“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
The rising disharmony in Arunachal Pradesh, with PLA including the state entirely in its “sovereign” rule, has reminded New Delhi, the unresolved issues over “south Tibet”. The territorial disagreements have always caused discomfort in the India. Close contacts at border have always sent cold shivers, reminding us the ill-fated Sino Indian conflict of 1962, with China occupying Askai chin. Although India has always tried to resolve the issue with Diplomatic talks but the times need require more, as even after the ceasefire of 21,November 1962 there were skirmishes between the two forces(“Nathu La incident” and “Chola incident“) . IAF is aware of the importance in withholding Arunachal Pradesh into Indian Territory and has taken necessary steps to ensure that. IAF has been constructing strategic infrastructures near the disputed territory and has deployed Sukhoi 30 MKI squadrons, IAF’s most potent aircraft at the moment to stop the Dragon from any potential aggression.
China has invested heavily over the years in its indigenous aircraft industry. And the biggest achievement to be acknowledged is developing two indigenously developed fifth generation fighter aircrafts (FGFA) j-31and j-20 simultaneously, thus making PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) the first country to work on two FGFA programmes simultaneously. Even United States of America failed to do so, as their F-22 Raptor and F -35 Lightening 2 were developed in different times, former followed by latter. The road from a producer of “mass copied variants” to “technology pioneers” is to be credited to the constant efforts in aircraft industry and heavy credits put up by China. Although most of the technology used by China is procured by Reverse Engineering but the fact that PLA has been able to reproduce and apply it in practical solutions has turned the table and that counts in a real world. Well we are not looking for a Certificate of strong moral character over here, are we? Very often western defense experts have called stealth programme a “hoax” by china but it is simply an American propaganda to sabotage the programmes credibility. In 2004 Russia invited China for joint development of PAK FA stealth programme and then again in 2007, but in both the cases China decided instead to develop its own stealth fighters. This proofs that at the time when these offers were made; PLA was already working on its programme for stealth technology quite successfully. And even Washington has secretly recognized the success of these programmes quite often and has keeping tabs on the programme since then. And with the Russian economy on a downward spiral, it seems, with India gone as its biggest defense purchaser, it will soon need a market for its rusting Sukhoi fleet and with the buzz about purchase of Sukhoi by China, India needs to put a second thought on its approach to China as to counterweigh the enemy this time, India is facing dissimilar adversities.
India’s answer to balance the hegemony created in the region is to “far cry to the Russians” and now to the west also. India has never changed its technology outsourcing policy over the years, even after setbacks in the past. Although the geographical location of targets have changed from Indus Region to over the Great Wall of China but our arms dependency on foreign hasn’t. India with a 20 billion (US $) MRCA deal with France for Dassault Rafale, is trying to fill the gap between LCA and air superiority fighter Sukhoi 30 MKI. Other deals begged by USA include 22 Boeing’s AH-64D Apache Longbow, 10 C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlift aircraft, P-8I maritime patrol aircraft very recently. With our in capabilities known globally, everyone is trying to rush into the vacuum to fill it.
India has planned to invest in FGFA HAL/Sukhoi, a combined project of Russia and India; to develop stealth enabled fifth generation aircrafts, called PMF (Perspective Multirole Fighter). The initial projection stated a total expenditure of25 billion US $ which was soon increased to 30 billion US $. This programme is a derivative of Russian PAK FA (Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation), which is solely designed for Russian Air Force by Russian engineers and scientists. Russia has developed only three prototypes (PAF T50) till now, which are different variants designed undergo different performance tests. These tests have undergone a series of delay right from the beginning. In 2012 A K Antony informed the Parliament about the two year delay in the programme, it was thus extended to 2017 as approximate year for the induction in IAF. Similarly programme has been delayed three times, and now according to IAF it is in 2022. . As in the previous deals, Russia has failed to deliver its products in time and has pushed the delivery dates to future, surprisingly in some cases like that of INS Arihant has even demanded more funding to carry out the programme to completion. Indian version of this programme will have 40 to 43 improvements in addition to the following design, avionics and weaponry system developed in PAK FA, as recognized by IAF. The radar and infrared signature of the jet needs to be scaled down, by working on wings and control surfaces. There has been a confusion to understand the nature of contract signed between Russia and India, it is misunderstood as a joint venture project by the masses instead it’s a joint work project. Success of this programme depends invariably upon the Russian stealth programme which is undergoing a continuous line of delays. Hal India has not contributed much in the prototypes developed till now, apart from the 35% funding in it and then again 50-50 contribution in the PMF programme strips our defense budget naked. Although Indian would be sharing its Intellectual property and selling rights to the third world and it is appreciable that for the first time we will be selling forefront technology to the world, but time is what we don’t have as with Americas JSW programme in its final stage, with Europe’s bid on them, completion of this programme on time is our necessity to compete on geopolitical issues in the world. Today we see a picture of India having an upper hand in air superiority as compared to China but a decade ahead, picture would surely change and it wouldn’t be a “picture perfect” for India to say the least.
India needs to minimize the dependency on foreign countries for its defense needs by further enhancing and indigenization of its defense production sectors. We need to develop India’s private defense sectors, since they are very weak they cannot take big projects. However, it can contribute in the defense production sector by joining with public sectors. For this, capacity building of the private sector is very important if it is to undertake future defense projects. This is important not only to meet its own defense requirements for safeguarding its vital national security interests but also to play a larger role in geopolitical issues beyond the continent.