Friday, April 29, 2011


The following is in reply to a reader's question received by E-Mail on the above subject:

I think the Government's decision on the choice of the aircraft was made purely on the basis of the recommendation of the Air Force. I write so much that I don't remember when and in what context, but I had written some months ago that while our Army and our Navy are increasingly enthusiastic about the prospects of closer Army-Army and Navy-Navy relationship with the US, our Air Force is not. During my participation in various seminars bearing on Indo-US strategic relations, I had noticed that the participation of our Air Force officers---serving and retired--- was low and without much enthusiasm. It is my impression that our Air Force officers continue to retain the skepticism of the cold war days relating to strategic partnership with the US. They continue to feel more comfortable with Russia and Europe than with the US. Of course, there are many joint exercises between the Air Forces of the two countries, but the enthusiasm generated by these exercises is more tactical than strategic. The decision regarding the choice of the aircraft reflects on the comfort level of our Air Force vis-a-vis the US and not on the comfort level of the Government as a whole. (29-4-11)


Vijainder K Thakur said...

The IAF was asked by the govt to perform a comparative tech evaluation, which it did in a very professional manner.
Why not just accept the tech evaluation?
Your post gives the unfortunate impression that IAF Air Marshals conspired to keep the US out.
That maybe the way the rest of the country, even RAW :-), works, but it is not the way the Air Force works.
There are too many checks and balances in the process, which if compromised would have been evident to MOD.
Let us give our warfighters the respect they deserve.

Esoteric said...

Wondering..why didnt we ie MMS did not inform Obama when he came visiting a few months back that they wont win the bid.US would have taken it more openly then as we had signed many other deals.

Doing it now sounded like Roemer was surprised and ousted...Bad communication plan..these guys (GOI) suck at everything,they wont last a day in any private company !

Justin P. said...


Do you seriously think that the US or anyone would have taken it more calmly if they were told a few months or years back. For Pete's sake, this is a multi-billion dollar commercial sale, not a marriage proposal.

Anyone who was remotely linked to the whole thing knew what was coming. That the Eurofighter and Rafale were the preferred bidders was more or less evident after field trials ended in 2009.

The only thing that the Americans and Swedes appear disappointed is that they invested too much in the song and dance methodology to woo us gullible Indians. Holding free trips to civilians and industrialists and putting up newspaper ads won't impress pilots worried about turning rates and performance in hot and high conditions.

If anything the Indian government and IAF deserve a loud round of applause for how they played this. They did it by the book, which is the likes of Boeing and Lockheed Martin have stopped whining. The only folks who still do so are a bunch of think-tankers (folks paid to write other people's wishes) and those Indians who only know how to crib.

Esoteric said...


I agree that IAF and others had indicated US wasnt going to win this contract.However,if a US ambassador had to resign(presumably for not swinging the deal) means they still had hope.

US anger and our choice of Eurofighter(with Rafale not really in the running) is fine but probably not the best timing wrt inflection points coming up in Kabul,Islamabad wrt WOT..and even Washington DC wrt US Debt in the next few weeks..Just as Stuart Law said BCCI has to kept ' keep other boards happy.India needs to keep Obama..'sweet';afterall we are already preparing for a 2.5 front war we need some allies...

Look at the Chinese they stole the tech....why cant we? Are you telling me we trail them in stealing and corruption too..

Justin P. said...


Ask yourself this-was Indo-US cooperation based solely on this deal??? Suppose this deal went through and another big one for stealth frigates didn't go through. There would some major event happening around the time of that contract too. You would hear the SAME WHINING of the strategic partnership being endangered. Make no mistake, ties with the US will grow, most of all on account of necessity.

About keeping Obama and US happy, have'nt we been doing it all along? The Europeans and even Russians haven't won a single major defence deal in the past five years other than the PAK-FA project; all have gone to American companies. So tell me, where does it end?? The quality of Indian military equipment is far more important than a few billion US dollars.

About needing allies. Taiwan relies far more on the Us than we do. Will the US come to their aid if China attacks? Forget aid, where are the 66 F-16s that they have been asking for for more than a decade. American power has its limits and increasingly so. The US will act against the likes of Iran and North Korea only when it is directly threatened. That's the simple truth. If they want to get back at us in the WOT, that would be suicidal for them. Pakistan is in too much of mess to use it as a toy to get back at India.

About giving hope, again, how do you and I or anyone else know what was conveyed to the US and other competitors?? They can throw as many tantrums as they want. The US ambassador's resignation-if it was for this deal (and that may be unlikely) shows pettiness. What if the Russian or French ambassador did the same?? Or the ambassadors of four European countries together? Let's not get too worked up.

In purely financial terms, this deal is a fatal blow for Mig, SAAB and either of EADS or Dassault (whichever loses). It's only a setback to the two US bidders. Boeing is likely to be the single largest defence supplier to India in a couple of years-C-17, P-8, Apache, possibly Chinooks and tankers. What more should we give.

About stealing tech, for one, Indian government/military establishments have respected IPRs. So lets give them some credit. If you think China has gained by stealing, why does Russian withold supply of lots of advanced technology to them? Why do the Europeans still maintain their arms embargo. Because they don't trust the Chicoms and their institutions. Yet all these countries hawk their wares to India.

If anything we should admire the Chinese for their ruthlessness and sense of strategic innovation.

Esoteric said...


Mostly agree with your views..

- Deal will have a limited impact on Indo-US relations.Alignment of interests is more important than one-off deals.However,it does add some fuel to the Anti-India lobby in US who view India as 'too independent'.So there can be short term repercussions that could intertwine with trend changing decisions coming up mentioned earliar.Its like being in a bad place at a bad time.
- Yes,we have kept US happy but its about expectations and not reality.Building military capability is paramount and probable reason why US lost out as we wanted a partner and not a vendor.
- Amabassador resigning is a reasonably big step to take,it cant be ignored.US is signaling its frustation.It needs to be nipped in the bud.
- 10B USD is not as big an order as you might think it is given it will come over many years and not immediately.Its an important deal but not the only one.Manufacturers will survive,some will thrive.
- Pople hawk their wares to India because they know even if they shared the source code with DRDO we will produce duds by design or default.I'am' admiring the Chinese for using whatever means to reach their goal.Whats wrong with stealing?? Who cares for IPRs? All fair in love and war.

Justin P. said...

China can afford to steal because you can't go to court or to the media. See what happens when an Indian company does the same-there are the courts, government regulators, media, political parties and what not. The Chinese are ruthless-look at what they did with an executive of Rio Tinto. For reasons, good or bad, India has institutions and mechanisms for rule of law. And that includes protection of IPR.

Back to the MMRCA deal. The anti-India lobby will have plenty of things to talk about. Even if the MMRCA deal were signed, they would talk of energy deals with Iran, defense ties with Russia (25 billion USD for PAK FA va 10-12 bn for MMRCA), BRICS, WTO issue etc. What if the current government or a newer dispensation decides to test a nuke?? What happens then. If anything they will demand an end to defense ties saying that their supply of weaponry has emboldened us. It will take at least 15 years for the Indian military to have interoperability with the US on the level that Australia or Japan has. And lots of water will have flooded through the Yamuna and Potomac by then.
The US far too powerful for us to over-influence and far too diverse and complex for us to please.

About the US ambassador, again was it solely linked to this deal? We have no clue about it other than that he had originally planned to stay two years. May be the MMRCA deal was a catalyst, but thats about that. I'd worry if and when the US does something like reimposing sanctions.

There is a perception in the West and in particular the US that symbolism like praising or snubbing Indian leaders, officials and institutions plays a big part in Indian policymaking; that is starting to be disproved. The Russians have hardly bothered about such niceties while the Rafale and Eurofighter were the most low profile of the competition contenders.

Esoteric said...


- I see,so our intial Nuclear Bomb was a homegrown technology which did not involve 'learning'?..which is a nice euphemism for stealing from the Canadians.Firstly, there is no shame in that.Secondly,it means if we want to ..'we can' and Im no Obama.

- Agreed,that the US far too powerful for us to 'over-influence' and far too 'diverse' and complex for us to 'please'.However,please note Im only raising a 'short term' blip concern.

- Agreed,there is no proof to link resignation to the deal.However,why wait for sanctions and then act?.This 'reaction' bit is BAU from this MMS led Govt.I must admit Im not sure how GOI can assuage US Govt proactively.Im sure there must be ways.

- The perception of Indians valuing form over substance still stands.I must add living in Mumbai and interacting with India's so-called elite does little to disprove this perception,its only re-inforced.

Its just the 2G/CWG scam led thats put some 'short term' (again..) fear of exposure on MMS govt to not give in to the pressure.If they ride out the will be back to square one...Because this 'form' mentioned above also refers to money and not just Dinners hosted by Obama.

Justin P. said...

Look at this way, we have reacted far too often to short term concerns internally and externally. Look at where it has got us. The chances of these newer European aircraft with newer weapons performing better is greater than those of aging US aircraft with weapons (AMRAAM, HARM) due for replacement.

About the symbolism bit, I was referring to policymaking. The nuclear bomb, nuclear deal, reactions on Iran, Sri Lanka, economic reform wrt to agriculture all show that our policy makers (irrespective of affiliation) know how to stand up for Indian interests.

Justin P. said...

About sanctions, what can India do if the US imposes sanctions after it retaliates against Pakistan? That's a hypothetical scenario but it has happened before.

As I said before, we (and all other nations) have limited levers of influence in Washington. The main levers are still held by the corporates. Which is why we all we see is whining and which is what will also ensure that the US won't do more than sulk.

Esoteric said...

- Agreed,long term should count for more in policy making.
- Its difficult to believe that politicans that cheat@home keep national interest as a central pivot when making policies or when making deals; but then thats another discussion.

Esoteric said...


I did mention inflection points and how the current short term ie next 6 Months (next few weeks are critical anyways) are more important than last 6 yrs and Osama killing is one example...

Here's another -

Many have read the Fed presser as an indication that US will continue to inflate its way out of debt.This doesnt bode well for India especially as high Oil prices can derail growth due to economy wide inflationary pressures.Today's RBI rate hike is a move to mitigate it...

Some dont rule out an Al-Qaeda reprisal attacks on US soil or elsewhere as a major Oil spike trigger that would change many things including India's trade deficit.