HomeAatmanirbhar BharatIndia sends a deterrent for bully China in its backyard

India sends a deterrent for bully China in its backyard

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India is now trying to tame China in its own backyard. Today, India delivered the first batch of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile systems to the Philippines, a victim of China’s bully tactics in the South China Sea. The Philippines is the first customer for BrahMos. The export of missiles is part of India’s plan to strengthen defence cooperation with the Philippines amid rising international apprehensions about China’s escalating military activities in the South China Sea. India is also trying to sell BrahMos missiles to Vietnam and Indonesia, both of which have maritime border disputes with China.
An answer to a bully
An expansionist China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea have put it in conflict with these countries. India looks to increase cooperation, defence as well as economic, with these countries to take its resistance to maritime Chinese influence to China’s own backyard.

Last year, India and Philippines decided to expand their defence partnership through upgraded official level interaction among defense agencies, opening of the resident Defense Attaché office in Manila, and consideration of India’s offer for concessional Line of Credit to buy defence equipment.

Last month, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said India firmly supports the Philippines in upholding its national sovereignty and wants to explore new areas of cooperation, including in defence and security, amid the growing maritime dispute between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea. Jaishankar’s remarks came after his meeting with his counterpart Enrique Manalo in Manila.

China claims most of the South China Sea but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims. China has deployed hundreds of coastguard vessels throughout the South China Sea to patrol what it considers its waters, despite a 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in a case brought by the Philippines which said the claim had no basis under international laws. There have been frequent faceoffs between the two sides in the past few years, prompting the US and Japan to also pledge support to the Philippines.

India has also assured Vietnam of all help in modernising its armed forces, also offering the BrahMos missiles as well as the Akash missile defence systems. In 2022, India gave Vietnam 12 high-speed guard boats built under a $100 million line of credit as part of the expanding defence ties between the two countries.With an eye on China’s aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific, India has been stepping up military ties with ASEAN countries through combat exercises, exchanges, training programmes and now increasingly weapon supplies under the “Act East” policy over the years. India has also supported the freedom of navigation and overflight for all in the South China Sea in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).India is increasingly trying to expand its influence in the Indo-Pacific. Sale of BrahMos to the Philippines and in future to Indonesia and Vietnam, will bolster India’s Act East policy. More military capacity for these countries alters the balance of power in the South China Sea where China asserts its supremacy and is being challenged by the US and other allied powers.

India’s growing defence-industrial base
BrahMos is an example of how India is fast turning into an exporter of critical weapon systems. Languishing for long in the strategically-vulnerable position of being among the world’s top three arms importers, India is now trying to build a robust domestic defence-industrial base and become a major exporter of weapon systems. The centrepiece of this ambitious enterprise is the BrahMos missile project, which completed 25 years last year.

While India’s BrahMos deal with the Philippines is worth a $375 million, there were reports last year of Vietnam looking to buy BrahMos missiles from India, in a deal which could be worth as much as $625 million,

BrahMos Aerospace was established through an inter-governmental agreement in 1998 as a joint venture between India’s state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation and NPO Mashinostroyenia of Russia. The first trial launch of the BrahMos missile took place in 2001. Various versions of this missile have been commissioned to India’s navy, air force and army.

Western-led sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine have not impacted BrahMos production or planning. Although BrahMos missiles still depend on Russian parts and raw material, the percentage of local input has gone up to over 70% from around 15% at the start of the venture. BrahMos Aerospace is now upgrading the missile, reducing its size, in terms of weight and dimensions so that it can be carried on a light-combat aircraft.

The BrahMos missiles are the biggest showpiece of India’s defence exports, but India has started exporting a range of other weapons too. A push for indigenous manufacturing of weapons and related equipment has given a boost to India’s defence exports. India’s defence exports have touched a record Rs 21,083 crore (approximately $2.63 billion) in the financial year 2023-24, a growth of 32.5% over the last fiscal when the figure was Rs 15,920 crore. If the past decade is compared with the previous one, the growth picture gets more dramatic — defence exports have grown by 21 times in the past decade, from Rs 4,312 crore during 2004-05 to 2013-14 to Rs 88,319 crore from 2014-15 to 2023-24.

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