Who’s afraid of US export controls? - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 23 July 2012

Who’s afraid of US export controls?

The lion in his lair! Antony meets Ashton Carter

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th July 12

US Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter’s ongoing Asia-Pacific tour to Japan, Thailand, India and South Korea illustrates Washington’s ongoing “rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region” that President Barack Obama first enunciated on 3rd January. In that momentous policy speech, India alone was mentioned as a strategic partner that had to be courted.

Since then, New Delhi has presented an increasingly ragged spectacle, deterring prospective suitors with strategic foot-dragging, non-governance and the inevitable outcome: a decelerating economy. And so Japan, not India, was Carter’s first destination. In Tokyo, Carter hailed Japan as America’s “central and anchoring” ally in Asia. “Naturally I come here first, to Tokyo,” he proclaimed. Was this just diplomatic hyperbole?

But New Delhi hardly cares! Even as the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and large chunks of the foreign ministry (MEA) deepen ties with Washington, AK Antony’s defence ministry (MoD) systematically cold-shoulders the Pentagon. Antony has ignored Ashton Carter’s appointment as Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s point man on India, charged with cutting through red tape in Washington and New Delhi and facilitating joint development and production. Like Panetta, Antony has a competent deputy, MM Pallam Raju, who could join hands with Carter to channel defence high technology to India.

But Antony, as many know, opposes the US on a dual count: ideology and inertia. His left-of-centre political roots in Kerala predispose him to maintain distance from capitalist America. At the personal level, his aversion to decision-making kicks in with double strength when the proposed decision is contested. In this case it involves a strategic relationship with a country that has confronted India during the Cold War, socked us with technology sanctions, and played ball with Pakistan and, hell, China.

But there is also a counter argument since a defence relationship with the US offers incontestable advantages. These include weaning our military off its crippling reliance on Russia and a dubious dependency on Israel. Can there be a more equal relationship with Washington? That would involve mastering the US technology control regime, a legislative maze seemingly custom-designed to provide employment to an army of lawyers and bureaucrats in the US capital. For most of India’s strategic elites, navigating their way around these regulations is too cumbersome. And so they prefer to air grievances, castigating America for denying us technology.

A common complaint in India is: “The Americans want to sell us weaponry, but not to part with technology.” This is now being challenged by US officials as senior as Leon Panetta and Ashton Carter, who insist that the US is willing to partner India in the joint development of high-tech weaponry. What, then, does it take for Washington and India to become security partners? It is important to understand the mechanics.

All US-India policy discussion on defence technology is conducted through the Joint Technology Group (JTG), which functions under the apex Defence Policy Group (DPG). The Indian side of the JTG consists of the Defence R&D Organisation, or the DRDO. On the US side is the OUD (A,T & L), the cumbersome acronym for the Office of Undersecretary of Defence for Acquisitions, Technology & Logistics. Unlike the DRDO, whose discussion team consists mainly of scientists, the OUD (A,T & L) brings to the table a formidable combination of managers, lawyers and scientists.

While the JTG handles policy, the DRDO processes any joint R&D proposals with its three counterpart laboratories in the US Department of Defence (DoD): the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL); Naval Research Laboratory (NRL); and Army Research Laboratory (ARL). But the crucial factor on the US side is funding. An American laboratory can only pursue an R&D proposal if one of the US armed forces --- the US Air Force, US Navy, US Army or Marine Corps --- is willing to fund the project. In India, the DRDO is pre-allocated funding through the defence budget.

This could also be done on a government-to-government (G2G) basis. If a DRDO laboratory wants to adopt the G2G route for a joint project with a US laboratory to develop state-of-the-art underwater sonar, the proposal would be mooted through the JTG. The JTG would allocate the project to a suitable US agency, which would then have to persuade the US Navy to fund their share of the development cost.

This means that the US military must see some practical utility in financially sponsoring joint R&D. With Antony bent on keeping the US military at arm’s length, and unwilling to sign even a Logistical Support Agreement for fear of being sucked into America’s wars, the American military has little reason to perceive their Indian counterparts as friends who deserve technological support.

If there is likelihood of early change, it is in the maritime domain where America’s “rebalance to the Asia-Pacific” seems likely to boost interaction between the two navies. Meanwhile Washington has undertaken a major review --- called the Export Control Reform Initiative --- of its export control system. There is consensus that the current system is “confusing, rigid, and controls too many items for the wrong reasons”, to quote Ashton Carter. Washington’s export control horizon is set to change and India must prepare to benefit from these changes.


  1. Why do we need the LSA & CISMOA do you care to explain ? As if, the U.S. hasn't benefited enough from the FMS arms sales ? And then you want the Pro-Pak, Pro-China state department to dictate how much of what you can get ? Not to mention endless end user certification and on-site inspections. The Swiss are better, at least they told up front the Pilatus can't be armed, when shit hits the fan tomorrow who knows what codes are activated in the FMS arms ?

  2. Fabulous analysis and crystal-clear expression. Press on and continue to educate guys. Both the Articles related to US-India Defense Cooperation made such a great reading.

  3. Ajai,

    I don't care whether you like it or not but Pakistan is the ONLY ALLY the US is going to get in south asia.

    China was a little pup but its grown up now and the US feels the competition. Let china make allies in the middle-east. Let it get a share in the areas natural resources at the expense of the US. Let the US choke and let them fight it out.

    Get it? India has no business in the US-china power tussle. India is not a proxy. It's not india's job!!

  4. Mr. Shukla,

    You mention "dubious dependency on Israel", why?

  5. export agreements which are created whenever two or more than two parties are involved in any business which involves export of goods or services.If it should be perfect then no need to afraid to us exports.

  6. What is a "more equal" relationship? Why not just call it "more advantageous for India?"

    Or is this the journalistic equivalent of strategic restraint?

  7. Anon@4:49

    French are helping Pak, so you should label them as Pro-Pak. Almost every supplier we work with including Russians and French either help Pak or China or both. The whole thing about pro-pak or pro-china argument against the US is not accurate. Regarding Swiss being up front, so is the US. The while LSA and CISMOA are discussed up front prior to contracts. They have not pulled a fast one on us. Also, some of the elements of the contracts with the US are likely to be found in contracts with Russians or French. Except, we have learned to work with those and thus they do not cause panic.

  8. Shri AK Anthony has my full support in what he is doing. USA is reaping the fruit of being absoutely anti-Indian for so many decades thinking, doing, financing, hurting India in all ways possible. Now that they see India spending big money on defence they come up with some melodramatic gestures. The drama includes the team leader Barrack Obama, his deputy Leon Panetta and his deputy Ashton Carter and Hillary Clinton to give support on the diplomatic effort. USA has only one fried and that is USA. When we can see this clearly and when we seem them using different bodies, organisations, blogs, and other sources to further their request, we should not give in. They gave us hell and they are getting back what they gave. Why do we need to have agreements on CISMOA or Logistics with the Americans. Think my fellow Indians on who it will benefit. It will only benefit USA with some sugar costing to please India.

    Mr. Anthony, you are doing a great job and we fully suppor you. You can trust a serpent but not the Americans. The Chinese are more reliable than the Americans. Why are they setting up a spy base in Coco Islands. Naturally to spy on India with the slippery excuseo of spying on South China sea.

    They will do good with the Japanese and the others but we Indians dont need them up close. They are good from far away. Let them prove in actions what they are saying by transferring real top end high tech for manufacture in India and then we can think on what we want to do with USA.

  9. @ Anonymous 24 July 2012 20:28

    While we can argue a lot more in favor of what you are saying, We forget that countries do not have friends, they have policies and strategies and current scenario is not same as 20 or 40 years ago. while India was aligned with Soviets what would you expect US to do? Time has changed and India needs to do the necessary while being assertive.

  10. Anon @ 20:28,
    When POK-II happened, who among the P-5 was the most vocal in opposition and imposed sanctions left, right and center and set back the Tejas program a decade ? And who supported us through those trying times : France & Russia. So why the hell will I should I call them Pro-PAK ?
    When China was overtly and covertly N-arming PAK through the 80s & 90s who turned a blind eye and gave it's tacit support and why, because Pak was needed, in it's strategic equation to counter the soviets in Afghanistan.
    So I agree in strategic affairs, there are no permanent friends nor permanent enemies, only permanent interests. And that's what India should keep in mind too, it's own interests. Yes, the U.S. did some really heavy lifting for us at NSG but that was again to promote it's own struggling domestic civil nuclear industry. So why pander to them ? Get the best that the available money can buy and what they can offer which meets "our requirements" with as little strings attached (like CISMOA & LSA) as possible.

  11. There goes the paid band again playing same old tunes that master wants to hear.

  12. Anon@23:13

    Yes, US was a vocal opponent of POK-II. But most of it had to do with their laws and regulations and policies to oppose spread of nuclear weapons programs. Also, don't forget some of the public opposition was for the world media. They did place several sanctions as per their laws, but they also quietly took a lot of those away within a period of an year or two. Pakistan on the other hand had to live with a lot more sanctions than us. If 9/11 didn't happen, they would have had no opportunity to squeeze even a penny worth of additional weapons and help from the US. 9/11 put US in a tough spot, they had no choice but to work with the Pakistanis. And, Pakistan made the most of that knowing full full well that such an opportunity may never walk up to their door steps again.

  13. anon above...i'd love to have what you are smoking. The US has been against Indian MIC ever since the 74 tests. Go ask anyone about the number of laws used to scuttle imports of technology by India. After the 1998 tests, they just became even more overt. The US is in the habit of bullying around countries that do not overtly possess the will to hurt them. Look at how scared they are of taking the right measures against pakistan whereas they are pushing around iran. Hypocrisy at its worst is the US foreign policy


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