BrahMos Missile – Will India’s First Major Defense Deal With The Philippines Get Impacted By US-Russia Tensions?

India had every reason to celebrate when the Philippines decided to import the BrahMos missile when it inked a $375 million deal, in what was termed as a great boost for India’s defense sector.

BrahMos, a joint Indo-Russian endeavor, is a portmanteau of the names of two rivers Brahmaputra (of India) and Moskva of Russia.

The deal was inked by Delfin N. Lorenzana, Defense Secretary of the Philippines, and Atul Dinkar Rane, Director General of BrahMos Aerospace. But, within three months, there seems to be some uncertainty, which may upset the deal as Manila has questioned the credibility of the missile itself.

What may topple the project is the incident that took place on March 9, 2022, when during routine maintenance, a technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile which landed near Mian Channu in Pakistan’s Khanewal district.

This led to a fracas as Pakistan cried foul that it was sent intentionally to provoke them into a war. The allegation was denied by India, which ordered a high-level inquiry. The probe concluded that the incident was due to a malfunction.

The government of India deeply regretted the incident and termed it “a matter of relief that there has been no loss of life due to the accident.”

Pakistan then raised seven questions, which were reported by EurAsian Times on March 12, and sought detailed answers from India as to why the incident took place.

But, what could now accentuate a perplexing position for India, is that on April 6, as reported in the media, Philippines Defense Secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, one of the senior-most ministers called Indian envoy Shambhu S Kumaran, over the same.

modi putin
File Image: Putin and Modi

India In A Spot

India sent a representative to the Philippines and informed us that there was no technical failure. Envoy Kumaran also tried to underplay the issue that the Philippine government did not raise ‘a concern’ but just made a query.

The inquiry blamed more than one official from the missile squadron for the incident for which, IAF said there would be “swift and severe punishment”.

The incident has made the Philippines anxious as it is embroiled in a conflict with China in the South China Sea and Asia-Pacific. Manila is seeking a fool-proof surety of the probable use of the BrahMos, while Indonesia and Malaysia, the two prospective buyers, must be also keeping a track of the developments.

If the Philippines, a strong ally of the US, cancels the BrahMos deal, it will give a shot in the arm to the US over Russia and will also satiate the now pro-US Pakistan government in Islamabad.

The probable noises from Islamabad will therefore also cease. But, inside this whole calculus, the big question is will India be able to clinch the deal? Particularly, when the US wants it annulled!


Is US Trying To Hurt Russia?

There are therefore quite a few uncertainties until BrahMos are to reach Manila, more particularly so, when US President Joseph Biden has clearly warned India on imports from Russia, as reported by Reuters on April 10, while Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar are on their visit to the US.

Will India wilt under the US pressure, which is its ally, and start to overtly abstain from Russia is what time would tell, particularly more so when Russian President Vladimir Putin and External Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov visited India in the recent months?

If the deal falls through, it will only serve the interests of the US. But, the bigger question is to find out if there was any deliberate attempt to launch the missile into Pakistan. Will any head roll over it? Will the truth come out of it? The most probable answer is perhaps no.

The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international politics. VIEWS PERSONAL