The India-Japan partnership is one of the important thrust areas of Japan’s new foreign policy. In the recent past, except Mori, Koizumi and Abe, other prime ministers have shown little enthusiasm for the improvement of relationship with India. However, that trend seems to be changing.
The Indian Navy was recently briefed on the Aegis ballistic missile defence (BMD) system for ships. The US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin had discussions with Indian authorities and reports suggest that they are ‘open to collaboration’ with the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) on integrating the Prithvi Air Defence Shield (PADS) with the Aegis system.
In spite of the seemingly difficult terrain in generating and implementing confidence-building measures in South Asia, all are not doom and gloom. It is thus plausible to make the following conclusions based on existing regional and sub-regional arrangements in South Asia.
India and Pakistan, as the two new de facto nuclear weapon states in the nuclear club since 1998, have embarked upon some meaningful nuclear risk reduction measures through a series of bilateral agreements.
The defence budget outlays for 2008-09 (at Rs.1,05,600 crores) has witnessed an increase of ten percent at current prices and a 14.1 percent jump vis-à-vis last year’s revised estimates at Rs. 92,500 crores. Provisions for larger defence efforts, normally not included in the defence budget (for example, outlays for civil defence, coast guard, etc.) could put the figure at Rs. 1, 25,000 crore or possibly more.
Budgetary outlays for national defence need a careful autopsy for a general understanding, which has otherwise been kept out of a national debate. This apathy must change for the very simple reason that a subject which accounts for 14 percent of the total government expenditure and is not kept under planned category, needs to be examined properly. First, defence expenditure has witnessed only a modest hike this year.
Apart from its nuclear bravado, Iran is simultaneously exploring new grounds up above in the sky for expanding military influence and that is, space. In early February this year, Iran fired a sounding rocket into the outer space to mark the opening of its first space centre. Such rockets are usually instrument-carrying crafts designed to take measurements and perform scientific experiments during their sub-orbital flight. Iran also proposes to move a step further by launching their first home-produced satellite "Omid" (Hope) in March 2009.
China’s October 24 launch of its Chang-e 1 (Moon Goddess) Moon survey satellite has been heralded by the Chinese government as a “giant leap” for China’s peaceful exploration of outer space. But the launch of Chang-e, as well as subsequent Chinese Moon missions, to very likely include manned Moon activities, should also be viewed as a major step into space for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which controls all of China’s space activities.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has a geopolitical dimension that people outside the foreign policy circuit in India may not be sufficiently aware of. The ASEAN has always wanted to influence the shape of the regional order in Southeast Asia and the role of major powers in it. How can a group of ten relatively small countries aspire to manage the geopolitics of a region that is stalked by military or economic giants like the US and Japan and rising behemoths like China and India with populations of more than one billion each?
The declaration by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that the presidential polls will be held on October 06 is of critical concern. It is imperative to point out that the ECP has played a very crucial role in facilitating the re-election bid of President Musharraf by declaring that he would be eligible to contest elections, despite a constitutional ban on government officials from standing for elections unless they retire two years prior to the polls.
The much awaited request for proposal (RFP) for 126 medium-range multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) was finally announced by the Ministry of Defence in a press release on 28 August 2007. It took nearly two years of deliberations since the request for information (RFI) was issued in late 2005. Six bidders, considered ‘gorillas’ in military business, will compete for the massive $ 10.2 billion contract, dubbed as ‘mother of all deals’ in the history of Indian arms acquisition.