The proverbial “well-placed” source informs me that the Indian Embassy in Moscow has been told by the foreign affairs cell of the Russian defence ministry that, given the close military communications interlinks the Narendra Modi government is seriously considering signing with the United States vide the prospective CISMOA (Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement), Kremlin will not be able to risk continued high-level strategic military cooperation with India. Such warnings have been issued in the past. (See, for instance, https://bharatkarnad.com/2016/04/15/has-pm-modi-developed-cold-feet-over-the-logistics-agreement-with-the-us/; https://bharatkarnad.com/2016/07/18/russian-terms/, et al)
But now, it seems, the Putin regime is serious. It anticipates that the Modi government will compound the problem caused for Russia by LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) that, as has been argued here will substantively compromise India’s sovereignty (see https://bharatkarnad.com/2016/09/02/has-india-put-its-sovereignty-at-stake-by-signing-lemoa-with-us/), by now also accepting the CISMOA.
Moscow has indicated in no uncertain terms that, because India’s generally third world communications infrastructure precludes “selective sharing” of communications, meaning a system with separately operable digital streams that cannot be breached, it will be foolhardy to cooperate and collaborate on advanced military technology programmes and underway projects.
For a start, this about pays put to upgrading the IAF’s Su-30MKI fleet of some 272 aircraft to the “Super Sukhoi” standard. FGFA is of course out, even assuming the government sees merit in keeping the Russians engaged with this project, something that may not suit the IAF, which is apparently keen on going fully Western with the French Rafale — an aircraft of the same 4.5 generational category as the indigenous Tejas LCA, and the antiquated US F-16s (as is the Indian Navy with F-18s of like vintage). It is another matter, as elucidated in an earlier blog, that these buys are at the expense of the Tejas and Su-30 MKIs — with the Modi govt prizing “diversification” of supply sources more than economic or operational sense.
But even more, INS Chakra-Akula SSN on lease may be recalled by Russia on the basis that its own navy is in need of it for Atlantic patrols, and the second Akula-II (Iribis) that was on the table also for lease to the Indian Navy, logically, will stand withdrawn. How the India Navy will then manage to deter the Chinese Navy from growing its presence in the Indian Ocean, is hard to fathom.
Worse still, the Russian participation in the Arihant-class SSBN construction programme underway in the special nuclear-powered submarine building facility in Vizag too may be terminated. That it will hurt the production of the 2nd and the 3rd Arihant-class boats is not in doubt. The question is to what extent and with what effect?
Any chance the US — our new found “strategic partner” of choice — will help out? Not the remotest chance, considering it has not shared nuclear sub building expertise and techniques with its closest ally, the United Kingdom, forcing the Royal Navy to build its own Vanguard-class SSBNs armed albeit with the US Poseidon SLBMs.
India will soon discover that, to paraphrase an old American TV ad about not fooling ‘Mother Nature’, it is not nice to rile Papa Bear!
On strategic issues, the Modi government’s decision to test fire a second canisterised Agni-5 is only spoiled by the authorities describing it to a phenomenally illiterate Press/media as an “ICBM”. Whatever else it is A-5 is NOT an intercontinetal-range ballistic missile. What it is is an IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missile) able to carry a warhead 8,000 kms. The ICBM appellation for the A-5 is a Chinese ploy to prompt the usual complacency in GOI and the Indian military, ‘coz genuine ICBM range is 12,000 kms.
However, should the A-5 payload constitute MIRVs (multiple independently-targetable vehicles) then the farthest MIRV-ed N-warhead would still be slightly outside the ICBM envelope. Except the Indian MIRV design and prototype has been on the shelf collecting the metaphorical dust for some 15 years now awaiting from New Delhi the green-signal for rapid development and testing (the change from Manmohan Singh to Modi at the helm making no difference whatsoever). So, if PM Modi and defmin Manohar Parrikar want to retain a semblance of credibility for their A-5 “ICBM”, they better immediately approve accelerated development and testing of the indigenous MIRV technology to extend A-5’s reach rather than, as is usual, boast of some weapon as something which it manifestly is not.
Further, news reports suggest that the A-5 “ICBM” post-second testfiring will be inducted into the Strategic Forces Command. The induction decision, however, presumes the second test on the anvil of the canisterised A-5 will be fully successful and that it will be fired to its extreme range, which is the only reasonable way to validate the fact that it can actually reach its stated range and perform as IRBM. Another testfiring, like the first one on January 30, 2015, on a depressed trajectory won’t do.
Besides, canisterised A-5 is a different type compared to the mobile Tatra truck borne TEL (transporter-erector-launcher) system which, so far, has had two tests. So a third test-firing is mandated of the TEL A-5 as per the Kasturirangan principle, again to extreme range. Because so far no A-5 IRBM — TEL or canister, has been physically validated as hitting a target at the far end of its stated range.
Secondly, induction of a missile after only two testfirings ignores the cost-related standard recommended by the R Kasturirangan Committee, which requires three successive tests of a missile-type to be successful before it is inducted into SFC. Indeed, it will inspire a great deal of confidence in the canister-borne A-5 if it is in fact fired to 8,000kms in terms of impacting our main adversary, China’s thinking, especially if the Chinese can see and track the A-5 from liftoff to splashdown deep in the southern Indian Ocean. Short of such openly verified capability, the A-5 — India’s most potent missile will be as hobbled, perceptions-wise (and perception is what nuclear deterrence is predicated on) as the “thermonuclear” arsenal India supposedly possesses. Based on the one test of a fusion device which was a “fizzle” (S-1 in 1998 tests) and without the resumption of open-ended testing, proven high-yield fusion weapons in the Indian inventory are, for all intents and purposes, no good.
The A-5 induction controversy was unfortunately seeded by the former DRDO head Dr Avinash Chander who, after the firing of the first canisterised Agni-5 in January 2015 was quoted by the press as saying “One more test-firing of the Agni-V is required. After that, the objective is to begin induction by end of this year if possible.” ( See http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Giant-leap-Agni-V-Indias-1st-ICBM-fired-successfully-from-canister/articleshow/46074237.cms) Not clear why he thought only two test launches are enough to certify a missile type as operational in violation of the Kasturirangan standard. In any case, the Modi government seems to have cottoned on to his conclusion. But surely if the GOI desires not to have a question mark hang around the A-5 and means to enhance its credibility, it will do as suggested here — test fire the canisterised and TEL A-5s to near about 8,000 kms.