Washington: India`s decision to exclude two American companies, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, from its estimated USD 11 billion 126 fighter jet deal is strategically short-sighted and would be a setback to Indo-US ties, a well-known American experts on South Asian affairs have said.
"The Indian decision to eliminate the two US firms
from the MMRCA competition is strategically short-sighted.
There is little doubt that the decision will set the
US-India relationship back," said Lisa Curtis of the Heritage
Foundation, who is known as one of the best known friend of
India in Washington`s academia and think-tank.
Ashely Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace said the move will raise questions about
why the United States should bend backwards to accommodate
"You can imagine that there is great disappointment
within the US government with the decision. It will lead many
in the US to conclude that India has settled for a plane, not
a relationship, and if that is the case, it will raise
questions about why the United States should bend backwards to
accommodate India," he said.
"I think the way the decision was announced was also
Unsettling, the GOI (Government of India) knew full well the
importance the administration attached to this sale. A quiet
intimation of the coming decision would have helped," said
Tellis who played a key role in the Bush Administration during
the civilian nuclear deal.
"A wasted opportunity to strengthen US-Indian
relations," observed Michael Krepon, co-founder of Stimson,
and director of the South Asia and Space Security programs.
However, this did not come as a surprise to Christine
Fair, Assistant Professor Georgetown University.
"I have been dubious for years that India would
purchase these platforms from the United States. As is well known, such sales were trumpeted as being possible in the wake
of the Indo-U nuclear deal and indeed likely," she said.
"I was also suspicious of those claims at the time
and remained so. Over the long run, I doubt that this will
affect the US-India relationship and hopefully it will vitiate
some of the Panglossian optimism that has surrounded the
prospects of US large-ticket sales to India. There are other
opportunities that the two countries should be exploring that
are important and less politically laden," Christian Fair
Curtis said, two developments taken together ?
stalled civil nuclear cooperation and the decision to
de-select the US companies for the fighter air craft deal --
threaten to cast a pall on relations for the remainder of the
"After a highly successful Obama visit last fall, in
which the US President gave a nod to Indian Security Council
membership, Washington officials will begin to ask what benefits the US derives from its dedicated efforts to improve
the relationship," she said.
Purchasing US advanced air craft would serve India`s own geo-strategic interests, Curtis argued adding that India
is increasingly conducting military training exercises with
the US and in coalition with other Asian Pacific partners, and
India would stand to gain more in terms of its power
projection capabilities, were it to choose a US platform.
"Given the increasing military and economic
influence China is exerting throughout the region, it simply
does not make sense from a geopolitical perspective for India
to shun the US companies and de-emphasise military partnership
with the US," Curtis said.
Tellis said the "down select" was made by the Indian
Government entirely on the basis of the technical
evaluations the cost of the aircraft or the strategic
considerations did not enter into the picture.
"The decision clearly represents the IAF`s choice,
which the MOD (Ministry of Defense) has obviously gone along
with as expected. Being a fighter dominated service, the IAF
went for the "hot rods."
"Both the fighters down selected are extremely agile
platforms: they obviously represent a fighter pilot`s dream
because they excel where maneuverability, acceleration, and
flight envelopes are concerned," he argued.
"Their big weakness, however, is their primary
sensor neither has an AESA radar yet but the bigger questions
are not technical, but strategic: Do these aircraft represent
the best value for the IAF? Do these aircraft represent the
best investments for India overall?" he said.
"What this leaves India with now is a choice between
two incredibly expensive fourth-generation jets ($85m+ for the
Rafale and the $125m+ for the Eurofighter) and if India goes
with the former, it will end up literally bailing out Dassault
which has not sold a single Rafale abroad yet," Tellis said.
"Anyway, whatever India goes with, I hope the
commercial negotiations are concluded quickly and that the
chosen fighter enters the force soon the IAF force structure
will simply dissolve without the MRCA and the LCA," he said.