OPINION: Rafale celebration won't change reality that Indian military is fake

Justice Katju argues India still lacks capability to indigenously build weaponry

Rajnath rafale puja pti Defence Minister Rajnath Singh performing a puja on the first Rafale for the IAF | PTI

The delivery of the first Rafale fighter by France to India is being celebrated with great fanfare and hoopla, as if India has secured a huge triumph. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was shown in an Indian Air Force g-suit going on the plane's first flight after its handover, and doing a 'shastra puja'.

A lot of allegations had been made of corruption in the Rafale deal between India and France, and questions were raised as to why an offsets contract was given to Anil Ambani, who had no experience in manufacturing aircraft. I am not going into these issues, but into something much deeper.

I submit that a military whose country cannot make its own weapons is a fake, not a genuine military. And from that viewpoint, the Indian military is fake, and not a genuine military like that of the US or China. It can therefore only fight another fake military, like that of Pakistan, not a real military like that of the US or China, which make their own weapons.

Even 72 years after Independence, India cannot make, but has to buy, from foreign countries (at heavy expense) not only the heavy weapons for its military like fighter aircraft, submarines, artillery, tanks and missiles, but even many of its rifles. It was reported earlier this year, that the Indian government had signed a contract with the US firm Sig Sauer for buying 72,400 assault rifles for Rs 700 crore. So, we cannot even make good rifles.

Consequently, if a war breaks out, our military can fight only for a few weeks, after which it cannot fight unless it receives more weapons, spare parts and other equipment. This is precisely what happened in the Indo-China war of 1962, in the middle of which we went to Western countries, begging for help.

Also, the weapons sold to our armed forces by foreign countries will be without much of their latest technology. For example, if the US sells us the F-15 fighter aircraft, it will not be the 'real F-15', but an F-15 shorn of its latest avionics and other high-tech equipment. This is obvious, because the latest technology is the result of billions of dollars worth of scientific research, which is secret technology that the Americans would not like to part with. So the Rafales we are getting from France will obviously not be the 'real Rafale'.

Half-a-dozen US aircraft can probably destroy our entire air force, and possibly our entire artillery, tanks and missiles, too. And this they can do from a distance of several hundred miles from their targets, often remaining invisible to radar using stealth technology (with aircraft having skins using radar-absorbent materials).

Military power comes from economic power. It is only the highly industrialised countries that can make their own weapons, while under-developed countries like India have to buy them from the former. So if India is to make its own weapons, it must become highly industrialised. But if that happens, will not the sales by foreign arms manufacturers go down? (Today, India is perhaps the biggest purchaser of foreign arms, spending billions of dollars of its precious resources on this.)

That is one reason why developed countries will do their best to prevent India becoming a highly industrialised country. No country wants to lose its market.

Justice Markandey Katju retired from the Supreme Court in 2011

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK