Rafale Scandal and Its Impact on India-Russia Relations
Ever since coming to power in 2014, Modi lead BJP government has inadvertently disrupted the regional geopolitical defense and economic relationships. Modi is distancing India from its traditional defense partners by damaging international relationships to facilitate his cronies. The much-publicized Rafale corruption scandal is an example in this regard.
In 2012, the congress lead government awarded a defense contract to Dassault Rafale to build 126 plus additional 63 Rafale fighter jets on a technology transfer basis inside India in partnership with a state-owned company Hindustan Aeronautics limited. Indian was demanding warranties from Dassault for jets made in India. Dassault refused and the deal collapsed. Alternatively, India started negotiating with Russia to buy it’s Su-30 fighter - considered much superior to Rafale. Since long, Russia has been India’s largest weapons supplier, thus it was thought that this deal will be signed without much trouble.
However, in 2014 Modi came to power and visited France the next year. During his visit, Modi instead of negotiating on old agreement started a new buying order for 36 Rafale at almost double the cost of the previous deal. Also, the contract for these jets was awarded to a private company owned by Modi’s crony Anil Ambani of Reliance group that had no prior experience in defense manufacturing. It is believed that Russia refused to work with an inexperienced defense contractor like Anil Ambani’s Reliance but agreed to work with experienced state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. To facilitate the conies, Modi started downgrading Russia’s military equipment including the much-praised SU-30 fighter jet sighting poor reliability and serviceability. Su-30 fighter jet is considered to be one of the best in the world and it certainly dominates Rafale in all major capabilities but Modi and RSS have been portraying it as junk to make money.
In February 2019, Indian jets entered Pakistan’s air space and fired missiles on a so-called “terrorist camp” in Balakot. However, the jets missed their target and instead of targeting the empty building dubbed as a terrorist camp, the pilots destroyed some nearby trees. Islamabad said that since it takes its trees very seriously - Pakistan is planting 10 billion trees to counter climate change - therefore it will offer a response. On February 27 Pakistani jets targeted empty land near the Indian army installations to illustrate their capabilities. Indian jets followed Pakistani jets and again tried to enter in its air space. In response, Pakistan shot down an Indian Mig-21 and captured a pilot. The pilot was released the same week by Pakistan’s Prime minister Imran Khan as a peace gesture.
The incidents of February humiliated Indian military and political leadership. It showed that political leadership in Delhi was willing to spill the blood of millions by starting a war in order to gain political benefits in upcoming election. On the other hand, the February humiliation exposed the technical, tactical and operational deficiencies of the Indian Air Force (IAF). After the incident, both military and political leadership launched an egregious cover-up operation.
Modi came on media and stated that things could have been better if IAF had Rafale on 27th February. The cover-up attempts also badly exposed the IAF chief Dhanoa who was toeing the fake narrative of the BJP government regarding the strike on Balakot and downing a Pakistani F-16. US state department officials refuted the Indians and stated that Pakistan did not use F-16 in the conflict, therefore the claim to have shot down the plane is false.
The Rafale corruption scandal came to the fore in late 2018, Indian opposition highlighted the blatant corruption and the damage it was causing to the Indian relations with its long-standing partner Russia. The concerns raised by the opposition placed the Rafael deal under the clouds of suspicion. Therefore, when in 2019 Pakistan shot down a Russia made MIG-21, Indian establishment launched a fake media blitz to convert a circle into a square.
Russia has always proved to be a reliable partner to India at the International stage. It played a very significant role in India’s inclusion as a permanent SCO member. Russian military-technical expertise is acknowledged and praised all around the globe. By supporting and promoting favoritism, Modi has been damaging the Sino-Indian military-technical ties that are considered the bedrock of the bilateral relationship. Modi’s shift towards pro-western orbit will have a significant impact on the regional security environment. As India starts to act like a US footman in the region, regional trade and cooperation will decrease between Russia and India.
Over the years Pakistan’s military has shown that superior types of equipment are not needed to achieve tremendous military success. Instead, with strong tactical and operational capabilities, even the things considered impossible can be achieved. The countless successful operations by Pakistan’s military are proof in this regard. Therefore, instead of focusing on buying expensive new military equipment Indian military establishment should focus on its operational, physical and technical abilities, otherwise, the new jets and missiles will only add to the disgrace.