Wednesday, March 12, 2008

India's Arms Build-up and Problems with Russia

India is in the midst of a huge arms build-up with massive defense spending planned for the next five years. With 10% increase year-over-year, India's defense budget for this year is $26.5b. The question facing the Indian defense establishment is where to get the sophisticated new equipment and training they need. In spite of the tall claims of India's indigenous development and production capacity, more than 80% of what they own today has come from their traditional supplier Russia. It is well known that Russia's industrial base and support infrastructure have significantly atrophied since the demise of the Soviet Union. Russia now derives such a disproportionate amount of revenue from oil and gas that the non-energy industrial sector has diminished in significance for the Russian economy. According to Times of India, India has complained to Russia about the unreliability of some of its weapon systems as well as tardy product support in execution of several projects. Top-level sources say it has been made very clear to Russia that apart from "quality control" of the military equipment being bought from it, India wants assurances on maintenance of delivery schedules of contracted weapon systems, uninterrupted supply of spares and life-term product support. The Indian Air Force is upset with the "distortions" on the canopies of the Sukhoi-30MKI Phase-3 fighter jets. This comes at a time when India is on the verge of signing a $1.6-billion deal with Russia to acquire another 40 Sukhoi-30MKIs, in addition to the 190 such jets already contracted through two big deals in 1996 and 2000. In addition to several recent crashes of Russian-built fighter aircraft, the BBC reports that there have been issues related to the acquisition of the aircraft carrier named Admiral Gorschkov. From a negotiated price of $700m, the Russians subsequently demanded $1.2bn with delivery delayed till 2013.
Around the same time, the Indian navy has refused to accept an upgraded diesel-powered submarine after delays in the installation of a missile system.

India's Admiral Mehta has called for a government review of military ties with Russia, amid growing resentment within the military about the Russian attitude to their needs. These irritants and other disagreements over trade and India's foreign policy have all served to put a strain on once close relations, according to the BBC.

The US and European suppliers present alternatives for the Indians with warming ties between India and the West after the end of the Cold war. However, this would be a dramatic change for the Indian military to integrate their new equipment into the existing units trained and equipped to use Russian-made weapons systems. While it is possible to do so, it would take a long time and a lot of work to pull it off. In the meanwhile, the transition is likely to damage relations with Russia which have already cooled recently. According to BBC reports, when India's foreign and defense ministers visited Moscow last year, President Putin allegedly refused to meet with them. In fact, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, next only to the prime minister in seniority, was not even given an appointment by the Russian prime minister. And when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travelled to Russia at the end of last year, he curtailed his visit to just 28 hours.


Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from a Wall Street Journal story today on China's defense industry advances and exports:

Today, Russia's military bonanza is over, and China's is just beginning.

After decades of importing and reverse-engineering Russian arms, China has reached a tipping point: It now can produce many of its own advanced weapons—including high-tech fighter jets like the Su-27—and is on the verge of building an aircraft carrier.

Not only have Chinese engineers cloned the prized Su-27's avionics and radar but they are fitting it with the last piece in the technological puzzle, a Chinese jet engine.

In the past two years, Beijing hasn't placed a major order from Moscow.

Now, China is starting to export much of this weaponry, undercutting Russia in the developing world, and potentially altering the military balance in several of the world's flash points....

This epochal turnaround was palpable in the Russian pavilion at November's Airshow China in the southern city of Zhuhai. Russia used to be the star of this show, wowing visitors with its "Russian Knights" aerobatic team, showing off fighters, helicopters and cargo planes, and sealing multibillion dollar deals on the sidelines.

This year, it didn't bring a single real aircraft—only a handful of plastic miniatures, tended by a few dozen bored sales staff.

China, by contrast, laid on its biggest commercial display of military technology—almost all based on Russian know-how.

The star guests were the "Sherdils," a Pakistani aerobatic team flying fighter jets that are Russian in origin but are now being produced by Pakistan and China....

That has compounded Russian fears that China has reverse engineered an Su-33 prototype it acquired in 2001 from Ukraine, according to Russian defense experts.

At last year's Dubai Air Show, China demonstrated its L-15 trainer jet for the first time. In June, China made its debut at the Eurosatory arms fair in France.

In July, China demonstrated the JF-17—the fighter developed with Pakistan—for the first time overseas at the Farnborough Airshow in Britain.

China also had one of the biggest pavilions at an arms fair in Capetown in September.

"They're showing up at arms fairs they've never been to before," said Siemon T. Wezeman, an arms trade expert at SIPRI. "Whereas 15 years ago they had nothing really, now they're offering reasonable technology at a reasonable price."

China is generating particular interest among developing countries, especially with the relatively cheap JF-17 fighter with a Russian engine.

The Kremlin has approved the re-export of the engine to Pakistan, as it has no arms business there.

But it was enraged last year when Azerbaijan, an ex-Soviet republic, began talks on buying JF-17s, according to people familiar with the situation...

China's arms exports could have repercussions on regions in conflict around the world. Pakistan inducted its first squadron of Chinese-made fighter jets in February, potentially altering the military balance with India.

Other potential buyers of China's JF-17 fighter jet include Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Nigeria, Morocco and Turkey. In the past, China has also sold fighters to Sudan.

The potential customer of greatest concern to the U.S. is Iran, which purchased about $260 million of weapons from China between 2002-2009, according to Russia's Centre for Analysis of the Global Arms Trade.

In June, China backed U.N. sanctions on Iran, including an expanded arms embargo, but Tehran continues to seek Chinese fighters and other weaponry.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece in a Russian newspaper on Putin's visit to Pakistan:

Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin will, on his first foreign tour after taking office, make his first stop in Pakistan. It symbolizes not just Pakistan’s importance in the region, but the shift in relations which means that the two countries, kept apart for so many years because of Russia’s espousal of Communism, are trying to come together. Russia seeks a new ally in the region, to substitute for India, now in the American lap, after the collapse of the USSR. Mr Putin’s visit shows that Russia intends to play a more proactive role in world affairs. It must do so, because by ceding to US supremacy, it has seen it not just invade Afghanistan physically, but threaten Iran. Russia has found its own physical space threatened by US expansionism, with the expansion of Nato threatening it in the West, the snatching away of India and the occupation of Afghanistan threatening it in Asia. The visit is a result of the successful visits to Russia by President Asif Zardari, in August 2010 for the Quadrilateral Summit, and by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar earlier this year.

Russia had previously tried to make headway in Pakistan through the Steel Mills project, and now it has offered to be involved in the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. This is an offer that Pakistan must not hesitate to take up. While Pakistan's official 'ally' has done its best to sabotage the project, and has insisted India withdraw from it, Russia is extending a helping hand. Unlike the steel mills, the pipeline from Iran is existential, providing as it will, gas not just for domestic and industrial users, but also for power production. Thus not just for strategic concerns, but national interest should incline Pakistan towards Russia. However, as strategic concerns include Afghanistan, which Russia has been deeply interested in for a very long time, Russia would also be interested in how Pakistan sees the future of Afghanistan.

It should also be recognized that Russia has a deep interest in the reset in relations between the USA and Pakistan that is presently being discussed by the joint sitting of Parliament. Russia too has seen that the US has not just gained access to South Asia through Pakistan, but also Central Asia. As Russia is seeking an ally in the region to substitute for India, and as Pakistan is distanced from the USA, Russia is naturally more interested in Pakistan than ever before. President Putin’s visit, the first ever by a Russian President to Pakistan, reflects that.