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Millennium Post

When acquisition doesn’t safeguard

The big fat Indian defence acquisition has an ugly underbelly – that of fatal accidents and mishaps, taking down with the billion-dollar vessels and aircraft precious lives of defence personnel. After the crashing of one of the much-hyped, almost invincible, Super Hercules C-130J, six of which had been purchased in the infamous Lockheed Martin deal in 2010, India’s opening of the floodgates of arms acquisition and allowing the USA to clog our channels with their controversial defence produce have come into question. In 2013, the US displaced Russia as the biggest exporter of arms and defence equipment to India, the biggest importer of such things. Given that even the Russian-made kilo-class submarines have met with terrible fates, the substitution of America with Russia in the export top spot has laid bare a certain brazenness on the Indian side as far as acquiring more and more arms is concerned, even though the same old problems, of safety and security, persist. With IAF’s new showpiece Super Hercules aircraft crashing and killing five air force men onboard during a routine training flight about a hundred kilometre west of Gwalior, these state-of-the-art purchases have been brought under the long shadow of gross inadequacy in crucial aspects such as safety protocols. Given that C-130J had played major role during relief operations after last year’s Uttarakhand floods and landslide, what can’t be questioned is that Indian defence sector does need modern equipment to increase its deterrence quotient.

But the arms race, that has been around since the NDA regime, particularly since the 1999 Kargil war which legitimised arms purchase and conflated the grandiose project of nationalism and nation-building with securing the borders, showcasing military might and reinjecting frail Indianness with a healthy dose of combat jargon, has taken on gigantic proportions. Evidently, peace time ‘cease-fire’, chiefly with neighbourhood goons like Pakistan or China, became a matter of keeping up ‘strategic partnerships’ with export giants like USA and Russia, dancing to the tunes of global defence brokers and middlemen, spending public money on choppers, combat aircraft and carriers, naval vessels and nuclear submarines, which have failed to live up to the calculations from both the defence ministry and industry experts. It is extremely regrettable that while crores are being spent on ensuring and brokering deals, paid chiefly to Euro-American middlemen, a number of whom have been recently exposed as accepting bribes and kickbacks against their unethical services, safety checks and protocols are being systematically sidelined at the altar of global greed. As a latest report shows, Pentagon is itself a cesspool of wasteful expenditure, with $ eight trillion unaccounted for over the last few years. India’s following in USA’s footsteps doesn’t bode well.
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