A reformist prime minister vs. a dysfunctional defense ministry.Jun 30, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 40 • By GARY SCHMITT and SADANAND DHUME
American strategists are taken with the idea of India’s strategic potential: a large democracy with a blue-water navy and the world’s third-largest armed forces that happens to be jammed between an imploding Pakistan and an expansionist China. But a deeply dysfunctional Indian defense community has frustrated efforts to turn that potential into reality. Will the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month with the strongest mandate of any Indian leader in 30 years jumpstart much-needed reforms? The answer will help determine whether India begins to fulfill its vaunted potential as a U.S. strategic partner in Asia and beyond.
On the face of it, Modi’s election augurs well for India’s defense preparedness. On the campaign trail, Modi promised a strong India able to stand up to its adversaries. He deplored what he called the then-ruling Congress party’s lack of respect for soldiers, and promised to devote his government to long-overdue military modernization.
But the list of problems he faces is a long one. The Indian defense budget has declined to less than 2 percent of the country’s GDP, the lowest in five decades. This might be tolerable if the country’s security environment had gotten appreciably better in recent years—but it hasn’t. Though India hasn’t witnessed a major terrorist strike since the carnage in Mumbai in 2008, Pakistan remains a threat, and the prospect of terrorist attacks has not gone away. As the United States draws down its troops in the region, Afghan instability is likely to be of increasing concern, and India faces on land and at sea a rapidly rising military power in China, with which the country shares a disputed 2,500-mile border.
The challenges, however, run much deeper than a lack of resources. The procurement system is broken, corruption a constant problem, and tensions between the various military services and the civilian defense bureaucracy are serious and longstanding. Politically appointed defense ministers have had little time for—and, more important, little interest in—straightening out all that ails the Indian defense effort.
The last defense minister, A. K. Antony, was so worried that corruption associated with military procurement would tarnish his image that he brought India’s acquisition process to a virtual halt. At the slightest hint of scandal, purchases would be stalled and companies blacklisted until investigations could be completed. The result: tens of billions of dollars in new equipment not acquired, with existing platforms growing outdated and more expensive to maintain.
Indians themselves point to the history of multiple on-again, off-again attempts to procure aerial refuelers, transport aircraft, and light utility helicopters. For example, even though India’s air force is replete with older (in some cases, relatively ancient) fighter aircraft like the MiG-21, there seems little urgency in replacing them. After a drawn-out bidding process, the government finally opted in 2012 to buy 126 of Dassault’s Rafale aircraft for $11 billion, but it still hasn’t finalized the contract. As a result, the full complement of Rafales probably will not enter the Indian Air Force’s inventory until well into the next decade.
Similarly, before the turn of the century, plans were approved for India to acquire 24 new diesel-electric attack submarines, both to increase the size of the submarine fleet and to replace an aging fleet. Yet it’s possible that over the next year only 9 of the current fleet of 14 attack submarines will be operational, with the rest needing overhauls—a reality reinforced by repeated accidents onboard Indian Navy submarines, including the total loss, with crew, of a Russian-made submarine last August. Yet plans to build the new submarines have been delayed time and again. Inevitably, delays mean higher costs, and, with a budget dominated by personnel expenses, this means even fewer rupees to buy needed equipment.
Already, the army is facing shortages in ammunition, field artillery, night-vision capabilities, specialized counterterrorism equipment, and antitank weapons.
Three Western visions on the Indian subcontinentJun 23, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 39 • By PAULA DEITZ
In the final scene of My Architect, Nathaniel Kahn’s 2003 documentary about discovering his father Louis I. Kahn (1901-74) through his architecture, Nathaniel stands in the National Assembly building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, speaking to Shamsul Wares, a local architect who knew Kahn and claims that the building gave his country democracy.
Hope and change on the subcontinentJun 2, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 36 • By JONATHAN FOREMAN
The Indian elections that ended with a resounding victory for the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi and an even more resounding defeat of the ruling Congress party have huge implications not just for India’s potential prosperity, political evolution, and unity but also for the region and the world economy.
The pressure is on to sell to China’s military.Nov 18, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 10 • By JOSEPH A. BOSCO
Next month’s meeting of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in China will feature a familiar ritual. American negotiators will face intensified pressure for Washington to lift restrictions on the sale of military and dual-use technology to China. Over time, the perennial drip-drip of Beijing’s complaints against U.S. trade discrimination in this area, bolstered by American business desires to close the trade gap, has proved effective.
8:04 AM, Jul 24, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Vice President Joe Biden, speaking today at the Bombay stock exchange, claimed Indian relatives.
11:12 AM, Jul 23, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The vice president's wife, Jill Biden, spent time with "slum dwellers" in India, according to the pool report.
"Second lady Jill Biden visits slum dwellers in Agra Agra, Jul 23 (PTI) It was a memorable day for the slum dwellers of Kachchpura near the Taj Mahal here as they had a VIP visitor -- US second lady Jill Biden who spent nearly an hour with them," reads the pool report.
8:25 AM, Feb 26, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Adam Kredo reports that the Indian embassy in Washington says Chuck Hagel's views are not based in reality:
The Embassy of India chided secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel late Monday for suggesting in a previously unreleased 2011 speech that India has “for many years” sponsored terrorist activities against Pakistan in Afghanistan.
6:15 AM, Oct 25, 2012 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
A post in the Wall Street Journal blog covering India suggests relations are souring between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, long the main instrument of Riyadh’s ideological influence over South Asian Muslims. The desert monarchy has extradited several terrorist suspects to India, under a treaty signed between the two countries in 2010. Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari was sent to India in June, A. Rayees was deported by the Saudis to New Delhi in October, and Fasih Muhammad, last week.
11:55 AM, Jul 10, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Disclosure forms reveal that Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a member of Congress from Florida, previously held funds with investments in Swiss banks, foreign drug companies, and the state bank of India. This revelation comes mere days after the Democratic chair attacked presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for holding money in Swiss bank accounts in the past.
But she's stood up by two people.12:22 PM, May 7, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Hillary Clinton is in Calcutta, India, where she told an audience that "she want[s] to see a female US president during her lifetime -- but insisted she was ready to 'get off the high wire' of top-level politics." Interestingly, the Calcutta Telegraph places Clinton on its front page, with the headline, "Hillary's excitement," and then goes on to report that the secretary state wanted to
9:05 AM, Apr 13, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Last week, foreign press outlets ran a story that deserves to receive a lot more attention in America. Documents captured in Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan compound reportedly show that the terror master helped plan the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.
The United States should improve relations with Brazil.9:05 AM, Apr 9, 2012 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
In 2001, Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill famously coined the acronym “BRIC” to describe four of the world’s most populous countries—Brazil, Russia, India, and China—each of which boasted great economic potential. Since then, China has enjoyed breakneck GDP growth while making very little progress on economic or political reform, and Russia has devolved into a petro-autocracy dangerously reliant on global oil prices. As for Brazil and India, they have reaped consistent accolades for their commitment to democracy and economic stability.
1:22 PM, Apr 6, 2012 • By ELLEN BORK
Under secretary for political affairs Wendy Sherman’s visit to Nepal this week is a praiseworthy sign of American concern about affairs in that nation wedged between Tibet and India.