Going slow on Brahmos to Vietnam?

The more one hears of things happening in the Modi government the more dispirited one gets. After his meeting with Obama, who frowned upon the destabilizing aspects of India’s Brahmos supersonic cruise missile transfer to Vietnam, the prime minister, per sources has instructed MOD to slow down the process of delivering this indefensible missile to Hanoi. The fact that he didn’t outright cancel the deal is a consolation — however small. Modi’s pandering to the US has been mentioned by me in a recent past, but this is ridiculous. Instead of making life as difficult for China, GOI seems to be easing off on the pressure and that too on Washington’s say-so. The problem here is that Obama and Xi Jinping have for some time now been pussyfooting around the possibility of a two power concert running the world. Instead of doing every thing possible to undermine it — Modi thinks India’s greater good lies in being party to this arrangement. Nothing will more definitely shrink, in a practical sense, India’s strategic space and hinder its great power ambitions than being reduced to a cog in the mighty US-China machine. And yet this is the path Modi seems to have embarked on. This despite the most predictively obvious outcome of a Brahmos-armed Vietnam — of detering the powerful Chinese South Sea Fleet warships from even venturing outside its secure breakwater bases at Sanya on Hainan Island. No better antidote/counter can be conceived for the Chinese dreams of a “string of pearls” in the Indian Ocean basin. Now India stands to have Vietnam’s trust and confidence in Delhi erode. It remains to be seen if Hanoi will respond positively to China’s invitation to ASEAN navies to join PLAN in exercises in the disputed South China Sea waters, as a means of defusing the situation there. If Vietnam does accept Beijing’s gambit, it’ll be the first indication of its making peace with China on Chinese terms — a hideous consequence of India’s lily-livered strategic approach. India’s position is in no way recouped by its agreeing to having Japan join in the annual Malabar naval exercise with the US Navy. Meanwhile, the US is increasing its own political-military leverage in Hanoi by arming Vietnam, even if with less lethal armaments, the aim being to get Vietnam to rely on the US as security anchor while winning brownie points from Beijing for restraining Delhi from helping Vietnamese full-tilt.

The still more devastating irony to digest is that the Bharatiya Janata Party, which flashes its “nationalist” credentials, has been most responsible for rendering India vulnerable to Western depradations. Recall that it was the Vajpayee regime that stopped the open-ended nuclear testing with announcement of the “voluntary moratorium” in 1998 and followed it up, under Washington’s pressure, to scale back the country missile capabilities by diverting the effort of the Advanced Systems Laboratory, Hyderabad, from its ICBM development by insisting on prior development and fielding of the 700 km Agni-1 SRBM, when all Pakistani targets could be engaged with Prithvi missiles or firing the Agni 2 missiles at depressed trajectories. Manmohan Singh Congress regime only followed up with the absolutely destructive nuclear deal that has all but finished off India’s thermonuclear aspirations and, simultaneously,decapitated Bhabha’s 3-stage plan for energy self-sufficiency (natural uranium fueled reactors in the 1st stage, breeder reactors in the 2nd stage and thorium-fueled reactors in the 3rd stage) by siphoning off funds from the breeder and thorium reactor programmes to buying inordinately expensive imported reactors run on imported enriched uranium fuel. The opening for such denouement was provided by the BJP govt preparing the ground with the NSSP (Next Steps in the Strategic Partnership).

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 arms exports, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Culture, Defence Industry, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Japan, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, nuclear industry, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, nuclear power, Nuclear Weapons, society, South Asia, South East Asia, Strategic Forces Command, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, United States, US., Vietnam, Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Going slow on Brahmos to Vietnam?

  1. santhosh says:

    very nice article by bharat karnad sir…..infact i was never confident on modi even when he was chief minister of gujarat…pose of nationalism is for the public sake to garner votes …..he never reformed any police or administration and infact he is the beneficiary of the corrupt system….even administration and police would have been upright, narendra modi would have been in jail rather than becoming PM ( note that iam not a fan of congress party either–all r partners in crime and corruption , so dont mistake me as apologist of congress party )…modi is a shallow man with bombastic words with no real worldy knowledge of his own …he is politician suited to indian politics but not a bloody minded politician who is suited for world power politics…so we shouldnt expect from modi a great power status for india…he is surrounded by 3rd rate bureaucracy with a shallow knowledge ……so bharat karnad sir, i read your new book , it was very nice ….we willl be neither great nor a power to reckon with becoz we have petty minded netas and babus…its business as usual

  2. Shail says:

    Lack of a Strategic Culture in India to blame. No one in the think tanks being consulted?

  3. Vihan says:

    Dear Bharat,

    Ironically, I just saw this link around reading your article :

    When Kalam got a hotline call just before Agni launch
    PTI | Oct 18, 2015, 02.13 PM IST :


    Its so sad that things are rolling back so bad. I can only hope that more of our scientists in strategic programmes just state “things are at a point of no return and we HAVE to test!”.


    – vihan

  4. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Bharat Sir, perfectly description of the present state of affairs. Equally alarming thing is that even in this ‘nationalist’ dispensation there actually is no action-plan or even thought directed at getting the country out of this situation.

    these ‘slippages’ are not unique to this particular point in history of official Indian strategic community. I think some amount of leeway is still deserved by Modi. At least he has not begun to crawl when he was asked to bend a little. Unlike the case of the earlier dispensation. Andhe mama sey to kana mama bhala.

    In any case even within the janata-janardan there are more then enough people who think this is as good as it can ever get for India. How far can the leader, of a compromised bunch of people, himself aim for?

    Probably he should be given more time. His last 1.5 years have been better than all of history post the Indira years.

    Good thing is the Vietnamese have access to Russian weaponry. So if the Vietnamese decide to have peace with the Chinese on Chinese terms then it would not be too different from the Indian situation. In which case probably it may be too early to expect the PM to pull a strategic trick in the South-East Asia.

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