Wednesday, 30 January 2008

An untold story: how India got its missile defence

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard: 29 January 2008

There was scepticism on 27th Nov 06, when the Ministry of Defence (MoD) made a surprise announcement. In a secret test at Wheeler’s Island, off the Orissa coast, a missile launched by the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) had hit and destroyed a simulated incoming enemy ballistic missile (usually used to carry nuclear bombs to targets hundreds of kilometres away) while it was 78 kilometres above the Bay of Bengal, still outside the earth’s atmosphere. A year later, on 6th Dec 07, the MoD declared a second test successful, when an incoming ballistic missile was shot down inside the atmosphere, some 15 kilometres above the earth. This was high-technology success; no more than six or seven countries have anti-ballistic missile (ABM) capability.

Unlike the shrill promises that accompanied the Trishul and Akash anti-aircraft missiles, the ABM programme was kept secret, even from close watchers of the DRDO. Now, Business Standard has been granted exclusive access to the ABM missile production facilities in Hyderabad, and told the story of how the programme evolved.

It began in 1995, when alarm bells were set off in the MoD, after India first learned that Pakistan had obtained the M-9 and M-11 ballistic missiles from China. India already had its own nuclear deterrent in place; the Prithvi missile was ready, and the Agni was being tested. But Pakistan was considered unpredictable and, in 1996, the MoD asked its Scientific Advisor, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, whether India could quickly develop protection against an incoming Pakistani ballistic missile.

Dr Abdul Kalam was already overseeing the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP); he began feasibility studies on an ABM programme as well. The DRDO’s first challenge was to develop a radar, which could pick up enemy ballistic missiles being launched from up to 300 kilometres away. The longest range Indian radar was the Rajendra, with a range of 60 kilometres, and there simply wasn’t the time to develop a long-range radar from scratch. The only option was foreign collaboration. Dr Abdul Kalam put one of his top scientists, Dr VK Saraswat, in charge.

Dr Saraswat recounts how Russia was first approached, but the conditions in Russia --- with defence R&D at an all time low --- made the DRDO reject that option. It was then that the Israeli ABM programme ---- the Arrow-1, based upon the long-range Green Pine radar --- caught the DRDO’s eye. A delegation was sent to Israel, but it was turned down because the Green Pine radar incorporated US technology. But Israel did agree to collaborate with India in building a Long Range Tracking Radar (LRTR), which could form the basis for India’s ABM system.

Dr Saraswat rejects reports that the LRTR in India’s ABM system is actually the Israeli Green Pine radar. He stated, “The LRTR is actually a radar built by (a DRDO laboratory) the Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) in Bangalore, in collaboration with Israeli company, ELTA. It is not the Green Pine. The technology of the Green Pine may be built into this, but not even a single module of Green Pine is in (the LRTR). If we had done that, the Americans would have stopped the flow of technology to Israel.”

Also needed for the system was a guidance radar, to track the incoming enemy missile. LRDE, explains Dr Saraswat, has developed that radar in collaboration with French company, Thales.

With the radar problems solved, government sanction was obtained in 1998 to develop an ABM system. But the project remained secret, because an ABM system is controversial; the ability to defend against an enemy nuclear strike is believed to undermine deterrence. Besides that, says Dr Saraswat, India’s nuclear tests that year had tightened international sanctions. “We were having collaboration with these two countries, but the times were not good. We faced severe sanctions in 1998 and, if we talked too much about it, the cooperation could have dried up. That was the main concern.”

But while the radars were a collaborative effort, the interceptor missiles were developed entirely by the DRDO, say the scientists at the assembly line. So were the mission control centre and the launch control centre, which are the nerve centre of the system.

The DRDO says the programme has now reached maturity, and that international sanctions cannot hurt it. There is also a degree of self-confidence in the DRDO, which allows it to acknowledge the role played by other countries. International collaboration is no longer a bad word.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Changing mindsets: the Brahmos effect

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard: 29th January 2008

It could be the new direction of Indian defence production. The Brahmos assembly plant in the DRDO missile complex in Hyderabad is, in every way, a multi-national joint venture that churns out cutting edge weaponry. It looks like one; the spacious, landscaped campus, with Russians working alongside Indian technicians, is very different from your average defence factory. And the Brahmos anti-ship and anti-surface cruise missile system that is produced here is specifically tailored to global regulations. The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) disallows the transfer of technology for missiles with ranges of more than 300 km; the range of the Brahmos has been set at 297 km.

Success stories like the Brahmos are changing mindsets within India’s defence establishment, particularly amongst the high priests of indigenisation in the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO). The ease with which the Indo-Russian Brahmos has been developed and produced contrasts sharply with projects like the Trishul and the Agni, which have taken decades to develop. Nevertheless, there was surprise when the DRDO’s chief controller of R&D, Dr Prahlada, declared, on 8th January this year, that India’s missile development programmes would increasingly take a Brahmos-like form of joint development with international partners.

That far-reaching shift in mindsets within the DRDO indicates a greater nimbleness than their colleagues in the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). Both establishments have faced the same problems. Since the start of India’s nuclear programme in the 1960s, and especially after the nuclear experiment of 1974, their world-view has been forged in the flames of technology denial. But now, after decades of painstaking autarky, the growing tide of offers of foreign collaboration is creating a new confidence. The traditional apprehension that doors could be slammed shut in India’s face at any time, is being whittled away by a new recognition of India today: a growing economic power, a responsible democracy, and a market that simply cannot be disregarded by anyone with a love for profits.

From the perspective of the MoD, the present paradigm is epitomised by the new attitude of the world’s greatest repository of high technology, the United States. Setting aside decades of technology denial regimes against India, the Clinton and Bush administrations have assiduously created a legislative framework for stepped up technology transfers. Beginning with the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP), the Indo-US nuclear deal is as much about high-technology transfers in non-nuclear fields as it is about nuclear power generation.

That framework of cooperation is well in place. Even if the Indo-US nuclear deal cannot be revived, high-technology cooperation in military production is unlikely to be derailed. The rationale is not just strategic, but also economic. With France, the UK, Russia and Israel queuing up to supply high technology to India, America simply cannot afford to miss out.

In sensitive fields like space, nuclear technology and strategic missile systems, India’s scientists will still have to go it alone. The makers of the Agni missile point out that technology denial regimes on the Agni project are getting stronger every year. But that strategic reality can no longer be allowed to block the flow of beneficial technology that can dramatically speed up India’s weapons programmes. 

The Israeli defence industry is a good model for India to emulate. Despite the closeness of its relationship with America, Israel does not enjoy access to US nuclear or strategic missile technologies. But the US-Israeli relationship has given it access to a wide range of “commercially available off-the-shelf” (COTS) components and sub-components, which it buys from the US and integrates into weapons systems. Some of Israel’s most advanced systems, e.g. the Arrow theatre missile defence system, were joint endeavours, with the US providing not just financing, but also technologies that would have otherwise taken Israel years to develop.

While this level of cooperation with America is still some way off for India, several joint development programmes have been initiated with Russia. The Brahmos is already a success; a multi-role transport aircraft and a 5th generation fighter aircraft are now on the anvil. And Israel, always commercially nimble, has seen the benefits of the joint development model, which not only distributes the cost of development, but also provides, in India, a big-spending customer for the final product. India and Israel are setting up a Brahmos-type commercial structure for developing and producing a long-range surface-to-air missile (LR-SAM), which will build on the technologies of Israel’s highly successful Barak missile.

With the winds of change blowing through the DRDO, the MoD must tread carefully to avoid opposition, of the kind that sprang from within the DAE to the US-India nuclear deal. There are deep professional emotions involved; it is unrealistic to expect establishments that have battled through decades of technology denial to suddenly abandon their foxholes for happily collaboration. The DRDO must be brought on board and given institutional stakes in the new glasnost.

The potential for conflict is real. The Indian Navy pushed through the LR-SAM collaboration with Israel, despite DRDO protests that its Trishul missile would do the job. Despite all its failures and delays, the DRDO remains the MoD’s premier technology bank. It must have a say in what technologies are developed and with which partner.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Agni missile to get multiple warheads

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard: 28th January 2008

If the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre is the heart of India’s nuclear deterrent, the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) in Hyderabad is its limbs and sinews. The ASL Director, Avinash Chander, takes us through a spotless assembly room, where technicians are bolting sensitive instruments into the nose of a giant Agni-3 missile. It is eerie; before long, this very missile will roar off a launch pad on Wheeler’s Island in Orissa. It will travel 350 km above the earth, re-enter the atmosphere at a speed of 5 kilometers per second, experiencing temperatures of 3000 degrees centigrade. But the scientists here are cheerfully confident of repeating last April’s success, and proving the missile’s ability to deliver a one-and-a-half-ton nuclear bomb to within 100 metres of a target 3000 kilometers away. 

And that is routine stuff, compared to what India’s Chief Controller of Missiles and Strategic Systems (CC-MSS), Dr VK Saraswat, has divulged to Business Standard. He says that ASL is now working on new warhead technologies, which will equip the Agni-3 and all future missiles. The new warheads (usually nuclear bombs) will be capable of sneaking through enemy anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defences, fooling enemy radars and dodging enemy missiles.

The Agni’s new warheads, says the DRDO, will include five cutting-edge technologies:
  • They will be multiple warheads (Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles, or MIRVs), with each missile delivering several warheads at the same, or even different, targets.
  • Decoy warheads, which will be fired alongside the genuine warheads, so that enemy’s missiles are wasted in attacking decoys, rather than the real warheads.
  • Manoeuvring warheads, which will weave through the atmosphere, dodging enemy missiles that are fired at it.
  • Stealth technologies to make the warheads invisible to enemy radars.
  • Changing warheads’ thermal signatures, to confuse the enemy’s infrared seekers.
The decision to go in for enhanced warhead capabilities stems from growing ABM capabilities with many countries, including India, which has already conducted two successful ABM tests in Nov 2006 and Dec 2007, and plans a comprehensive two-stage ABM test this June. Dr Saraswat says, “As we are developing missile defences, other countries are also doing that. I’m sure our immediate adversaries will also try, or they will acquire, so our future missiles should counter the threat of interception by anti-missile defences.” 

The DRDO is already working on the technologies for these new systems, even though government sanction has not been formally taken. Dr Saraswat says that, “The government sanction for that is just coming, but practically you can say it is received, because we have been asked to go ahead and the work is already on.”

By 2015-2020, according to current planning, India’s missile force will consist mainly of Agni-3 and Agni-4 missiles, all of them equipped with new-generation warheads. The 5000-km range Agni-4 is also referred to as the Agni-3+, because it is almost identical in technology to the Agni-3. Its extra range comes merely from reducing its weight by making its rockets from composite materials, rather than the maraging steel, which is presently used. The Agni-4 is slated for its first flight trials in 2009.

The failure of the first Agni-3 flight test in July 2006 is now a distant memory. Avinash Chander is confident that, after two successful tests this year, an army unit will be equipped by 2009 with operational Agni-3 missiles. The officers and jawans will soon move to Hyderabad, and learn to prepare and launch the missile. The army already has two Agni units: one equipped with 700-km Agni-1 missiles, the other with the 2000-km Agni-2.

The new Agni-3 missiles will all be assembled here in ASL. Unlike every other weapon system, there is no series production line for Agni missiles. Instead, selected Indian partners manufacture individual parts of the missile, which are then integrated in ASL and handed over to the army. Avinash Chander points out that the missile is 100% indigenous, with most of it produced by private industry.

The ASL Director says, “Agni has funded industry to create that infrastructure, so that we get the best of products. We are funding seed capital where necessary, and the money is recovered from the supplies that are made. With infrastructure costs so high, and the production numbers being limited, we invest... and ask the industry to manage the product.


Missile Range Status

Agni-1 700 km In service with army

Agni-2 2000 km In service with army

Agni-3 3000 km One test successful
Two tests planned in 2008

Agni-4 5000 km First test planned in 2009

(All Agni-3 and Agni-4 to get MIRV stealth warheads by 2015-2020)

Saturday, 26 January 2008

France eyes the Russia vacuum

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard: 25th January 2008

Leading up to Nikolas Sarkozy’s arrival in New Delhi on Friday morning, the spotlight has not played kindly over the Indo-French relationship. Popular interest has focused more keenly on the presidential girlfriend, Carla Bruni, than on Sarkozy himself or what he stands for. Then there was the collapse last month of a prospective $550 million helicopter purchase from Eurocopter, a deal which Sarkozy hoped to initial during his visit. Just days later, an Indian court ordered the CBI to get on with probing alleged corruption in India’s $3 billion purchase of six Franco-Spanish Scorpene submarines.

These, however, are mere ripples on the surface of a deepening Indo-French relationship. Of all western powers, France has historically been the most understanding of India’s aspirations and ambitions. That trend has strengthened over the last decade; just four months after India’s nuclear tests in May 1998, French President Jacques Chirac received Atal Behari Vajpayee in Paris in September 1998. The Indian establishment remembers such gestures.

From the viewpoint of Paris, though, New Delhi presents a huge commercial opportunity, with Russia’s stranglehold over arms supply clearly loosening. New Delhi is frustrated over Moscow’s new commercial approach to arms supplies, delays in meeting contracts, and inadequate spare parts supply and after-sales support. France senses the opportunity to fill that void. 

With the United States struggling to understand the rules of business in Indian defence procurement, France, along with Israel, could well be a major gainer. New Delhi’s decision to buy six Scorpene submarines represents a major shift from India’s traditional reliance on Russian submarine technology. Indian defence shipyards are looking for an international partner for a design consultancy and modular shipbuilding, and French shipyard, DCNS, is actively pursuing that contract.

French aviation major, Dassault, also fancies the chances of its new fighter aircraft, the Rafael, to win the $11 million contract to supply 126 fighters to the Indian Air Force (IAF). Dassault has a comfortable relationship with the IAF, which has flown Dassault’s Mirage 2000 aircraft for over two decades. The French company is also pursuing the sale to India of second-hand Mirage 2000 fighters from the Qatari Air Force. There are reports that the French are also offering used Mirage 2000s from their own air force as the Rafael is inducted.

The Indo-French defence relationship draws its real strength from smaller, more crucial, partnerships. India’s most successful aviation product, the Advanced Light Helicopter (known as Dhruv) flies with a French engine from Snecma. Now Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Snecma have jointly developed a newer, more powerful engine, called the Shakti, which will be manufactured for all Dhruv helicopters in Bangalore. HAL’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), which has made little headway so far in developing its Kaveri engine, will now do so in consultancy with Snecma (and Russian engine-maker NPO Saturn). French electronics and avionics makers like Thales and Sagem provide crucial avionics, night vision and gun control equipment for Indian equipment, from fighter aircraft to the Arjun tank.

As the French defence industry has pursued arms sales to China and Pakistan, New Delhi has conveyed its concerns to France. India also protested, during Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to France in September 2006, about French reluctance to part with cutting edge technology relating to ring laser gyros and other avionics equipment.

Concerns such as these are exchanged through a dialogue structure that has been institutionalised between New Delhi and Paris. The two defence secretaries meet annually in a High Level Committee for Defence, while the two National Security Advisors meet every six months in a “High Level Strategic Dialogue”, exploring common ground on the global security situation. The 17th Round of this dialogue took place in New Delhi on 30th July 2007. In addition, there is a Joint Working Group on Terrorism.

Security cooperation between India and France is also complemented by decades of close cooperation in the field of space. French scientists were involved in the launch of India’s first sounding rockets from Thumba. Under a continuing agreement with the French Space Agency (CNES), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) space scientists were frequent visitors to CNES facilities, gaining experience and expertise for developing India’s early rockets. The European Space Agency’s Ariane rocket, launched India’s experimental communications satellite, APPLE, free of charge. A Joint Working Group (JWG) between ISRO and CNES meets every six months.

In the circumstances, Nikolas Sarkozy is assured of a warm welcome in New Delhi. At the Republic Day Parade, the French president may find that a disconcertingly high proportion of the military equipment that rolls past him bears the Russian stamp. But all that is changing and the delegation travelling with Sarkozy will do what it can to mould that change in France’s favour.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Integrated Missile Programme to wind up on 31st Dec 08

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, Hyderabad, 23rd January 2008

If India has a Missile Central, this is it. Nestling in the foliage at Kanchanbagh, on the outskirts of Hyderabad, are an array of laboratories with innocuous names like Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), and Research Centre, Imarat (RCI). It is these institutions that came together under Dr APJ Abdul Kalam to begin the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) in 1983.

Now, amidst reports that the IGMDP had closed down, Business Standard was granted full access to the laboratories and scientists of the IGMDP. Dr VK Saraswat, the DRDO’s Chief Controller for Missiles and Strategic Systems (CC-MSS), India’s top missile scientist, revealed for the first time that the IGMDP was likely to close down on 31st December 2008. And the reason for its closure is success, not failure.

Just one missile test must be successfully completed before closure. This summer, the army will evaluate whether the anti-tank Nag missile is fit for acceptance into service. Army sources are optimistic; they say the Nag is close to completion.

Dr Saraswat told Business Standard, “The IGMDP continues, because it has government approval to continue work up to 31st December 2008. Subject to the likely success of the Nag trials, that will be the last date for completing the stated objectives of the IGMDP.”

If the Nag trials are successful, the IGMDP will have successfully developed four out of the five missiles it set out to make, 25 years ago. Those were:

• The Agni Technology Demonstrator (Agni-TD), which was to have a range of 800 km. The army has already accepted the Agni into service, including the Agni-2, with a range of 2500 km.
• The shorter-range 250-kilometer Prithvi missile has been successfully developed, and is also in service with the army. A naval variant, called the Dhanush, has also been produced.
• The 25-kilometer range, anti-aircraft Akash missile has successfully completed Indian Air Force (IAF) testing in December 2007. The IAF confirms that two squadrons of the Akash missile will enter service shortly. The army, though, has refused to accept the Akash.
• The 11-kilometer range, quick-reaction anti-aircraft Trishul missile programme has been closed. This is the only IGMDP missile that will not enter service.
• The anti-tank, fire-and-forget Nag missile, which can strike a tank 4 km away, has already undergone trials in April 2007. Another round of trials will take place in the desert this summer.

While the IGMDP may close down, India’s missile programme has steadily expanded outside the purview of IGMDP. The Agni programme surges ahead, now under the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL). The India-Russia joint venture, Brahmos, produces the most advanced cruise missiles in the world. The Astra air-to-air missile is being developed separately. An anti-ballistic missile (ABM) interceptor programme, that crown jewel of missiles, has already conducted two successful tests.

Despite the closure of the “integrated” missile programme, close integration continues in developing the technologies for this new generation of “non-IGMDP” missiles. Besides know-how inherited from the IGMDP, each laboratory focuses on particular technologies. ASL develops solid propulsion systems and the composite materials that rocket components are made from. The RCI contributes key technologies like inertial navigation systems and the sensors and seekers that go into missiles. The DRDL works in the high-tech fields of liquid propulsion, ramjet systems and aerodynamics.

Driving this quest for indigenous technology development is the experience of international sanctions that stemmed from the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Denied even commercially available dual-use components, DRDO scientists continually reinvent the wheel.

The ASL Director, Avinash Chander, illustrates the broad consensus when he says, “Sanctions on the missile programme are very much alive under the MTCR and other repressive regimes. Most of our labs are on the banned lists. But we have taken this as a challenge… an opportunity to indigenise. And that is why today Agni, with the support of the Indian industry, is truly an Indian missile.”

Sunday, 20 January 2008

An army run on whim

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard: 15th January 2008

That junior army officers are an unhappy lot is well known; there are more than 11,000 empty officer slots, a staggering 25% deficiency that nobody wants to fill. This shortfall is entirely at the junior level, since posts are filled top down. But the discontent seems to be uniform; on the 5th of January, Lt Gen HS Panag, heading the army’s operationally crucial Northern Command, met with Defence Minister AK Antony to protest an order from the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Deepak Kapoor, transferring him to the operationally insignificant Central Command after just a year at the head of operations in J&K. This revolt by a top commander highlights the need for major changes in the army’s style of functioning.

This is not the first time an army commander has stood up to the chief; there is an inherent ambivalence in the relationship between Army Headquarters and the six operational commands (Northern, Western, South Western, Central, Eastern and Southern). The bosses of these “field armies” (General Officers Commanding in Chief, or GOsC-in-C), scoff that the COAS is only a Chief of Staff, while they are the senior most commanders. In the 1965 war, the Western Army Commander, Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh, refused to obey verbal orders from the COAS, General JN Chaudhary, to withdraw in the face of a Pakistani attack. General Harbaksh’s conviction prevented a large chunk of Punjab from being captured by Pakistan. Similarly, in the 1962 war, the Western Army Commander, Lt Gen Daulet Singh, resisted tactically unwise pressure from his COAS, General Thapar, thus saving Ladakh from being overrun by the Chinese.

In the current confrontation, again, the army commander is right; there are several reasons why Lt Gen Panag should not be transferred. The prime amongst them is the need for continuity in an army where command tenures are becoming shorter and shorter. Today, a brigadier commands his brigade for just eighteen months, barely long enough to unpack, tour his operational area, and get familiar with his job. Almost as soon as he masters what he is expected to do, it is time to start packing again. His bosses, the major generals and lieutenant generals who command divisions and corps, provide even less continuity. They remain in the saddle for just fourteen months or so. In this command merry-go-round, it is only the army commanders who stay in the saddle for something more than a brief visit.

The army officially recognises this need; only a general with more than two years of residual service can be appointed an army commander. General Panag’s posting, therefore, cannot logically be passed off, as the COAS is doing, as a “routine reshuffle”. He has been in command in Udhampur for just a year, and has another year before he retires. The J&K elections this year, for which the army will be called upon to generate security, only reinforce the need for continuity.

Vitiating this transfer further, with a more sinister colour, is its timing. General Panag is being moved out after he initiated a series of inquiries against questionable financial transactions, many of them dating back to when the current Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor, occupied his chair in Udhampur. The six operational army commanders are granted special financial powers for buying urgently needed operational equipment. Purchases made by General Deepak Kapoor are now under the scanner; transferring General Panag after he initiated the inquiries violates the principles of natural justice.

Army Headquarters, predictably, has argued that transferring an army commander is “the Chief’s prerogative”. But senior serving officers argue that “prerogative” is not a feudal privilege; the vitality of the system demands that it be based on logic, transparency and communication.

Defence Minister Antony is a cautious man and he is treating this case with caution. Apparently, civil investigative agencies are examining General Panag’s allegations, and he will only be moved out of Northern Command if there are concrete assurances that the cases he initiated will be followed up after he leaves.

But there are larger lessons to be learned from this unseemly confrontation; the most important of them is the need for the army to clearly define rules that will govern promotions and transfers. Unlike other central services, like the IAS and the IFS, where rules and criteria are clearly defined in a rulebook, the defence services are bound by no such constraints. 

While this gives the service chiefs the feeling of autonomy, the absence of criteria has, in fact, undermined them. Each successive chief initiates changes in promotion criteria (usually to benefit their regiments or branches) that wash away their predecessors’ reforms. The result is a spate of representations and court cases, which allows the judiciary and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to adjudicate over what should be the military’s internal human resource management.

Finally, this episode highlights the need to clarify the relationship between the service chiefs and their theatre (army, navy and air) commands. The current ambiguity has been heightened by the creation of tri-service commands like the Andaman and Nicobar Command and the Strategic Forces Command, and the impending Aerospace Command. Should India follow a US-style model, where the theatre commanders report independently to the US President? Or should India have its own model? These are questions that need to be resolved quickly.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

India to spell out list of defence products

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 8th Jan 08

Despite extensive foreign trade regulations that cover most aspects of commerce, India has, in a remarkable omission, never yet officially enumerated or listed what it considers to be a defence product. Every other country with a significant defence industry has such a list. In India, a listing of defence products is required to determine where manufacturing licenses are required, where foreign participation is restricted to 26%, and the applicability of customs duties and exemptions.

Now, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is plugging this major loophole. A committee under Additional Secretary of Defence, Mr PK Rastogi, will soon release a “Munitions List” that will constitute India’s official list of defence products. Confirming this to Business Standard just before retiring on 31st December 2007, former Secretary of Defence Production, Mr KP Singh, explained that since defence manufacture had always been done by the public sector for government forces, there had been no need for such a list. Now, with the entry of the private sector into defence, a “Munitions List” had become essential.

This need has been reinforced by the MoD’s defence offsets policy of 2006, which mandates that foreign military vendors must offset every contract by investing 30% of the contract value into the manufacture in India of military equipment. A comprehensive “Munitions List” will be a reference list of what foreign vendors can manufacture, in order to discharge their offsets obligations.

India has moved incrementally towards clarifying its lists of sensitive items. In 2004, the Director General of Foreign Trade, under the Ministry of Commerce, had published what is termed the Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies (SCOMET) List. This includes sensitive items relating to nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) warfare, special materials, stealth technologies, aeronautics and rocket materials.

The SCOMET List contains seven categories (e.g. Category 0: Nuclear materials, Category 1: Toxic chemicals, etc). But Category 6 has so far remained blank, and listed as “Reserved”. The “Munitions List” that the MoD is finalising will now form Category 6 of the SCOMET List. The Ministry of Commerce will notify the list as soon as the MoD forwards it to them.

Interestingly, the list of nuclear materials --- Category 0, the most comprehensive part of the SCOMET List --- was only updated in July 2005, after India passed its Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities Act), 2005, in order to conform to non-proliferation concerns over nuclear commerce. This was one of the pre-conditions laid down by Washington in order to take forward negotiations on the US-India nuclear deal.

Senior MoD officials point out that India’s new “Munitions List” is also modelled on an international non-proliferation structure --- the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral agreement between over forty countries. While India is not a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement, participating states seek, through national policies (such as the new MoD initiative to update the SCOMET list) to bring about greater transparency in the international transfer of military and dual-use goods.

The Wassenaar Arrangement has a comprehensive Munitions List, which has 22 main entries that include “small arms and light weapons and ammunition”; “tanks and other military armed vehicles”; “combat vessels”; and “armoured/protective equipment”.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

A very happy 2008 to all of you!

Will Pakistan look into the mirror?

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard: 1st January 2008

Pakistani editor, Najam Sethi told NDTV, after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, that the former prime minister’s legacy could be to “force Pakistan to stare into its soul.” Sethi, it would seem, is being extraordinarily optimistic. Psychologists describe a stage of obesity when one shuns mirrors because of the hopelessness of what one sees. It’s easier is to just look away and reach for another Mars bar. For Pakistan, the image in the mirror may already be too chilling to confront. 

The sheer complexity of Pakistan’s problems defies the tidy prescriptions on offer. From the liberal standpoint --- both in the west and within Pakistan --- free elections are the route to deliverance. Observers who are preoccupied with security see salvation in an immediate crackdown on religious radicalism --- Al Qaeda, the Taliban, radical madrasas and the myriad jehadi outfits scattered across Pakistan. Advice from those inclined to sociology centres on refurbishing the education system to tackle the growing religious bigotry within the population at large. Meanwhile, most Pakistanis, including the government and large sections of the liberal media, complain that everything was just fine until American and NATO forces entered the region; the departure of these forces would starve the jehadis of their major grievance.

The problem with these panaceas is that none of them deals with the reality of contemporary Pakistan. Six decades of short-sighted policies have transformed a state based on religious homogeneity into a bewildering zigzag of political, ethnic, religious and ideological fault-lines, much like a fallow field in a drought. 

Common to every constituency is radicalism, with radical Islam being only the best recognised. This is buttressed by radical anti-Americanism, which manages to bring together liberal and radical Pakistani on a common platform. Both Al Qaeda and liberal columnists (Ayaz Amir of the newspaper, Dawn, to cite just one) suggest that if the United States, and its local quisling, Pervez Musharraf, were thrown out together, Pakistan would return to peace and prosperity. Equally uncompromising is radical liberalism, now on a collision course with the military establishment as well as the religious right. Radical sectarianism continues to let blood, with Shia and Sunni lashkars targeting each other continually. Radical anti-Indianism is currently out of the spotlight, but will inevitably be dusted out when the current preoccupations lose steam. 

Confusing the matrix further is the opportunism with which natural enemies come together for immediate gains. Imran Khan dallies with the lovelies in Mumbai, and propagates the sharia in Peshawar. Nawaz Sharif plays footsie with the Islamist fringe while keeping his back channels open with the military. Benazir, now the patron saint of democracy, found it perfectly acceptable to strike a deal with Musharraf to become a toothless prime minister in an army-controlled democracy. She knows the ballgame; journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, in their recent book, Deception, describe how Benazir agreed to Musharraf’s suggestion to ramp up the Kashmir jehad in October 1993 by recruiting 10,000 jehadis from Sunni extremist groups. Having been thrown out by the army during her first tenure as PM, Benazir explained, “Second time around I did not want to rock the boat.”

In this snake pit of radicalism, Islamabad’s soul searching will have to confront the daunting reality that only a full court press that involves every department of government can arrest Pakistan’s free fall. An all out military offensive will be needed against the tribal militias in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP); a police and intelligence offensive against the jehadis in Pakistan’s heartland; a reorganisation of education to de-radicalise thousands of madrasas and liberalise even mainstream education; and a gradual strengthening of civil society and democratic institutions without creating a backlash from the military establishment.

This self-realisation, unrealistically, will be required from a country that has historically deflected blame. At the birth of Pakistan, an aggressive and expansionist India was blamed for the expanding role of the military. East Pakistani perfidy was blamed for the partition of the country. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan was blamed for the growth of radical Islam in Pakistan. Also blamed was a global conspiracy against Islam, a Judeo-Christian-Hindu conspiracy playing out in places like Palestine, Bosnia, Chechnya and Kashmir. And then it was America’s war on terror. 

If Pakistan can bring itself to identify its problems, it must then muster up the national will to tackle them. Cracking down on religious extremism will be dramatically complicated by the extent to which Islamist beliefs have spread through government machinery. The Pakistan military will be required to physically combat terrorist and insurgent groups, but the surrender of over 150 army soldiers, along with their officers, to a militant group is a worrying portent. The Pakistan Army has often demonstrated that it is capable of fighting; it is now demonstrating that it is unwilling to. The intelligence agencies are in even worse condition, their personnel compromised by earlier links to radical groups.

The one group that has comprehensively demonstrated that it is ready for the fight is the Islamist radicals. They have a clear ideology, a global network, sources of supply, manpower and weaponry and, increasingly, a political front. And with every day that the Pakistan government tarries in bringing order to that country, the radicals will look attractive by comparison.

Will Pakistan stare into its soul in 2008? The answer will directly impact on India.