Defence acquisitions in democratic countries come laden with controversies, whether procurement is from abroad, as in the case of India, or domestically, as in the case of US, when corporate rivalries play into massive lobbying with the government. It is said that shrewd US arms firms spread their supply chains across multiple states to coopt tens of senators.
The IAF’s depleting strength has been public knowledge for decades now. Other than the Sukhoi-30 MKI procured in the 1990s, the squadrons have had shrinking strength due to a depleting core of MIG 21s. While India dithered, Chinese indigenous aircraft development and supplies to Pakistan expanded, besides new Chinese airfields in the Tibetan Administrative Region (TAR). Consequently, the government in 2001 issued a Request for Information (RFI) for the procurement of Medium Multi Role Combat Aircrafts (MMRCA). India was looking to replace its MIG 21s, an outdated interceptor, slotting the new fighters between the high-end Sukhois, upgraded Mirages and MIG 29s and the low-end Light Combat aircraft (LCA) being developed indigenously.
India and Russia agreed in ’07 to jointly develop a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft for induction in the 2020s. Besides cost over-runs and delays, reports indicate the IAF’s unhappiness with the performance/technical features of the prototype PAK FA T50, four of which are under flight testing by the Russian air force now. India also felt uninvolved in the development phase.
Russia’s confrontation with US and the West over Ukraine and its drawing closer to China, besides opening the military supplies door to Pakistan, raises questions about its reliability. Japan is emerging from its post-World War II defence abnegation and now permitting export of defence materials. Israeli behaviour in Gaza highlights the perils of overdependence on suppliers costing India international goodwill by their actions. India needs to finalise deals on the table, draw private sector into future indigenous development of dual use technologies for defence and civilian uses and seek joint ventures with and technology transfers from new partners, including the US, in a rapidly realigning world.
K.C. Singh is a former secretary, ministry of external affairs; Email your columnist: ambkcsingh [AT] gmail [DOT] com
Apropos K.C. Singh’s column, Get it Flying, when it comes to dealing with India, Russia has never been unreliable. As PM Modi told Putin at the BRICS summit, even a child in India knows that Russia is our friend. It takes a long time to build such a relationship.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
To be completely fair, when it comes to dealing with India, Russia has never been unreliable. At the BRICS summit, PM Modi told President Putin, Even if you ask a child in India who is our friend, it will say Russia. It takes a long time to build up such a relationship.
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