Overview of Defense Deals with the United States and France

In the shadowy realms of geopolitics, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomatic forays to the United States and France in the Summer of 2023 cast a threatening hue with the signing of defense agreements. The United States wants to pitch India as a regional rival against China in the Indo-Pacific region. The US and India are members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) also known as the Quad.

With the United States of America, India Signed the following Defence Agreements:

  • To conduct joint military exercises, industrial cooperation, and consultative mechanisms. Both States also emphasized information sharing, enhanced maritime security, and dialogues in new defense domains like space and AI.
  • President Biden and Prime Minister Modi signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between General Electric and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, aiming to produce GE F-414 jet engine production in India for Light Combat Aircraft Tejas Mk-2. The agreement promotes U.S. jet engine technology transfer to India.
  • India’s role as a maintenance hub for U.S. Navy assets, concluding Master Ship Repair Agreements with Indian shipyards. They agreed to collaborate on logistics, repair, and maintenance infrastructure for Indian aircraft and vessels.
  • India plans to procure up to 30 General Atomics MQ-9B HALE UAVs, enhancing ISR capabilities and establishing a Comprehensive Global MRO facility to boost indigenous defense capabilities.
U.S. President Joe Biden and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a bilateral meeting alongside the Quad Summit at Kantei Palace in Tokyo, Japan, May 24, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Indian PM Modi also signed multiple defense agreements with France during his visit in July. The Indian authority responsible for authorizing procurement has approved the purchase of 26 Rafale fighter jets from France. In addition, the Defence Acquisition Council of India’s defense ministry has also given the light for acquiring three more Scorpene class submarines. India has a history of acquiring military equipment from France, and these new deals are estimated to be valued at around $10 billion.

Security experts have noted that diversifying its sources for military hardware through such acquisitions allows New Delhi to reduce dependence on older Russian equipment.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, France has emerged as India’s largest arms supplier between 2018 and 2022, accounting for approximately 29% of imports.

Implications for Pakistan

It is important to mention that the ongoing defense deals between the United States and India primarily focus on China. However, it has implications for Pakistan due to the tense history between the two countries and the notable disparities in conventional and technological capabilities. In this situation, the transfer of advanced technologies threatens Pakistan’s national security and potentially destabilizes an already volatile region in South Asia. These defense agreements will significantly increase the military capabilities of India in the region, which will create a further imbalance in the region.

The expansion of India’s military capabilities has led to an asymmetry in the regional balance of conventional military power.

Adding to the concern is the fact that both India and Pakistan have recently acquired capabilities. Consequently, India’s programs for development and procurement have the potential to create instability in India-Pakistan relations, as India has more purchasing power and a defense budget compared to the rest of the states in South Asia, which includes its main rival, Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Response and Countermeasures

In response to media inquiries regarding the statement between India and the United States, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry expressed its deep concern over the intended transfer of advanced military technologies to India. These actions are exacerbating the imbalance in the region and undermining strategic stability, making them counterproductive to achieving a sense of lasting peace in South Asia.

Regarding defense deals, the Pakistan Armed Forces must find viable options to cater to these new developments in South Asia. Under the threat of nuclear weapons, deterrence prevails at the higher strategic level, but at the conventional level, instability will prevail.

Joint Exercises by the Indian Armed Forces with the United States to counter China can equip India with knowledge of the US-origin equipment used by Pakistan’s Military. So, to counter this, the Pakistan Army should diversify its military equipment from multiple indigenous and external sources. This can help maintain operational flexibility and keep India guessing how to counter a specific weapon system. Diversification can also help Pakistan in Strategic Autonomy in case of conflict with India.

Relying on various equipment suppliers empowers Pakistan with greater autonomy in decision-making, reducing susceptibility to external pressures in times of crisis.

India’s Tejas fighter jet project was initiated in the 1980s to replace aircraft. However, it encountered challenges such as advancements, budget constraints, evolving requirements, and bureaucratic obstacles resulting in delays. To revive and equip its dwindling aircraft strength, Indian Air Force hastily ordered ill-equipped Tejas with the US Origin engine but this defense deal might take a long time to bear fruits as IAF faces further delays in the Tejas Mk-2 project.

India also bought 30 UAVs from the US, which can be countered by enhancing anti-UAV capabilities like Surface-to-Air Missiles systems. Pakistan is way ahead of India in Drone Warfare because Pakistan started investing in UAV Systems very early and has a diverse range of UAVs ranging from combat to reconnaissance. And has utilized them in combat in the war on terror against terrorists.

The recent defense agreements between India and the United States and India’s deals with France have significant implications for regional security dynamics, especially in South Asia. These agreements enhance India’s capabilities and influence in the region, which could potentially disrupt the balance of power. Pakistan’s reaction, including diversifying its sources for military equipment, emphasizes the need for strategic independence and operational flexibility. As India strengthens its prowess, these developments highlight the importance of maintaining stability and open communication in a region with a history of tensions. Navigating this evolving security landscape requires attention to ensure long-lasting peace and prevent unintentional escalation.

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