Indo-South Africa Defence Cooperation: Potential and Prospects

Ruchita Beri, Research Fellow, IDSA


India and South Africa share a number of commonalties. First, both India and South Africa are regional powers, bordering on the Indian Ocean, both are strategically located in terms of influencing events in the region and have shared interests in this area. Secondly, both India and South Africa have a common history of foreign and largely British involvement. Thirdly, both countries have a strong defence industry and finally, both countries have recently had for to contend with shrinking defence budgets. Given their historic linkages, there is ample scope for cooperation between the two countries. In the words of Mr. Thabo Mbeki, "Our common hope of success will depend on our ability to act together. We are reassured that we can count on India as our strategic partner in this historic endeavour which seeks to give birth to a new world of a just and lasting world peace, of prosperity for all peoples and equality among nations".1 During this period of transition when South Africa is still reorienting its foreign and defence policy, there is a need to explore the potential of defence cooperation and increase the awareness of the problems and complexities faced by the two countries.

There are some other factors which make defence cooperation with South Africa an attractive proposition. South Africa is the largest military spender in absolute terms in Southern Africa. Its military expenditure accounts for nearly 80 per cent of the region's total. It currently has the largest and most sophisticated armed force in Southern Africa and South African National Defence Force's (SANDF) inventory of military equipment is significantly better in qualitative, quantitative and operational terms than those of all the other countries of the region put together. The South African White Paper on Defence has stressed on "military cooperation with other states". However stable military relations require national military stability. The watershed April 1994 elections, and the subsequent setting up of the democratic government in the country have brought with them the transformation of the machinery of the South African state. The military institutions of the apartheid state have been the specific targets for reform because of the central role they played in the apartheid system. Therefore the discussion on the defence cooperation with South Africa has to be preceded by an evaluation of the transformation of defence organisation and industry in the country. In this paper, we shall first have a look at the security environment, followed by an analysis of the changes in defence organisation and then explore the potential of cooperation between South Africa and India.

The Security Environment

While South Africa has been trying to redefine its external relations, both within the region and with the rest of the world, it has also witnessed dramatic rethinking of its defence and security policies. This was facilitated by the general transformation which began at the national level through democratisation and ending of civil wars, and at the regional level through cooperation between states after the end of South Africa's policies of military aggression and regional destabilisation.

During the apartheid era, security figured as the integral part of the white minority's discourse in which their country was cast as an embattled bastion of Western civilisation in the global struggle against communism and the anarchy of black Africa. The security situation in the apartheid era led many white South Africans to conclude that they were the target of a "total onslaught" orchestrated by the Soviet Union. According to this view, the anti-apartheid movement, both inside and outside South Africa, had been co-opted by Moscow. Hence the issue was not the resistance of white minority rights to majority, but the global struggle between communism and free enterprise democracy. "In its indirect onslaught against Western capitalism" a South African Defence White paper stated, "Soviet strategy is aimed at denying essential natural resources to the West."2 South Africa was a high priority target because of its wealth, industrial base and location on vital shipping routes. South Africa responded to the "Total Onslaught" with a "Total Strategy" of its own. This total strategy focussed on destabilising the security of its neighbours and that of the majority of its own citizens within the country. The destablisation campaign of the 1980s resulted in the death of more than one million people and is estimated to have cost regional GDP some $62.42 billion.3 Ultimately, South Africa's security policy led to the demise of apartheid regime, mainly because it created such instability that the security of the white regime was threatened.

The profound changes that have occurred in the global and regional strategic environment since 1989, have led to the reformulation of the concept of security in the country. Not only has the notion of an external military threat disappeared with the demise of communism, the notion of beleaguered out-post of the Western civilisation vanished with the current political and cultural revolution. The new government no longer views national security "as a predominantly military problem. It has been broadened to incorporate political, economic, social and environmental matters. At the heart of this new approach is the paramount concern with the security of the people."4 Further, the government has specified that the "real threats to the South African people are internal and non-military—socio-economic problems such as poverty, unemployment, poor education, the lack of housing and the absence of adequate social services as well as a high level of crime and violence."5

The security problems that South Africa currently faces are compounded by the spillover effect of the security problems of the neighbouring states. The demise of the apartheid regime, although eradicating the major cause of regional conflict, has not been accompanied by a decline in the overwhelming range of security problems in Southern Africa for which no military solution is apparent. In the war-torn Angola and Mozambique, the widespread displacement of people and subsequent disruption of economic activity have left tens of thousands dependent on food aid for survival. Large numbers of refugees, particularly from Mozambique, have found their way into South Africa intensifying the problems of unemployment and poverty and creating ethnic tensions in townships. The presence of a huge amount of war material resulting from the civil wars and South Africa's wars with its neighbours also provides a continued source of instability within the region. Small arm flows into South Africa from Angola, Mozambique and Namibia are facilitating an unprecedented wave of violent crime in the cities, intensifying the insecurity. Traditional military approaches to security are incapable of confronting these contemporary challenges to regional stability. Therefore, a "broad based development oriented approach to regional security would address these kinds of issues better than a purely militaristic response."6

Defence Forces Transformation

In the past five years of the majority rule in South Africa, the South African armed forces have undergone a fundamental change, not only in the mission definition and force structure but also as an institution. The overt support for the transition and the spirit with which the negotiation and integration of the former adversaries into a single South African National Defence force has been conducted has fostered a degree of public support for the military, a sentiment hitherto absent among the broader populace. The formalisation of civilian oversight over the strategic management of defence, the subsequent transparency with which the defence white paper and the defence review have been conducted, have contributed to a virtual revolution in defence policy and defence management in South Africa since 1990.

The establishment of armed forces in South Africa could be traced back to 1912 when the Union Defence Force(UDF) was established. In 1957 the UDF became the South African Defence Force (SADF) in terms of the new Defence Act no.44 of 1957. On May 31, 1961, South Africa became a Republic and withdrew from the British Commonwealth, a move that had dramatic and lasting effects on the SADF's equipment policy, military strategy and overseas training. In December 1961, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC) Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was established. Since the 1960s the mission of the military was defence of the (white) nation against external communist invasion. The entire force structure and the system of conscription was adopted to counter this threat. As the "total onslaught" against the country increased, so did the legitimacy and public support for the military among the white population. The defence budget grew steadily. During 1960-61, defence expenditure had represented 0.9 per cent of GNP. This figure had reached 2.4 per cent of GNP by 1969-70and peaked at 4.3 per cent of the GDP in 1989.

By the late 1970s, the SADF had become a modern military force, replete with modern weapon systems, computerised command, control, intelligence and communication systems. It was managerially competent and operationally effective. At the same time South Africa had become involved in proxy warfare in the neighbouring states of Angola, Mozambique, former Rhodesia and former South West Africa. For all intents and purposes, South Africa was under the increased influence of the SADF. Although the influence of the military was felt throughout the country, at every level of government action the essential characteristic of the armed forces remained bureaucratically accountable. The influence of the military was largely a result of the influence of Prime Minister P.W Botha (later President),who could never relinquish his close relationship with the military.

Integration and Demobilisation

The process leading to the establishment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) at midnight on April 27, 1994, involved a range of bilateral and multilateral negotiations and talks between the so-called statutory (i.e. established legally) and non-statutory forces (i.e. with no legal status). The serious task of thrashing out solutions to myriad problems and challenges facing the creation of the SANDF only got underway in the earnest in January 1994, a scant four months before the elections, with the advent of the Joint Military Coordinating Council (JMCC). The strategic planning process initiated by the JMCC ended only four days before the elections that brought Nelson Mandela to power.

On the midnight of 24/25 April, 1994 the SADF ceased to exist and was replaced by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Within a matter of months the arch enemy of the former SADF, ANC military commander Joe Modise was appointed minister of defence with the communist party stalwart and the head of the ANC propaganda and intelligence section, Ronnie Kasrils as his deputy. Serving them as the commander of the SANDF, and former commander of the SADF was General George Meiring, the man that had been tasked with military campaign against the ANC.

Perhaps the most obvious challenge that faced the new SANDF was the integration of the various armed forces of South Africa— those created by apartheid and those defending it. Since this process would obviously result in a military much larger than required by a South Africa at peace with its neighbours, the second objective, demobilisation and eventual rationalisation was a financial necessity.

The seven participants which had to be integrated into a single SANDF were the so called "statutory forces" namely the former Boputhatswana Defence Force, Ciskei Defence Force, South African Defence Force (SADF), Transkie Defence Force and Venda Defence Force. The so-called non-statutory forces were Umkkhonto We Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC, and later the Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA), the armed wing of the Pan African Congress (PAC). On a basis of preferential recruitment an agreement was also later reached to include a planned 2,000 members of the Kwa- Zulu Self - protection force (the unofficial armed wing of the Inthaka Freedom Party) in the SANDF, but this was not part of the integration of forces.

The number of persons from the non-statutory forces was eventually 34,800 members. This number consisted of 28,800 members of MK and 6000 members of APLA. The number of persons from statutory forces consisted of 100,000 from the former SADF and 11,000 from the former Transkie, Boputhatswana, Venda, Ciskei(TBVC) forces a total of about 111,000 full time force members. The physical assembly of the MK and APLA started even before the April 1994 election and continued until the end of April 1997.

To cater for those members of the non-statutory forces which were unable or unwilling to serve in the SANDF due to advanced age, ill health or other reasons, as well as those cadres who had found alternative employment, a Demobilisation Act was approved by the parliament and signed into law on December 1, 1996. This act authorised the previously paid demobilisation benefits and stipulated that demobilisation should be completed within one year. By May 1997, 7,081 persons from different categories had been paid a total of around R160 million in demobilisation gratuities.7

Another downsizing programme has been the "Voluntary Severance Initiative"—largely aimed at the former members of the SADF and other statutory forces. Between August 31, 1996 and April 1, 1998 a total of 12,465 applications were approved.8 Yet it was becoming clear that the flood of applications was having detrimental effects on the functioning of the SANDF, with shortages developing at various units and HQs. Officially, demobilisation had ended by February 1998, while former Non-Statutory Force integration had been completed by December 1997.

Establishment of Civilian Control

With the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994, the government undertook to establish civil control over the armed forces in line with democratic practice throughout the world. Though this practice did prevail in the country to some extent in the past, but the changes brought forward by the ANC government are more extensive. From the time of the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1912 to the year 1967 there was generally a Secretary for Defence as the head of the Department of Defence. Then, in 1967, the post of Secretary for Defence was abolished and the military Chief of the South African Defence Force became the Head of the Department. That year, therefore, saw the merging of the positions of military command and accounting officials. In terms of command to staff relationships, the Union Defence Force had followed a Chief of Staff approach with the Chief of Defence Staff primarily serving as the military staff officer of the minister. This was changed in 1933, when the post designation was changed to General Officer Commanding Union Defence Force, and apart from some intermediate changes, eventually the Chief of the South African Defence Force designation continued from 1973 to 1994.

By 1994, there had been, apart from the cabinet itself, little real civilian oversight of the armed forces for several decades. Yet no civilian outside of cabinet had influence over the military since 1967. Two elements in the establishment of civilian control are crucial. The first is the joint standing of these committee of defence of parliament whose existence is mentioned in the Constitution which states that "To give effect to the principles of transparency and accountability, multi-party parliamentary committees must have oversight of all security services in a manner determined by national legislation or the rules and orders of Parliament."9 The second element is the establishment of a civilian Ministry of Defence and Defence Secretariat during 1995.

Under the present set-up, the defence secretary is the principal policy advisor and he replaced the Chief of the SANDF as the accounting officer of the department on April 1, 1997. This means that the defence secretary has vested in himself all the powers and functions of the administrative head of the department and accounting officer as well as being the principle advisor to the minister with regard to defence policy matters. The CSANDF, on the other hand, is the principal military advisor to the minister and responsible for the efficient management, command and administration of the SANDF, for the functions of the SANDF and the conduct of operations. The CSANDF and the defence secretary are both subordinate to the minister and function at the same hierarchical level, but with separate responsibilities and using a joint and integrated staff.10




Armscor Secretary for Chief of the

Defence SANDF


The difference between parliamentary oversight between the National Party Government and that under the ANC cannot be starker. Under the National Party and the previous Westminster parliamentary system, the select committee on defence had proven little more than a rubber stamp of the executive. Now, with its powers enshrined in the constitution, parliament has taken an active and vigorously independent role in monitoring defence issues. Apart from his military command duties, the Chief of the SANDF, previously effectively in command of the Department of Defence, now has a greatly reduced military advisory role.

The White Paper on Defence and the Defence Review

Apart from the introduction of a mature system of civilian oversight, the South African national security establishment has broadened its understanding of the concept of security to incorporate non-military matters. At the heart of this new approach is "... a paramount concern with the security of people". The White Paper and the constitution also affirm that South Africa has no aggressive intentions towards any state and that the country will pursue peaceful relations and co-operation with other countries, particularly in Southern Africa. It clearly states that the country will conduct its foreign policy and external defence activities in accordance with international law and norms. In this process, South Africa has committed the SANDF to a primarily defensive orientation and postures; decided to forgo the option to engage in pre-emptive strikes; will execute military operations in accordance with international law; and will adopt a counter-force rather than a counter-value doctrine.11

In order to give effect to such principles the White Paper provided for a Defence Review "...the aim of which is to elaborate on this policy framework through comprehensive long-range planning on such matters as posture, doctrine, force design, force levels, logistic support, armaments, equipment, human resources and funding."12 A working group was appointed by the minister of defence and co-ordinated by the secretary for defence. The working group established specialist sub-committees on defence posture, functions and force design; human resource issues; the part-time force; the defence industry; legal issues; and land, and the environment.

According to the Defence Review:

"The peace-time force will comprise a relatively small regular force backed up by a sufficiently large part-time force. These components should constitute a balanced and sustainable 'core force' capable of dealing with small-scale defence contingents which arise in the short-term. Since the long-term future is inherently uncertain, it is also necessary to maintain the capabilities required to expand the core force if the security situation deteriorates significantly."13

The cabinet adopted the key force design chapters of the Defense Review on June 18, 1997 when it approved the 'growth-core force design'. The essential characteristics of this option are given in the table below:14


l a peace-time, all-volunteer force of some 22,000 combat troops, 28,000 support troops and 20,000 civilians, supported by 69,800 part-time force members;

l Army: One mobile division; one mechanised brigade; one parachute brigade (the two brigades act as rapid deployment force); a special forces brigade; and territorial forces (27 group headquarters; 14 light infantry battalions; 12 motorised infantry battalions; 183 area protection units). Main equipment will be some 154 Olifant main battle tanks, 146 Eland armoured cars, 242 Rookat armoured cars, 53 ZT-3 anti-armour missile systems, 45 G5 towed artillery gun/howitzers, 43 G6 self-propelled artillery gun/howitzers, 25 127 mm Bateleur rocket launchers, 1 214 Ratel infantry combat vehicles and 4 304 mine protected vehicles. The part-time conventional units will consist of three brigades. The parachute brigade will also include a number of part-time force units. The territorial units will include a large part-time force component.

l Air Force: 32 medium fighters, 16 light fighters, 16 light reconnaissance aircraft; six long-range maritime patrol aircraft, 10 short-range maritime patrol aircraft, plus remotely piloted vehicles; 12 combat support helicopters; transport helicopters, five maritime helicopters, 96 transport helicopters, 44 transport aircraft, nine VIP aircraft, nine volunteer squadrons, five in-flight refuelling/electronic warfare aircraft; as well as radar, point defence and mobile ground signal intelligence teams. The part-time forces within the Air Force consist of a number of Volunteer Air Squadrons.

l Navy: four submarines; four corvettes; six strike craft; one combat support ship; 8 minesweepers/hunters; four inshore patrol vessels; 39 harbour patrol boats.

l Health Services: A CB defensive programme; one regular medical battalion group and one and a half part-time medical battalion groups.

Yet, having approved these force design concepts, cabinet does not appear amenable to fund the associated acquisition costs. During 1997, for example, with only two weeks to go before the presentation of the annual defense budget to parliament, the Minister of Finance slashed an additional R700 million from a defense budget that had already declined by a similar amount from the previous year.15 Indications for 1998 and beyond were similarly gloomy—the SANDF is, in fact, already facing imminent block obsolescence of much of its main equipment.16 By the end of 1997, the SA Air Force had suspended all flights except emergency missions and the SA Army had effectively stopped training17—despite the fact that the SANDF was spending a large portion of its budget on operating expenses. The department had run out of money in response to the massive and unexpected budget cuts that it had suffered and was facing over expenditure of some R400 million by the end of the 1997-8 budget year18. Planning and practice were clearly at odds with one another.


The South African constitution states unequivocally that: "The composition of the SANDF shall broadly reflect the composition of South Africa."19 With the shift to an all-volunteer force, the racial representation of the full-time force changed significantly. Most importantly, the number of black officers and NCOs increased dramatically as a result of the integration of the armed forces.

One of the key objectives of the defence transformation process is the attainment of representivity. The Defence Review proposed a racial mix of the department. The following table depicts the composition of SANDF, including both uniformed and civilian personnel:20

Composition of SANDF

Category May 1, 97 Target

Africans 57.45% (57,450 persons) 64.68% (45,276 persons)

Whites 30.34% (30,340 persons) 24.35% (17,045 persons)

Coloureds 11.30% (11,300 persons) 10.22% (7,154 persons)

Asians 0.91% (910 persons) 0.75% (525 persons)

TOTAL 100.000 70.000

The total number of 70,000 personnel is to be achieved through a downsizing programme over a period of four to 10 years and the department has also committed itself to ensure that the former statutory and non-statutory forces receive an equitable representation in the SANDF.

Defence Industry

South Africa's arms industry is one of the largest in the developing world.21 The development and expansion of South Africa's arms industry was influenced by a number of strategic, political and economic factors. The strategic factors such as the imposition of UN arms embargoes in 1963 and 1977, the presence of growing external threats to apartheid, the increasing hostility of the international community and the imposition of embargoes and sanctions were the primary determinants. Political factors such as the implementation of discriminatory and repressive apartheid policies after 1961, which led to increasing black resistance and civil unrest forced the state to develop a domestic military capability in order to supply security forces with means to maintain minority rule. The development of arms industry was also linked with the broader strategy of promoting the development of Afrikaner industrial capital. The expansion of defense industry contributed to the development of closer links between the state and capital. The fact that strategic concerns of the government increasingly coincided with the short-term interest of the private capital was an important determinant in a South Africa becoming self sufficient in arms production. The development of South African arms industry can be divided into three stages (a) 1961-89 , (b) 1989-94 and (c) After 1994. In each of these, it was influenced and constrained by the political and strategic developments in the country.

1961-89: Emergence

Before 1961, South Africa relied quite heavily on arms imports. Withdrawal from Commonwealth in 1961 and imposition of UN arms embargo in 1963, severely affected South Africa's arms procurement. It also provided impetus towards developing an indigenous arms industry. The emergence of South African defence industry could be traced back to 1964 when the Armaments Production Board was set up in 1964 with the responsibility for both acquisition and management of public sector defence industry. In 1968, the state owned Armament Development and Production Corporation was set up. Between 1968 and 1977, South Africa's arms industry reached a critical stage of development. During this period it began to undertake minor research and development (R&D) to bring about improvements to local license produced armaments and started limited production of less sophisticated weapons. In 1977, the Armaments Board and the Armament Development and Production Corporation were amalgamated to form Armscor (the Armament Corporation of South Africa). Between 1977 and 1989, the South African arms industry expanded considerably in response to the imposition of UN arms embargo and South Africa's increasing involvement in a number of regional conflicts. During the early 1980s, South Africa's arms industry began to face a number of economic problems as a result of increasing production costs, excess capacities and declining domestic demand. Arms exports were introduced to resolve some of these problems. A new international sales and marketing organisation, Nimrod was created within Armscor in 1982 to deal with arms exports. By the late 1980s South Africa's arms industry had achieved a relatively high level of self-sufficiency in terms of being able to supply the SADF with most of its equipment requirement. It had by then reached the stage of independent R&D and production of less sophisticated weapons, and limited R&D in the production of more advanced weapons.

The arms industry was spread between the public and private sectors. The public sector industry in South Africa was entirely concentrated in one company, Armscor. Armscor's production and research activities were located in a number of subsidiary companies and research and testing facilities in various parts of the country. By 1989, Armscor had developed into the 30th largest company in the country in terms of total assests and 15th in terms of employment. Its total assets were about two billion Rand in 1989. The size and structure of the private sector arms industry in the apartheid era are difficult to ascertain because of lack of economic data on this area. Armscor stated in the mid-1980s that it had contracts with 2271 private sector firms of which 1083 (48 per cent) were with direct contractors and 1188 (52 per cent) were with suppliers of standard items. The structure of private sector arms industry in the late 1980s reflected the structure and ownership patterns of South African manufacturing sector. Large and highly diversified corporate groups were a common feature of the manufacturing sector and were, in turn, owned or controlled by one or more of the six large financial-mining-industrial conglomerates: Anglo-American, Anglovaal, Liberty Life, Old Mutual, the Rembrant group and Sanlam. These six companies controlled approximately 90 per cent of the asset value of the Johannesburg stock exchange in the late 1980s. Three large industrial groups publicly quoted on the Johannesburg stock exchange, Altech, Grintek and Reunert, dominated the private sector arms industry. All three were in turn either owned or controlled by one of the six large conglomerates. Altech was controlled by Anglo-American, Grintek by Anglovaal and Reunert by Old Mutual. In terms of geographical distribution of private sector firms, more than 75 per cent were located in the Pretoria-Witswaterand-Vereeniging (PWV) region. This corresponds with the location of public sector industry, Armscor and its subsidiaries were mainly centered in that region.

1989-94: The Changing Environment

Substantial cuts in defence expenditure were implemented in South Africa between 1989 and 1994. As a result, the arms industry was forced to downsize and restructure. This led to the establishment of a new state owned arms production company, Denel in 1992.22 However, Armscor still retained responsibility for procurement for SADF. After 1992, Armscor pursued a number of adjustment strategies, restructuring and rationalising its administrative structure, introducing more competitive procurement policies, expanding its client base and pursuing exports through international marketing and by negotiating off-set or counter-trade agreements with foreign suppliers. Denel inherited most of Armscor's production and research facilities. The strategy of rationalisation and restructuring after 1992 was based on the desire to remain in the market, but to shrink to fit the declining domestic defence market by consolidating and rationalising the defence operations. As a result Denel restructured its 18 divisions and subsidiaries into six different industrial groups: systems, manufacturing, aerospace, informatics, properties and engineering. At the same time around 1600 workers were laid off in 1992-93 in a drive to cut costs.

In the process of restructuring, all Denel divisions pursued strategies of diversification. These strategies included joint ventures, acquisitions and mergers with civilian firms, and development of commercial civilian products using defence technology and production facility. One of Denel's primary offensive adjustment strategies was to increase exports of both military and commercial products. The company's exports increased quite significantly in 1992-93. It exported military equipment to 37 countries in 1992 and to 41 countries in 1993. The Systems group particularly LIW, which manufactures G5 and G6 howitzers, provided the bulk of Denel's export earnings in 1992-93.

The private sector defense industry also took steps to downsize their defence operations in response to defence cuts after 1989. In fact some of the private firms closed down their defence operations after 1989. Dorbyl Marine, the country's major naval ship building firm closed down its naval ship building facilities in Durban in 1993 because of lack of defence work. Gencor sold its military vehicle business, Sandock Austral which manufactured the hulls for the Rooikat armoured car and the Ratel infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) to Reumech in 1993.

After 1994: Post-Apartheid

The end of apartheid and the establishment of a democratic government in 1994 had a significant impact on the local arms industry. The domestic arms industry has been subject to much higher levels of public scrutiny then ever before. This has largely been due to the work of Cameron Commission (established in late 1994 to comment on South Africa's existing arms trade policies and decision-making procedures), the public policy processes associated with the 1996 White Paper on National Defence and the Defence Review. None of these defence policy processes deal directly with the defence industry, though there is a discussion on the arms industry in the Cameron Commission reports. The reports of the Cameron Commission have been particularly significant in challenging many of the economic and strategic arguments in favour of maintaining a domestic arms industry. It recommended the restructuring of the domestic arms industry and suggested that the " future of the (defence) industry and the question of conversion to civilian production should be subject of a White Paper".23 The White Paper on National Defence did not include any major policy pronouncements on the future of the domestic arms industry. It affirmed the need for the maintenance, upgrading and where necessary, the replacement of weapons and equipment and stated that "government would encourage the industry to convert (its) production capability to civilian manufacture without losing the key technological capability needed for military production."24 Apart from these general statements, it stated that the government would prepare a separate White Paper on the arms industry, echoing the recommendations of the Cameron Commission. The Defence Review, while not significantly concerned with the future of domestic arms industry, dealt with matters relating to the arms industry in an indirect way.

Another important development was the formation in July 1994 of the South African Defense Industry Association(SADIA). The main functions of SADIA are to coordinate the activities of the domestic arms industry and to act as a mouth-piece for the industry in dealings with government and other interested parties. In March 1997, the government initiated the preparation of a White Paper on the defence industry. Professor Kader Asmal, Chairman of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), and the Defence Secretariat coordinated it. As a result of further defence cuts since 1994, and in absence of any clear policy direction from the government, the domestic arms industry, both public and private sector, has been forced to continue with the process of restructuring and downsizing that started in the early 1990s. After resisting earlier, in late 1995, the government announced that it was investigating the privatisation of state assets including Denel. However, till date no decision on privatisation of Denel has been taken. The downward trend in the defence expenditure has had a negative impact on Denel and the company has continued to pursue a variety of adjustment strategies. It continued to lay off employees, the number went down to 14, 150 from 15,500 in 1992. In the process of rationalisation, it closed down some of its facilities(Houwteq being one). It was not viable to maintain some of the testing facilities ,such as Gerotek and Overberg Test Range. Denel's all groups and divisions continued their diversification strategies after 1994, particularly mergers and joint ventures with civilian firms, and the development of civilian products derived from existing defence technologies and products. The strategy of acquisitions and mergers with civilian firms is supposed to be the most successful diversification strategy but has proved problematic since Denel is 100 per cent owned by the state. Thus the policy of joint ventures is seen to be the most appropriate strategy at the moment. The strategy of conversion has been abandoned, given the significant difficulties and costs involved in converting facilities to civilian use and expensive failure of Houwteq's conversion effort. On the other hand, Denel has continued to pursue export markets since April 1994, particularly in the light of the lifting of the UN arms embargo. The defence exports rose from 16 per cent of the turnover in 1992 to 24 per cent in 1995. The declining domestic defence market and the increasingly competitive international arms market have encouraged Denel to enter into a number of joint ventures and strategic alliances with foreign defence firms. The other public sector organisation, Armscor, has managed to survive in the post-apartheid era as the state's armament procurement organisation. Armscor has attempted to implement a number of changes, in order to retain its central role in the domestic arms industry. It has declared support to the RDP and seconded staff to the RDP Management office to assist with project management. There have been some internal changes in the organisation. Most important, the function of issuing arms export permits, which was previously vested in Armscor, has been transferred to the Defence Secretariat and the NCACC. Armscor has continued with its adjustment strategies. It has intensified its international marketing campaign after lifting the UN arms embargoes and opened additional overseas offices to support domestic arms industry's export drive. It has increased the counter trade requirement up to 60 per cent on contract with foreign suppliers since 1994. The corporation has also pursued a more transparent and competitive procurement policy in order to achieve better value for money. The private sector arms industry, like the public sector, has continued to pursue the same adjustment strategies that it pursued during the transition period in the post-apartheid era. These strategies include laying off workers, downsizing, rationalising defence operations, selling assets and exiting from the defence market. They have pursued arms exports quite aggressively after April 1994. Most private sector firms have entered into international joint ventures and alliances with foreign defence firms. In 1996, members of SADIA had a total of 93 joint ventures with companies in UK, France, the USA, Germany and Malaysia.

The review of South African defence organisation and industry suggests South Africa to be in the throes of restructuring. While the restructuring in the defence industry had begun by the end of last decade, in period of transition from apartheid to democratic rule, the defence organisational changes have come mainly in the post-apartheid era. There was a clamour for demilitarisation in the immediate aftermath of the April 1994 elections, the subsequent debates and the defence review have led to a defensive defence doctrine and a downscaled defence industry. After years of isolation, the new South African government is looking for cooperation with other countries in the field of defence, India being one of them.

Existing Cooperation

In defence cooperation, a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of defence equipment was signed between the two countries during South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki's visit to India in December 1996.25 At the time of the Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral's visit in October 1997, the South African Defence Minister Joe Modise announced that the two nations would "enhance and intensify defence cooperation ", with South Africa offering a whole range of military hardware to India. Specifically, they have agreed to provide ammunition for the 155 mm Bofors guns as well as avionics and night vision equipment. It has been recently reported that India is buying artillery shells worth $47million to replace ammunition fired at infiltrators during the Kargil conflict. The defence ministry is apparently finalising terms with South Africa's Denel to purchase 155mm shells.26

The first meeting of the Indo-South African Joint Committee on defence cooperation was held in Pretoria in August 1998. Defence Secretary headed the Indian delegation for this meeting. During this meeting it was agreed that progress in the defence sector was a concrete manifestation of the desires of India and South Africa to build a strategic partnership between the two countries. Views were exchanged on the security environment in their respective regions and on issues and developments that affect regional security and stability. 27

Though there have been a number of visits of DRDO officials to South Africa and the Denel representatives keep visiting India, the nature of cooperation in defence industry is neither specified nor clear. There has been a keen interest shown by both sides towards maritime cooperation. An exchange of visits of naval ships between the two countries has taken place. INS Gomati and INS Kukhri visited South Africa in December 1994. SAS Drakensberg paid a courtesy call to Mumbai in March 1995. The Indian Navy is evaluating South African 76mm anti-missile projectiles for the OTO Breda Compact gun mounting for its three Brahmaputra class frigates being built in Calcutta. The trials incorporate an assessment of anti-sea skimmer fuses produced by the South African companies Fuchs and Naschem.28

India took part in Exercise Blue Crane with South Africa and other SADC countries. This exercise took place at the SA Army Battle School Training Area in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa from April 7 to 30, 1999. It consisted of six stages involving approximately 4000 members from the SADC countries of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The other participants, such as military observers, were approximately 500 in number. Exercise Blue Crane happens to be one of the largest peace support operations ever undertaken. It will be of particular significance to Southern African countries wishing to evaluate their combined peace support capability.

Exchange of visits at the level of Service Chiefs is an important measure for promoting goodwill between the armed forces of the two countries. During the year 1998-99 the Indian Chief of Army Staff (COAS) visited South Africa while the South African Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) made a visit to India.

Potential Future Cooperation

The first priority is to expand the defence relationship from being merely that of facilitating arms transfers to that of defence cooperation. Till date India has a Memorandum of Understanding signed in the field of defence equipment. Pakistan has been able to negotiate a defence cooperation deal in 1997, which entails wider cooperation. India is the largest importer of South African arms. South Africa had exported armaments and military equipment worth Rand 1.3 billion in 1997. India has been the largest purchaser of lethal weaponry from South Africa worth Rand 572 million. It has also purchased Rand 28 million worth of non-sensitive equipment in 1997. We should take advantage of this position in negotiating a defence cooperation deal, which includes transfer of technology and joint ventures and third party transfers. Moreover there are other areas of cooperation which have been hitherto left unexplored.

Cooperation in Tackling Non-Conventional Threats

The South African Defence White Paper, 1996, has identified non-conventional threats to security such as drugs and small arms as one of the major security threats to the country. The drug trafficking in Southern Africa has been described by some as a global threat to civil society. With the end of isolation and an increase in international flight traffic, South Africa has become a favourite shipping point for international drug syndicates. According to one estimate, South Africa has about 135 drug syndicates. According to Robert Gelbert, Former US Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement affairs, the most significant development in the drug trade has been the rise of the Nigerian drug traffickers as a global force.29 Some trace the origin of Nigerian drug trafficking to India. In the early 1980s, it is claimed that a group of Nigerian naval officers was sent to undergo further training. Instead, they organised a trafficking network to smuggle South East Asian heroin to Europe and later United States. Today, Nigerian syndicates are one of the three largest drug trafficking organisations in the world. Another link between India and South Africa is the smuggling of heroin and mandrax to South Africa from India. While the heroin is meant for trans-shipment to European markets, mandrax is destined for South African markets. There have been a number of seizures in and around Mumbai by the Narcotics Control Board (NCB) of mandrax bound for South Africa. The largest seizure was of about 2.8 tonnes of mandrax in Mumbai. India banned the drug in 1984 but illicit production still continues.30 Another route of mandrax trafficking from India is via Sri Lanka. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) now appear to be involved in the trafficking. The reports of their opening liason offices in South Africa facilitates the shipment.

Associated with this is the problem of small arms proliferation. The Southern African region is awash with light weapons. In South Africa the level of violent crime linked to this problem threatens the consolidation of democracy. Cross border smuggling of small arms from Mozambique, Namibia and Angola has been held responsible for it. Much of the disarmament effort under the United Nations Operation in Mozambique (UNOMOZ) appears to have gone waste. A large number of weapons handed over to UNOMOZ were lost or stolen from UN armouries and stores. Some of these weapons found their way to South Africa. In South Africa the increase in armed crime has also been fuelled by the rise of licenced arms. In 1995 around 17, 617 firearms were reported as lost/ stolen. These concerns are echoed in New Delhi. India is a major transit point for drugs produced from Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle in South and South East Asia. It has also been confronted with a massive inflow of small arms in the country, basically to arm the militants. Faced with a common challenge, both the countries could jointly devise new strategies to deal with the problem.

Peace-keeping Training

Of the numerous conflicts erupting in the world today, Africa's share is perhaps the largest. A study carried out by the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, Sweden, reveals that out of 30 major conflicts going on in the world during 1995, six were in Africa-Algeria, Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.31 The last few years we have witnessed violent conflicts in Somalia, Liberia, and Rwanda in particular, which have ravaged the countries and displaced numerous people. United Nations has been involved in peace-keeping in most of these conflicts. In these peace-keeping missions the task had varied from election monitoring, human rights observation, humanitarian security, mediation, cease-fire monitoring, peace-making, peace enforcement to a rehabilitation of refugees. In terms of contribution of states to the UN peacekeeping troops, there appears to be a reluctance on part of the major economic powers of the world. During 1994, the four permanent members of the UN Security Council (excluding France) contributed only 8.56 per cent of the total UN forces deployed worldwide. To take a larger grouping, the rich G-7 countries, which otherwise dominate global politics and economy along with Russia and China, contributed a total of 21.71 per cent of UN forces in 1994. This is less than the contribution of 26 per cent made by three developing countries of South Asia alone (i.e. Pakistan, India and Bangladesh).32 Thus, the burden of peace-keeping is falling on the shoulders of soldiers from the developing countries. In such a scenario, India and South Africa should cooperate in conflict prevention and resolution on the continent, albeit under UN and, or OAU aegis.

Our participation in the UN peacekeeping operations does not stem from considerations of narrow gains. It has been mainly because of our empathy with the affected country, our commitment to the United Nations Charter and to the cause of international peace. In fact, India's participation in the UN peacekeeping role is part of its foreign policy. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister had defined the role of India's armed forces before parliament. In addition to the defence of India and aid to civil power, assisting the UN was the third mandatory function.33 The principle of international peace and security is enshrined in Article 51 of the Indian constitution. It found full expression in Nehru's foreign policy and his advocacy of Panchsheel and peaceful co-existence. The chapter on Directive Principles of State Policy of the Indian constitution in the international field states that India shall strive:

l to promote international peace and security,

l to maintain just and honourable relations between nations,

l to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations,

l to encourage settlement of international disputes and arbitration.34

India has been involved in these operations for the last 45 years. India's participation in peacekeeping began when the Indian combat troops were first assigned to Korea as the Custodian Force of India (CFI). Since then, India has contributed troops/military observers to Korea (1953-54), Cambodia (1954-58), Laos (1964-68), Vietnam (1954-70), UNEF (Sinai, 1956-67), UNOGIL (Lebanon, 1958), ONUC (Congo, 1960-64), UNYOM (Yemen, 1963), UNFICYP (Cyprus, 1964 onwards), DOMREP (Dominician Republic 1965), UNIMOG (Iran-Iraw, 1987), UNAVEM (Angola, 1988), UNTAG (Namibia, 1988-89), ONUCA (Central America, 1989), ONUSAL (El Salvador, 1991), UNIKOM (Iraq-Kuwait, 1991), UNOMIL (Liberia, 1991), UNPROFOR (Former Yugoslavia, 1992), UNTAC (Cambodia, 1992), Onumoz (Mozambique, 1992), UNOSOM (Somalia, 1993-95), UNAMIR (Rwanda, 1994), UNAVEM (Angola, 1995). Thus, it appears that a major proportion of Indian peace keeping operations have been in Africa.

There is no doubt that Africa has become increasingly marginalised in the western world and, especially in US foreign policy. This disengagement has left Africa largely to its own devices in preventing and ending armed conflicts. In 1994, African nations contributed about 11 per cent of the troops used in UN peacekeeping missions in Africa. Given its pre-eminent continental military capacity, South Africa will be expected to take a leading role in the future. With the call for "African solutions to African problems", the present South African government is increasingly being pushed into a peacekeeping role. There is a debate going on within the country on whether it would be beneficial to jump head long into the peacekeeping role. The South African public appears to be in favour of a peacekeeping role for the SANDF: A poll commissioned in 1995 showed that about two thirds of the respondents wanted the country to have a force with the express purpose of helping other countries maintain peace. South African government's attitude towards peacekeeping has been summarised as follows by the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad,

"A fundamental objective of South Africa's policy must be preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, humanitarian assistance and disarmament. However, should international and regional consensus exist on the need for military involvement, the following considerations will have to be taken into account. South Africa should be satisfied that the situation poses a real threat to world peace and security and to regional stability. Any action taken should be in conformity with the charters of the UN and the OAU. In this regard, the South African Constitution and Defense Act provide for the deployment of the SANDF for peace support operations outside the borders of the country at the discretion of the President. In the event of such a decision being considered, it should be discussed by Cabinet and in Parliament."35

What the SANDF lacks is experience in peacekeeping. With 50 years of peacekeeping experience behind us, India can be of tremendous help in this regard. As said earlier, most of our peacekeeping operations in recent years have been in Africa. And our peacekeepers have, over the years, gained an understanding of the ethos of the people in Africa. We could share our peacekeeping experience with the South African defence forces.

Expanding Maritime Cooperation

There is no denying the importance of the maritime sector in the overall economic development of nations. Both India and South Africa have long coastlines and security of maritime interests is a mutual concern. India has a coastline of 6,300 kilometers with island territories of Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands adding another 1,200 kilometers. This coastline harbours 11 major, 20 intermediate and 144 minor ports. When the new law of the sea is applied to the country's coastline, it gives India a straggering 2.2 million square kilometers of EEZ. 95 per cent of India's overseas trade passes through the sea. Our other maritime interests include the off-shore oil, vast potential of minerals, sea bed resources and fishing interests in the EEZ. Similarly, South Africa has a long coastline strategically situated along one of the vital sea routes of the world. The total area covered by the EEZ along the coast amounts to about one million square kilometers. More than 90 per cent of South African imports and exports in terms of tonnage or 80 per cent in value flow through its ports.36

Cooperation between the two countries could prove useful for enhancing maritime security in the region. This could be initiated through certain confidence building measures like high level contacts among the political and naval officials (which is already in the process), naval exercises at regular frequency and transparency of maritime policies etc. The guidelines for regional maritime cooperation developed by the Maritime Working Group of the Council for Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific (CSAP) could be helpful in evolving the framework for cooperation. They include various aspects like protecting sea lanes of communication, humanitarian assistance, search and rescue, maritime safety, law and order at sea, naval cooperation, maritime surveillance, protection and preservation of the marine environment, and marine scientific research training and technical cooperation.

The field of maritime surveillance may offer many opportunities for cooperation. Pooling the maritime patrol resources for a common defined purpose of tracking developments at sea would be of benefit. This would involve sharing of data accruing from maritime surveillance. Appropriate communication linkages and procedures need to be charted out to maximise the advantages of such cooperation. Another area could be hydrography. India has developed expertise and extensive capabilities in this regard. Surveys of sea-beds could be undertaken in a collaborative manner and a similar approach could be adopted in preparing nautical charts of the region. Finally both the countries have developed dockyards and they could be better utilised through cooperation in repair as well as construction.

Defence Ties with Pakistan

Pakistan's defence relations with South Africa are a cause for concern to some extent. Its defence ties with South Africa were revealed in February 1996 with the leakage in the press about Pak-South Africa missile deal. According to the news report Pakistan was close to sealing a 600 million Rand ($165 million) export contract for the supply of missiles to Pakistan. Kentron is a division of Denel that specialises in the development and manufacture of electronic and mechanical products and systems. Kentron's main products are air to air missiles, ground to air missiles, high speed drones, stand-off weapons, inertial navigation systems and a range of optical sighting and other observation systems. It was later disclosed that Kentron was fulfilling a commitment made to Pakistan under the apartheid rule. Apparently, during the apartheid era Pakistan and South Africa enjoyed a close defence relationship. It seems Pak-South Africa alliance was formed in the early eighties, during the period of what is known as the second Cold War. In the cold war days, South Africa under PW Botha and Pakistan under Zia were part of the right-wing strategic alliance brought forth by President Ronald Reagan of United States to contain the spread of communism. Within this paradigm, a fruitful relationship flourished between the two countries. Not much information is available about the exact parameters of this relationship. Pakistan entered into a defence accord with the present South African government in January 1998. This agreement is aimed at promoting cooperation between the defence industries of SA and Pakistan.37 The worrisome part is that Pakistan has been able to negotiate a more comprehensive defence cooperation deal than India.


The slack in the defence ties is a reflection of the relationship between the two countries. In the post-Pokhran phase there has been a down swing in the relationship. The South African government had expressed concern at the Pokhran nuclear tests. Pretoria's initial criticism was not unexpected given South Africa's own status as the world's only nuclear power to have voluntarily relinquished its nuclear capability. This was also reflected in the past with South Africa's active participation in the NPT and CTBT negotiations. President Mandela's reference to the Kashmir issue during the Non-aligned summit in Durban strained the relationship further. The recently held elections have brought the African National Congress (ANC) back to power with a two-thirds majority. The results are a resounding endorsement of the leadership of Mr. Thabo Mbeki, the chosen successor of Mr. Nelson Mandela. Mr. Mbeki had favoured expansion of the relationship between the two countries in the past. While on an official visit to India in December 1996, he proposed the strategic partnership between the two countries. This proposal was jointly signed by President Nelson Mandela and Prime Minister Deve Gowda in March 1997 and come to be known as the Red Fort Declaration.

In such a scenario, the Indian government should put a rest to all the negativism and get the relationship back to a healthy footing. Further, we should spell out our security concerns to the South Africans. While the end of the Cold war has provided a peace dividend in Southern Africa, leading to a substantial reduction in the conventional threats to South Africa, India's situation is not similar. The South Africans need to be made aware of the continuing threats to our security, particularly from the enhancement of Sino-Pak nuclear and missile technology cooperation and the pattern of state sponsored terrorism. China's forays in the Indian Ocean and its setting up of a surveillance base on Coco Islands that is in close proximity to the Adaman and Nicobar Islands is a cause of concern. Of late, China has been intensifying its relations with South Africa. The diplomatic ties between the two countries were established in January 1997. Since then there has been an expansion of ties between the two countries. Mr. Mbeki is reported to have said that "China would emerge as one of the major partners of South Africa". With countries like China and Pakistan consolidating their positions with the present government, India will have to seriously reformulate its policy towards the country. Or, there are chances of losing the leverage we once had. There is a wealth of goodwill towards India in South Africa and it presents an opportunity for enhancing the relationship.


1. Acceptance speech of Deputy President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, on receiving the Doctrate of law at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, December 6, 1996.

2. Republic of South Africa, Department of Defence, White Paper on Defence and Armaments Supply (Pretoria, 1979)

3. K. Booth and P.Vale., "Security in Southern Africa: after apartheid beyond realism", International Affairs, vol.71, no.2 1995,p.286

4. Government of South Africa, Department of Defence, Defence in Democracy : White paper on National Defence ( Pretoria, 1996)p.5

5. Ibid.

6. Booth and Vale, n.3

7. See n.4, pp.72-73

8. Ibid pp.77-78

9. 1996 Constitution, Section 199 (8).

10. See n.4.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid., p. 2

13. Ibid., p. 8.

14. See n.4, pp.36-48

15. The effect of these measures threatened up to 50, 000 jobs in the defence industry. See S. Bothma, "Scrapping of Rooivalk and missile projects 'may cost 50,000 jobs'", Business Day, Johannesburg, June 19 , 1997.

16. "Boom time ahead for arms industry as the military rusts", Sunday Times, Johannesburg, June 22, 1997.

17. See, for example, M. Schmidt, "Police and air force have their wings clipped", Sunday Times, December 28, 1997.

18. See, for example, "Perspective on media reports on cost saving measures in the DoD", Department of Defense Bulletin, no. 76/97, 7 November 1997, p. 1

19. See n.4, pp. 80-81

20. Ibid.

21. Excellent readings on this are Peter Batchelor and Susan Willet, Disarmament and Industrial Adjustment in South Africa (Stockholm: SIPRI 1998) ; Signe Landgren, Embargo Disimplimented, : South Africa's Military Industry (Stockholm : SIPRI,1989)

22. An internal study undertaken in 1991 to assess Armscor's future role came to the conclusion that it would have to participate in commercial markets to survive the defence cuts. However, Armscor was prohibited from using its production facilities for commercial purposes by the Act. Therefore the government decided to form a new industrial company - Denel.

23. Cameron Commission, Second Report,

24. See n.4, p.41.

25. Business Day, December 12, 1996.

26. Business Day, May 4, 1998.

27. Government of India, Ministry of Defence, Annual Report 1998-99 p.108

28. "India launches projectile study" Janes Defense Weekly, April 8, 1998, pp.15

29. Robert S Gelbard, "Drug trafficking in Southern Africa" in Robert I. Rotberg and Greg Mills, ed., War and peace in Southern Africa : Crime, Drugs, Armies and Trade (Washington: Brookings, 1998), pp.172-183

30. Tara Kartha, "Non- Conventional Threats to Security: Threat from the proliferation of Light Weapons and Narcotics" in Jasjit Singh ed., South Africa - India: Strategic partnership into the 21st century (New Delhi: IDSA, 1997) p.146-147.

31. Peter Wallensteen & Margareta Sollenberg, "Major armed conflicts" SIPRI Yearbook 1996:Armament Disarmament and International Security, (Stockholm: SIPRI, 1996) pp. 15-30.

32. Jasjit Singh, "United Nations PeaceKeeping Operations: The Challenge of change" Strategic Analysis vol. 19, no. 4, July 1996, pp. 552-53.

33. Inderjit Rikhye, "United Nations Peace Keeping Operations and India", India Quarterly vol. 41, nos. 3&4, July-December 1985, pp. 303-319.

34. H.K. Srivastava, "India's participation in UN Peacekeeping operations: a need for holistic approach and transparency in policy. Trishul vol. 7, no. 1, Autumn 1994 p. 42.

35. Defense in a Democracy : White paper on National Defense for the Republic of South Africa, May 1996, p. 30.

36. Robert Simpson - Anderson, "The South African Navy" in Greg Mills ed., Maritime Policy for Developing Nations (Johannesburg: SAIIA, 1995) p. 275.

37. Business Day, January 27, 1998.