Former Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar was among the best brains in Indian politics. Even opposition and political dissenters admired him for his workaholic attitude and sharp execution sense. As defense minister, he ordered a review of 15-year plan to purchase new air defense system by 2027. The review saved 49,300 crore of taxpayers’ money for the country. Air defense strategy needs a country to have three layers of anti-aircraft missiles- a short-range installation for protection up to 25 km range, a medium-term installation for up to 40 km range and long term installation like S-400 for long range.
The Defense minister presented the view that with the purchase of S-400, Indian Air Force will need fewer numbers of short range and medium range installations. Therefore he ordered a review of 15 year purchase plan. “The study found that we will require a much lesser number of the shorter range systems. Minister Parrikar convinced the air force that according to its layered defense plan, the long range system (S 400) would make the larger number of MR SAM and SR SAM redundant,” said an official. Earlier there was aim to purchase 100 on each short and medium range defense systems, after the review it has been cut down.
A few weeks ago, India signed deal with Russia to purchase five S-400 air defense systems for 6.1 billion dollars. S-400 is most advanced and most expensive air defense system in the world. It can strike down an aircraft from a range of 380 km. “The S-400 defense system will be ‘booster shot’ for India air force”, said chief of Air Staff, B S Dhanoa. India is vulnerable to two front war from its western and northeastern neighbor. After CPEC, debt-ridden Pakistan has become a colony of China for all practical reasons. China has 1,700 fighter jets including 800 fourth generation fighters. Pakistan has more than 20 fighter jets including upgraded F-16s. It is also inducting J-17 fighter jets from China in large numbers. Therefore India needs to be prepared with anti-aircraft defense system to able to fight a two front war.
The purchase of S-400 was very important for Indian in many ways. First, it was an indication to United States that despite the increasingly cozy relationship with them, India would have an independent foreign policy and not succumb to any pressure. It was also a chance to show ‘Indian Exceptionalism’ in terms of relationship with the United States. Few years back China bought same S-400 defence system with Russia for which American imposed sanctions on it as per Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). However, for India American President granted a waiver for India to purchase defense system with no sanctions. “The (CAATSA presidential) waiver is narrow, intended to wean countries off Russian equipment and allow for things such as spare parts for previously-purchased equipment,” a White House National Security Council Spokesperson said. This shows that United States has started treating India as a ‘special defense partner’ for whom they are ready to amend defense laws.
Manohar Parrikar was defence minister for more than two years. He returned back to state politics in 2017. However, in the period of almost two and half years, he brought transparency in defence purchase agreements and made it more efficient. The central government will definitely be thankful to him for saving 49,300 crore rupees through a defence purchase plan.