India’s Big Buy of American Defense Equipment: What are the Consequences?

            by David Parmer / Tokyo

Just over a month ago, on February 25, 2020, on the occasion of President Donald Trump’s visit to India, the US and India signed a massive arms deal providing India with significant upgrades in its military capabilities. The $3 billion deal centered on several different systems:

  • 24 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters
  • 6 Apache attack helicopters
  • NASAMS II Integrated Air Defense System
  • 30 Sea Guard Drones
  • 4 Poseidon-81 naval aircraft

The equipment, particularly the MH-60R helicopters, will enable not only enable India protect itself, but also to act in accord with the US in its Indo-Pacific strategy. These helicopters have a menu of functions, and one of the most important is its anti-submarine capability. The new helicopters will help the Indian navy to keep track of submarines operating in their area of interest, particularly Chinese submarines. 

Traditionally, India was one of Russia’s best customers, and the signs of this are everywhere, particularly in the Indian air force which has a host of legacy Russian aircraft. While the replacement of Indian fighter aircraft is not on the table, America is looking to sell it newest F-21 fighter to India.

Since 2013 Russian sales of arms to India has steadily declined while American sales during the same period have steadily increased. India still keeps its options open in purchasing defense equipment. This has been shown most clearly by its purchase of Russia’s deadly S-400 Triumph air defense system. Turkey has also ordered the S-400, as has China.  

With the purchase of modern new equipment and a role in the US Indo-Pacific strategy India is seen as gaining the upper hand in its relations with Pakistan and also with its ongoing engagement with China. India has traditionally held a non-aligned position in its international relations, but now the question seems to be this: How independent can Indian policy remain when American defense equipment and the American global defense strategy have such a big place reserved for its good friend India?

Photo: US Pacific Fleet via flickr

Indian PM Narendra Modi To Head To China Again

                  by David Parmer / Tokyo

This week India’s PM, Narendra Modi heads to China for a fourth times since 2014. On April 27-28 Mr. Modi will meet with China’s President Xi Jinping in the cities of Wuhan, Hubei Province for an “informal summit.” While improved relations with one’s neighbors is a good thing, generally speaking, expectations seem to be fairly modest for this Modi-Xi meeting.

Items on the agenda include re-opening a route to Tibet’s sacred Mt. Kalish and information sharing on hydrological data relating to the Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers. The other stated aim of the meeting is to reduce any lingering tensions from last year’s 73-day Doklan/Donglang standoff along their border.

The real purpose for the “summit” seems to be obscure. What exactly does each side expect to gain, or what message do they want to send to the world? Maybe Mr. Xi, who seems to view things in the long term as well as the short term, sees it in China’s long-term interest to have better relations with India.

China has always been stronger in its border confrontations with India, that is obvious. On the other side of the coin, China is weak in the Indian Ocean where it has to bring its assets thousands of miles south and west to project power. So China might have the upper hand on land, but it is apparent that the sea, particularly the Indian Ocean will go to India.

For Mr. Modi, maybe going to China, dealing with a troubling situation, and perhaps getting some concessions from the Chinese, may make him look good in the eyes of Indian voters. So going to “the Chinese court” every year may just gain Mr. Modi some real benefits for his country and for his own re-election in 2019.

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Photo: Narendra Modi 2016 flickr

India VS China Border Tension – Here we go again.

                            by David Parmer/Tokyo

An expert on international affairs from London’s famed Chatham House research institute was quoted by CNBC on August 16 as saying ” All logic says it won’t happen.” The expert was talking about the current India-China border tensions turning into war. Sadly, logic has little to do with situations that have reached a certain tipping point, and the current one might just have some logic-defying outcomes.

Tensions have been building since June 2017 when India sent troops to stop the building of a road by China in territory that it considers to be in Bhutan, a country whose defense matters are overseen by India. (The area is called Doklam by the Indians and Donglang by the Chinese.) Since then, China has beefed-up its forces and logistics in the area, and its media has repeatedly warned India to withdraw. A war of words has ensued.

On August 15 the South China Morning Post reported that India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi gave a stern warning during his speech on India’s Independence Day when he said:

” Be it the sea or the borders, cyber or space–in all spheres India is capable and we are strong enough to overcome those who try to act against our country.”

As was the case in 1962, India’s forces are no match for the Chinese PLA on paper. This, however, does not mean that they would not put up stiff resistance should fighting occur. Also, this time the Indian Air Force would certainly enter the fray. Indian naval forces would also probably perform well when called upon to do so.

The Doklam Plateau area is a sensitive area to the Indians, first because, of course, it is a disputed border area, but also because it is only about 34KM from the Siligun Corridor which is a vital supply line to India’s Northwest region.

Tensions have also started to simmer in the Ladak, Jammu and Kashmir region where PLA troops attempted to enter Indian-claimed territory.

On August 20, China’s Global Times reported that China’s PLA Western Theater Command carried out military exercises in which 10 units took part, and that these exercises included live fire training.

If we look at the 1962 India-China conflict, we see a number of similarities. In both cases we see a “war of words” carried out in their respective newspapers and now online. Today we can also see steadily rising tensions and warnings by the Chinese.

What followed in 1962 in India (and in China’s border disputes with its other neighbors, Russia and Viet Nam) was a lightning Chinese military strike followed by a period of calm and a Chinese withdrawal. In China’s border conflicts the term “teach a lesson” was repeated by China as one of its military objectives.

The question is now will China attempt to “teach a lesson” again to India, or will tensions de-escalate? The truth is it could go either way, and logic aside there could again be armed conflict at the top of the world. Please log in and give us your thoughts on this question.

Photo: dhiraj kateja via YouTube