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BrahMos Exports to Philippines, Multiple Signalling and Possible Reactions

Indian Ministry of Defence will be exporting the supersonic cruise missile BrahMos to the Philippines. Confirmation of the, “Notice of Award,” comes from a letter by the Philippine defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana to BrahMos.

The notice of award signed by Lorenzana on December 31 last year puts the value of BrahMos deal at $374.962 million.

Initial funding for the weapons system of 2.8 billion pesos ($55.5 million) was allocated by the Philippines government and it is reported as per the letter by Lornezana, “ The Coastal Defense Regiment of the Philippine Marines will be the primary employer of this modern strategic defense capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

Philippines Navy has send a team to the production unit of BrahMos Aerospace in Hyderabad in December as part of the acquisition process reports the Hindustan Times.

This comes in an uptick in India Philippines Defence relations in the past few years since the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the country in 2017 where he had a significant bilateral meeting with President Duterte where all aspects of the bilateral relationship were discussed and followed by signing of five MoU’s on Defence Industry and Logistics Cooperation and so on as per the Embassy of India in Manila.

The Embassy further says that, “mainstay of bilateral defence cooperation continue to be capacity building and training, exchange visits of delegations and naval and coast guard ship visits. Secretary, National Defense, Delfin Lorenzana visited India with a five member delegation for the first ever bilateral defence minister level visit from 8-11 March 2018. Apart from bilateral interactions with his counterpart, he also visited defence establishments and defence equipment production centres in India”.

It is apparent that the two countries have been focusing on the sales of the BrahMos since then which has now materialised having gone through the overall process of acquisitions through exports which are extremely complicated.

The BrahMos exports have high salience in a number of respects.

Firstly in terms of Philippines defence given the challenge faced of Chinese claims in the South China Sea, the three batteries of BrahMos suitably deployed will considerably enhance the anti access, area denial capabilities of the Philippines Navy thereby preventing Chinese PLA Navy, Coast Guard or fishing fleet from approaching the claimed areas due to deterrence provided by the 290 kms range of the Brahmos.

The BrahMos acquisition will also fit in the overall modernisation plan of the Philippines Navy which has signed a contract for two corvettes with South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries on December 28.

The Philippines also plans to acquire 36 Black Hawk helicopters and six offshore patrol vessels in 2022 from the United States.

Secondly Philippines a United States strategic treaty ally under the Mutual Defense Treaty wherein the US is required to assist the country in times of threat to national security has signed on an offensive missile system that is manufactured by the India Russia consortium the BrahMos Aerospace. Thus, the tacit approval for such a sale by Washington is evident.

Thirdly the acquisitions also marks India’s military foray of a semi permanent nature through the sales in countries involved in the South China Sea dispute. How China views this now remains to be seen? Most possibly state owned web tabloids as Global Times are likely to fulminate warning the Philippines and India of consequences? China of course logically has no reason to complain as Beijing is already a major supplier of defence weapons and equipment to states in India’s periphery including traditional rival Pakistan.

China has also provided to Pakistan nuclear and missile technology and is shoring up submarine capabilities as well, thus India may have squared off some of these arms aid build up.

Fourthly from the geo-political perspective India has entered the highly contested South China Sea battle zone so to say with this foray indirectly by showing willingness to provide China’s contestants requisite capability to arm themselves against Beijing’s “bullying”.

Fifthly from India’s defence industry and exports perspective the sales is consequential as this will considerably boost India’s defence exports with a target of $ 5 Billion by 2024. More orders for BrahMos are expectedly, being negotiated with Vietnam and Indonesia. As member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) there are no restrictions on export of the cruise missile which has a range of 290 kms that it permissible under the Regime.

Sixthly being a joint India and Russia product, a signal from Moscow for the deal would have been essential which is also intrinsic in the agreement. What signalling Russia is sending to China needs some deliberation?

Seventhly from a qualitative perspective India’s exports would transit from soft defence items to hard core offensive and defence lethal systems such as the BrahMos.

All these may raise tempers with Beijing for India as well as the Philippines but the governments appear to be well prepared for the same.


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