India and the Philippines signed the “Implementing Arrangement” for “procurement of defense material and equipment procurement”.
This agreement lays the groundwork for sales of defence systems such as the highly anticipated export of the BrahMos cruise missile, through the government-to-government route.
Philippine Department of National Defense publicly acknowledges, the archipelagic country’s intention of purchasing the missile, and a potential export deal for India, moves one step closer to reality.
This deal will be of great significance for multiple reasons, and even though the procurement process is progressing steadfastly, there are many challenges that lie ahead.
About the BrahMos Missile:
- A combination of the names of Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers, BrahMos missiles are designed, developed and produced by BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture company set up by DRDO and Mashinostroyenia of Russia.
- It is a two-stage missile with a solid propellant booster as the first stage and liquid ramjet as the second stage.
- The cruise missiles like BrahMos are a type of systems known as the ‘standoff range weapons’ which are fired from a range sufficient to allow the attacker to evade defensive fire from the adversary.
- Brahmos is a multiplatforme it can be launched from land, air, and sea and multi capability missile with pinpoint accuracy that works in both day and night irrespective of the weather conditions.
- It operates on the “Fire and Forgets” principlee it does not require further guidance after launch.
- Brahmos is one of the fastest cruise missile currently operationally deployed with speed of Mach 2.8, which is 3 times more than the speed of sound.
- These weapons are in the arsenal of most major militaries in the world.
- The versions of the BrahMos that are being tested have an extended range of around 400 km, as compared to its initial range of 290 km, with more versions of higher ranges currently under development.
Export as a goal: Target of $5 billion in defence exports by 2025:
These advanced and powerful capabilities of the BrahMos not only augment the strength of the Indian military but make it a highly desirable product for other countries to procure as well.
Exporting the system, hence, has been on the agenda for more than a decade. Doing so would boost the credibility of India as a defence exporter, help it meet the target of $5 billion in defence exports by 2025, and elevate its stature as a regional superpower.
Countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa have so far shown an interest in acquiring the systems.
To promote Exports: Draft Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy (2020):
the Ministry of Defence has formulated a draft Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy 2020 (DPEPP 2020).
The DPEPP 2020 is envisaged as an overarching guiding document to provide a focused, structured and significant thrust to defence production capabilities of the country for self-reliance and exports.
Geo-political impact on these implications:
The implications of the Philippines becoming the first country to import the BrahMos would be wide-ranging and consequential in the Indo-Pacific.
To begin with, it would caution China, with whom the Philippines has been engaged in a territorial conflict in the South China Sea, and act as a deterrent to Beijing’s aggressive posturing.
Indeed, this is why China has been wary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries acquiring defence systems such as the BrahMos.
Further, taking lessons, other nations threatened by Chinese belligerence may come forward to induct the BrahMos into their arsenal, thereby boosting India’s economic, soft, and hard power profile in the region and providing the Indo-Pacific with a strong and dependable anchor with which they can protect their sovereignty and territory.
Possible hurdles: May attract Sanctions because of this deal:
- The Government of India has prioritised making the country ‘Atmanirbhar’ in the defence manufacturing sector and establishing itself as a major defence exporter.
- The Philippines, on the other hand, has decided to buy the BrahMos out of geopolitical and strategic necessities. Nonetheless, two major roadblocks still remain in the Manila deal.
- The first is the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which aims to sanction individuals and entities who engage in a “significant transaction” with a listed entity.
- So far, Turkey and China have been penalised under CAATSA for purchasing the S-400 Triumf air defense systems from Russia. NPO Mashinostroyenia is one of the listed Russian entities.
- And since 65% of the components, including the ramjet engine and radar seeker used in the BrahMos, are reportedly provided by NPO Mashinostroyenia, the export of the missile systems may attract sanctions.
- Remarkably, the United States, of which India is a major defence partner, has maintained ambiguity over whether it will introduce sanctions over India’s acquisition of the S-400, licensed production of the AK-203 assault rifle, and export of the BrahMos.
- Hesitant of being sanctioned themselves, countries may shy away from purchasing the BrahMos.
- However, there is an excellent case for India to receive a waiver from CAATSA, especially vis-à-vis the BrahMos that can help contain a confrontational China.
- The second issue pertains to financing. A regiment of the BrahMos, including a mobile command post, four missile-launcher vehicles, several missile carriers, and 90 missiles, reportedly costs around $275.77 million (Rs.2,000 crore).
- Ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries which are interested in the BrahMos would find it difficult to purchase it.
- The cost of the systems has been a major hurdle in moving forward to reach a deal with the Philippines.
- To remedy this, India has offered a $100 million line of credit, and the Philippines is thinking of purchasing just one battery of the BrahMos, consisting of three missile launchers with two to three missile tubes each.
Self-reliance in defence manufacturing is a crucial component of effective defence capability and to maintain national sovereignty and achieve military superiority.
The attainment of this will ensure strategic independence, cost-effective defence equipment and may lead to saving on defence import bill, which can subsequently finance the physical and social infrastructure.
With India determined to develop itself as a hub of defence manufacturing, how it handles the sale of the BrahMos would be an important factor in its potential emergence as a net provider of regional security in the Indo-Pacific.