Sunday, July 14, 2024

Strategic BrahMos Arms Sales By India: A Detailed Look At An Approach Toward Global Stability

By Lieutenant General VG Khandare (r) 

India’s choice to vend kinetic weapons to overseas nations is always a measured affair, deeply rooted in a steadfast commitment to maintaining global stability. Contrary to nations like the United States, China, and Russia – where the weapons industry significantly bolsters the national economy – India historically hesitates in providing weapons systems to regions steeped in conflict or war. The international community often misinterprets this approach. India’s decision to sell kinetic weapons stems from thorough deliberation that includes the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

Nuanced Geopolitical Implications: Arms Sales To The Philippines & Armenia

Weapons sales to the Philippines and Armenia are intricately entwined with geopolitical considerations. India acknowledges the possible destabilisation due to escalating issues such as China’s aggressive tactics and the increasing threat of Islamic terrorism and expansionism. The weapons sale to the Philippines, specifically, serves the strategic aim of deterrence and stabilisation of tensions in the South China Sea (SCS) and the East China Sea (ECS).

Strategic Partnership, Not Mere Transactions

This sale transcends a mere business transaction; it symbolises a strategic alliance. BrahMos Aerospace conducts the deal, offering supervision and support to the Philippines, which consequently boosts their defense capabilities. This empowers them to confront regional threats with confidence and assert a stance of “enough is enough!” India fully endorses the Philippines’ decision to procure this weapons system, offering them the advanced technology of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.

India’s International Standing & Selective Arms Deals

Can the BrahMos sale to the Philippines elevate India’s image as a supporter of nations lacking sophisticated weapon systems? Certainly. Such selective deals amplify India’s global standing, potentially attracting other countries seeking similar armaments.

India’s Non-Interference Policy: Trust’s Cornerstone

Will India dispense these weapons without any prerequisites? India’s pride lies in its non-interference policy, which implies a refraining from intruding in the internal politics of other nations. This stance is a cornerstone of our assistance programs, whether they encompass financial aid, capacity building, capability enhancement, or loan provisions in military or civilian realms. This approach boosts India’s reputation and has sparked the interest of other nations increasingly seeking BrahMos missiles and other Indian weaponry like the Pinaka system.

Preserving Peace: India’s Prime Directive

Hence, nations can rest assured that even if they procure weapons from India, our non-interference principle stands intact. This stance provides a unique alternative for nations preferring not to engage with countries like the USA, Russia, or China for their weapon system requirements.

India’s primary objective is not to escalate tension but to maintain peace, keeping tensions from reaching a critical point and averting violent conflicts in the South and East China Seas. Any disruption in these regions would invariably affect the broader Indo-Pacific region, a fact well acknowledged by the global community.

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD): Shifting Focus

The formation of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), originally centered around humanitarian causes such as tsunami relief, underscores this understanding. However, the focus has gradually veered towards strategic interests, primarily in East and Southeast Asia. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan could be interpreted as a redirection of attention toward these Asian regions.

Despite escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine potentially diverting some of the US’s focus, their interest in Taiwan and the East and Southeast Asian regions remains firm. It’s clear that this area will continue to be a priority in the future.

Self-Reliance In Arms Production: India’s Pursuit

What does this sale signify for the Indian arms industry? As the Prime Minister aptly pointed out, India has been a significant arms and ammunition importer, a fact that isn’t a source of pride. India is actively seeking self-reliance (‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’), concentrating on developing its weapons systems to meet specific Indian defence and security requirements.

Promoting Peace & Human Rights Through Arms Exports

Our immediate goal is to address our capability gaps. Once achieved, we’ll adopt a commercial approach and consider selling to like-minded countries – those that uphold human rights and work for humanity’s benefit. It’s vital to state that India would not authorise the use of its weapons in countries violating human rights. Nor would we sell to countries displaying aggression towards smaller neighbors or attempting to suppress their aspirations.

Boosting Exports, Minimising Imports: Goal Of India’s Defence Industry

India will exercise utmost caution in this matter. Nevertheless, it’s clear that our defence industry is keen on reducing imports substantially and increasing our exports, thus enhancing our revenue system. The sale of BrahMos missiles is a significant stride toward that objective.

BrahMos Aerospace: Triumph of the Joint Venture Model

What does the sale of BrahMos to the Philippines mean for the Indian Defence industry? It signifies a marked departure from traditional practices followed by India’s Department of Defence Production under the Ministry of Defence. This development highlights the success of the model implemented by BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia’s NPOM.

Established in India through an intergovernmental agreement signed on February 12, 1998, between the Republic of India and the Russian Federation, BrahMos Aerospace represents a fusion of the Indian public-private industry and the Russian missile industry complex, heralding a fresh business approach.

Foreign Partnerships & Investments In The Indian Defence Industry

In recent years, the Indian government has encouraged joint ventures, inviting foreign partners to bring investments and technology, choose their Indian partners, manufacture in India, and provide solutions to the Indian armed forces. This leaves room for carefully evaluated exports.

Therefore, the sale of the BrahMos missile system to the Philippines isn’t a mere business transaction. It symbolises the triumph of the joint venture model that the Indian government has embraced.

Building Trust & Relationships Through Arms Sales

This move extends beyond just exporting arms. It signifies the evolution of a relationship based on deep trust between two nations, embodying a form of South-South cooperation aligning perfectly with India’s foreign policy and its leadership’s vision.

This underscores a crucial aspect of geopolitics: arms sales, purchases, or agreements are not always conditional. Especially when dealing with a civilizationally-rooted nation like India, these engagements are not purely transactional. They originate from India’s civilizational ethos of collaborating for humanity’s betterment.

Possible Reactions To The India-Philippines Sale

How will this sale between India and the Philippines be perceived by other nations? The responses will undoubtedly differ. Some countries might aspire to seek similar assistance from India. Others might feel threatened, perceiving this as a potential threat to their market share and customer base, leading to feelings of envy.

Managing Misinformation & Ensuring Superior After-Sales Service

We should anticipate some misinformation and disinformation circulating in response. During the competition among arms-exporting nations, attempts to discredit rivals are common. To counter such tactics, we must ensure superior post-sales support and service. It’s crucial not just to offer advanced technology at competitive prices but also to ensure excellent after-sales support and timely delivery.

Balancing these elements will enhance a country’s reputation and credibility as a reliable partner in defence sales. Hence, both the public and private sectors in India, involved in arms manufacturing and exports, must work diligently to protect the nation’s image.

Additional Steps For Successful Execution Of Agreements

Are there additional steps we need to take to ensure the smooth execution of such agreements? One of the key steps involves bringing personnel from the purchasing country to India for comprehensive training – a process already in motion. It’s essential to make their experience comfortable and reassuring. They should perceive that their country’s agreement is advantageous not just technologically but also in terms of human resource empowerment.

The $374.96 million deal signed in January 2022 includes delivery of three Missile batteries, training for operators and maintainers; Photo Credit: Facebook/@PMCpublicaffairsoffice

In the case of the Philippines, we currently do not have a defence attaché stationed there. To facilitate smoother integration of new equipment and manage subsequent operational details, it would be beneficial to position a defence attaché in the country. This action could help iron out any potential issues in the deal, making both countries feel more at ease. Defence attachés often serve as direct points of contact, leveraging their expertise to aid in cooperation. Therefore, this is an additional suggestion worth considering.

Lt Gen. VG Khandare (r) is the Principal Advisor to the MoD. Views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Defence Ministry

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