India has been taking quick steps to upgrade its defense capabilities, that too in a short span of time which has pushed it towards increasing its defense imports from significant defense supplier such as the United States and Russia.
In the same direction, India has signed some major defense deals with Russia. Although India had no intention of compromising details and knowledge about defense technology imported from the US, India has been caught in the crossroads of US-Russia mistrust and rivalry.
The US has serious concerns about India acquiring and maintaining sophisticated American-origin weapons alongside equally-capable Russian systems, preventing the highly advanced military equipment being exposed to the Russian origin, especially S-400 air defense system.
The S-400 is considered as one air defense system that has come closest to neutralizing F-35 fighters. Similarly, the prospective US sale of armed version of the Sea Guardian drone could also run into a web of similar questions.
Russia’s deputy defense minister also raised similar concerns at the time of recent purchase. The aircraft carrier was an expensive refit from Russia, where it was earlier called Admiral Gorshkov. Objections were raised by Russian deputy minister on American officers as a part of an India-US aircraft group visiting INS Vikramaditya.
US concerns loom over the fact that Indian armed forces have military platforms sourced from different countries including Russia. Hence, digital codes could be compromised. Until now India has discarded any such possibility. But, has decided to send a delegation of a high-level technical team to understand Washington’s concerns on addressing the insecurity.
The issue is most likely to become complicated and take up a significant position in the upcoming India-US deliberations ahead of September dialogue when US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo will visit India with the secretary of defense, James Mattis to hold talks with external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, and defense minister, Nirmala Sitharaman.
The apprehensions may have emerged as a by-product of continuing competition between US and Russia in the international defense market, but still, it holds a rationale substance that Indian defense had ignored its defense import policy.
India should no more continue with the option of simple denial of such a plausible threat, of compromising digital codes and military platforms. In fact, it is time that we realize that in the given geopolitical and diplomatic situation, a single such compromise can lead to a severe crossfire.
It is vital that India develops a systematic approach towards handling such concerns, both diplomatically and technically, to meet it’s existing and future defense requirements without significant glitches.