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To Develop or not to Develop?: The Political Dimension of BMD Procurement in Japan and India

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  • December 18, 2009
    Fellows' Seminar
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    Chair: Dr. Rajaram Panda
    External Discussants: Dr. P.K. Ghosh Senior Fellow, CAPS and Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra, JNU


    • The paper’s core question “What factors influence why states make the decision to import advanced weapon systems or to develop them indigenously?”
    • Both India and Japan had similar threat perceptions owing to similar kind of neighbourhood situation.
    • The paper discusses the political processes behind BMD acquisition and not its scientific effectiveness or military utility.
    • There is research on suppliers’ perception of arms transfer but litter research on recipients’ perspectives.
    • In the case of Japan, discussion on BMD began with Reagan’s “Star Wars” address. In the late 1980s and through the 1990s Japanese defence industry conducted research in this area. There was some joint research with the United States as well.
    • North Korea’s 1998 Taepo Dong I test convinced Japan of BMD’s usefulness and formal joint research with United States began.
    • After the United States withdrew from ABM treaty, the Japanese Cabinet decided to introduce BMD systems. As of December 2009 4 SM-3s and 12 PAC-3s are deployed.
    • Japan’s Foreign Policy concerns influenced the timing of the BMD deployment. Its perception about threats from the neighbours mattered in the decision about BMD. The Taiwan strait crisis of 1995-96 and earlier Chinese nuclear tests caused the difference. North Korean tests became an incentive to introduce BMD system, but was not a decisive factor that made Japan decide to join the American system.
    • Japan did not consider self reliance because there are restrictions due to import controls and limited R&D budgets.
    • In the case of India, Pakistan’s acquisition of M-11s caused it to think of BMD. Chinese and Pakistani co-operation was looked at seriously. The political decisions behind it have not been fully analysed.
    • India has been aiming for self-reliance in its defence procurements.
    • India’s desire for independent policy also caused it to focus on self reliance. In the cold war period, the United States and USSR had tied their arms sales to alliance partnerships and there still exist political hurdles to delivery of weapons. Thus indigenisation and diversification have been two pillars of the Indian arms policy.
    • DRDO has conducted tests successfully and India should be able to deploy its BMD system by 2011.
    • Even if it was economically difficult, India decided on indigenous development of BMD for political and strategic reasons.
    • Thus, foreign policy and threat perceptions matter equally in decisions over BMD policies.

    Comments and Discussion:

    • Need to go deeper into the use of the Defence Industry perspective. 1998 alone cannot be the reason for Japanese policy on BMD. Japan favours two layered system and not two staged system.
    • MTCR has been critical in decisions about BMD by different countries.
    • India decided against co-development because it was turning out to be more expensive.
    • Japan’s R&D numbers are impressive; in fact the United States wanted to collaborate with Japan for its own advantage.
    • That Japan became more independent in its foreign policy with the end of Cold War is a very tall claim.
    • Impact of the Japanese BMD is going to be same regardless of its origin.
    • Economic benefit of the Japanese BMD programme is an outcome and not a cause. This has happened because the United States has subsidised Japanese BMD programme.
    • There is need to elaborate on the reasons why Japan decided not to develop indigenous capacity when it could and why India decided to do so when it did not have the knowledge.
    • Even while the nature of arms transfer has changed and even as marketisation has taken place, co-operation on BMD still remains a political decision.
    • The author could compare the different nature of relationship that India and Japan have with the United States and its impact on their BMD policy.
    • In Japan, public opinion has played an important role.
    • Credibility of the Indian BMD can be questioned. One should not look at statements but the results of the tests.
    • BMD is a work in progress. It is useful for its psychological and political utility. No one would share it if it was perfect.
    • In India this has not been a strategic political decision but a military technical decision.

    Report Prepared by Avinash Godbole, Research Assistant, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.