Relevance of India-Philippines Brahmos Deal

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Synopsis: India’s Brahmos deal with the Philippines is very important. India’s aspiration to become Atma Nirbhar in defense exports and emerge as a key regional security provider in Indo-Pacific will depend on it.

  • In March 2021, India and the Philippines signed the “Implementing Arrangement” for the procurement of defense material and equipment procurement.
  • The agreement lays the groundwork for sales of defense systems including the highly advanced Brahmos missile. The sale will be through a government-to-government route. 
About Brahmos Missile:
  • It is a cruise missile manufactured by BrahMos Aerospace limited. It is a joint venture of India’s DRDO and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia.
  • The research for the missile began in the 1990s. It became the first supersonic cruise missile to enter service.
  • It has a speed of 2.8 mach (almost 3 times the speed of sound) and a range of 290 km. A new version has a range of 400 km.
    • The high speed makes its interception very difficult and allows it to easily target fighter jets like the Chinese J-20 fighter aircraft.
  • The naval and land variants of the BrahMos were inducted into service by the Indian Navy in 2005 and the Indian Army in 2007. Later, the air variant was tested in 2017 thereby giving the missile a dominating presence in all three domains. 
  • India is now trying to build a superior version having hypersonic speeds (at or above Mach 5) and a maximum range of 1,500 km.
The relevance of Deal for India
  • It would boost the export potential of India. 
  • It would help in attaining the target of $5 billion in defense exports by 2025. More orders are expected to come from countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, etc.
  • Furthermore, It would elevate India’s stature as a responsible regional superpower.
  • This would also boost India’s economic, soft, and hard power profile in the Indo-Pacific region.
The relevance of Deal for the Philippines
  • It would be helpful in protecting geopolitical and strategic interests, especially in the South China Sea. The sea has been a zone of frequent conflict between China and the Philippines. 
  • The deal would make the Philippines the first country to buy BrahMos. Thereby it will strengthen bilateral relations in the defence sphere. 
Geopolitical relevance:
  • It would act as a deterrent to China’s aggressive stance in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Further, other vulnerable countries of the region would come forward and induct Brahmos into their defense arsenal. This would protect their sovereignty and territory in the region.
Challenges in exporting Brahmos:
  • It may attract sanctions from the US under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
    • The act aims to sanction individuals and entities who engage in a “significant transaction” with a listed entity under CAATSA.
    • Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia is one of the listed Russian entities. That is why a threat of sanctions looms over the Philippines and other countries. Further, the US has maintained ambiguity over the Brahmos deal.
    • Turkey and China have been penalized under CAATSA for purchasing the S-400 Triumf air defense systems from Russia.
  • The cost of the Brahmos package comes around 2000 crores. This huge cost has discouraged purchase orders from many willing countries especially post the pandemic era. 
    • India has offered a $100 million line of credit to the Philippines that has enabled it to purchase Brahmos with minimum components.
Way Ahead:
  • India should engage in proactive talks with the US in order to obtain a waiver for the Brahmos deal. This seems possible as the deal would help contain China in the Indo-Pacific.
  • India should offer a rational line of credit to potential buyers to give them flexibility in buying the missile.


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