Friday 13 April 2012

Why India Must Build Battleships

The Defence Minister of India
New Delhi. 

Dear Defence Minister,

This is a confession.

I think I’ve been slightly harsh on the Indian defence industry. No, that’s too mild. I have been extremely harsh on the Indian defence industry.

I’ve slandered the lobbyists demanding a military-industrial complex, and I’ve been guilty of underestimating the immense boost that a defence industry would bring to the nation.

Let me, therefore, attempt a corrective. Better late than never, as they say.

Of course, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that the Indian defence industry isn’t actually geared up to producing top-of-the-line equipment yet; but, at the same time, one agrees that it needs to create something powerful and prestigious, pronto; something that will force the world to sit up and take notice, and revive the Indian peoples’ pride in their armed forces. At the same time, the government of the day – which means your government, Mr Defence Minister – should be able to take just pride in its accomplishment, so as to garner electoral gains. I mean, that’s only fair, isn’t it?

Now, what can a nation that hasn’t managed to manufacture a working fighter plane, intermediate jet trainer, aircraft carrier or tank after more than three decades of effort do that will make the world sit up and take notice? Let’s see...yes! I’ve got it!

India should build a battleship.

You know battleships: those immense mountains of floating steel, mounting turrets studded with gigantic artillery pieces, which can send huge capsules of metal and explosive soaring over tens of kilometres of ocean? You’ve heard of, say, the Bismarck or the Yamato, the Prince of Wales or the Missouri? You have? Yes, those are the kind of battleships I mean.


Now let’s look at all the benefits building a battleship will bring.

First, of course, and most eye-catching of all, is the sexiness of battleships. I mean, just think of the name: battleship. As in, a ship meant for battle, and battle only. Who could ever accuse a battleship of pacifism? And who could ever call a government which launched a battleship of being weak-kneed on defence? If anyone dared say any such thing, the government would only have to point to the floating citadel with its turrets bristling with guns, and say, STFU. Possibly you are unfamiliar with that acronym, so let me translate, sir. It means Shut The Fuck Up. As in, shut your trap, traitor.

Talking about those guns I mentioned, just look at them. They’re so utterly phallic that they are an instant balm to the average Indian male mind, which is, let’s say, insecure about its masculinity and kind of obsessed over size. One good look at them and the collective masculinity of the nation will receive, um, a boost. All you have to do is arrange plenty of photos of those guns in the media. I’m sure they’d be happy to oblige.

I mean, just look at them

Then, and we should remember this well, there is the uniqueness of battleships. Other countries have tanks. Other countries have fighter planes and aircraft carriers. Even Pakistan has submarines. But nobody – nobody, sir – has battleships anymore. With your battleship roaming the seaways, you can proclaim that India is the only possessor of this technology in the world. Why, not even the Americans have it. If that doesn’t bring forth gasps of admiration from the public, your pet media aren’t doing their jobs.

Can you imagine the photo ops a battleship offers? Someone – it may be you, sir – standing on the bridge of the craft, beside an admiral or two, gazing sternly out at the ocean as those titanic guns blast out a broadside? Which political enemy dare mess with you then? And which admiral dare claim the navy’s being neglected? Why, you could even shell a coastal forest or two, and claim that you were bombarding Maoists, like those who abducted those Italian tourists recently. Who would do anything but praise you for your toughness and ruthlessness? 

Death to everyone


And there are all the subsidiary benefits. Constructing a battleship will provide so many jobs, directly and indirectly – the dockyard workers and fitters to build it, the steel mills to supply the steel, the two or three thousand sailors the behemoth will require to maintain and operate it; can you imagine those grateful votes flooding your way? And there are the other benefits, too; with all the forty or fifty thousand tons of high-grade steel each battleship will require, you can justify strip-mining the forests for iron ore and for coal to smelt it; you can justify unleashing the army on the forest villagers, and lock up the environmentalists and human rights activists; and you can do it all in the name of national security.

Doesn’t that make you go weak in the knees with anticipation, Mr Defence Minister?

So, here’s anticipating the launch of the first ship, and please make sure it doesn’t sink on the spot.

That might be a little bit embarrassing.

Yours helpfully

Bill the Butcher.

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