The Second Patriot

India may be able to purchase Patriot anti-missile missiles. Good.

As Robi Sen points out, what the United States is offering this time is significant — Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) missiles may not be state-of-the-art in missile defence, but they are certainly a lot better than the first Gulf War vintage PAC-1s. It is also expected that acquisition of PAC-2s will allow India to purchase, at some time in the future, the PAC-3 missiles. Be that as it may, the Second Patriot goes a long way in securing India against its most likely missile threats — from ballistic missiles of the Chinese/North Korean variety deployed by Pakistan and China.

India’s strategic commentators have contended for some time that India’s no-first-use nuclear doctrine needs good missile defence to complement it. Apart from indigenous efforts at developing anti-missile capability, India has been on the lookout to procure such systems internationally, and has previously considered Russian and Israeli systems. But purchases of this nature are as much about strategic relations as they are about technical capabilities. Seen in this light, America’s offer of Patriots puts considerable substance to the talk about bilateral cooperation in the area of missile defence.

Current missile defence technology is effective only at the ‘theatre’ level, which means that the missile defence ‘shield’ can only protect small geographical areas like population centres, defence installations or troop concentrations. The big challenge is to develop ‘national’ missile shields that can protect entire countries. It will be some time before a national missile defence shield is possible and affordable. That means two things — firstly, there is a case for scientists and engineers in India, Israel, Japan and the United States to put their heads together and speed up the process; and secondly, it means that Pakistan and the American non-proliferation ayatollahs are wrong owhen they point out that the sale of Patriots will make India impenetrable to Pakistani missiles (and hence result in an arms war).

There are strong vested interests in both Washington and New Delhi that would want to scuttle this deal — lobbies and dogmas abound in both capitals. But if clear heads and better sense prevails, patriots too will prevail.

6 thoughts on “The Second Patriot”

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  3. You guys want those things? Man, are you gullible! They don’t even work!

    I kid.

    Actually, the PAC-2s work reasonably well nowadays, though I wouldn’t bet my life on them. Particularly not for nuclear weapons. So you’ve got the right take.

    I’m still wondering whether this is being used to squeeze Pakistan on something or other, e.g. the Khan network or the NWFP. I also what the U.S. expects from India in return.

  4. er, I also *wonder* what the U.S. expects from India in return.

    Probably just squeezing Pakistan for the moment.

  5. Praktike,

    It would be quite unrealistic to expect that the United States will sell the state-of-the-art. However, what is clear is that PAC-2s will be better than what India already has, and perhaps (arguably) better than the Israeli and Russian offerings.

    What does the US want in return from India ? Choose from: (a) to shut up on the F-16 deal to Pakistan (b) to hurry up on the peace process (c) to cut out the Russians (d) a strategic partnership and as usual (e) all the above 🙂

  6. Nitin and Praktike,

    It is assuredly not A since A is not going to happen with the current congress period! The majority leader has said there will be no sale to Pakistan and that’s old news. Not sure why you keep pushing this especially since there has not been one single thing from the current administration or Congress that would suggest that A is on the field.

    Also… I still think my assessment is correct that the PAC-2 sale as well as possible licensing of PAC-3’s has little to do with squeezing Pakistan and more to do with a change in policy towards India and Pakistan. Exactly how is it a squeeze? It is a massive sea change in policy with no reversal, going back, or possible equal to the Pakistanis and Chinese. This is a much bigger deal that people seem to be aware of and it has a lot more to do with Pakistan and India in that the PAC-2’s are decent counters to much of what China and North Korea have as well as the Chinese are pretty upset about the whole deal. Couple this with what’s going on with Japan’s Navy, Aegis, Japan’s licensing of PAC-3’s etc and you start to see that there is a lot more to this than meets the eye.

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