For decades, the Soviet Union was the Indian government’s main outside supplier of arms and military assistance. Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, other countries, including the U.S., Russia, Germany, France, and Israel, have begun in earnest to sell India arms and provide military assistance, or are negotiating to do so. At the same, India is seeking to make its defense industry far more self-sufficient,(189) in part by relying on technology transfers from a variety of countries. India also plans to privatize its defense industry by expanding the ownership of some of its key defense outfits, and opening them up to foreign partnerships.(190) Despite serious fiscal constraints, India’s defense budget of 230 billion rupees ($7.41 billion) for 1994-95 reportedly represents an increase of approximately 8 percent in real terms after adjusting for inflation and an expected rise in prices.(191)
This chapter briefly reviews several of these recent developments. The discussion, however, is by no means be an exhaustive analysis of all arms transfers to India. Rather, the information is presented in the hope that countries which provide arms and assistance to India, and those which are considering it, will condition supply on significant, concrete improvements in the government’s human rights record.(192) Close scrutiny should be given by potential suppliers to the government’s human rights performance in Kashmir and Punjab, since it is in these states that Indian security forces have committed some of the worst and most regular abuses. Given the eagerness of India to acquire weapons and military technology from new suppliers, this is an important moment when nations may be able to put pressure on India to improve its human rights record. Sources in India also assert that the purchase of new military equipment is prompted in part by continuing conflict in Kashmir and Punjab.(193) Linking arms supplies with human rights improvements in Kashmir and Punjab, therefore, is critical.
Countries which have recently provided arms and other forms of military support to the Indian government–or have been negotiating to do so–include Belarus, Bulgaria, China, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Ukraine, the U.S., and former Yugoslavia. This list, however, probably presents only a partial picture of the full range of actual or potential supplier countries.
Given that assault rifles and other small arms and light weapons have been used frequently by Indian security forces in attacks on civilians in Kashmir and Punjab, the Arms Project is particularly concerned about reports of major purchases of such weapons. In May 1993, the Indian Defense Ministry began negotiating deals for 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 50 million rounds of ammunition, with possible suppliers including Russia, Hungary, Romania, and Israel.(194) In an apparently separate deal, the Indian government announced plans in August 1993 to purchase more than 100,000 small arms, including Kalashnikovs, from Bulgaria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.(195)
The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced in October 1993 that it was finalizing contracts with ammunition producers in a number of countries to supply equipment for a new munitions factory complex in Bolangir, in eastern India. Touted as the largest and most technologically advanced munitions plant in Asia, the Ordnance Factory Bolangir will annually produce 200,000 Barmines (antitank landmines), 200,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition, 150,000 rounds of 125mm shells for T-72 tanks, large quantities of 30mm ammunition for BMP-1 and -2 infantry fighting vehicles, a variety of large caliber munitions, fuzes, explosives, and detonators. Some plant equipment is already at various stages of installation, including items supplied by Day and Zimmermann (U.S.), Meissner GmbH & Company (Germany) and a Bulgarian company.(196) Reportedly, the three finalists for an estimated 500 million rupee contract for a 155mm shell plant–the most extensive and important part of the Bolangir factory–are Day and Zimmermann, Meissner GmbH & Co., and Societe Nationale des Poudres et Explosifs (snpe) of France.(197)
One of the biggest equipment problems facing the Indian government in recent years has been the increasing lack of spare parts for Soviet-made equipment. According to Indian officials, Russia has not been able to supply most of those parts.(198) The Indian government has described the shortages as severe, and reportedly is unable to locate as many as 100,000 spare parts for Soviet weapons.(199)
Relief is apparently coming in one area, however. An agreement was signed on June 30, 1994 to create a joint company called Indo-Russian Aviation Private Ltd., based in Nasik, India, that will focus on the production of aircraft spare parts for the Indian Air Force. The company will also provide support and maintenance for Russian-designed aircraft in India.(200)
A particular problem has been the deterioration of India’s MiG-21 fighters. A number of countries and companies have expressed interest in refurbishing and upgrading the MiG-21s, including not only Russia, but also the United States,(201) Israel,(202) France,(203) and Singapore.(204) It appears that the new Indo-Russian Aviation company will have the inside track for reworking 100-125 MiG-21s, at a cost of about $400 million.(205)
A major arms deal currently under negotiation is the Indian Air Force’s purchase of eighty advanced jet trainers for an estimated $1.2 billion.(206) In August 1993, India’s MoD began negotiations with a Franco-German consortium (comprising France’s Dassault Aviation and Germany’s Dornier Luftfahrt GmbH) and with British Aerospace.(207) Offers from U.S. and Russian manufacturers were rejected.(208)
The dissolution of the Soviet Union–formerly India’s greatest outside supplier of military equipment–as well as conflict in Kashmir, tensions in Punjab, and the always present threat of war with Pakistan, is causing India to urgently seek to diversify its sources of arms, ammunition, and military technology. India’s rush to purchase large quantities of military hardware and technology, and its reliance on other governments for various forms of military support, make this an important time to bring pressure on the Indian government to improve substantially its compliance with norms of human rights and humanitarian law.
While recognizing India’s right to defend itself, the Arms Project urges countries which provide arms and military assistance to India to tie supply to significant, specific improvements in India’s human rights performance. Potential suppliers should pay close attention to the government’s record in Kashmir and Punjab, since it is in these states that government forces have committed some of the worst and most regular violations of human rights and humanitarian law.