Watch Out, Pakistan: Israel to Sell India Mobile Missiles

The Buzz

Israel and India on the verge of signing a new “mega” defense deal, that would include Israel helping India develop a new mobile missile system.

On Thursday the Times of India reported, citing unnamed officials within India’s Ministry of Defense, that India and Israel have “now virtually sealed the joint development of a medium-range surface-to-air missile system (MRSAM) for the Indian Army.”

The first tranche of the deal will be worth over 9,000 crore (roughly $1.67 billion), however, Indian officials that the Times of India spoke with said that more missiles could be bought at a later date. "More orders might later follow since the Army's air defence capabilities are relatively weak," the official was quoted as saying. Earlier, an Indian army official said that Delhi could purchase over $6 billion worth of the medium-range surface-to-air missiles and related systems from Israel by the end of the deal.

(Recommended: India's New Mega Weapon: Nuclear-Armed Supersonic Missiles)

The MRSAMs, which will be on mobile launchers, will serve as India’s replacement for the Russian-built Kvadrat and OSA-AKM systems that India purchased in the 1970s and 1980s. India has been searching the open market for replacements for some years now, and previously rejected other offers because they didn’t contain sufficient technology transfer clauses, Defense News reported in February of this year.  

The deal will take place between the Defense Research Development Organization, which is India’s defense technology research arm, and Israeli Aerospace Industries, Israel’s government-owned aerospace and aviation manufacturer. The missiles will be built in India by PSU Bharat Dynamics’ defense division, which produces some of India’s most highly touted missiles such as the Agni.

The same three companies already collaborate in building surface-to-air missiles for India’s Air Force and Navy. Those prior deals are worth some 13,000 crore (roughly $2.15 billion). However, whereas the Air Force and Navy SAMs have an interception range of about 70 kilometers, the army missiles will only have a range of 50 km. Both the naval and air force SAM programs were hit with significant delays, and neither the naval or air versions of the missiles are operational yet.

(Recommended: Pakistan Wants 'Battlefield' Nukes to Use against Indian Troops)

The Indian Army’s acquisition of MRSAM could spell trouble for Pakistan; Defense News earlier reported that “The [Indian] Army wants to use the MRSAM to defend mechanized formations operating in the plains and desert regions of the country.”

Those regions would include India’s border with Pakistan, suggesting that the missiles would be used to protect Indian forces during an invasion of Pakistan (or in defense against a Pakistani invasion). They would therefore be useful in helping India execute its “Cold Start” doctrine, which envisions Delhi launching quick, limited incursions into Pakistan in response to Pakistani-sponsored terrorist attacks on India. Islamabad has suggested it could response to such attacks using tactical nuclear weapons, which the MRSAM could help protect Indian troops from.  

The impending deal is further evidence of the growing Indian-Israeli strategic partnership. According to the Times of India article, India and Israel have inked some $10 billion worth of arms sales and projects over the last fifteen years, “which range from spy and armed drones to sophisticated missile and radar systems.”

Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Ya'alon, was last in India back in February, where he offered to sell India Israel’s prized Iron Dome short-range missile defense system. It is also believed that Ya’alon helped negotiate the MRSAM deal during that trip.

(Recommended: Will Israel's New Advanced Submarines Carry Nuclear Weapons?)

India and Israel's interests significantly overlap, which should help propel their strategic partnership forward in the coming decades. Not only are both democracies in troubled regions, but they also are threatened by Islamic extremism and terrorism.

That being said, India has always handled its relationship with Israel cautiously, in an effort to avoid angering Arab Muslim states. In fact, the two states didn’t even establish diplomatic ties until 1992. In addition, India’s economic growth has made it increasingly reliant on Arab oil, which will serve as an obstacle in furthering Indo-Israel ties in the future. Finally, India has a close relationship with Iran, which Israel considers an existential threat.

Zachary Keck is managing editor of The National Interest. You can find him on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.   

Image: Wikimedia/Hemantphoto79

TopicsSecurity RegionsAsiaMiddle East

Revealed: Why a Clean Energy Revolution Won't Be Easy to Achieve

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Had you asked most analysts a year ago what it would take to decarbonize the transportation system without aggressive new policy you’d have got an answer something like this: You need low-carbon technologies that can beat $100 oil on its own terms. And if you ask the same question today about electric power, you’ll usually hear that zero-carbon technologies need to come in at costs under the ever-rising cost of grid-distributed, fossil fuel generated electricity, a rather fat (and growing) target.

Both answers are wrong. The fundamental problem is that substantial initial success in displacing fossil fuels with zero-carbon energy will drive down the price of the remaining fossil fuel energy. (The supply-driven fall in oil prices hasn’t helped either.)  This means that, absent policy, clean energy will face an ever-tougher economic challenge as it increasingly succeeds.

Consider transportation fuels. A surge in oil production has driven prices well below where people previously expected them to be. But the same thing would have happened to prices had there been a surge in deployment of ultra-efficient cars or low-carbon biofuels that had the same impact on the supply-demand balance. And – this is the critical thing – effecting such a surge is exactly what people who want a clean energy revolution envision. If the world shaved, say, ten million barrels a day off its oil consumption over the next decade, oil prices would be far lower that if that didn’t happen. That would make the next ten million barrel a day reduction considerably more difficult.

Something similar applies to electricity. If you’re only expecting a little distributed solar penetration, then it’s reasonable to assume (as a widely circulated recent Rocky Mountain Institute report does) that it’s competing with grid-generated electricity that needs to charge ever-more over time in order to pay for investment in transmission, distribution, and new generation capacity. But if you’ve got massive penetration of distributed solar in mind – say, the kind of stuff that might trigger “death spirals” and utility bankruptcies – then you’re not going to see those same price increases. (Bankrupt utilities don’t invest in new anything, and they certainly don’t generate revenues that recover all their costs.) You’ve already seen a variation on this with coal to gas switching: cheap gas displaced some coal-fired generation, but once it had done that, the remaining marginal unit of coal-fired power was a lot cheaper; as a result, gas stopped making such radical inroads. Once again, for a new technology to take a massive share of the market rather than just nip at its fringes, that new technology will either need to have steadily (and often sharply) declining costs, or will need a helping hand from policy.

Some models, of course, capture these equilibrium dynamics. But too much thinking about what it takes to effect large-scale change implicitly assumes that large-scale change won’t actually happen. That’s a recipe for understating what a big transition would require.

This piece first appeared in CFR's blog Energy, Security and Climate here

Image: Creative Commons/Flickr. 


Would America Really Go to War with China to Save Taiwan?

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Deterrence is a beguiling concept. It offers the hope that we can prevail over our opponents without actually fighting them because our mere possession of military power will be sufficient to compel them to our will.

This seductive idea seems to be the basis of Michael Cole's view that deterrence will allow America and its allies to defend Taiwan from China without incurring the costs and risks of conflict, and that they should therefore commit themselves to doing so. This view is set out in Michael's most recent contribution to an exchange between us about this issue, and I'd like to thank him for his thoughtful part in our exchange on this sensitive topic.

Alas, I think this view of deterrence is mistaken. Deterrence can work, of course, but only where the deterred power believes that the deterring power is willing to incur the costs and risks of conflict. So Washington can only deter Beijing from using force against Taiwan if Beijing is reasonably sure that Washington is willing to actually fight to do so.

(Recommended: 5 Chinese Weapons of War America Should Fear)

Moreover, because the stakes are so high and the nuclear threshold is so unclear, Washington must convince Beijing that it is willing to fight a nuclear war over Taiwan if it is to deter China from starting a conventional one. Simply possessing armed forces, including nuclear forces, is not enough to do this. You also have to convince the other side that you are willing to use them, and are willing to incur the costs and risks of the resulting conflict.

There is, as Michael acknowledges, a parallel here with the Ukraine. Many in the West believed Russia could be deterred from any military intervention in the Ukraine. But deterrence did not work because Moscow did not believe that Washington cared enough about Ukraine to accept the costs and risks of a military conflict with Russia.

Some might hope that China can be convinced that the U.S. is willing to fight, even if it isn't. This is called bluffing, and it's a dangerous and unreliable tactic. And this is precisely why America cannot reliably deter China from attacking Taiwan. As Michael himself acknowledges, there are real doubts that America would be willing to go to war with China. It seems likely that those doubts are shared in Beijing, and they cannot be dispelled simply by rhetorical reaffirmations of the Taiwan Relations Act, because they arise from a quite reasonable assessment of the balance between costs to America of reunification on the one hand, and the costs of war with China on the other.

(Recommended: 4 Chinese Weapons of War Taiwan Should Fear)

This assessment does not minimize the costs of unification, both to America and to the Taiwanese themselves. It simply sets them realistically against the costs and risks of war with China, which Michael seems to agree are exceptionally grave. And if Americans are not convinced of U.S. resolve, why should we expect China's leaders to be? And if they are not reasonably sure that the U.S. would be willing to actually commit its formidable forces to fight for Taiwan, how can they deter China from attacking it?

(Recommended: 5 Taiwanese Weapons of War China Should Fear

The conclusion seems clear: America cannot defend Taiwan unless it is really willing to fight China to do so, and unless it is plainly willing to do that, Washington should not mislead the Taiwanese into thinking that they can rely on American support if the worst happens.

This post first appeared in the Lowy Interpreter here

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China's Lethal Bombers Fly Over Japanese Strait

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China’s Air Force conducted its first-ever drill in a strategic strait near Japan on Thursday.

According to China’s Ministry of National Defense, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAFF) conducted its first exercise over the Miyako Strait. PLAAF spokesperson Shen Jinke said that the drill aimed to “level up the PLA Air Force's mobility and combativeness.”

The press release on the Ministry of National Defense’s website stressed that the drill was not aimed at any country, and Shen was quoted as saying— according to the Shanghai Daily— that: “In line with international laws and practices, offshore drills by the PLA Air Force beyond the First Island Chain will proceed in consideration of actual situations.”

(Recommended: Watch Out, China: Japan Readies Test of New Stealth Fighter Jet)

Although the press release did not specify which aircraft was used in the drills, the pictures revealed the pilots flew China’s new Xian H-6K bomber. The H-6K is the most advanced variant of the H-6 bomber, which is a locally built version of the Russian Tupolev Tu-16 Badger that Moscow first deployed during the 1950s. The PLAAF first received a TU-16 bomber from the Soviet Union in 1958 and has been modifying it ever since.

Chinese state-owned media have previously described the H-6K, which entered into service in 2013, as a “medium-sized craft designed for long-range attacks, stand-off attacks and large-area air patrol. Unlike its predecessor, the H-6K can carry cruise missiles under its wings. The H-6K also maneuvers more deftly than the H-6 and requires a smaller crew to operate.”

Among the H-6K’s greatest advancements is “its use of two Russian-made 12-ton thrust D-30-KP2 turbofans and lighter-weight composites have reportedly extended its range by 30 percent to a combat radius of 3,500 km.” Indeed, Chinese media have claimed that the bomber, which is nuclear capable, could be able to reach all the way to Hawaii with Changjian-10K (CJ-10k) air-launched cruise missiles.

(Recommended: Japan's Master Plan to Defeat China in a War)

The location of the latest drill is almost certain to unnerve Japanese officials. To begin with, the flyover was near the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, which Japan administers but China contests.

More importantly, the Miyako Strait is a gap 160 miles wide between Japan’s Miyako and Okinawa islands. It provides the crucial gateway for China’s North and East Sea Fleets to access the wider Western Pacific.

The Miyako Strait would also be a crucial battleground in any war between Japan and China, and Tokyo would likely use its favorably geography around the Strait to execute an anti-access/area-denial strategy against China.

As Kyle Mizokami has previously described on The National Interest:

Japan, which spends roughly a quarter as much on defense as China, could use the Ryukyus to execute an Anti-Access, Area Denial (A2/AD) plan in the Miyako Strait. Like any good A2/AD strategy, such a plan in the Strait would require a fraction of the spending necessary to overcome it.

The PLAAF’s drill over the Miyako Strait is a tacit recognition of this crucial weakness. It also shows a determination on the part of China to try and overcome this weakness over time. At the same time, the drill is also indicative of the Chinese Air Force’s desire to conduct training exercises further away from the mainland. Back in March, the PLAAF conducted its first ever drill over the Western Pacific. That one was conducted over the Bashi Channel, a waterway between Taiwan and the Philippines.

(Recommended: Face Off: China's Navy Stalks U.S. Ship in South China Sea)

The new drill comes just a day after China issued eight warnings to a U.S. Navy surveillance plane flying over Beijing’s man-made islands in the South China Sea.

"This is the Chinese navy ... This is the Chinese navy ... Please go away ... to avoid misunderstanding," the Chinese Navy warned the P8-A Poseidon, according to CNN, which had reporters embedded on the U.S. Navy plane.

Zachary Keck is managing editor of The National Interest. You can find him on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.

Image: Wikimedia/Aquatiger127

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At a Crossroads: What Is the Future of U.S.-China Relations?

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The Asia security field is a crowded one these days, and that is a good thing. The region is confronting a number of destabilizing threats: disputes over islands in the South and East China Seas, weak governance in several Southeast Asian nations, and continuing uncertainty over North Korea’s intentions and capabilities, among others. All are long-term, ongoing challenges, and the more ideas that get out there about how to manage these issues, the better.

No issue gets as much attention, however, as the U.S.-China relationship and what it means for regional security. For most, it boils down to whether the era of U.S. primacy is over. If it is, what should the next stage look like and how does China fit in? If not, how does the United States preserve its role as the fundamental security guarantor in the region and how does China fit in?

Three recent, thoughtful reports/papers attempt to address this question: the first, “Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China” by my CFR colleague Robert Blackwill and Carnegie Endowment scholar Ashley Tellis; the second, “The Future of U.S.-China Relations Under Xi Jinping: Toward a New Framework of Constructive Realism for a Common Purpose” (pdf) by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; and the third, “Beyond American Predominance in the Western Pacific: The Need for a Stable U.S.-China Balance of Power” by Carnegie Endowment scholar Michael Swaine. Each adopts a different approach and arrives at different conclusions, although the Rudd and Swaine analyses are largely compatible. Blackwill and Tellis explicitly seek to develop a roadmap for continued U.S. primacy in the Asia Pacific. Rudd and Swaine, in contrast, argue that such an effort is unrealistic, even harmful, given the realities of U.S. commitments and domestic politics, as well as China’s intentions and growing capabilities. Both Rudd and Swaine seek to have the United States and China sacrifice near-term interests for a longer-term greater good. However, Rudd places a much greater burden of compromise on the United States, while Swaine is more even-handed in his call for accommodation by both sides.

I was most eager to read the Rudd report. I have heard the former prime minister speak on a number of occasions and have always been impressed by his insights. In his report, Rudd assumes the role of peacemaker—trying to bridge the gap between the “private or semi-private narratives each side [the United States and China] may have about the other.” Although ostensibly designed to speak equally to Chinese and U.S. policymakers, the report is, for the most part, designed for a U.S. audience—explaining China and the Chinese perspective to Americans and offering recommendations for Washington.

Rudd’s argument is premised on his belief that Chinese President Xi Jinping is someone with whom the United States can work, that he is prepared to take calculated risks, and that there is now a window in China for Washington and Beijing to strike a grand bargain. According to Rudd, it is up to the United States to use this space as creatively as possible, while it lasts. While this is an appealing narrative, the report does not make clear why Rudd believes this. Rudd also leaves the reader hanging when he asserts that China will become a more active participant in the reform of the global rules-based order and that it will bring a “new, forthright Chinese voice in the world.” It would have been helpful had the prime minister explained whether this voice will mean more Air Defense Identification Zones or more Asian Infrastructure Investment Banks or both. The implications for the region are vastly different.

There are also some off-putting notes. Rudd begins by announcing that the Chinese economy will continue to thrive, noting: “Sorry, but on balance, the Chinese economic model is probably sustainable.” It is an awkward pronouncement that assumes that Americans want the Chinese economy to fail—something very few Americans, in fact, desire. (What Americans do want is a thriving Chinese economy that offers a fair and open trade and investment environment.)

While bold and fun to read, Rudd’s analysis of Xi’s presidency and the potential for significant new cooperation with the United States—should only the United States seize the moment—ultimately falls short because it is difficult to find the evidence to support it. Xi may well have the political capital to strike a grand bargain, but Rudd’s faith in him notwithstanding, it remains unclear that he wants one.

The lack of demonstrable Chinese interest in a more accommodating regional security posture makes me initially sympathetic to the dominant theme of the Blackwill and Tellis report. As Blackwill and Tellis note, the current Chinese leadership has offered little indication—either in words or action—that it does not have as its endgame supplanting the United States as the regional hegemon. However, the report adopts such an uncompromising stance on any potential for the United States and China to find common ground that it loses me along the way. There is a built-in assumption that China necessarily wants to supplant the United States—not simply this regime at this moment in time. Such a deterministic understanding of Chinese politics and interests ignores ongoing debates within the country and the potential for new understandings to emerge

The recommendations (as in the Rudd report) run several pages, and for the most part, they represent a coherent strategy for the United States. Blackwill and Tellis have flipped the current hedging strategy from its emphasis on engagement with limited containment to containment with limited engagement. Much paper is devoted to strengthening military and economic ties with our allies. Still, it is difficult to understand, at times, how the containment and engagement will all work together—for example, “agreeing on enhanced security confidence-building measures between the two sides” while the United States establishes a new technology-control regime and levies an across-the-board tariff on Chinese economic goods in response to Beijing’s cyberattacks. Whatever its weaknesses, however, the report raises appropriate alarm bells concerning the challenge that many current Chinese economic and security behaviors pose for U.S. interests and the necessity of addressing them directly.

Ultimately, I thought the quietest piece—the one released with the least fanfare—was the most thought-provoking and compelling. Swaine offers a reasonably even-handed assessment of both the U.S. and PRC perspectives and tackles head on the problem that Beijing and Washington have concerning “clashing assumptions and beliefs about the requirements for continued order and prosperity in Asia.” He also identifies several very specific areas for potential cooperation, including the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, and the management of maritime territorial disputes, and then proceeds to lay out how actual progress might be realized through various trade-offs. For example, he suggests that the United States halt arms sales to Taiwan in return for credible assurances by Beijing that it will not use force against Taiwan (except in the case of a dejure declaration of independence) and acceptance that unification would be peaceful and must involve the consent of people of Taiwan. One can agree or not with all of Swaine’s analysis or prescriptions, but in a much shorter piece, he takes the reader deeper and farther into understanding the challenges at hand and the potential roadmap for resolution.

This piece first appeared on CFR's blog Asia Unbound here

TopicsChina RegionsAsia