Posted by lex, on February 24, 2008
During the Cold War, India was the largest of the so-called “non-aligned” states that took no open position in the ideological clash of the epoch. Despite their neutrality, India’s government remained military clients of the Soviet Union. In gratitude for their custom, the USSR showered India with capable but low cost ships, aircraft and air defense systems.
To maintain regional balance, the US stiffly embraced an alternating series of quasi-democratic thugocracies and military juntas in neighboring Pakistan. Thus we were left with the bizarre spectacle of the world’s oldest democracy arrayed alongside the enemy of the world’s largest democracy, which was itself a client state of the world’s largest tyranny.
That was the Cold War – you couldn’t make it up if you tried.
To this day, India remains in the market for Russian military exports, having spent billions on the acquisition of a Soviet-era aircraft carrier and an air wing to fly from her – billions that have apparently vanished with nothing to show for them. The Indians are clearly unhappy, but having spent so much on the purchase of the ex-RFS Admiral Gorshkov and a navalized MiG-29K to fly off her that to go back on the deal “were as tedious as go o’er.”
But if the Weekly Standard rumor mill is right, there might be a change in the air:**
According to numerous sources inside India, when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits New Delhi late in February (provided his Tuesday Potomac Primary Day broken shoulder does not alter his itinerary) he will be carrying a signed letter from U.S. President George W. Bush offering a better deal for India than the one they have been struggling to get out of Moscow for four years now. The Indian Navy will reportedly be offered the soon-to-be decommissioned USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) aircraft carrier for free–provided the Indian Navy will agree to purchase 65 of the newest model Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to be operated off of it.
If true–and if New Delhi accepts–this can do more than just sink the Russian carrier deal and the MiG-29K contract. The Indian Air Force (IAF) are deep in the throes of a tender to purchase almost 200 new fighter aircraft, with Boeing and RSK-MiG both in the field of six contenders. An order of 200 fighter airplanes is unheard of–larger than any such export sale in more than 20 years. In an era where sales of 12, 20, or 40 fighters are more common, this is the PowerBall Lotto of export competitions.
A market competition based on cost, performance and schedule rather than ideology and oligarchical nepotism. Huh.
I wonder how that’s going to go?
** 11-11-20 – Original link gone; new source found – Ed.