Some in India have a negative reaction to being part of a “supply chain”—particularly when it involves defence production with foreigners. This reaction is often based on a visceral feeling that maintaining “strategic autonomy,” or the atavistic “non-alignment,” requires India to stand alone and never be a part of anyone else’s “chain”. Perhaps the very term “chain” conjures up restraint reminiscent of a colonial past.
However, a dispassionate assessment of the benefits to India of participation with the United States in defence supply chains shows that the benefits far outweigh the constraints. Any contract for participation in a joint endeavour involves undertakings by each party. The question is not whether the undertakings involve constraints (all contracts involve constraints), but whether the benefits of the arrangement outweigh those constraints.
Defence supply chains are now the way of the world. Unless India is willing to participate in such supply chains, many of its national interests and aspirations for great power status will remain unfulfilled. The challenge for India is not whether to participate in defence supply chains, but with whom to partner and on what terms. Read more