunition shortages & the like, than getting involved in verbal volleys. I am sure the general will not be found wanting in the more important tasks.

  11. Aaryou says:


    I went back and saw the newspaper report. General Bikram did not make a suo moto statement. Was asked a question by media during some military function at Pune. He responded I guess. How could his response have been different….. `Relations are
    ……not good.
    ……can be improved upon

    Take your pick Bharat

  12. SAMARJEET NARAYAN (@samarjeet_n) says:

    Sir,what is your take on happenings in Maldives,MEA and Spl services should have reacted much earlier and should have seen the Chinese game,as I have already twitted earlier,even Gujraj should have been used & troops flown to protect our interest as Americans would have done.

    • If GOI were ever as agile and protective of Indian interests and taken the steps you outline, the country would not have been in the straits it is where at every turn it finds itself preempted by the Chinese. India can still strongarm Male — send a missile destroyer off the Maldivan capital with a contingent of MARCOS on board. A bit of 19th Century gunboat diplomacy in the 21st century will do India no harm.

  13. Gagan Singh says:

    Just like what aaryou said, bikram Singh was asked that how India and china’s armed forces relations are and I feel that they are “perfect”. both the militaries are just following their governments policies. Soldiers on borders don’t fight for personal enmities, it’s the battle of national ideologies that they do.
    Historically, china has never had a friend. It today is surrounded by suspicious neighbours. What ever we do, it will always remain our neighbour. We can either bicker with words or follow the policy of talking softly while carrying a big stick. I think bikram did ok with his answer, certainly better that his navy friend.

  14. kaytee says:

    I agree with Gagan. infact the question was how are the relations between the two armies at the LAC. And the General said perfect. Nothing wrong with that eh!

    We are not at war with China presently are we Bharat? Unless `May be the rest of us are missing out on a crazily unobvious development!…….

    • Just the fact of routine incursions and counter-incursions belie Bikram’s description of ‘absolutely perfect’, or am I missing something?

      • kaytee says:

        Bharat you of all the people cannot give that reply. You know too well the aspect of difffering perceptions of LAC and thus the supposed incursions and counter incursions. It is an attempt by both nations to `supposedly indicate their claim line’!
        What is significant is that, unlike indo pak border, there is no firing along this border except in 1962!!!

      • There WAS firing in Walong sector, Somdurongchu, in 1986. It is a contested border, so whether there was/is firing across the LAC is not material. In the event, the mere absence of live-fire does not make the relations between the Indian and Chinese forces facing each other ‘ábsolutely perfect’.

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