Pragmatic | Get these MRAPs from the US

India needs mine-resistant vehicles for its anti-Maoist operations. US has a surplus of them.

The equation is simple. The United States has a surplus of MRAPs — mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles — the heavily armoured military truck that was used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan to reduce casualties from roadside bombings and IEDs. And it doesn’t know what to do with them now, as wars in both these countries come to an end.

The MRAP’s signature V-shaped undercarriage helped deflect the impact of blasts from improvised explosives and made the armored vehicle exactly what troops needed in Iraq. In 2007, the military began ordering almost 28,000 MRAPs, most of which went to Iraq, though some were designed for Afghanistan and its more challenging terrain.

…What to do with the vehicles now is a complicated matter, particularly for the Army, which owns most of the MRAPs, and the Marine Corps, which has a sizable number.[WaPo]

India, in contrast, has manufactured its own version of MPV — Mine Protected Vehicle — for use in anti-Maoist operations. These MPVs have been spectacularly disastrous in preventing police and CAPF casualties due to IED blasts. In fact, they have been discarded by almost all forces and are now often used to only transport rations and other supplies.

Last year, the CRPF seized a Maoist military magazine, Awam-e-Jung from the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh border which revealed the Maoist tactics against the MPV. In an article titled ‘Mine-proof Vehicle — Its Shortcomings’, the Maoists identified the vulnerabilities in the MPV while advising the cadres in great detail on how to ‘handle’ it. “It is an utter lie to call it a mine-proof vehicle. The vehicle is being propagated as mine-proof to boost the morale of forces that have lost it,” the article said.

The Maoists are right. The MPV has failed to boost the morale of our forces. A senior CRPF official labeled the MPVs, “coffins on wheels”. Obviously, most paramilitary and police forces are reluctant to use the vehicle in Maoist-affected areas.[Mid-day]

Media reports suggest that India needs around 1,500 of such protected vehicles. With the approved acquisition figure of  25, 700 MRAPs, the US should be easily be able to spare many times that number from the surplus held by it. The Government of India, and particularly the union Home Ministry, should be actively pursuing this lead to defeat IEDs, the most effective weapon in the armoury of the Maoists.

More interestingly, it is not something that India may have to necessarily pay heavily for. The US has a concept of transferring EDA — or Excess Defense Articles — to various countries. India has earlier availed of that scheme when it got Ex-USS Trenton (LPD-14) for the Indian Navy — now rechristened INS Jalshwa –  in 2005.

The acquisition of MRAPs from the US military as Excess Defense Articles for Indian security forces deployed in anti-Maoist operations seems like a win-win proposition for both India and the US. The initiative though will have to be taken by the Indian government. India can not — and must not — let this opportunity go waste.

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.