A former Air Chief has cautioned the government to "be most circumspect" on defence acquisitions from the US as American combat equipment could be rendered ineffective through denial of crucial spares.
Advocating that India should continue its defence acquisition programmes with countries like Israel, France and Russia, former Air Chief Marshal A Y Tipnis said, "it is a stated policy of the US to use denial methods to implement its policy. Due to various denial regimes exercised by Uncle Sam, we would be hard put to get them from American industrial houses/defence forces".
In an article in the forthcoming issue of the 'Indian Defence Review', he said India's current partnership with Israel could continue with 'reasonable confidence' and that with France 'augurs well for the future'.
India's defence relations with Russia has always been with a 'steady friend, if somewhat less reliable in giving spares or technical support due to its own internal problems. But this partnership must only be strengthened', Tipnis said in his article in the defence journal.
"The US is ostensibly displaying great inclination towards a joint partnership with India. In some quarters, there have been euphoric reactions to offers of sale of American equipment to India. India needs to be most circumspect on this issue (reactions from the present government are to that effect) and move with utmost caution", he said.
In the article titled Indian Air Force 2020, Tipnis observed that the country's long-term perspective defence planning was 'yet to be demonstrated' as, so far, there have been 'reactive responses' to events taking place in the western neighbourhood.
"There could be little doubt that, had we had long-term perspective plans (and implemented them effectively), we would have got better value for money spent and had better bargaining/coercive, influencing powers in some of the recent sticky situations," Tipnis said, giving examples of Kargil and 'Operation Parakram', where problems relating to supply of spares were faced.
Maintaining that India's force architecture has to undergo a 'substantive change by 2020', he said the overall defence expenditure should be progressively hiked from the present 2.4 per cent of the GDP to around 3.5 per cent "certainly well before 2020".
Observing that the present IAF strength stood at 39-1/2 combat squadrons, he said acquisitions should take place to match the phase-out rate. While the number of MiG-21s would be coming down, "the only new inductions in the pipeline are the Sukhoi-30s and a few Jaguars. Soon MiG-23 will commence to be phased out".
"The rate of induction is unlikely to match the phase-out rate of the IAF. This clearly indicates that replacement of MiG-21s by the Light Combat Aircraft will have to be augmented by another aircraft in the same weight and category".
"It is not clear what plans are afoot, but there is no indication that the Ministry of Defence will move at the speed required in the existing situation," Tipnis observed.