Letter from the Editor | February 2024

Though the biggest news of January was the inauguration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, from national security perspective, the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron as chief guest for the 75th Republic Day celebration was no less important. Even though Macron was an afterthought—the Prime Minister’s Office had originally expressed the desire to invite the US President Joe Biden—he came with a bagful of carrots with promises of more.

Top on his list was defence. After all, France is the second biggest supplier of military equipment to India after Russia. Hence, under defence-industrial cooperation, Macron proposed joint production of such platforms, as submarines and helicopters, as well as joint development of aero engines and MRO facilities for those engines. Incidentally, Indian shipyard Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL) has licensed-produced six Scorpene class of submarines and will be building additional three, taking the total number to nine. It remains to be seen if the idea of joint production would lead to another line of submarines to realise Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s desire of ‘co-design, co-development, co-production with the objective of not only fulfilling the defence needs of the Indian armed forces, but also of providing a viable and reliable source of defence supplies to other friendly countries.’

India is also likely to sign the contract for 26 Rafale Marine fighters for the navy end of this year. More importantly, Indian Air Force’s long-pending MRFA programme might conclude with additional Rafales. So, in that sense, Macron has had a successful visit which also saw concurrence on issues like nuclear energy, space research and the use of artificial intelligence for civilian purposes, such as climate change, health and agriculture.

Given this, the cover focus for February is on the IAF’s MRFA programme, which seems to be huffing and puffing for a few years now without the end in sight. The unfortunate part of this delay is that even if India concludes the programme this year, it will still be spending money on a decade-old technology. This is doubly disadvantageous because our two adversarial neighbours either already have better technology or will get it soon. Something to ponder on.

The February issue brings together an eclectic mix of articles, from technology and border management to human resources and neighbourhood politics. The expansive books section includes a chat with India’s former high commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria who are just written a comprehensive and historical narrative of India-Pakistan diplomatic ties. The book extracts also reflect the flux in the world where for the first time in decades, two protracted conflicts are going on with fears of dangerous spillover. Hope sense prevails.

Read on.



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