Although the Chinese notion on the emergence of China as a global power is quite liberal in perspective, as they believe in a peaceful rise and assuring no intentions of replacing US hegemony, however, the mere motive for the acquisition of power highlights the internal political beliefs. According to which, China obviously recognizes the anarchic state of nature of the world politics and that is why the state cannot trust any other state to the fullest, meaning that China is willing to take strong actions against any state that tries to threaten its sovereignty or other national interests. Power maximization under the core classical realists’ concept of offensive realism provides a logical theoretical framework to best describe China’s national motives and actions, however, Mearsheimer failed to provide argumentative support to the long-standing concept of power maximization under the economic sense. It is believed that China can provide an alternative and improvised theoretical framework on the concept of power maximization in the economic sense, as they believe that economy is a crucial contributing factor to a state’s actual power. The Chinese consensus in the last two decades is quite similar to the theories of Alfred Thayer Mahan, with a special focus on sea and economy. According to Mahan, the strength of a nation’s navy is the key to a strong foreign policy and economic achievements. These two concepts collectively makeup a theoretical framework for China’s power struggles during the recent decades.
With the course of time, a state’s national interests can change and so can the execution of its national policy. China in the recent decades have withered and recovered from the ‘Hundred years of humiliation’, in a constant struggle to revive its lost status of a great power. The reason why China has managed to strengthen its economy and improvise its political structure is because China has learnt from its past mistakes, dicey decisions, structural problems, long-standing political (and cultural) beliefs and ultimate failures. By deeply analysing the courses of actions, the state managed to uproot its biggest failures, mistakes and structural blunders, and yet continues to improve its national and foreign policy. United States of America on the other hand, ever since the Obama Administration’s indication of a shift to Asia, has been on a close watch for China’s surveillance. His predecessor, George W. Bush, was all about the ‘War on Terror’ and paid zero to none attention in the overall foreign policy of the United States of America. This paper examines the decades-long Chinese modernization, structural reforms and the current role of PLA in the national security of China and reveals answers to questions; what is the progressive international political hype for China all about? What are the assumed and announced PLA objectives? Why there was need for modernization? And how does China plan to be a world class force by 2049? As China has always remained opaque in terms of courses of action, so there’s a whole lot of ambiguity in the matter as well, however, the research of this paper thoroughly examines the areas under tension and provides a rough outlined sketch to best understand mysterious nature of Chinese orthodoxy.
Chinese National Security
National security, alongside state sovereignty, is a sub-component of the state’s grand strategy. A grand strategy incorporates tools of power such as economy, diplomacy, military and natural resources, in the formulation of the overall, core objective of the state. Every nation strives for power, making power acquisition and dominance, the core components of their grand strategy. China’s national security strategy can be derived from the three core national objectives of the state; sovereignty, modernity and stability. The aim of a state’s national security is to secure its national objectives, using necessary means and ends.
According to the Meriam Webster’s dictionary, sovereignty is defined as the supreme power of the state over itself and the freedom from external control. China has been claiming that it has never fought a war of aggression ever since its independence in 1949. The period spanning from the mid-19th century and the mid-20th century, from 1840’s ‘opium war’ to the war against Japan dating from 1937-1945, is characterized by China as the ‘hundred years of humiliation’. Therefore, after independence, the state swore off wars of aggression and urged for structural and doctrinal reforms. All the major conflicts and Chinese interventions (Chinese intervention in Korea-1950, War against India-1962, Sino-Soviet skirmishes in the late 1960’s and the infamous Vietnam War-1979) after 1949 are claimed to be responses to bulging threats to the state sovereignty.
Modernity implies a steady compliance with advancements of the technology, strategic environment and addressing outdated structural and institutional issues. In the closing decades of the 20th century, there was s strong emphasis on strengthening the economy and beyond the tangible, cultural, social and political reforms. The aim of modernity has shifted from ‘strengthening the economy’ to ‘strengthening the military’ during the last 3 decades. For example, in the late 90’s China was not willing to participate in joint military exercises and in the recent years the state has ironically sent PLA troops to various joint military exercises in order to compensate the deficit of its combat capabilities, since the state has not entered a war for a very long time.
Lastly, by stability, it does not mean a mere territorial stability but the internal and international- environmental stability is also a major concern of the People’s Republic of China. In 1998, Jiang Zemin at the 15th Party Congress said “. . . it is of the utmost importance to correctly handle the relations between reformand development on one hand and stability on the other so as to maintain a stablepolitical and social environment. Without stability, nothing can be achieved”.
All three of the above-mentioned objectives make up the entire national and foreign policy of the state, including the national security strategy as well. The objectives of a state’s national interests can predict its overall political and military policy through the courses of action highlighted by the developmental strategy of their military doctrine.
PLA’s Evolutional Journey
Preceding the actual evolution of People’s Liberation Army, China has made massive blunders and evaluated its failures very closely. After its foundation in the late 1920’s the guerrilla (mobileoperational-style) warfare, used by the state in the mountains of Jing gag, proved to be a significant warfare tactic required for state’s survival. Following the war in the 1920’s, the war against Japan in the 1930’s and 40’s made the state to fall on its knees. All was not lost, as the Chinese troops and citizens, collectively paid their homage and best wishes to the soldiers (and their families) who embraced martyrdom. This sacrificial spirit and emphasis on the guerrilla warfare, led to the Mao’s concept of ‘people’s war’ that advocated a ‘a sea’ of soldiers in order to defeat the enemy’s forces. However, things were not expected to worsen when the Chinese military decided to enter a war against Vietnam in 1979. An estimated 100,000 Vietnamese troops trolled the ‘twice-their-size’ 200,000 Chinese troops and that pushed China to ponder on the restructuring and advanced training methods of its military. This was not yet the ‘severe blow’ that laid out strong emphasis on modernization. After the Gulf war erupted in the early 1990’s, it was the first time that US had fought directly with coalition forces, therefore, their display of advance technology, equipment and advanced combat skills stunned the Chinese policy makers. Even though the state made massive reductions to its military force, after 1979, the Iraqi invasion was the actual turning point for the military strategy of the state, as it was a display of technological sophistication for the PLA and reflection of its capabilities at that time.
In 1993, the China Communist Party rolled out a set of reforms that accentuated the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army, it was the first time that the Chinese strategists had abandoned Mao’s concept of ‘people’s war’, which was a derivative of the total war doctrine. The Chinese strategists replaced the long-standing ‘total war’ doctrine with the ‘limited war’ doctrine. Although there was a stronger military modernization emphasis during the late 90’s however the actual developments were made in the economic realm. In 2001, after China became a member of the World Trade Organization, new economic opportunities paved a way for a prosperous economic growth for the state.
After all those years, the year 2012 proved be another major turning point for the PLA’s steps toward modernization. In 2012, president Xi Jinping took charge, he advocated a ‘Chinese Dream’ of making the state a world-class force by its 100th independence anniversary, which is 2049. This ‘Chinese Dream’ envisaged the restructuring, re-grouping and modernizing its armed forces. In 2015, China introduced two more forces to its service branches, namely Strategic Support Force and the Rocket Force (Strategic Missile Force). Following the year, in 2016, the government announced “the downsizing of 300,000 troops”, eradicating the former ‘the more, the merrier’ political belief, implying a focus on quantity rather than quality of the troops.
China’s overall military expenditure has also increased every year, progressively since the early the 2000’s. According to the 2019 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbook, “the Chinese military expenditure, recorded in 2018, was around 250 billion US-Dollars, while the US military expenditure was around 649 billion dollars”, still not as much as United States, however, China has come very close in compared to the rest of the states in the world, that could compete with the United States, in the economic sense. Therefore, there is a clear priority of national security for China, as a globally-chaotic political environmentcould suppress the state’s rise as a respected super power, which is why the capabilities of PLA has gotten the centre stage in the state’s national security.
PLA’s Force Structure
China has a coast line of about 18000 kilometres, however, its Exclusive Economic Zone is of 200 nautical miles, same as its strategic partner Pakistan, but China also claims over more than 6000 islands as a part of its territory. The state has five regions of commands;
- Central Command; Beijing and security for China Communist Party leadership.
- Eastern Command; Taiwan, East China Sea, Disputed Islands and Japan.
- Northern Command; Korean Peninsula and borders with Russia, Mongolia and the Yellow Sea.
- Southern Command; South China Sea and borders with South East Asian countries.
- Western Command; Borders with India and a fight for counter-terrorism.
These above-mentioned areas of commands are the responsibilities of People’s Liberation Army and which is why the PLA was re-structured into the following five group of forces;
- PLA Ground Forces/Army; has approximated of 975,000 troops in service.
- PLA Airforce; has approximated of 395,000 troops in service.
- PLA Navy; has approximated of 240,000 troops in service.
- PLA Rocket Force (Strategic Missile Force); has approximated of 100,000 troops in service.
- PLA Strategic Support Force; has approximated 175,000 troops in service.
China having the world’s largest population, has no shortage of troops, other than a total over 2 million personnel in service, China also has other 150,000 of militia and about 500,000 in reserve. On its first Independence Day parade, the state only had a few capabilities and most of them were captured. The shame was felt so deep that had to expand its military capabilities, and after decades of blood and sweat, China managed to develop the following capabilities;
- Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (70 in stock).
- Bomber Aircrafts (162 in service).
- Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicles (3,860 in service).
- Main Battle Tanks (6,740 in service).
- Attack guide missile Submarines (57 in service)
- Aircraft Carriers (1 in service).
- Cruisers, Destroyers and Frigates (82 in service).
- Principal Amphibious Ships (4 in service).
- Tactical Aircrafts (1,966 in service).
- Attack Helicopters (246 in service).
- Satellites (77 in orbit).
All of these capabilities were created by the state itself, setting afoot to the journey to revive the lost status of a great power. In the early 1960’s the PLA made a shift towards building a strong Airforce, with a constant focus on the ground forces, however, the last two decades marked China’s shift towards the maritime development and security. The heavy naval build-up illuminates that not only does the state need to secure its territorial boundaries, but also to protect its mega-economic Belt and Road Initiative project, not because of the fact that it will cost the state more than just a couple hundred billion US-Dollars, but the trade it will hold and the regional connectivity that it will provide, may change the entire international order.
PLA and National Security:
People’s Liberation Army has a direct involvement in national security, because the military doctrine/strategy of a state is derivative of the state’s national interest, implying that the PLA is a mere tool in the execution of the grand strategy of the Republic of China. With rapid developments to the system the first major achievement for the state’s grand strategy is the transition of the state profile towards a ‘global power’ from a ‘regional power’ and such transitions are followed by a number of threats. Given the complicated globalised strategic environment, the national interests have also expanded, despite their developmental strategy, indicating a strong maritime force, there’s much ambiguity in the predictability of the executional strategy.
The China’s external threats are of two sorts; territorial and diplomatic tensions. Territorial disputes in South and East China Sea, over various islands, in particular the infamous Senku and Diaoyu islands, attracts much attention. If a proper military infrastructure is installed on the islands, it can prevent US involvement and also, most importantly, Taiwan’s independence. Diplomatic tensions can also result from territorial disputes in a region, such as with Japan. Other diplomatic tensions are merely out of spite, for example, China’s emergence as a global power is unbearable to the US’ hegemony and world recognized prestige. That is why China has been observing and acting upon improvements over its military capabilities and strategy. In April 2020, China constructed a second Type 075 warship, a class designed to compete in amphibious capability with the American Wasp class ships. Two more are anticipated, as are two more aircraft carriers. These are clearly designed to match American warships, and raise interest in China’s ability to sustain distant interest by sea, most obviously in the Indian Ocean, but also wherever Chinese geopolitical concerns may be favoured by naval power projection.”, said professor Jeremy Black of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
Other than United States, Japan and Taiwan, Russia is also a great threat to the national interests of the state. The increased strategic cooperation does not imply that Russian strategists do not consider China as a major threat as well, in fact, it is quite the same on the other side of the fence. The Russian inclusion in the Caspian Sea, makes the Central Asian states vulnerable to Russian pressure, which could seize a major part of the entire BRI project.
Furthermore, the internal security threats are not the responsibility of the PLA, People’s Armed Police is assigned for internal security matters, however, if there occurs a situation of civil unrest or uprising, particularly in the Tibet and Xinjiang, then the PLA would most likely answer to the call of duty.
Conclusively, there is a direct role of the People’s Liberation Army in the Republic of China’s national interests and ultimately its national security. Although a number of modernizations and reforms were mentioned in this paper, there still is a lot of modernizations that are being kept confidential to the public and with opaque nature of matters, one cannot exactly predict where this will lead to. There are a number of global implications over the topic under discussion, such as the most likelihood of a third world war. This possible implication, is the most debated possibility in the current academic consensus over the matter, this is because the United States of America sees the Republic of China, as a ‘revisionist power’ and the hegemonic influence has strengthened its allies over the course of time, which is why China also takes it into account and keeps expanding its maritime territory to assert dominance in the Indo-Pacific region. Although China has claimed not to build offshore military bases, the naval base in Djibouti and the second under construction in Cambodia is a serious concern for the United States.
Regardless of the heavy criticism, China still believes in a peaceful and prosperous economic and prestigious rise. Not to blame the state, but if mere claims and assurances were enough to influence the global political assessments, then China may not get to that point of development. That is why the state has setup a heavy navy build-up and it aims to deter US and coalition forces. Assumingly, if the state manages to score a peaceful rise in the era of complex nature of warfare and false flags, then it could provide a new and improved vision for the world order. Henceforth, protecting the rule of the China’s Communist Party, is on the top of the priority shelf of the People’s Liberation Army and after that, 95 % of the threats that the PLA would provide a shield against, are the external threats of all sorts. In this automized information age, the purpose of expanding PLA’s service branches to Rocket force and the Strategic Support Force was mainly to have a separate supervision for the nuclear arsenals and also to fight cyber-terrorism threats.
Mulvenon, C., James and Yang, H., Richard.” The People’s Liberation Army in the Information Age.” Rand Corporation, no. 1(1999):5-10.https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF145/CF145.chap7.pdf.
Mulvenon, C., James and Yang, H., Richard.” The People’s Liberation Army in the Information Age.” Rand Corporation, no. 1(1999): 10-20. https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF145/CF145.chap7.pdf.
Mulvenon, C., James and Yang, H., Richard.” The People’s Liberation Army in the Information Age.” Rand Corporation, no. 1(1999): 20-30. https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF145/CF145.chap7.pdf.
SIPRI.” Armaments, Disarmament and International Security.” SIPRI Yearbook 2019, (2019): 6-10. https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2019-06/yb19_summary_eng.pdf
Maizland, Lindsay.” China’s Modernizing Military.” Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed on August 5, 2020. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-modernizing-military.
İlhan, Bekir.” China’s Evolving Military Doctrine After the Cold War.” SETA Analysis, no. 59(January,2020): 11-12. https://setav.org/en/assets/uploads/2020/02/A56En.pdf.
İlhan, Bekir.” China’s Evolving Military Doctrine After the Cold War.” SETA Analysis, no. 59(January,2020): 12-13. https://setav.org/en/assets/uploads/2020/02/A56En.pdf.
İlhan, Bekir.” China’s Evolving Military Doctrine After the Cold War.” SETA Analysis, no. 59(January,2020): 13-14. https://setav.org/en/assets/uploads/2020/02/A56En.pdf.
Black, Jeremy.” China’s Military Capabilities and the New Geopolitics.” Foreign Policy Research Institute. Accessed on August 5, 2020. https://www.fpri.org/article/2020/05/chinas-military-capabilities-and-the-new-geopolitics/.
War to End or War to Follow?
“It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1st deadline”. These were the recent words of US president Joe Biden in his address to the impending US withdrawal of Afghanistan. Whilst his opinion paints a ghastly picture for the forthcoming months, the negotiations run rampant to strike the common ground. However, with continued attacks being launched by the Taliban followed by incessant threats to the US regime to withdraw its troops by the agreed deadline, a hard stance seems legitimate both from the US front and the NATO: both facing a quandary that could either end the decades’ long warfare or fuel insurgency for decades to come.
The US invaded Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11th Attacks in 2001. Although the subsequent invasion of Iraq in 2003 followed a similar suit, the stint lasted only 26 days in a massive scale drive to disarm Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction; allegedly in tandem with the looming threat posed to the United States by the World Trade Centre debacle. However, the invasion of Afghanistan proved to be one of the costliest wars; both in terms of artillery and military men.
Cited as one of the rarest areas of agreement between President Biden and his predecessor, Mr. Donald Trump, both favoured the ‘Bring an end to the endless war’ slogan. Before leaving the office, Mr. Trump signed a waiver to ordain the Pentagon to level down the US troops in Afghanistan to 2500 troops, bypassing the reservations of the congress to retain the level at 4000 troops. President Biden, despite being prudent of the hasty withdrawal, rejoiced the idea to bring the soldiers back. In line with his narrative, the US recently proclaimed to withdraw the remaining combat forces from Iraq whilst retaining only the training forces in the country. The 3rd round of talks between Washington and Iraq culminated with the joint statement: “Based on the increasing capacity of the ISF [Iraq Security Forces], the parties confirmed that the mission of U.S. and Coalition forces has now transitioned to one focused on training and advisory tasks, thereby allowing for the redeployment of any remaining combat forces from Iraq, with the timing to be established in upcoming technical talks”.
It is evident that the US wants to enact the plan to bring back the troops, however, Afghanistan poses a paradox in comparison to Iraq. While alleged Iran-backed militants continue to lock horns with both the ISF and the US troops, the US has consolidated a stronger hold evidenced by the recent rebuttal via airstrikes against the Iran-backed militants in Syria. The US holds the premise that Iran seeks economic relief and thereby has no incentive to disrupt the peace but to maintain it. Similarly, the US wants to make a compromise with Iran via renegotiating the JCPOA accord, with a possibility of stretching the ambit to include Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program and the regional proxy wars purportedly financed by Iran, before a hard-line administration takes over the Iranian parliament later this year. So, with a fledgling Iraqi military and expanding prospects of negotiation with Iran, the US could safely pull out the troops whilst still maintaining pressure and presence in the guise of militaristic training in Iraq.
Afghanistan paints a graver reality in contrast. Despite rounds and rounds of negotiations over months, the continued violations of the agreement by the Taliban are making it riskier to draw out the troops. While the US wants to maintain its presence in the country, the wavering Ghani-administration adds oil to fire. A war that has claimed more than 2500 US soldiers and millions of civilians could face an impasse as the 3-week timeslot narrows over the decision-makers. Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, has repeatedly claimed that the Taliban have not fully lived up to the commitments they made in the February 2020 agreement: “Violence levels are too high for a durable political settlement to be made”.
The Biden administration, CIA, and NATO face a dilemma to decide the mechanism of withdrawal before the clock ticks through. As the terror groups propagate in the neighbouring Middle East, an unplanned withdrawal could drive the entire region into jeopardy. This might be the primal concern of president Biden and the Pentagon. The flailing ISIS could find haven in the political fiasco the unravels after the US completely withdraws from the country, leaving the Afghani government at the whims of the insurgents. However, expecting a complete withdrawal is just naivety. The US is known to covertly operate hundreds of secret bases in cahoots with NATO throughout the infringed nations. While it’s supposedly claimed that the Taliban are privy to the location of the bases in Afghanistan, nothing definitive could be added in edgewise to the argument.
An alternative, and quite a plausible notion at present, could be an outright refusal to withdraw the troops before the Taliban strictly adhere to their side of the deal. The resulting warfare would subsume the past 2 decades of mayhem. The deal would most likely completely crumble and perish. The evidence is scattered over the last three months. In March, the attack on the Afghan security checkpoint in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz left 6 soldiers dead. An attack a few days ago in the province of Herat left 9 Afghan police personnel dead when the Taliban militants targeted two police checkpoints. The recent blow came when the Taliban attacked the NATO airbase in Kandahar: a base frequented by 100s of US troops. The brazen attitude and timing of the attacks could not send a clearer message of warning to follow the deadline.
President Biden faces a choice now. While the cards are clustered and the consequences are muddled, the foremost decision hangs: How to go about the negotiations? Whilst made abundantly clear that the troops might not withdraw completely from Afghanistan, he confidently patched his perspective by adding:“Can’t picture the US troops still being in Afghanistan next year”. So, while the agreement stands to make a safe withdrawal, the deadline of May 1st poses a challenge if the exceeding violence alludes to any clue. With mounting pressure from the republicans and a synonymous example of withdrawal in Iraq, President Biden should ideally emphasize on withdrawal of the troops, even if not entirely. This would allow the Biden administration to elongate the negotiations to quench violence instead of retreating without question. However, execution is the key. Deviating from the agreement forged by Mr. Donald Trump or taking an aggressive stance could easily incite the chaos further: making the Afghan war translate into Biden’s war for decades to follow.
Dual Use Technology Imports Aiding Pakistan’s Covert Nuclear Programme
A recent threat assessment report by the Norwegian security agencies reportedly highlighted the unhindered exploitation of dual use technology by Pakistan. Norwegian authorities have determined Pakistan to be among the countries posing greatest threat to them. With this report, Norway became the latest country to raise alarm about the ‘Pak’ practice of bypassing all international safeguards in gaining latest nuclear technology on the pretext of using it for education and health.
However, Norway is not the only country to realise the immense risk stemming from transferring critical technologies to Pakistan. Its assessment follows several other countries’ public acknowledgement of the nuclear threat posedby Pakistan. Czech Republic in its report titled “Annual Report of the Security Information Service for 2019” also drew global attention towards Pakistan misleading the world in procuring internationally controlled items and technologies to aid its nuclear programme.
The evidence of Pakistan’s covert nuclear programmes go well beyond these reports. In 2019,the US Department of Justice indicted five persons associated with a Pakistan based front company for operating a network that exported US origin goods to Pakistan. The indictment identified 38 separate exports involving 29 different companies from around the country between September 2014 and October 2019. The network used to conceal the true destinations of the goods in Pakistan by showing front companies as the supposed purchasers and end users. However, US Justice Department statement disclosed that the goods were ultimately exported to Pakistan’s Advanced Engineering Research Organization (AERO) and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission without export licenses. Both AERO and PAEC are on the US Commerce Department’s Entity List, which imposes export license requirements for organizations whose activities are found to be contrary to US national security or foreign policy interests.
Similarly, German authorities disclosed in 2020 that Pakistan had sought technology for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) “in order to retain a serious deterrent potential against ‘arch enemy’ India”. The agency provided a detailed account of Pakistan’s efforts to steal information and material about nuclear weapons.
However, to fulfill its destructive agenda, Pakistan does not shy away from using the name of its poor public and students. Its government has repeatedly claimed that it seeks the dual use technologies for social and economic upliftment of the country by utilizing the technology in its health and education sectors.
But, these baseless arguments no longer seem to cut the ice with western countries. Meanwhile, on their part, Pak officials have complained against the latest Norwegian report on grounds that other countries may deny access to technology to Pak students for their advanced studies and Pakistani researchers would be refused admission to International institutes and universities. However, the Norwegian authorities have maintained their stance as based on independent assessment of the issue, including confidential inputs.
Several instances of Pakistan having gained access to dual technology in the garb of peaceful purposes have come to light in the recent years. And the risk continues considering Pakistan’s terror background and its history of stealing technologies from different parts of the world. It is the unsavory reputation of Pakistan as a troublemaker that has gone global and the country is viewed with suspicion even when humanitarian considerations come to fore.
Given the poor governance standards and history of failure of civil institutions in Pakistan, these observations provide a justification for apprehensions of the western countries. It remains to be seen whether these disclosures lead to sanctions or new export controls against Pakistan or the country again succeeds in misleading the world by playing victim’s card.
Kickbacks in India’s defence purchases
Prime minister Narendra Modi of India boasts his government of being corruption- free. But, his claim has become questionable in the light of recent audit of Rafale purchase in France.
India had ordered 36 of these fighter aircraft from France in September 2016. The 7.8 billion government-to-government deal for 36 fighter jets was signed in 2016. The Indian Air Force has already raised its first squadron of the Rafale jets at Ambala and is due to raise the second one at Hasimara in West Bengal.
India expects to receive more than 50 percent of these fighters by April-end. The first batch of five Rafale jets had arrived in India on July 28 and was officially inducted on September 10 by the government.
In a startling disclosure, the French Anti-Corruption Agency, Agence Française Anticorruption
has announced that their inspectors have discovered an unexplained irregularity during their scheduled audit of Dassault. According to details, “the manufacturer of French combat jet Rafale agreed to pay one million euro to a middleman in India just after the signing of the Indo-French contract in 2016, an investigation by the French publication Mediapart has revealed. An amount of 508,925 euro was allegedly paid under “gifts to clients” head in the 2017 accounts of the Dassault group ( Dassault paid 1 million euro as ‘gift’ to Indian middleman in Rafale deal: French report India Today Apr 5, 2021). Dassault tried to justify “the larger than usual gift” with a proforma invoice from an Indian company called Defsys Solutions. The invoice suggested that Defsys was paid 50 per cent of an order worth 1,017,850 for manufacturing of 50 dummy models of the Rafale jets. Each dummy, according to the AFA report, was quoted at a hefty price of 20,357. The Dassault group failed to provide any documentary evidence to audit about the existence of those models. Also, it could also not explain why the expenditure was listed as a “gift to clients” in their accounts.
Shady background of Defsys
Defsys is one of the subcontractors of Dassault in India. It has been linked with notorious businessman Sushen Gupta. Sushen Gupta. He was arrested and later granted bail for his role in another major defence scam in India, the AgustaWestland VVIP Chopper case.
The Enforcement Directorate charged Sushen Gupta for allegedly devising a money-laundering scheme for the payouts during the purchase of the helicopters.
Rampant corruption in India
Corruption in defence deals is a norm rather than an exception in India. They did not spare even aluminum caskets used to bring back dead bodies from the Kargil heights (“coffin scam”). Investigations into shady deals linger on until the main characters or middleman is dead. Bofors is a case in point.
Why investigation of defence deals since independence recommended
India’s Tehelka Commission of Inquiry headed by Mr. Justice S N Phukan had suggested that a sitting Supreme Court Judge should examine all defence files since independence.
Concerned about rampant corruption in defence purchases allegedly involving Army personnel, he desired that the proposed Supreme Court Judge should by assisted by the Central Vigilance Commission and the Central bureau of Investigation.
He stressed that unless the existing system of defence procurement was made more transparent through corrective measures, defence deals would continue to be murky. He had submitted his report to then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, but to no avail. The Commission had examined 15 defence deals including the AJT, Sukhoi, Barak missiles, T-90 tanks, tank navigation systems, simulators, hand-held thermal. imagers, Karl Gustav rocket and Kandla-Panipat pipeline. The irregularities in the scrutinised defence deals compelled the Commission to suggest de novo scrutiny of all defence purchases since independence.
The courts have absolved Rajiv Gandhi of involvement in the BOFORS scam. However, a considerable section of Indian people still believes that ‘Mr. Clean’ was not really so clean. The BJP exploited Rajiv’s acquittal as an election issue. Kuldip Nayyar, in his article “The gun that misfired” (Dawn February 14, 2004) laments, “There was practically no discussion on Bofors-guns kickbacks in the 13th Lok Sabha which has been dissolved for early elections. Once Rajiv Gandhi died the main target – the non-Congress parties lost interest in the scam”.
According to analysts, the mechanisms of public accountability in India have collapsed. Corruption has become a serious socio-political malady as politicians, bureaucracy and Armed Forces act in tandem to receive kickbacks. The anti-corruption cases, filed in courts, drag on for years without any results. To quote a few case: (a) There was no conviction in Bofors-gun case (Rs 64 crore), because of lethargic investigation (the case was filed on January 22, 1990 and charge sheet served on October 22, 1999. Among the accused were Rajiv Gandhi, S K Bhatnagar, W N Chaddha, Octavio, and Ardbo. The key players in the scam died before the court’s decision). (b) No recoveries could be made in the HDW submarine case (Rs 32.5 crore). The CBI later recommended closure of this case. (c) Corruption in recruitment of Armed Forces.
Legal cover for middlemen
Central Vigilance Commissioner P Shankar had alleged (October 2003): “The CVC had submitted its defence deals report on March 31, 2001. Yet a year later, the government has not conducted the mandatory departmental inquiry to fix responsibility”. Shankar explained that the CVC had examined 75 cases apart from specific allegations made by former MP Jayant Malhoutra and Rear Admiral Suhas V Purohit Vittal. Malhoutra’s allegations were about middlemen in defence deals. After his report, the ministry lifted the ban on agents in November 2001 to regularise the middlemen. Purohit, in his petition in the Delhi HC on a promotion case, had alleged unnecessary spare parts were bought from a cartel of suppliers instead of manufacturers, at outrageous prices and at times worth more than the original equipment.
Past cases forgotten to continue business as usual
There were ear-rending shrieks about the Taj-heritage corridor case, Purulia-arms-drop case and stamp-paper cases. Indian Express dated November 11, 2003 reported that the stamp-paper co-accused assistant Sub-Inspector of Police drew a salary of Rs 9,000, but his assets valued over Rs 100 crore. He built six plush hotels during his association for 6 years with the main accused Abdul Karim Telgi. The ASI was arrested on June 13 and charged under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. Investigations by the Special Investigating Team (SIT) probing the stamp scam had found that the ASI Kamath accepted Rs 72 lakh from the scam kingpin, Abdul Karim Telgi, on behalf of IGP Sridhar Vagal.
The problem is that the modus operandi of corruption ensures that it is invisible and unaccounted for. There are widespread complaints that the politicians exercise underhand influence on bureaucracy to mint money. For instance, the Chief Vigilance Commissioner complained to Indian Prime Minister (November 8, 2003) that at least “six cabinet ministers, handling key infrastructure ministries, are harassing chiefs of public sector undertakings for ‘personal favours’, and in some cases even for pay-offs”.
For example, one PSU (Public Sector Udertaking) chief is said to have complained that he was asked to get Rs 20 crore delivered to his minister’s party office and when he refused, he was “denied” an extension. Indian Express dated February 19, 2004 reported, under reportage titled “Figuring India” that ‘Rajiv Pratap Rudy is only one in a long line of ministers who have misused the funds and facilities of Public Sector Undertakings”. The newspaper appended the following bird’s-eye view of the funds (available for corruption) at the PSUs command: Rs 3, 24,632 crore total investment in PSUs, Rs 36,432 crore profits, 12,714 crore profits of monopolies in petroleum, Rs 5,613 CRORE profits of monopolies in power Rs 7,612 crore, profits of monopolies in telecom Rs 10,388 crore, Rs 61,000 crore invested in PSUs in 1991-1998, Rs 19,000 crore returns during 1991-1998.”
Corruption as proportion of gross Domestic Product
Professor Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari claim in their book Corruption in India: The DNA and RNA that public officials in India may be cornering as much as ₹921 billion (US$13 billion), or 5 percent of the GDP through corruption.
India 86th most corrupt (Transparency International corruption ranking Jan 29, 2021)
India’s ranking on the Corruption Perception Index– 2020 is 86. The index released annually by Transparency International ranks 180 countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people. It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero signifies the highest level of corruption and 100 is very clean.
In India, anti-corruption focuses on big ticket graft. But it is petty corruption that hurts common people more. Both need to be weeded out. A former World Bank president Robert Zoellick once said, “Corruption is a cancer that steals from the poor, eats away at governance and moral fibre, and destroys trust.”
According to Transparency International, CPI-2020 shows that corruption is more pervasive in countries least equipped to handle Covid-19 and other crises. “Covid-19 is not just a health and economic crisis. It is a corruption crisis. And one that we are currently failing to manage,” Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of Transparency International said. “The past year has tested governments like no other in memory, and those with higher levels of corruption have been less able to meet the challenge. But even those at the top of the CPI must urgently address their role in perpetuating corruption,” she added.
Click Wikipedia to know that Narendra Modi’s “Net worth” is “₹ 2.85 Crore” (June 2020). This figure defies his humble financial background. He has a penchant for hobnobbing with “crony capitalism”. It appears he is worth a lot more. Those who make illicit money have a knack to hide it.
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