India's new move to counter China

- Amit Kr. Yadav   09-06-2016


Yes you heard it right, India to export weapons.

In order to tackle China’s growing military power, India has stepped up efforts to sell its advanced cruise missile system to Vietnam. New Delhi is also eying 15 more markets for selling the supersonic BrahMos missile. BrahMos which is made by Indo-Russian joint venture would mark a shift for the world's biggest arms importer, as India seeks to turn into an exporter. This attempt to send weapons the other way will help shore up alliances and partners' defenses and boost our revenues.

As per reports, the government has ordered BrahMos Aerospace to accelerate sales to a list of five countries topped by Vietnam followed by Indonesia, South Africa, Chile and Brazil.

 Philippines is at the top of a second list of 11 nations including Malaysia, Thailand and United Arab Emirates, countries which had expressed interest but need further discussions and analysis.

Vietnam had requested New Delhi in 2011 for the BrahMos to counter China, which sees the weapon, reputed to be the world's fastest cruise missile with a top speed of up to three times the speed of sound, as destabilizing. India has been steadily building military ties with Vietnam and is supplying offshore patrol boats under a $100 million credit line, its biggest overseas military aid.

Indonesia and the Philippines had also asked for the BrahMos, which has a range of 290 km and can be fired from land, sea and submarine. An air-launched version is under testing.

Most of the countries which has asked for BrahMos has territorial dispute with China in the South China seas like Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. On the other hand, India does not have territorial disputes in the vital global trade route which China claims as its own. Since past few years China has increased its influence in South China Sea. But India has an unsettled land border with China and in recent years has grown concerned over its powerful neighbour's expanding maritime presence in the Indian Ocean.

India has become more conscious since China's military assistance to arch-rival Pakistan and Chinese submarines docking in Sri Lanka. The step to sell BrahMos to countries near South China Sea may receive an aggressive response from Beijing. 

It seems that Modi Government has changed their over-protective status and has finally concluded that stronger defence relationships with the U.S., Japan, and Vietnam actually put India on a stronger footing in its dealings with China. 

India has been one of the largest weapon importers over the year which takes up major share of Defence Budget. Major countries who are global leaders in exporting arms have defense sector in private hands so there is always a feeling of competitiveness and innovation.

After decades of isolation over its nuclear arms programme India’s export has received some push. India grossed $55Mn through arms export which is peanuts as compared to its imports, which was a whopping $3.58Bn in 2014.

India is poised to join the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) after talks between Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington this week. The BrahMos falls short of the 300 km limit set by the voluntary organisation.

India's accession to the MTCR may also strengthen its case for joining another non-proliferation body, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a move China has effectively blocked. Both groups would give India greater access to research and technology.

BrahMos Aerospace, co-owned by the Indian and Russian governments, said discussions were underway with several countries on missile exports, but it was too early to be more specific.

"Talks are going on, there will be a deal," said spokesman Praveen Pathak.

India is still a marginal player in global arms exports. The unit cost of the missile, fitted on Indian naval ships, is estimated at around $3 million.

Indian warships are armed with configurations of eight or 16 BrahMos missiles each, while sets of two or four would go on smaller vessels.

A Russian official said exports of BrahMos to third countries was part of the founding agreement of the India-Russia joint venture. He said, “Only now that India had armed its own military with the BrahMos was there capacity to consider exporting.”