India’s shopping spree & appalling poverty
Mohammad Jamil


India is on a shopping spree with more than $100 billion in hand, and entering into defence deals left, right and centre. After signing nuclear deal with the US, Nuclear Suppliers Group’s countries are ready to sell materials and equipment to India.

Apart from France, Britain, Germany, Japan - and strong opponent of nuclear proliferation – eyes the lucrative market; and they all are drooling to benefit from India’s economic development and prodigious indicators of economic growth. But they would not cares less that India as a state is rich but it is land of appalling poverty where more than 400 million people are living below a meanly defined poverty line. Multi-millions are living in slums and sleeping on the footpaths, because Indian government is diverting a very large part of its resources to become a world power and member of United Nations Security Council. Its human rights record is also dismal, as human Watch reports often point out about the violence against 150 million former untouchables, other minorities and the people of Indian Held Kashmir. Other human rights organizations regularly publish atrocities committed on Christians, Muslims and Dalits. Kashmiris are, however, the worst sufferers on earth, perhaps only second to Palestinians.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, launched a fierce attack on Pakistan during his recent visit to India, accusing Islamabad of allowing terrorist groups to form safe havens in its territory. He said terrorist groups were free to launch attacks on India and NATO troops in Afghanistan from Pakistan, which is not acceptable. His comments echoed those made by British Prime Minister David Cameron who during his visit to India in end July 2010 had said that Pakistan could not be allowed to “look both ways” or export terrorism to its neighbours. During her visit to India in July this year Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel in reply to a question said: “India is suffering as a consequence of terrorist attacks. We still remember the attack in Mumbai. At that time we criticised what was done by these perpetrators. We want to do whatever we can to ensure that these terror attacks are not repeated.” It is true that foreign relations are no altruistic pursuit but extremely self-centered, self-serving motivated actions. But it is difficult to imagine that heads of above three European countries could stoop so low as to issue statements against Pakistan just to please India just to sell their military hardware and other stuff to India.

France signed worth $20 billion out of which 9.3-billion-dollar framework agreement was for selling two nuclear reactors to India during a trade-centred visit in July this year by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to New Delhi. Deals totalling 15 billion euros (20 billion dollars) were signed with Indian companies including a leasing agreement for 14 Airbus planes and the modernisation of 51 French-made Mirage fighter jets. “Negotiations (with Areva) have reached an advanced stage to pave the way for the launching of nuclear power reactors in partnership with Indian industry,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had told a joint press conference with President Sarkozy. The deal is short of a final sale contract, but it means Areva has moved ahead of US and Japanese competitors in the race to sell reactors to India, which aims to tap atomic power for a quarter of its electricity demands by 2050. Sarkozy reiterated his support for India to have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council - a key foreign policy objective for New Delhi - and suggested it might simply upgrade its current temporary seat in 2012. India is to jointly build a surface-to-air missile with the second biggest weapons supplier Israel and hopes for such collaborations with the other countries. After signing civil nuclear agreement with the US, it will acquire nuclear plants to enhance its capability to make more nuclear devices. Last year, the USS Trentonn, the giant American landing platform dock, was inducted in Indian navy for which order was placed by India for Rs 215 crores in 2007. It was re-christened INS Jalashwa. The acquisition of the INS Jalashva was meant to enormously boost the sealift capability of the Indian Navy. It is equipped with four landing mechanised craft and can carry up to 1,000 troops along with vehicles, tanks, artillery, ammunition and tracked landing vehicles. India has also increased its defence budget, and is poised to spend at least $50 billion on installation of nuclear power plants, which will enhance its capacity and capability to increase it nuclear arsenal. After Indo-US nuclear deal, India has the capacity to increase from its current production capacity of six to 10 additional nuclear bombs a year to several dozen per year.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to India is the latest in a series of high-profile visits by leaders of almost all major countries. A slew of 30 agreements signed by the two sides, covering areas ranging from nuclear and space co-operation, defence and business to counter-terrorism and culture, shows the expanded scope of the relationship. The multi-million dollar programme for joint production of a fifth generation fighter aircraft could be a milestone in collaboration. India’s traditional defence relationship with Russia was that of a customer, with Moscow meeting 70 per cent of its arms and equipment requirements. But the fighter aircraft programme takes it to a new level of partnership marked by joint development and collaboration. Russia has also offered the best terms in its defence deals, supplying India with technologies and hardware, like nuclear submarines, which other countries were not willing to give, and without restrictive conditions like end-user clauses. He also extended full support for India’s bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council and other bodies like the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The visit made it clear that bilateral ties are not only strong but are poised to become stronger. Germany is making a bid for selling Eurofighter Typhoon combat jets to India when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh goes to Berlin next month, a day-long trip that will focus on expanding the strategic relationship between the two would-be non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. Manmohan Singh visited Britain and Germany after attending India’s summit with the 27-nation European Union (EU) in Brussels. This was the second visit by Manmohan Singh to Berlin since he became the country’s prime minister over six years ago. Manmohan Singh and Merkel met recently at the G20 summit of major and emerging economies in Seoul. Manmohan Singh and Merkel are expected to focus on expanding defence relationship and enlarging the scope of their strategic dialogue on key global issues like UN reforms, the international financial crisis, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation and climate change. Germany will contend that the Eurofighter offer is unique as it involves technology transfer and is likely to stress that it is ready to forego the End-User Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) that even India’s close partners like the US insist on.

New Delhi has recently allocated $11 billion to build and buy six new-generation submarines in what will be one of the biggest military contracts that India has signed. The Times of India has reported that the Defense Acquisitions Council, chaired by federal Defense Minister A.K. Antony, took the decision on the deal. A sum of $12 has been earmarked for the purchase of 126 multi-role fighters for the Indian Air Force. Six global aerospace companies, Lockheed Martin, Boeing (American), Dassault’s Rafale (French), Gripen (Sweden), MIG (Russian) and Eurofighter Typhoon (a consortium of British, German, Italian and Spanish companies), are bidding for the deal. A fresh contract for aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov’s refit for over $2.3 billion is also being negotiated with Moscow. India’s Prime Minister is perched on a booming national economy and a lot of cash, which he is throwing around on massive arms’ purchases and lucrative business deals to buy loyalties, votes for India’s bid for UNSC, and for scurrilous slights that German Chancellor and French President have dealt Pakistan.