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India's Rejection of US Aircraft:As seen by Chinese

Chinese netizens interested in strategic issues have been showing interest in India’s reported decision to go for European jet fighters for its Air Force in preference to the aircaft offered by US companies. They see this as a possible reflection of India’s unhappiness over the continuing US restrictive policies relating to the transfer of high technology to India. Another point being made is that the US support for India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council was as a quid pro quo for the Indian selection of the US aircaft. Now that India has rejected the US aircraft, will the US still support India’s permanent membership of the UNSC?

2. Annexed are some comments carried in the People’s Forum section of the party-owned “People’s Daily” online on the subject on May 1,2011. It is not clear whether these comments are of the “People’s Daily” readers or have been lifted from non-Chinese sources. Normally, when the comments are lifted from non-Chinese sources, the sources are identified. In this case, no source has been identified for the post as a whole. ( 1-5-11)

( The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-maol: )

ANNEXURE (Text of a post in the “People’s Forum” section of the “People’s Daily” online carried on May 1,2011)

India arms contract spurns US fighters

India has shortlisted European jet fighters, in preference to US and Russian rivals, in a hotly contested $11bn competition to supply the Indian air force with advanced combat aircraft.

At stake is a deal to equip India with 126 multi-role fighter jets in one of the world’s largest military contracts. The winning bid is expected to shape India’s air power for the next three decades and serve as the bedrock of a strategic partnership.

After trials, India selected France’s Dassault Rafale and the multinational Eurofighter Typhoon – both currently operating over Libya – to compete in the next stage of the competition, according to India’s defence ministry. A spokesman told the Financial Times that a final decision would be taken within a year.

The move will be a blow to the US. Washington strongly lobbied India to buy its aircraft as payback for the landmark Indian-US civil nuclear deal in 2008. The agreement – brokered by Manmohan Singh, Indian premier, and then-US president George W. Bush – brought India’s nuclear programme out of decades of global isolation.

Timothy Roemer, US ambassador to Delhi, said the US was “deeply disappointed” by the decision not to select US defence companies. Earlier on Thursday, Mr Roemer, a personal friend of Barack Obama, US president, announced his resignation.

While Mr Roemer said he was leaving India for personal reasons, as ambassador he had heavily promoted the US bids. He said he had “accomplished all of the strategic objectives set forth two years ago” when he took the job.

Top Indian officials and politicians had indicated that they wished to buy US military hardware to improve a fast-warming relationship between the two democracies in the wake of the transformative nuclear deal.

Are U.S. export policies to blame?

Defense contractors and industry experts are trying to come to grips with India’s decision to exclude The Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. from its $11 billion competition for a new fighter jet.

India’s decision was very surprising, says Tom Captain, vice chairman of global and U.S. aerospace and defense leader at Deloitte LLP. If the selection was based on technical merits, “It is difficult to explain how those two very capable aircraft were eliminated.”

In the absence of factual information about how the selection was made, speculation is growing that restrictive U.S. export policies may have played a significant role in India’s evaluation of fighter jet candidates.

India is projected to spend $80 billion on new weapons and space systems over the next five years. It’s only a small fraction of what the United States spends, but the industry still regards it as a promising region where, once you get a foot in the door, opportunities could blossom.

Defense industry analyst Byron Callan contends that “technology transfer was a major consideration in this competition.”

Larry Christensen, an export controls attorney at Miller & Chevalier, in Washington, D.C., believes the Indian decision will have lasting implications for U.S. industry, even though he says he has not seen any proof that India’s choice was influenced by ITAR, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations that restrict exports of sensitive U.S. technology.

The fact that an emerging power such as India would snub U.S. advanced weaponry offers further evidence that the current export control system — which dates back to the Cold War — has outlived its effectiveness, Christensen says. “The U.S. government cannot repeal the laws of economics,” he says. As the United States denies access to some of its best technology, it leaves a market void that, sooner or later, another country will fill. “When that happens, the U.S. export control policy of denial, or policy of heavy restrictions, become ineffective” for the purposes of barring potential enemies access to advanced weaponry, he says.

It’s a surprise for many analysts that US fighters didn’t win out. In recently years, America has been trying to court India by asserting its supportive stance over India’s aspiration for a permenant UNSC seat. America arms makers are one of beneficiaries in the improved bilateral ties. They even got deals from India with big number without competing with rivals in public bidding. Some defense expert said the embarrassing result indicates that India’s wariness toward America doesn’t loose. And your say…?

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