Shivaji — at no expense! Or, PP partnership?

Visit London and you’ll see grand statues of renowned soldiers and statesmen — ranging from the Duke of Wellington (the former Colonel Arthur Wellesly of Assaye and later Waterloo fame) to General Henry Havelock, who raised the siege of Lucknow in September 1857 and extended the British rule in the subcontinent for another almost hundred years,  on prominent crossroads, avenues and park corners. Most of the London statues were not erected by governments of the day seeking cheap popularity by riding the reputations of figures dear to the British nation at the expense of the state treasury, but by a grateful people reaching into their own pockets, rifling up the funds collectively, to immortalize their heroes in stone and metal.

Chhatrapati Shivaji is one of those genuinely iconic characters in India’s chequered history whose prowess in mobile warfare distinguished by canny use of the mountainous terrain, surprise, stealth, and quick silver strikes had driven  Aurangzeb to distraction and fueled the Maratha ascendency in the affairs of the subcontinent — the Mughal Empire falling apart post-Aurangzeb. His extraordinary daring to meet with Afzal Khan who planned to kill him, an encounter that ended in the Bijapur sultanate’s commander being disemboweled instead by Shivaji Maharaj using the wagh nakh (tiger claws) — is the sort of storied action the “great Maratha” was famous for and  that long ago passed into lore.

This great warrior king deserves a grand and imposing memorial to remind us all not to be overawed by the reputation and capabilities of adversaries, and to use geostrategy and clever, asymmetric, hard power to bring down even the mightiest foe.

Shivaji is a national figure belonging not to Maharashtra alone. But any initiative that is of sarkari provenance will ipso facto be tainted by suspicion of petty political gain.  Shivaji is of and for all the people of India, and a campaign to collect a huge quantum of monies by private subscriptions from the citizenry would be a fitting tribute to the imperishable fighting qualities of the Chhatrapati — qualities that the Indian nation lost long ago. The nation needs heroes, and it is for the Indian people to voluntarily contribute — which they will — to such an extent as to make this project viable. The state government’s role in the event should be no more than to offer the site and clear legal,  and other hurdles to enable the building of the memorial, the scale of it limited only by the sum of private subscriptions.  The private sector corporations based in Mumbai would happily ante up the foundational funds and spearhead the country-wide campaign to collect the rest by going to the people.

The problem in this scheme of things could be the plan to build the statue on the small islet just offshore of the Mumbai coast that is deemed the ideal location. It would require reclaiming land, a majorly capital intensive activity. So the compromise between private contributions that are unlikely to reach the Rs 3,600 crore mark — the estimated cost of the project, and the government earmarking the entire amount from its near empty purse — the reason that no monies have so far been allotted for the construction by the BJP government in Maharashtra led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, is for the state and private subscriptions to join in a  public-private (PP) partnership. It will still the not unreasonable  criticism of public funds being diverted from the social welfare and development sectors. However, the installation of a massive Shivaji as the new Gateway to Mumbai and India as an outcome of  PP-partnership is something Narendra Modi’s regime would be enthused by.  Fadnavis should take the initiative and propose this option.

This will also set a precedent in a country a little too used in the last 60 years to departed leaders being remembered by political parties and their governments at the Centre  and even family members (sometimes forcibly) occupying valuable real estate (bungalows and such) in Lutyen’s Delhi and turning them into so-called “memorials” —  a flimsy excuse for the said families to expropriate government properties for private use.

Posted in civil-military relations, domestic politics, Indian Army, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Politics, society, South Asia | 24 Comments

Trashing Nirbhay?

The fourth test-firing of the vertically launched Nirbhay subsonic 1,000km range cruise missile ended in failure with the wings failing properly to deploy in horizontal flight to target. In four test launches so far, the missile has failed for different reasons to perform in three of them. The first test of the Nirbhay in March  2013 was terminated because it veered off course. The second flight in October 2014 was successful to its extreme range. In the third testfiring in October 2015, the Nirbhay became uncontrolled in flight early in the second stage.

Is this reason enough to abort the entire DRDO Nirbhay project? A powerful but motivated section within the Defence Ministry seems inclined to cut the losses by pursuing this drastic option. These people are the same people who will  doubtlessly push for importing such a missile type. The brouhaha in the Press with insiders describing the Nirbhay’s latest as “utter failure” is no doubt meant to discourage and despirit the missile designers and developers and to pressure the Modi government into heeding their advice. But trashing the Nirbhay will only confirm the MOD and GOI’s absolute ignorance about the normal problems faced by any R&D programme developing any sophisticated technology. Instead of putting this momentarily derailed missile project back on track, doing a post mortem of the failures,  and redoubling the efforts to iron out the technological kinks that have apparently crept into the missile system since the second successful test, the talk in official quarters, including in certain parts of the DRDO, of trashing Nirbhay may be designed to pressure the government into trashing it. Hopefully, Messrs Modi and Parrikar will not just resist such pressures but actively dissuade the naysayers and trash-talkers from mouthing defeatist sentiments.

There’s a learning curve in the development of every technology — there are no shortcuts and a project should be prepared to face repeated  failures. But each failure often teaches the developers more about challenging regimes and how to work around problems that may arise. This is how practical engineering knowledge is acquired and absorbed, and solutions to correct design and performance flaws in a piece of hardware, or in the software that drives it, obtained. Such learning by doing is the building block of all successful advanced technology programmes.

Those wishing the Nirbhay project ill are calculating that the Modi government that has time and again been conned into importing weapons systems under the cover of ‘Make in India’ policy, to wit, the recent buy of Rafale from France rather than the prospective categories of Tejas LCA, and of the M-777 light weight howitzer and possibly the F-16 and F-18 from the 1970s from the United States, will again be bamboozled into buying, say, a derated Tomahawk which, incidentally, was the weapon-type the Nirbhay is supposed to emulate.

The really worrying thing is this: Pakistan is set to soon induct the sea-borne Babur and the land-based Hatf-VII cruise missiles. Babur/ Hatf-VII are cruise missile derivatives of the Chinese reverse-engineered Tomahawk. The Tomahawk fired from an American warship in the northern Arabian Sea crash landed in Balochistan in 2007, well short of the Afghan Taliban target that it was supposed to take out. It was a technology trove the Pakistanis promptly shipped off to China to pick apart and reverse engineer. In return, China offered Pakistan the Tomahawk cruise  missile-type it had replicated for it to finesse into its Babur and Hatf-VII variants.

India has no China to help out. With New Delhi in the past two years having systematically alienated Russia, India will more and more be on its own. If prime minister Modi and defence minister Manohar Parrikar believe that the incoming Trump Administration will follow up on Ashton Carter’s agenda which, in any case, mainly stressed selling India military goods, they may be right. Obama until now and in the future Trump will happily sell de-natured high-value military goods to keep the US defence industry prospering while making India hostage to US whims and interests. What counter-leverage does Modi now have, with the Modi regime deliberately distancing itself from Moscow on the plea of diversifying its military supply sources ?

But, replacing a helpful Russia with a commercially-minded USA is akin to changing horses mid-stream. There are great perils of doing so.  Is anybody in the “nationalist” BJP government giving thought on the wisdom of this policy and its long term ramifications and how much deep water India may soon find itself in?

Posted in Afghanistan, arms exports, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, civil-military relations, Defence Industry, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Relations with Russia, Russia, russian assistance, society, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, United States, US., Weapons, Western militaries | 23 Comments

COAS appointment — TV panel discussion

Rajya Sabha TV — ‘The Big Picture’ panel discussion first aired Dec 16, 2016 night on the appointment of COAS, involving former cabinet secretary  TSR Subramanian, Maj Gen GD Bakshi (retd), Bharat Bhushan, and myself at





Posted in Africa, Asian geopolitics, China, civil-military relations, Culture, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, Indian Army, Indian Politics, Pakistan, Pakistan military, society, South Asia | 2 Comments

COAS appointment — a multi-benefit opportunity missed

As straws in the wind go, the moving in September this year of Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat, GOC-in-C, Southern Command, as Vice Chief pointed to his promotion as the next COAS after Dalbir Singh Suhag. The stated reasons for ignoring seniority and bypassing Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, a post that has been the stepping stone for the last three army chiefs, and in favour of Rawat are plausible enough. Insurgency and China being the two main threats the country faces, having a COAS who is intimate with the operational issues confronting the army in J&K and on the LAC (Line of Actual Control) and dealing with the Tibetan plateau-entrenched PLA (People’s Liberation Army) as the sharp end of the Chinese wedge advancing southwards in the subcontinent, is useful.

Assuming the talk that Bakshi is to be nominated as the first four star Chief of Defence Staff is a lot of fluff to blunt the criticism attending on Rawat’s selection, his (Bakshi’s) being sidelined along with the third COAS candidate on the seniority list, P. Mohammad Hariz, respectively of the armoured corps and mechanized infantry, perhaps, signals the Indian government’s realistic assessment that these instruments of mobile warfare constituting the three “strike corps” are too terrain specific (desert and plains) to be militarily useful and, therefore, increasingly passe, and the officers promoted from these formations too limited in their operational skills and ambit to provide the sort of well-rounded qualities that are  necessary in army chief.

As I have argued for over two decades now, because nuclear weapons and an ambiguous N-tripwire have made the kind of rolling tank-on-tank warfare in vast, relatively vacant, spaces of the kind last seen in the 1965 War impossible effectively to prosecute, it is time to rationalize the army force structure. This would require in the main, the consolidation of the three strike corps into a single composite corps and a number of independent armoured brigades, and the shifting of the redundant manpower and materiel to forming three full offensive mountain corps desperately needed to vigorously handle China.

The question, however, is if the Modi government was determined on discarding the seniority principle as a means of making the selection process less predictable and those in the running less timid because too afraid to make mistakes and risk losing out,  was Rawat the best choice? I know of an IAF chief who, owing to his date of birth and date of service entry knew as a Squadron Leader boasted he would occupy the top post and took care, during the rest of his career, never to make any tough decisions,  and it paid off.

All appointments as Armed Services’ chiefs of staff are political. In a democratic setup moreover such appointments reaffirm the primacy of the political authority which picks and chooses from among a slate of equally qualified three star rank officers. Because it is a political decision, the government of the day is free to alight on any metric for selection that it chooses. In the Indian milieu, the precedent of emphasizing seniority was established, unfortunately, by an army man. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had wanted Lt Gen Rajendrasinhji to be the first Indian to hold the post of “Commander-in-Chief, India”. This offer was turned down by Rajendrasinhji, the erstwhile Maharajah of Jamnagar, of 2nd Lancers and Mechili fame, on the basis that Lt Gen KM Cariappa deserved it more as he was senior in service. Even so, when defmin Sardar Baldev Singh asked about what should matter more in military promotions — merit or seniority, Nehru had advised that the danger of stressing seniority at all was that, in time, it would edge out considerations of merit. This, alas, is what’s happened.

So no one can cavil at Rawat’s anointment as COAS or the government’s overlooking Bakshi’s candidature. But if Modi had really wanted to make a political-military splash, Hariz would have been a better choice. Why? The very fact of selecting Hariz would have completely and instantly won over the Indian Muslims — the section of Indian society most resistant to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s political charms and which, because of the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat, is most distrustful of Modi. The first impact of Hariz’s selection would have been the demolishing of the opposition parties in the upcoming UP state elections. Minus the Muslim vote bloc, the Congress, the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh-Akhilesh Singh — Yadav pater and fils, and the Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati, would all have been politically disemboweled, which effect would have endured into 2019 and the general elections. It is the sort of action that would have spoken stronger than a thousand election rallies, and decisively reordered the political firmament.

Hariz as Indian Army chief would also have had a sobering effect on the Pakistan Army. I argued long ago that Pakistan would have most to fear an Indian Muslim officer’s elevation to COAS, whenever that happens. He will be more motivated to showcase his patriotism and take no nonsense in particular from Pakistan. What that would mean in real terms is hard to predict, but suffice to say GHQ-Rawalpindi would be especially careful not to give him and India offense. In this respect, Hariz’s mechanized infantry background would have been an additional reason for Pakistani caution. Pakistanis would have been mindful of the fact that the bulk of the mech infantry in the Indian army, and Hariz’s own professional focus, has been to prepare to affect deep sweeps into Pakistan in time of hostilities. True, Hariz is a Malyali Muslim from Kozikode District and not a Punjabi mussalman, or a Muslim from UP and Bihar, which would have had a more visceral effect in Islamabad.  But it would have been a Muslim as Indian COAS and that doubtless would have had lasting impact, who knows, possibly for the better.

Sometimes a government’s knowing just whom to pick to serve what larger political purpose can turn out to be  crucial to the country’s interests.

Posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, civil-military relations, Culture, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian democracy, Indian Navy, Indian Politics, Internal Security, SAARC, society, South Asia | 16 Comments

“Call for the trial of Manmohan Singh and his Foreign Policy team”

Reproduced below from ‘’, is a view by Tufail Ahmad, dated 17 December 2016, on the contents of my book — ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’ at Ahmad, a former BBC correspondent, is the executive director of the Open Source Institute, New Delhi, and author of ‘Jihadist Threat to India – The Case for Islamic Reformation by an Indian Muslim’.
I have strong reasons to call for the trial of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and key members of his foreign policymaking team.

By Tufail Ahmad

I have strong reasons to call for the trial of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and key members of his foreign policymaking team such as Shivshankar Menon, Salman Khurshid and M.K. Narayanan for treason against India’s national interests along with crimes against our future generations. In my hand is Bharat Karnad’s book, “Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)”, and each paragraph I read resembles a distress [call alerting us to the fact] that these leaders mauled India’s national interests consistently, disturbingly and deliberately, and subordinated this nation of 1.3 billion souls to the interests of adversarial states like China and Pakistan. While Karnad’s 552-page book will need a long review, this review article focuses on how the foreign policy team led by Manmohan Singh crushed and crippled India’s global status and ambition in the world.

If you are a youth under 25 constituting about 55 percent of Indians, this nation belongs to you and your children more than it belongs to my elders or to my generation nearing 50. So, it’s essential for you to know how these Indian leaders engaged in crimes against India while being in power. Manmohan Singh was the prime minister for ten years from 2004. While our ancients taught us that India should be the Vishwa Guru (world leader), Manmohan Singh, as the prime minister, wrote in 2007 that India “does not desire to be a global superpower.” Shivshankar Menon, who served as the national security adviser to Manmohan Singh for four years till 2014, dismissed “status”, “prestige” or “any other goal” that could appear as “popular or attractive” for India.

In this book, Karnad slays the “delusional strain” among India’s foreign policy thinkers right from Nehruvian days and reveals how a host of our leaders from Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh was practically working for China and other enemies of India. When India was offered a membership of the UN Security Council by the US and Russia separately, Nehru wrote: “Informally, suggestions have been made by the United States that China should be taken into the United Nations, but not in the Security Council and that India should take her place in the Security Council. We cannot, of course, accept this as it means falling out with China and it would be very unfair for a great country like China not to be in the Security Council.”

The book reminds us how India is being told even now to be a “responsible power” and a “net security provider” – limited to shouldering the agenda of foreign powers. Its revelations are also consistent with the information in public domain, based on the statements of those involved in the underground of Track-II diplomacy with Pakistan that Manmohan Singh was close to handing over PoK – the Pakistani-occupied Kashmir – formally to Pakistan as part of a U.S.-brokered pact, notwithstanding his statements to the contrary. This is a betrayal of India, especially since there is legal clarity that people born in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan, both being part of Jammu & Kashmir, are Indian citizens. Due to the criminal silence of Indian leaders, we don’t even see them as ours.

From the mid-1990s, the United States initiated a policy to build relationships with India and other Asian nations to meet the challenge of the rising China. It is being seen as the containment of China based on the principle of balance of power. However, speaking in Beijing, the capital of India’s adversary, Manmohan Singh attacked “the old theories of alliances and containment” as “no longer relevant.” This statement was consistent, writes Karnad, with Shivshankar Menon’s “contemptuous dismissal” of balance of power as “very Nineteenth Century” – the “underlying conceit” being that “India can do without allies and partners.”

In 2011, Menon lambasted nationalist Indians for “much loose talk about India as a potential superpower.” There is a line of thinking that as long as some Indians travel by bullock carts and bicycles, India should not embark on a mission to Mars, or build cars and motorbikes. Menon defined India’s posture as that of “strategic restraint” and saw it as a distraction, stating: “Eliminating poverty and realizing India’s potential will be the focus of our efforts – not external entanglements, arms races or other such balance of power distractions.” What if India achieved a great power status, the author asks, Menon asserted: “that would be fine.”

This line of argument was also articulated by Salman Khurshid, who served as the external affairs minister from 2012 onwards. Addressing an Oxford university audience, Khurshid spoke highly of India’s “softly-softly approach” in its foreign policy. “We do not assert ourselves,” Khurshid said, “by intruding, dictating, or imposing.” When China warned India not to collaborate with Vietnam in offshore oil exploration, external affairs minister SM Krishna responded, notes Karnad, “with fighting words to the effect that the South China Sea is not China’s sea” but Menon qualified it by saying India would consider such a role in “the Indian Ocean and our neighborhood” only and if “it contributes to India’s own transformation.” If it appears Menon’s sole purpose to serve Chinese interests first, the Indian interests second.

When contentious points emerged in the India-US relations during his tenure, Manmohan Singh diverted India’s foreign policy objectives to non-issues and domestic matters. This diversion is seen in five points outlined by Manmohan Singh at a meeting of Indian ambassadors in 2013: i) foreign relations will be shaped by India’s “development priorities”; ii) the Indian foreign policy should ensure “wellbeing” of India which should be the “single most important objective”; iii) India should work for “beneficial relations with all major powers”; iv) India must “create a global and security environment beneficial to all nations”; v) “our values” such as “democracy and secularism” should be the basis of ties with India’s neighbouring states.

In the anarchical society of states, where ambassadors are willing to break each other’s nose to protect their nation’s interests, these five points were worthless words from a prime minister unable to defend India’s interests. This cowardice was termed as “the Singh Doctrine” by Sanjaya Baru, the prime minister’s media adviser. In February 2006, when Manmohan Singh was also the external affairs minister, his ministry prevented the Indian Navy from attacking pirates who seized a ship flying the Indian flag; and his government chose to pay ransom to free the Indian citizens. As detailed in the book, Indian Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash was bitter about this surrender of the Indian state before a handful of pirates and cowardice of Manmohan Singh.

Karnad’s book has numerous incidents on how army and navy officers were humiliated by the team led by Manmohan Singh. Shivshankar Menon spoke against Admiral D.K. Joshi, who was asked a question about how the Indian Navy would respond if China seized Indian warships deployed in South China Sea to protect Indian energy assets jointly owned with Vietnam. Admiral Joshi gave a standard response that “rules of engagement” will apply whenever India’s “right of self-defense is impeded” – but Menon issued a statement in Beijing saying Joshi was “misled” and the Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement to the effect, observes Karnad, that “New Delhi is more mindful of Chinese sensibilities [than the Indian military is].” The crimes by Manmohan Singh’s team do not cease here. The author narrates another incident: In its intent, the 2010 Operational Directive issued by defence ministry to the military services designated China as the main threat but it was quickly “diluted” by Salman Khurshid who described as China as “major concern” and Pakistan as “part of the Chinese picture” – as if Khurshid was watching a Bollywood movie.

During the tenure of Manmohan Singh, an attempt was also made to revive Nehru’s now-irrelevant and inconsequential foreign policy through Nonalignment 2.0, a quasi-official document supposed to serve as a vision document authored by Congress party’s parasites. At a function to release the document in 2012, M. K. Narayanan, the national security adviser to Manmohan Singh from 2006 to 2010, stated that India must avoid “too activist a [foreign] policy” and that hard power – i.e. military power – is not “necessary” for India because becoming a great power is “an unaffordable luxury.” In line with this thinking, India’s junior external affairs minister Shashi Tharoor conceived “Pax Indica” – a treatise on soft power meant to serve the interests of foreign powers and sell to them “India’s sense of responsibility to the world.”

In this excellent book, Karnad also investigates the responses of the counterfeit liberal writers like Amartya Sen, Ramachandra Guha, Minister Jairam Ramesh and others. Sen lambasted India for the 1998 nuclear tests and dismissed them as “the thrill of power.” Guha, who sells himself as a historian, is quoted as saying: “India will not become a superpower”; and since it is poor, “India should not even attempt to become a superpower.” Jairam Ramesh is quoted as saying by Karnad that India’s great power aspiration is “dangerous.” The author reminds such writers and thinkers that if poor economic conditions were an acceptable reason, the sixteenth-century England would not have funded the enlargement of the Royal Navy on the path to becoming a great power. While subject-matter experts will read Karnad’s book, it must also be read by India’s youths enrolled in Indian institutes of technology and management. At this point in time, India’s defence will benefit the most from non-experts and new ideas.

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Misplaced loyalties and weeding out the corrupt in the military

NDTV 9PM news report this evening carried a story about a gaggle of retired air marshals and such trooping to the CBI Court to show solidarity with former IAF Chief ACM SP Tyagi whose police custody was extended for several more days. There were references and Twitter talk about a military service taking years to build up only to have its reputation torn up in a matter of a few hours. Tyagi has been arraigned on the charge of massive corruption in the Agusta Westland VVIP helicopter case, along with — other sissy-ish-named relatives, “Julie” and such — and a couple of other senior air force officers involved in Tyagi’s conspiratorial activity.

This was strange behviour from these former airmen, to say the least. Instead of showing loyalty to the IAF, making the case that the rotten apples needed to be discarded and the procedures that make for such scams overhaauled to render the procurement processes completely transparent, and pledging to cleanse the Armed Service of its taint for graft and corruption, we witnessed the sorry sight of these IAF stalwarts, including another Air Chief (Anil Tipnis) and several ex-AOC-in-Cs, etc. affirming their personal loyalty to Tyagi, almost condoning his nefarious actions. What does this say about the prevailing military ethos and ethics? Rather than isolate Tyagi socially, distance themselves and, more importantly, the IAF from the alleged wrongdoer, and make an example of him by hoisting him up as a pariah who had dishonoured the Service, there were his seniors and colleagues pleading his innocence before television cameras, implying that he was being vilified, unfairly and improperly treated, and hauled up for having done no wrong. Really? And, in any case, does this display of misplaced loyalty not go against the grain of IAF’s institutional attitude to corruption evident in the current CAS ACM Arup Raha’s statement that Tyagi’s doings had besmirched the Service’s name?

There was always corruption in the armed services (as elsewhere in government and society). But it had never reached the levels it has in recent times when corruption by seniormost officers is so so brazen and blatant, it is virtually perceived by many of them as a perquisite of the jobs they do. In an earlier, more innocent, time even a whisper of wrongdoing was enough to end end a military career. These days it almost seems a badge of success at climbing the slippery ladder.

The question arises: How does a “Bundle” Tyagi become CAS? Is there no scrutiny done by CBI of the records of the top ten officers theoretically in the running for the top post of service chief before the selection is formally made? Given the corruption that is now fairly routine in military circles, committed albeit by a relative minority of officers who are known to everybody, it may be a good idea for the CBI to do a thorough examination of their carryings-on in strategicall-significant posts (in the procurement decision loop, for example) they occupied, and stations and bases they headed, and the reputations they had garnered during these stints. That said, a corrupt Service Chief can clean up, make investigations difficult by co-opting his juniors in scams, etc. Even so, corrupt officers leave a tell-tale trail up from the time they are Squadron Leader rank or equivalent. Like the stink left by skunks, it is easy to follow. Only the names of officers cleared by CBI on a probity index should be cleared for appointment to two, three, and four star rank in the military. Corrupt military officers can hurt the national interest deeply in lots of ways. By, for instance, stretching the country’s arms dependency status well into the future.

After all, armed forces personnel who can feather their own nests by facilitating the purchase of this or that piece of military hardware, perhaps, pre-chosen by the politician cabals of the day, can just as easily sell India’s war plans, force disposition schemes, and anything else that is deemed of value to India’s enemies. These persons in uniform have an unseen label of “purchasable” hung around their necks and, hence, are the biggest threats to national security. Time has come for a deep weeding out of the corrupt from the military’s highest leadership echelons.

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, corruption, Defence Industry, domestic politics, DRDO, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Navy, Indian Politics, Internal Security, Military Acquisitions, society, South Asia | 18 Comments

Price of angering the Bear, & the A-5 decision

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,;, 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, 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 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.

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