Since this thread is straying geopolitically-OT somewhat, I’d like to offer a few thoughts germane to the MMRCA contest:
The original American strategic rationale for the Pro-Pakistan tilt was set in the Eisenhower Administration, on the desks of John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen Welsh Dulles, who created the ideological schema through which all ‘Cold War’ matters were viewed by Americans. This thinking still colours institutionalized American foreign policy making to this very day. Together, the Dulles brothers successfully promulgated an extremely simplistic (mis)understanding of the Post WWII dispensation, wherein, “You’re either with us or against us”. Rakshaks will recall very similar sentiments expressed by Bush-43 after 9/11.
India, being true to her own ideological roots, while grounded in a deep appreciation for history, and informed of the high stakes involved, and with a long-view in mind; chose instead to walk a Non-Aligned path. If Rakshaks will permit me this; in so doing, India effectively threw America behind Pakistan, because the simple-minded US administration couldn’t figure out what else to do, and Pakistan was all too willing (which is not intended to blame India – she had to do what she had to do, and the Americans didn’t know any better – and apparently still don’t). This Indian decision wasn’t just a reflection of a post-colonial desire for independence. Nor was it naïve, facile or expedient. Indeed, it was quite the opposite. Indians of the day knew that when everyone picks one side or another, that wider war becomes *inevitable*. Yet, standing apart from either block carries its own dangers, which was a conscious decision taken with bravery, let no one doubt. For these reasons among others, India did not become a “poodle” of either Cold War superpower, as evidenced by the military engagements she undertook during that period – always on behalf of herself and none other.
In this light, anyone now advocating for India to closely ally with the United States is effectively abrogating pretty much all of Indian strategic thought going back just about three thousand years. No thinking person with pro-India inclinations should undertake this lightly (nor at all, I would suggest). Granted, this in itself does not instruct India not to pick the F-16 or F-18 if indeed either is technically superior to the other MMRCA contenders. But, it does caution against an overly-close or formalized alliance with the United States (a la CISMoA), because to the Indian mind, alliance is an obligation, whereas to the American mind, alliance is an opportunity – and this ideological and philosophical mismatch will bring nothing but woe to India if ever a formalized alliance is instituted between India and the United States. By all means, buy American warplanes if they’re in fact the best on offer and can be had without abandoning Indian sovereignty or military prerogative – but don’t do it for any supposed (short-sighted, ill-considered) geostrategic reason bent on alliance with America. That’d be stupid, and could set India on a very dangerous course.
Consider that India’s Non-Aligned stance gave the Americans enough of a reason to back Pakistan in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, despite the complete lack of any moral justification to do so. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan gave the Americans an even bigger Pro-Pakistan reason in the 80s – a reason that was shared between “all three” (being the US, Pakistan and China, owing to the ‘Sino-Soviet Split’). But let no one forget that when the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, the Americans effectively ignored Pakistan until 9/11/2001. Then, once again, Pakistan became “a major non-NATO US ally”. What does this mean for the MMRCA contest? It means that the Americans will offer India “the moon” (including a UNSC P-seat, F-16, F-18, even F-35, etc.), but only because of America’s own interests (such as Af-Pak, countering China, US manufacturing jobs, etc); American interests which seemingly are always calculated on very short time frames, subject to change without notice.
Now, I will admit that I have no way to prove this, but let me ask you, dear Rakshak, if India had ‘fallen in line’ with US interests when she first had the ‘opportunity’, do you think America would have exhibited the Pro-Pakistan tilt from 1950-1979? Of course you don’t and neither do I. Make no mistake, America of that day would have quickly disposed of Pakistan had India ‘played ball’. Furthermore, in a very real sense; America’s arming of Pakistan contributes to Indian insecurity, which (they hope) leads to Indian purchases of American weapons, thereby profiting America. In a way, India purchasing American weapons validates and facilitates this dynamic, and feeds into a continuing cycle of insecurity and American weapons purchases. The only way to effectively break this dynamic is to not buy American weapons. If the Americans see that the instability and insecurity they foster goes to enrich Russia or France, they will not play that game with the same gusto they have been.
When America’s interests shift, which they inevitably do because of the short-sightedness inherent in expedient strategymaking, so too does American support for her client states. In fact, I would argue, that the structural dynamics of the American establishment itself – with its ‘checks and balances’, open access for paying lobbyists, two-year-long election cycles, the milindustrial complex itself and the combined heavy dependence on middle-eastern oil and Chinese sovereign credit – this virtually guarantees that America’s interests vis a vis India will shift over the coming decades, as they have over the past decade, making it by no means certain that relations will improve along the current trajectory.
If history provides any salient lesson, we can be assured that the present push for warming relations will not last indefinitely, especially as the ramifications of global climate change increasingly pit the so-called ‘developed world’ at loggerheads with the ‘developing world’. If India plans to fly the MMRCA winner for 30-40 years, as I’ve read; then India should consider buying from a country that has exhibited a far greater degree of geopolitical constancy than has the United States of America. By my geopolitical estimation, that would indicate either Russia or France (Mig-35 or Rafale, respectively).
IMHO, far too many here on BRF are keen to kick Russia to the curb. I think this is also a short-sighted response to the aggravation of perceived cost overruns on the Gorshkov/Vikramaditya, and also the supply disruptions that came in the wake of the Soviet collapse. I also think there is some significant misperception of the strategic position of Russia. Allow me to explain briefly:
Firstly, third-party observers to the Gorshkov refit (like you and me) are in no position to question the validity of costs on the project. Any upset on the topic can only be informed by inflammatory media portrayals, ignoring the fact that the GoI/MoD finally came to accept things and the whole affair was settled. Nobody on BRF should overlook that.
Second, the Soviet collapse caused a great deal of disruption in Russia, and regrettably this resulted in some supply disruptions, but that was the past, and there is no indication that anything like that would happen again – so while Russia may not be a perfect supplier yet, they are on the road to improving and with continued patronage (and larger production volumes) the Russian milindustrial complex should stabilize its operations and improve their supply performance. Don’t forget, other deals with the Russians have already been settled (notably the FGFA) and so any steps to thicken the foundations of Russian producers is likely to pay dividends to India over the long term.
Third, with regards to Russia’s geostrategic position; like India, Russia has concerns about Chinese expansionism; like India, Russia has concerns about terrorism and Islamist militancy; like India, Russia has concerns about petro-dollar fuelled Islamism; WHILE AT THE SAME TIME; unlike the United States, Russia is an energy exporting country; and unlike the United States, Russia’s sovereign debt is below 10% of GDP (much lower than any other MMRCA contender).
Undeniably, Russia has gone through a rough patch since the collapse of the USSR, but things are improving rapidly. If India wanted to pick a geopolitical power with which to partner to march into her preferred future, it should not be one that is so beholden to China, which would include America, of course, but increasingly also the EADS member countries.
Some additional rebuttals:
1) A number of posters have commented that India, the world’s largest democracy, is a “natural ally” of America, the world’s oldest democracy. This depiction of America is wrong-headed because the United States didn’t become a true democracy until the Civil Rights act of 1964(!) and the Voting Rights Act of 1965(!!). By this measure, India is an older democracy than is the United States, so please spare us the revisionist depiction of American democracy – overlooking a recent history of racial segregation and disenfranchisement.
2) America didn’t enter WWII on the side of the British until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in December 1941! That’s right, America stayed out of the fray from 1939-1942, and in fact a number of American companies and businessmen were trading with the Nazis even after the Americans entered the European theatre, notably IBM which provided a punch-card system the Nazis used to “catalogue” concentration camp prisoners, thereby improving the efficiency of Hitler’s holocaust machine. The take-away lesson here: America has demonstrated a depth of moral bankruptcy that should give any Indian pause when considering formal alliances with the United States.
3) Have no concern about blow-back on the US-India nuclear deal. For starters, there are entirely different lobbies in the US for nuclear equipments and warplanes, and so little chance that a sour note for one will taint the other. More importantly, India has already made the sound decision to operate low-enriched fuel, heavy-water moderated nuclear reactors, and the Americans have long ago made the *cheap* decision to operate light-water moderated reactors. This means that India doesn’t really want US reactors, only access to other NSG products and fuel. BRIEFLY, the main safety advantage of heavy-water moderated reactors is that a loss of containment, and leakage of heavy water, would result in an automatic shutdown (because the reaction requires ‘slow neutrons’), whereas in the light-water reactors offered by America, a loss of containment and loss of water would result in a meltdown, which is exactly what we’re seeing in Fukushima right now. For this reason, I don’t think India or anyone else would consider buying a light water reactor anymore, because they are inherently unsafe, whereas pressurized heavy-water reactors will always ‘fail safe’. (IMHO, India would be better off buying an AECL reactor from Canada, like the CANDU-6 or ACR-1000, both of which will burn thorium, unlike any American reactor.)