A few months back, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had said that India should be prepared for two front wars. The gradual mingling of China and Pakistan could lead to breakout of wars on two fronts with our northern and western neighbors. The development of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Chinese loans to debt ridden country suggests that Pakistan is on the way to become a colony of China. So, for all practical reasons the interests of Pakistan will be interests of China in coming years. To fight this two front war, Indian armed forces must be well equipped on every front, from Navy to Air force and ground combat. However, every division of the armed forces is running under capacity. We do not have enough frigates and submarines, country has not bought artillery guns since the Bofors deal in 1986 and Air force has been asking for advanced fighter aircrafts since 2001. Indian air force is running on shortage of aircrafts, it has only 31 fighter squadrons (18 jets in each) while at least 42 are needed to fight a two front war. There are many planned inductions like 36 remaining Sukhois by 2019, the latest purchase of 36 Rafales which are to be inducted from 2019 to 2022. Another 123 fighter jets are being developed by domestic manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the first 40 of them will be inducted by 2022 while the rest thereafter.
To complete the requirements of air force, UPA government started the talks with French defense manufacturer Dassault for its twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft– Rafale. However, UPA government did not buy Rafale due to various reasons and deal was cancelled in 2012. Rafale is a battle tested multirole fourth generation fighter aircraft and the air force of the country is desperately in need of such aircrafts. Therefore, NDA government resumed the talks to purchase Rafale aircrafts. The deal for 36 Rafale aircrafts was finalized in 2016 and the country will get first shipment of these aircrafts by late 2019. Indian Air force had given very good review of Rafale, “We are waiting for the aircraft to come. It is a beautiful aircraft. It is a very capable aircraft. It is a capability that we need quickly,” said Vice Chief of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Congress party is hell bent to prove the deal as scandal and wants that NDA government cancels the deal. The party has never been serious about national security, the lackluster attitude of the party cost the country heavily in the 1962 Indo-China war. AK Antony, who was the longest serving defense minister of India, could not ink a single big defense deal for the country. During his tenure, many ships and a submarine of Indian Navy sank due to lack or repair, 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) Rafale was cancelled in 2012 because defense ministry had no money.
Congress party compromised the security of the country and did not complete the minimal requirements of air forces despite the fact that we face the threat of ‘two front war’. The NDA government successfully inked the 36 Rafale deal as well as issued “acceptance of necessity (AoN)” long delayed 114 fifth generation fighter jets for over $20 billion (Rs 1.4 lakh crore) to fulfill the demand of Indian Air force. Government also signed a deal to procure Project 11356 or four advanced Talwar-class frigates, two of which will be imported from Russia and rest of the two will be manufactured in state owned Goa shipyard. Deal for S-400 air defense missile system was also signed despite American objections. These defense procurements will complete the necessities of Indian Armed forces and prepare the country for two front war.
While it is evident how important the Rafale deal is for the Indian Air Force, the Congress is trying its best to malign it. The reasons for Congress’ determined opposition to the deal are entirely political. If the deal fails and the Modi govt. cannot ink any major deal, Congress could portray it as the weakness of the Modi government. The absolute disregard for the national security shown by the Congress during its years in power and even in opposition belies the dangerous precedent it is setting in undermining India’s defence capabilities for petty political gains.