In the middle of April 2012, India successfully test fired a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, the Agni-5. Agni 5 has been declared to be an Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). It was launched from the Andhra Coast and landed successfully in the Southern Indian Ocean over 5000 km away. The monopoly media immediately was ecstatic on two counts. Firstly that by launching this missile, India had joined a small club of nations with ICBM's, namely US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Israel. Secondly, that India could not only target the whole of Pakistan with nuclear weapons, but also the whole of China.
The international response to the Agni 5 test is a reflection of the strategies of different countries. The US did not criticise India's test of an ICBM, but instead hailed India as a "responsible nuclear power". This was in marked contrast to its relentless campaign against North Korea and Iran. In fact no power officially criticised India for the test. Many Indian and foreign commentators have noted that the US reaction to India's test is conditioned by its desire to use India as an ally in an anti China strategic military alliance. Within China and Pakistan, the media has taken note of this and been critical of the US response.
The budget announced by the Central government for the year 2012-2013 has increased the allotment for the armed forces to Rs.193,408 crore. This is a massive 17% escalation over the previous year – which, at Rs.164,000 crore itself was higher than the allocation for 2010-11 by a huge 11.6 %. It is clear that frenzied militarisation is going on.
Not a day passes without stories in the media of how our armed forces are not prepared with adequate modern equipment to wage a war with China, and how there is need for immediate upgradation of the military arsenal. Though a significant part of the current years’ defence budget - Rs 113,829 crore – is earmarked for “revenue” expenses (salaries and day – to – day costs), this still leaves about Rs.79,579 crore for armament purchases. India is recognised as the biggest armaments importer in the world in recent years. There are reports of India planning to finalise major fighter, aircraft, and helicopter and howitzer deals in the current financial year.
All the major military hardware exporting countries have been sending delegations to India, to work out deals. US Defence Secretary Panetta is visiting Delhi on June 6, 2012 to step up strategic collaboration as well as sign two major arms deals. This newly appointed Defence Secretary comes to Delhi after addressing the Shangri La Dialogue, an inter-governmental security forum of 28 Asia-Pacific states, in Singapore, followed by a visit to Vietnam. The US has declared that it considers itself a Pacific Ocean Country and the visits to Vietnam and India, both having problems with China, are with definite strategic significance.
"Developing the US-India relationship is a priority for the United States government, and our bilateral relationship is one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century for the United States," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters briefing them on Panetta's India visit.
Earlier, US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell declared late April that US companies are poised to sign defence deals totalling $ 8 billion. "We are poised to sign an additional $8 billion in direct commercial and foreign military sales," Powell said. "As we share more common equipment, our bilateral defence ties will become stronger." U.S. companies including Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Co are some of the contractors looking to grab a share of India's planned military spending. Industrial conglomerate Honeywell International Inc. is offering engines for the Indian Air force's Jaguar fighter aircraft.
India's long shopping list calls for $20 billion in fighter jets, $1.5 billion worth of refuelling aircraft, billions of dollars in submarines, air craft carriers, tanks, artillery and other equipment, all part of an estimated $80 billion spending spree over the next five years. At the recent trade fair Defexpo held in Delhi at the end of March 2012, French, British, American, Israeli and Russian arms merchants from giant companies producing military hardware, elbowed each other aside in the search for a deal. Whether they are private corporations or state corporations, all the big suppliers of armaments are companies which have a say in the policies of their respective countries. The heads of governments of their countries routinely lobby for them. Thus, the government of India’s decision to shortlist the Rafael fighter of France for a massive $20 billion deal earlier this year, was preceded by hectic lobbying by the French President Sarkozy. The British Prime Minister, as well as top American leaders, publicly denounced this deal, as the rival British and American companies lost out in the competition.
Like all other imperialists, Indian imperialism needs sources of energy and raw materials; it needs markets for its goods and services. The Indian big capitalists want to have the ability to protect their economic and strategic interests abroad with the force of arms. They not only want India to be recognised as a major power by the other big imperialist powers of the world; they also want to be armed with the military might that is needed for pursuing their imperialist ambitions. This is the reason behind the frenzied buying of sophisticated military hardware worth lakhs of crores of rupees and the development of modern, highly aggressive missiles.
The Indian big bourgeoisie considers the Indian Ocean region, and the littoral states around it, as the region which it regards as its "legitimate sphere of influence". Its military doctrine is at the present time to ensure that it remains the dominant power in South Asia, which it regards as its "backyard", and contest other rivals in this whole region of South East Asia, Africa and West Asia. At the same time, it is using every opportunity to spread its wings even further, as it is doing with joint oil exploration with Vietnam of its coast in the Pacific Ocean. The feverish militarisation being pursued by the Indian big bourgeoisie, the attention to the extension of all its wings — army, navy as well as air force, in addition to a nuclear arsenal which can be launched by land, sea or air over all kinds of ranges — should be seen in close connection with the expansion of Indian strategic investments abroad in various countries in this region.
In the procurement of military hardware, the Indian bourgeoisie has kept its options open. It has utilised the contradictions between the military hardware manufacturers of different countries to get most favourable deals for itself in the strategic sense. This means that it has ensured it does not get stuck with any one country for purchases, and it does not have to depend for spare parts on the company it bought the machinery from. Instead, it has been demanding that technology transfer takes place, so that both spare parts as well as subsequent equipment are produced in India. The Indian bourgeoisie has also ensured that Indian multinationals benefit from these deals, in the form of partnerships with foreign hardware companies, in manufacturing in India. It is clear that in the medium and long run, Indian companies involved in military hardware production are aiming at building up their capabilities to become suppliers of military hardware themselves to various countries of the world.
With each major arms deal, the stakes are high for all parties in the fray. All the imperialist powers vigorously root for their ‘own’ companies. The open campaigning for and promotion of their interests is carried out with both carrots and sticks. Gestures such as investments, sops, bribes to all involved, loans, and support to the Indian government in international forums, are used very often. On the other hand, threats of exposure, withdrawal of support in international forums etc are also used to attempt to pressurise the buyer, i.e. the Indian government.
With the scale of militarisation escalating, the contradictions amongst the different arms sellers and their states over which of them will get the best deal is also intensifying. The players involved in this dirty game involving millions and billions of dollars do not stop at anything to achieve their aim, and often ‘release’ information about shortcomings of the equipment sought to be supplied by rivals, or about alleged bribery and scams involved in their procurement.
The massive spending on arms, military equipment and weapon systems is on account of the expansionist, rapacious greed of the Indian ruling class and its drive to become a world power. The various scams and scandals connected with military procurement are being exposed to a large extent due to the intense rivalry between competing prospective suppliers of hardware, and their respective lobbies within the Indian ruling establishment.
The feverish militarisation that is being carried out by our ruling bourgeoisie constitutes a threat to peace, security and prosperity of the peoples of the region. It increases the arms race in this region, and diverts scarce resources into unproductive military expenditure. Furthermore, it entangles our country in the mounting inter imperialist rivalries, for the redivision of the world. US imperialism and its allies are egging India to challenge China in alliance with the US. India is also being egged on to support US strategic interests in West Asia and Central Asia. The danger of our people being hurled into a reactionary war is increasing.