Q1. Can a $9.5-billion dollar airplane deal ever just be about the airplanes? Which is to say, does India expect nothing from the country that wins, above and beyond professional on-time delivery of the fighters and rock-solid after-sales support? On the other hand, what about the possibility that the elimination of the American and Russian fighters WAS a political decision?
Q2. If the European twin-engine fighters outperformed the other four contenders in field evaluations, why are there now questions over their selection? But if it is true that the margins of performance couldn’t have been significant between the six contenders, did it makes sense to effect such pronounced eliminations? Does this therefore reinforce the suggestion from the first question that this WAS in fact a political decision?
Q3. Is the importance being yoked to this one contract (and the apocalyptic fall-outs being predicted in some sections) a function more of the dizzy hype that has surrounded it non-stop since 2004 than anything real? Has the mythology that engulfs the deal made it impossible to look coldly at the M-MRCA as simply a contract that meets an arithmetic IAF requirement? In turn, does the significant importance being attached to the loss of this one contract by the US belittle, demasculate and subvert the importance of other Indo-US bilateral achievements, including high value defence purchases?
Q4. Is the government, which incidentally never refuted the prevailing sense that strategic considerations would be factored into any decision (until the very end), now taking refuge in the Indian Air Force’s trial recommendations as an easy offset to obvious political questions? Did something happen in the course of the selection process that forced (and if so, what) the government to shelve all “strategic factors”, and complete the process wholly on merit/technical grounds if at all?
Q5. Has there been thorough transparency through every step of the selection process? If all vendors have been kept totally up to speed about their performance and compliance, and were perfectly in tune with the benchmarks (as the MoD has stated), then was last week’s elimination really a surprise to those knocked out? Some of them say they expect debriefs in a transparent manner. Umm, were things not transparent before? Has the government satisfactorily shut the watertight gates of the selection process at each stage to ensure that none of its decisions along the way can be shafted later?