… more on India’s capitulation and its media coverage.
While the Russians have completely commercialised their relations with India, the Indian establishment continues to view our relations with Russia through the prism of Cold War and pre-Putin era. The initial analysis from the IRIGC meeting at Moscow last week has showcased a meek Indian surrender at the bilateral talks. As more details come in, the story turns out to be even more sordid. Live Fist has examined in depth the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) deal.
…the Indian government and air force have been vigorously insistent – reasonably so – that they be part of the design phase [of the PAK-FA]. As it happens, this was not to be. It emerges that a dossier of baseline QRs was forwarded to the Russians in late 2006, but these were returned as the design phase was already frozen.
An informed comment by Abhiman on the Live Fist post further clarifies the matter.
The PAK-FA is a Russian airframe, built as per Russian requirements. Only some of its sub-systems will be modified by India for its own use. By being a 50% financial partner, in essence, India has euphemistically purchased the licence production rights for the PAK-FA in India and also got the rights to modify some non-critical sub-systems for its own requirement.
Russia is forcing India to sign an IPR, which signifies that it intends to safeguard its proprietary technology, and not share it with India. Besides, there have been numerous Russian articles in “Kommersant” and “Russian Aviation” in which Sukhoi officials have been unambiguously quoted as saying that India’s role is primarily that of a financier only. Only at a later stage will India be ‘allowed’ to ‘modify’ some parts for its ‘own use’.
This is confirmed by the Reuters report as well.
State-run Sukhoi corporation will develop the fifth-generation fighter for Russia, and under the accord signed after two days of talks, it will then be jointly modified for India.
Live Fist also uncovers the Russian insistence on dishonouring old agreements and how India has signed away the gains of past negotiations.
And most recently, India bowing to Russia’s demand for a 5 per cent cost escalation on the enormous Flanker deal signed in the late 1990s. This last deal was one built on political good faith – India didn’t need these fighters at the time. It was a political favour to Moscow, still reeling from the aftershock of shutting down Red Russia. The vicious commercialization of relations has caught India off guard – New Delhi remains in a dream world of the past. Hilariously, Russia has voiced problems about investing India’s debt to Moscow as India’s share of the FGFA investment. Sorry, but I can’t think of a single reason why this should be so. A political leash for the future?
Many in India criticise the US as a fickle and untrustworthy ally but what have they got to say about the Russians? The Russians are more mercantile than the US now and trust, credibility and promises have no meaning in Putin’s Russia. It is high time India stopped looking at its relations with Russia through the prism of Soviet era agreements and expect reciprocal goodwill for bailing out Boris Yeltsin by signing redundant defence deals. A resurgent and assertive Russia is a hardnosed bargainer where there is no place for sentimentalities of a bygone era.
While the Indian print media felled innumerable trees to cover the Indo-US nuclear deal, there has been perfunctory coverage of the Indo-Russian deal. Everyone across the intellectual spectrum, bar the owners and editors (if there are any still left), continue to lament the lack of balance and proportion in the coverage of events by the Indian media. The ire is commonly directed towards the television news channels, especially the non-english ones, for their extensive coverage of frivolous and trivial events (read crime, cinema and cricket). There is no point in reinforcing this beration of the idiot box, but let us focus on the so-called ‘serious’ print media.
As a test case, Pragmatic examined the following newspapers – The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, DNA and The Hindu – for their coverage and analysis of India-Russia conference on defence matters. It was a significant event concerning India’s foreign policy and the Indian government actually pledged India’s future strategic interests to Russian armtwisting. This may emerge from an analysis of the deal making, but the coverage of the deal itself was incomplete and misleading.
To start with the pallbearer of levity, the TOI. It highlights extensive technical details of the FGFA (based more on guesswork and sourced from the internet) rather than cover any details of the deal. Interestingly, it harps on the joint development and goes on to add about the ‘landmark’ agreement -
Antony was quoted as saying that India and Russia would have equal financial and technological stakes in the FGFA project.
The Hindu, in its report from Moscow, also paints a rosier picture of the deals. The reportage, though factually correct, conveys a totally different picture from the actual.
Defence cooperation between India and Russia has taken a great leap forward with the signing of a multi-billion pact to build a futuristic combat aircraft…
“We will share the funding, engineering and intellectual property in a 50-50 proportion,” Mikhail Pogosyan said. He disclosed that the Indian version of the 5th-generation aircraft would be different from the Russian version because of specific Indian requirements.
The Hindustan Times has nothing of substance to offer in its report, other than banal generalities and clichés.
the Indian Air Force (IAF) can now hope to enhance its capabilities through the fifth generation fighters to be ‘developed and produced’ with the Russians.
The DNA is also very close to the HT in its coverage – bromides and commonplaces. The Indian Express had the best coverage among the print media surveyed for this post. The IE report tried to make some sense of the deal rather than indulge in hyperbole and other tropes.
The Sukhoi Aviation Holding Company (AHK) has won the Government tender to develop and manufacture Russia’s fifth-generation fighter aircraft. Sources said India was going to order a hundred such aircraft. The likely price of such a deal would be about $6 billion, although no real price has yet been fixed for India, nor is there agreement on who will own the intellectual property rights to the jointly developed aircraft. “These key questions will have to be addressed later,” sources said, pointing out that these fighters will be built in Russia and India, and New Delhi will have the right to supply them to third countries with Russian and the Russian-Indian models differing from each other.
The deals signed at Moscow are worth many times the high-profile flagship programmes of the Indian government. Besides the financial commitment, they pledge our strategic future to an unreliable and untrustworthy partner. A sensible debate on this topic of national importance is not too much to expect from an independent media in a 60-year old democracy. If this is the state of our ‘serious’ national media, we can only imagine the ‘informed’ coverage in the regional media. The media has a divine right to scrutinise and question everyone but who will kick the media so that the public is well and truly informed and their opinion au courant on matters of grave national importance.
Finally, are you an admirer of the Indian establishment’s ability to spin a yarn or lamenter of a gullible and credulous fourth estate? I belong to the latter.