Delivery of the first Rafale jet to India

Justice Markandey Katju-


The delivery of the first Rafale jet fighter by France to India is being celebrated with great fanfare and hoopla, as if India has secured a huge triumph. The Indian Defense Minister, Raj Nath Singh, was shown in Indian Air Force uniform going on the plane’s first flight, and doing ‘shastra puja’.

Justice Markandey Katju

A lot of allegations had been made of corruption in the Rafale jet fighter deal between India and France, and questions were raised as to why the contract was given to Anil Ambani who had no experience in manufacturing aircraft.

I am not going into these issues, but into something much deeper.

I submit that a military whose country cannot make its own weapons is a fake, not a genuine military, and from that viewpoint the Indian military is fake, and not a genuine military like that of USA or China. It can therefore only fight another fake military like that of Pakistan, not a real military like that of USA or China which make their own weapons.

Even 72 years after Independence India cannot make, but has to buy, from foreign countries (at heavy expense) not only the heavy weapons for its military like fighter aircraft, submarines, artillery, tanks, missiles, etc but even many of its rifles. It was reported early this year that the Indian government had signed a contract with the American firm Sig Sauer for buying 72,400 assault rifles for Rs 700 crores. So, we cannot even make good rifles.

Consequently, if a war breaks out, our military can fight only for a few weeks, after which it cannot fight unless it receives more weapons, spare parts, etc. This is precisely what happened in the Indo-Chinese war of 1962, in the middle of which we went to Western countries begging for help.

Also, the weapons sold to our armed forces by foreign countries will be without much of their latest technology. For example, if America sells us the F-15 fighter aircraft, it will not be the real F-15, but an F-15 shorn of its latest avionics and other high tech equipment. This is obvious, because the latest technology is the result of billions of dollars’ worth scientific research which is secret technology which the Americans would not like to part with. So, the Rafale we are getting from France will obviously not be the real Rafale.

Half a dozen American F-15 aircraft can probably destroy our entire Air Force, and possibly our entire artillery, tanks and missiles too. And this it can do from a distance of several hundred miles of their targets, often remaining invisible to radar using Stealth aircraft ( whose skins have radar absorbing materials ).

Military power comes from economic power. It is only the highly industrialized countries which can make their own weapons, while under developed countries like India have to buy them from the former. So if India is to make its own weapons it must become highly industrialized. But if that happens will not the sales by foreign arms manufacturers go down (today India is perhaps the biggest purchaser of foreign arms, spending billions of dollars of its precious resources on this) ? That is one reason why developed countries will do their best to prevent India become a highly industrialized country. No country wants to lose its market.


[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.]