Tuesday, May 24, 2011

2011 will see India entering the fighter plane industry

Anybody would have felt proud of one's country, sitting and watching the military prowess of India live. We were lucky being part of the audience of the full dress rehearsal of Republic Day Parade 2011. Spectacular welcome show by warplanes and helicopters, brave Indian children being rewarded, motorcycle rides by the daredevils contingent of the army, handsome marches by the para-military and other services, women marching ahead, synchronized dance performance by kids, fighter plane `Tejas' and beautiful tableaux showcasing India's rich diversity, were all there to fill you with a sense of awe.

The country's latest and the best military hardware were displayed at the full dress rehearsal. The weapons and planes ranging from battle tanks to missiles were flaunted at the parade show. Although it was only a dress rehearsal, but was a replica of the January 26 parade, projecting India's prowess as well as its rich diverse culture.

While on one hand it was an escalation of self esteem being a citizen of India, on the other hand it was a true showcase of negligence, carefree attitude, and apathy of our so-called authorities and security system towards the general public and kids. Well, the parade show was undoubtedly incredible, but the security and sitting provision was despicable.

The reason why this year's parade was important was because it was the first year when India will be turning into a participant in the global fighter plane industry with the Tejas and the PAKFA-T-50 .

Now instead of the US-Soviet Cold War, we may very well enter an era of the Indo-US cold war with fighter planes posing over the Indian ocean.

The watching public is always maddening, but there has to be a system to put things in a proper way. The VIP passes were distributed disproportionately to the available number of seats. The result was people were asked to shift to other sitting bridges. Audiences with infants were callously asked to chuck off their water bottles, biscuits and toffees/chocolates at the entrance gates only. Imagine the plight of kids without water and eatables for three hours, as there was no provision for drinking water at the sitting sections. Amazingly, one of audiences was not even permitted to take his homeopathy medicine inside. All was in the name of security.

Now let's look at the security provisions. Apparently, general public was asked to enter the sitting enclosures clear handed. But I, somehow listened to some clickclick sounds. Well yes, when I looked sideways squintedly, I found people clicking pictures with their cameras and mobiles. Were they from media? No. So who were they? They were defence people and their family members . Yes, that particular sitting enclosure belonged to the defence personnel and their familes. Total security breach it was.... Astonishingly, they were allowed to carry their baggage inside. And, on the other side, kids of other public were crying out hunger and thirst.

Also, interestingly public got to hone their cleaning skills as all the seats were soiled and had droppings. Hopefully, audiences wouldn't have faced similar security and sitting mess on January 26.

Now with the Tejas and the Pak-FA-T-50, we shall have shifted the focus of the fighter plane industry from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean where the United States will be using the F word (F-16, F-18, F-35, F-22 ) and we shall be equally responding.

There's been a few people talking about the massive ad campaign that Lockheed Martin has been promoting for its F22 Raptor plane in the United States press. We don't have too much to add to the discussion, other than to voice our disgust at having to see the full-page ads in the Washington Post back in 2008. Lockheed Martin are supposedly protecting 300 million people with their F22 Raptor (against whom, I have no idea - Shaktimaan? Spiderman? Doc Ok ??). I had no idea that a few hundred fighter interceptors would be doing so much work. Thankfully, our Tejas makes no such claims having been churned out by a public sector company.

And then there are the 95,000 people in the United States supposedly reliant on the F22 for their livelihood (because it's the little people we worry about, not the defense firm's well-paid management). Interestingly, the production of 187 planes will run through 2011, so they all have steady employment for at least two years. And then there will be the substantial maintenance and operations needed for the planes - that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars more every year. But let's get past the American argument of whether defense spending is a stimulus bonus.