Union Defence Minister AK Antony’s affirmation of kickbacks in VVIP helicopter contract has corroborated the proposition that defence deals witness deep-rooted malpractices. Hardly is there any defence deal in the country that is not tainted with financial bungling. This trend has been going on since the Bofors scam, be it fly-by-night operation in submarines deals or gross irregularities in the purchase of coffins during Kargil war.  After the revelations of Bofors scam, the government framed a policy to insulate defence purchases from the involvement of middlemen, yet their proactiveness could not be stopped. The VVIP copter scam in addition to other tainted-defence deals are examples of this failure following which several domestic and international companies have been blacklisted. The Central government, however, makes tall claim but the fact remains that all defence deals across the globe take place through the middlemen. It is difficult to understand, how the Indian government can succeed in standing off with international procedures of defence deals. Indian is not in position to stonewall global trend in defence purchase.

If the Defence Minister is to be believed, India had already signed an integrity pact with the Italian company before purchasing VVIP helicopters. Now it is palpable that this pact proved futile. The revelation of corruption in the VVIP helicopter deal could throw spanner in the other defence deals that will have repercussion on boosting the country’s security apparatus. It must be noted that India’s image has already been dented on world arena for dillydallying in finalizing the defence deals. The unnecessary delay in the defence deals would mean nothing but keeping the country’s national security at stake.

Surprisingly, India has emerged as world’s largest importer of arms. The country imports 70 percent of its armament needs including the fighter jets, submarines and even rifles. It is profound irony that that the country which is gearing up for the Mars Mission besides having successfully launched satellites on its own and which is efficient enough to test-fire long-range missile is compelled to import defence equipment on such a large scale. Out of Rs 2.03 lakh crore Defence Budget in this fiscal, the Union government has allocated Rs 86,000 crore for defence modernization.  It is pertinent, why defence PSUs are not able to provide weapons which can cater to the needs of armed forces? What is the reason that despite strategic declaration private sector is not being involved for the production of defence equipments? All these questions reflect that such circumstances are deliberately being sustained so that all sorts of defence materials can be imported. It is of grave concern that neither defence PSUs nor the private firms are being encouraged to provide ammunitions. However, the matter of fact is various private companies are very much keen in the production if defence weapons. As a matter of fact, when our ordnance factories are biting the dust in manufacturing shoes and clothes for soldiers posted in hostile areas, the government is giving hollow assurances to the private firms willing to manufacture defence weapons. Even this year’s budget had no provision for bringing self-sufficiency in arms which could encourage the private firms.

It is disappointing that while India has become world’s biggest importer of major weapons, China has emerged to be the largest exporter of conventional arms. And Pakistan happens to be the biggest buyer of its defence materials. In this context, it cannot be ruled out that China and Pakistan are appearing the biggest threat to India. That’s why India is compelled to spend billions of rupees on its security. This needs to be taken into consideration whether threats from China and Pakistan are being blown out of proportion, because it is also seen that a few so-called important defence deals are lying pending. If India is facing a growing threat from these countries, why is there undue delay in the defence deals? It is a matter of introspection that the country of Mahatma Gandhi advocating peace and non-violence should spend million dollars every year on its defence purchases? Or is there any lobby being active in our country that exaggerates threats on national security? It must be noted that brokers of defence firms are active everywhere. India is hell-bent on defence purchases, so is Pakistan. The current situation of India and Pakistan is similar to that of cold war between United States and the then USSR.

It can be understood that Pakistan’s spy agency ISI creates such an atmosphere that keeps its ruling establishment involved in various defence acquisitions while fulfilling the vested interests of its army and military officials, but the nub of the matter is whether the same elements are also thriving in India? Whatever the truth may be, it cannot be ruled out that the economy of various developed countries hinge on the export of arms. Countries like US, Britain and France are in race for maximizing the sale of their expensive weapons to the arms buyers like India. At times, it is also felt that these developed nations never want India to normalize ties with Pakistan and China, because if this happens it may affect the sale of their weapons. After all, why would the armament manufacturers of these countries want that India shouldn’t feel threat from its neighbouring countries?  The United Nations’ proposed Arms Trade Treaty is clearly indicating that the developed nations want to make arbitrary decision regarding the arms sales. So given the situation, it is earnestly required that India should become self-reliant in defence production.  Importing a few sophisticated combat aircrafts can be understood but purchasing all defence requirements from foreign countries is hard to digest.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on March 31, 2013 translated by the English editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran