Feb 26, 2015
Rafale costs Rs 1,100 crore each and the IAF wants 126 of them. This will be in addition to the 272 Su-30 MKI the IAF is in the process of inducting. Su-30 MKI confers far greater lethality than the Rafale and costs about Rs 650 crore each. So why should we buy Rafale?
Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the second and last Shah of Iran from the Pahlavi dynasty, was the son of an Iranian gunnery sergeant, who seized control of that country in 1925 and crowned himself king. Like Rajput kings, who gave themselves extravagant genealogies of being descended from the sun or moon, Mohammed Reza gave himself a 2,500-year-old lineage descending from Cyrus the Great. To him, the surest and simplest way to greatness was to use Iran’s new petro-dollar millions to buy the latest weapons. In 1974, Iran became the first country to operate the then state of the art F-14 Tomcat fighter armed with the even now formidable Phoenix air-to-air missile. The Iranian Air Force bristled with formidable weapons like F-4 Phantom jets which the United States was using to pulverise Vietnam and with which Israel devastated the Egyptian Air Force and tank columns in 1973.
It was said that the Shah was an avid reader of the US weekly magazine, Aviation Week & Space Technology, which was fetched each week fresh off the press by diplomatic courier. Like a manic, who scours mail order catalogues, the Shah used to pick his toys from the weapons showcased in the magazine. Iran, then was a low-income country, but the Shah’s vision was soaring. The Americans encouraged him. The USAF and Navy loved him for he helped in defraying the cost of development of new weapons. Flush with weapons, he imagined Iran as a great power and encouraged by the US, he appointed himself as the keeper of order in the near region. Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s megalomania blinded him to the reality of Iran and to a Shia theologian called Ayatollah Ruhollah Nasrollah Khomeini. We know what happened next.
This should be a lesson in history for all those strategists who think weapons confer status. India’s diplomatic and military establishment seems gripped by grandiose visions of an India sitting on global high tables such as the UN Security Council. India’s new middle classes talk easily about India becoming a superpower and against this rising tide few are willing to question why. Recent studies reveal that as much as 70 per cent of Indian households lived below the UN Development Programme’s minimum standards. India’s own poverty line is a starvation line that prescribes a minimum caloric norm. Even by that self-serving standard, a quarter of India is excruciatingly poor. Also, it is economically backward with a relatively small manufacturing base supporting a disproportionately large service sector, giving it the economic profile of a post-industrial society like the US or Europe.