Of Prime Ministers and Weapons

I write to you from Mumbai where the British Prime Minister has just left for Delhi. Unfortunately the trip is overtaken by news of Augusta-Westland corruption. The British PM keen to point out it is an Italian parent company of the British helicopter maker allegedly bribing Indian defence contractors.

The shame is not just the corruption. It’s that national interest is damaged. India cancelled the contract. Yet India needs those helicopters. (At the right, uncorrupted price). And it is why the British PM has offered to provide all support in rooting out corruption in the deal – not just because it is of course the morally and legally right thing to do, but because Indian defence is British defence.

And I would prefer the Indians buy these armaments from Britain, not least because British, unlike French ones, do have a stronger reputation for deterrence. A strong India is in the national interests of a Britain because it makes a world closer in our own image, than in the image of a China or Pakistan or Russia. You choose what you want the world too look like, but then don’t be cheap about picking up the bill.

Britain in 2012 sent one of its most sophisticated war ships to the Falkland Islands. Britain also according to the Argentinians has a submarine in the region armed with nuclear weapons. Clearly, the British protect their national interests, even 7,000 miles away.

In 2011, Chinese troops undertook over 50 incursions into Indian territory ‘at will’ according to the well regarding India Today magazine. These ‘incursions’ include everything from Chinese soldiers setting up camps inside India to encouraging locals to join the Chinese army. Pakistani soldiers a month ago decapitated Indian soldiers in Kashmir.

In case you don’t think this has anything to do with Britain, then I remind you, that India is nestled next to Pakistan, a nuclear-armed unreliable Western ally which housed not only Osama Bin Laden, and widely considered a training ground for International terrorism. North of India is Russia – a Western adversary – whether we like it or not. And of course then there is China.

Remember in the most recent test of values in international relations and the type of world we want, India, US and Britain, all members of the UN Security Council voted in favour of action in Syria. China and Russia used their veto; thereby encouraging crimes against humanity in Syria.

And India as the world’s largest democracy, surrounded by totalitarian regimes and unstable pseudo-democracies is the only major country in the region even coming close to sharing our values – in part because of their own innate rich heritage and beliefs, and yes, in part because of one of the curios benefits of 200 years of British colonization.

‘War is hell’ said General Patton and there are many a macho arm-chair General who will advocate strong armies. But I speak as a believer in deterrence. Without strong deterrence, your adversaries will seek to incur in your territories and China and Argentina and Russia are bedfellows.

Alpesh Patel


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