And no easy answers.
Now that all that had to be said on the MMRCA shortlisting which ruled the two US fighter aircrafts out of contention of the $10 billion deal has been said (by Nitin, Dhruva, Rohan and Shashi), there is little left to add to it. However, there are two questions that still need to be asked, if not answered.
- Did the MMRCA deal carry more symbolism because of the hype surrounding it, as the biggest defence deal ever signed by India? Even if India were to sign other defence deals with the US, adding up to be of equivalent value to the MMRCA deal, would the symbolism — and shrieking headlines — mean that the damage caused to the India-US relationship is not fully undone even then?
- What does the process of arriving at this decision tell you about the nature of civil-military relations in India? Is the political leadership abdicating its responsibility to take strategic decisions, by hiding behind the excuse of operational preference of the defence services? [Read these pieces on civil-military relations in India (in India-Seminar and Pragati) to understand the context]
Some readers may find this anecdote about how the Sukhois were bought by the PV Narashimha Rao government, both educative and interesting. How times change!
Update: The commentary on the subject is reminiscent of what Donald Keough, President of Coca Cola said during the New Coke debacle of the 1980s:
“Some critics will say Coca-Cola made a marketing mistake. Some cynics will say that we planned the whole thing. The truth is we are not that dumb, and we are not that smart.”[Time]