Is India Becoming Better Arms Supplier for Philippines Than West?
19:37 15.11.2023 (Updated: 06:43 16.11.2023)
Last year, the Philippines signed a $375-million deal for three batteries of BrahMos missiles. Currently, Manila is eagerly looking to procure the Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv MK-III helicopters from New Delhi.
Th Philippines Coast Guard urgently needs the Advanced Light Dhruv MK-III helicopters, since lacking such an asset poses a great challenge for the Southeast Asian nation, particularly when it comes to safeguarding its territorial waters and borders. Therefore, acquiring these helicopters is crucial in addressing these formidable challenges, a Philippine expert has said.
The comments of Manila-based defense analyst Miguel Miranda come days after Filipino President Ferdinand R Marcos Jr. revealed that India had proposed to sell its most advanced military chopper, the Dhruv MK-III to the Philippines.
Manila Sets Sights on ALH MK-III Helicopters
A statement from the Philippines President's office noted that he would discuss India's offer of seven ALH MK-III helicopters for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) with the concerned departments in the island sovereign state's defense ministry.
The announcement from Marcos came hours after he met with the Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran.
The ALH MK-III is widely deployed by the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard (ICG). The helicopter, manufactured by India's aviation behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)
, is the latest variant of ALH, specially developed to carry out
"maritime reconnaissance missions and coastal security operations."
Against this backdrop, Miguel Miranda, the founder, and editor of the defense website, 21st Century Asian Arms Race, noted that the Philippines Coast Guard has an enormous task ahead of them and they still lack assets.
"The HAL naval helicopter or another equivalent is badly needed as the PCG has complex security tasks related to territorial defense, maritime security, conservation, and even border protection," he told Sputnik India on Tuesday.
According to Miranda, India is among the few Asian countries with a growing catalog of "defence products" in almost every domain - air, land, sea, etc.
Price Point Working in Favor of India
Moreover, he pointed out that another advantage of India's value proposition is the price point as he opined that the equipment being offered is good enough and has a nice affordable price tag.
Offering his insights on why the Philippines was moving away from Western military hardware, he stressed that India was offering state-of-the-art weapons which wasn't the case with other nations.
Miranda asserted that, unlike India, no Western country offered a supersonic cruise missile like the BrahMos to Manila.
"The Philippine Navy knows how big a task awaits the branch with China encroaching on territorial waters. It helped that the price point for a whole BrahMos regiment came as a bargain," he added.
Prospects for India in the Philippines Weapons Market
On being asked if the Philippines would become a major market for India's defence products, Miranda observed that there was reason to be optimistic but not too excited.
"Simply put there are a lot of Western systems, especially those made in the US, that the Philippine military cannot afford given its minuscule budget," he emphasized.
On the other hand, retired Air Marshal M Matheswaran
, an Indian Air Force (IAF) veteran, explained that for any country, the dependency on foreign weapons platforms
is worrisome, especially in the case of the Philippines because it does not have a defense industry.
Manila's Looks For Available, Good Quality Military Hardware
The current requirements of the Philippines, be it the ALH helicopters or the Brahmos missiles are against any possible threat from China given its maritime disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, Matheswaran remarked.
He elaborated that in the past, the Philippines was a colony of the US and Washington virtually ran it for a long time, including having a military base and providing them a defenсe cover. Even today, most of the Philippines' armaments and defenсe equipment are US or Western-sourced.
Matheswaran argued that a country like the Philippines was looking at what is available at a lesser cost with a reasonably good quality of military hardware and India was just entering the defense exports scene. Thus, quite obviously, the Philippines would look at cultivating India as a reliable defense equipment provider.
India's Growing International Status Playing Its Part in Ties With Philippines
"Additionally, New Delhi's status as someone who's more fiercely protective of its strategic autonomy and not being driven by somebody else's geopolitical interests, all that matters in its deepening relations with Manila," the former IAF officer commented.
That's why, in his view, the ALH was a good aircraft for the Philippine Coast Guard as it was being built in significant numbers for the Indian Armed Forces and all these factors come into play for the archipelago to decide whether it is cost-effective for them to procure the helicopter from India.
New Delhi Offers Preferable Business Terms Than Western Nations
Plus, India's geopolitical interest convergence in this region with the Philippines, and Vietnam was enormous.
"Logically, over a period of time, India would be preferable for them as compared to say Japan or France or the UK or the US in terms of this kind of reliable business partnership without someone breathing down their neck to take sides in a possible conflict scenario, which is often the case with Western powers," Matheswaran concluded.