The present U.S. EUMA “formulation” will not allow us to mix, match and enhance our weapons performance.

The press item in The Hindu of August 14, 2009 entitled “No blanket EUMA with U.S. on cards”, which was supposed to have been said by the “Government during the recent Parliament Session” and of which South Block is the source, needs detailed commenting on.

It is interesting to note that this South Block statement or “leak” now states that: “India will opt for case-by-case EUMA with the U.S. rather than an overarching pact.” This shows that the huge amount of pressure mounted and serious concern expressed on the UPA government by parliamentarians, the media and the military and scientific leaderships has forced the government to change the nature and scope of the EUMA from “a generic formulation” to the existing case-by-case one.

Secondly, the Foreign Office has clarified that no Indo-U.S. Agreement on EUMA was signed during Hillary Clinton’s visit, but “only a formulation was agreed upon” as contrasted with the Prime Minister’s repeated statements in Parliament referring to “an Agreement” proposed to be signed by the two governments. As if that were not enough, the Foreign Office statement explicitly states that “no blanket agreement has been signed.”

Thirdly, the Foreign Office statement makes clear that : “the [Indo-U.S.] formulation [on EUM] requires that the “articles” viz. weapons, electronics or other military equipment would be made available by the GOI to the U.S. Government [USG] for ‘verification’ only after the two governments have mutually agreed on the date, place & time at which the USG would undertake such ‘verification.’”

It must be understood and appreciated that each of our three Defence Services — Army, Navy and Air Force — uses weapons, systems and equipment supplied or made here under transfer of the technology from a range of countries — Russia, Israel, France, Italy, South Africa, etc. This has given us the enormous advantage of “mixing matching and enhancing” our weapons performance. For example, we have installed Western Electronics on Russian Platforms and equipped our British Jaguar and French Mirage fighter bombers with the globally unique “Beyond Visual Range” Russian air-to-air missiles. Neither the Russians in the first case nor the U.K. or France in the second case have ever objected to our doing so, let alone demanded a EUMA.

The present U.S. EUMA “formulation” will not allow us to do likewise if we purchase an Inertial Navigation system or a radar from the U.S. and installed them on a Russian Mig 27 or a Mig 29 or a Sukhoi- 30 MKI — all of Russian origin. The U.S. argument will be that doing so will enable Russian aircraft designers and manufacturers to be able to examine, study and even copy the U.S.-origin equipment so that USG will either not agree to our importing them or impose such extraordinary restrictions that we will find we cannot accept them. Or at the very stage of our purchasing the U.S.-origin equipment, the USG will stipulate the only kind of end uses we can put the U.S. origin equipments to which restriction we can not accept. A major concern of ours is that invariably we may not want the U.S. to know on which of our military aircraft we intend to install the U.S.-origin equipment we are negotiating to buy. We want to keep that completely secret. What happens then?

Major problems

Fourthly, even where the above complexities do not arise, we and the USG and our concerned Defence Service have to jointly agree on a verification/inspection procedure for the U.S.-origin equipment purchased/to be purchased by us. This can raise major problems, particularly when we have made modifications and more seriously improvements on the U.S.-origin equipment. We do not wish USG to know about such modifications and improvements for secrecy reasons vis-À-vis the USA and for reasons of the USG passing them on to Pakistan.

Finally, South Block’s claim like claims of many Defence Users that the EUM arrangements with the USG would (ipso facto) “enhance” our access to the “best” military technology and products is fundamentally fallacious. There are very few military technologies/products in which the U.S. is the “best” — better than even one of: Russia, France and other West European countries (e.g. Sweden or Italy), Israel or the U.K. As a scientist and engineer who has been involved quite deeply in our acquiring many “best” military technologies from the USA over the last 35 years, if secrecy considerations did not restrict me from writing about them, I could give chapter and verse to substantiate my statements/conclusions as in the case of the classified areas of our Atomic Energy and Space Programmes. We must get this fixation and mindset of “best” being identically equal to U.S.-origin out of our heads.

Doing so would be greatly facilitated if as a democracy MEA would make what it calls “the formulation on the EUMA” public.

( Ashok Parthasarathi was Science Adviser to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.)

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