While chronicling ten most overlooked events and trends of the current times which will have a major impact in shaping the global geopolitical environment in the immediate future, the prestigious Foreign Policy (FP) magazine has rated India’s stupendous military spending and rising military profile on top of its thought provoking list published recently. Quoting three top rated arms watch dogs and think tanks; Stockholm based SIPRI, Washington based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, and maritime analysis firm AM International, the magazine has brought into focus the rising power of India’s military profile that is being determinedly crafted, through allocation of large and sustained spending, to provide India with the military muscle to dominate the Region.
An overview of India’s latest military acquisitions may give the impression of being China centric yet these developments only serve to further escalate the looming threat to Pakistan. But first a look at the cardinal facts revealed by the FP.
First, between the period 2006-2010 India has become world’s largest weapon importer accounting for 9% of the international arms transfers. As the accelerating Indian economy (growth rate in 2010-2011 estimated at 8.4%) rakes in more wealth, the defence spending has leapt forward with an unrestrained momentum.
India’s defence budget estimate in Feb 2010 anticipated a figure of 1.76 trillion Indian rupees ($38.4 bn); equivalent to 2.5% of country’s GDP. To update its ageing military inventory, by 2015 India will spend an estimated $80 billion on military modernization programmes.
Second, India’s particular focus is on acquiring sea power not only to dominate the Indian Ocean but to extend its power to South China Sea, very sensitive to China in view of the competing claims made by various littoral states. The country is planning to spend almost $45bn over the next 20 years on acquiring 103 new warships, including destroyers and nuclear submarines. By comparison, during the same period Chinese investment in inducting 135 new naval vessels is projected at around $135bn.
Third, the rise in India’s military profile in the region, manifestly aimed at counterbalancing Chinese power, has the US nod and backing. The Pentagon’s 2010 Quadrennial Defence Review, as quoted by the FP, welcomed “a more influential role in global affairs” for India, including the Indian ocean region.
The fact was underscored during third week of November when President Obama participated in the Asean and the East Asia Summits and made it very clear that US wanted India in a leadership role in the Asia Pacific Region where traditionally China has held supremacy since time immemorial. As the FP analysis has highlighted, slowly but surely, India has begun to invest heavily in its military capabilities to emerge as the dominant power of the region.
The pattern of India’s military spending indicates an essential change in her strategy to shift from a defensive to an offensive posture viz a viz China. In December 2009 the then Indian Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor, while talking to media indicated that the army was revising its doctrine to fight a two front war with both Pakistan and China.
Earlier in August the same year Defence Minister Antony announced allocation of $200 million to build roads to ease logistics buildup and troop movement near border with China. To enhance military capability in mountain warfare, India has completed raising of two new mountain divisions of 36000 troops each. Plans have also been drawn to raise a new mountain strike corps and a third artillery division in the area.
The Indian Air Force has begun to deploy two squadrons of Su-30MKI at Tezpur Air Base, close to Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China besides upgrading six airstrips in Arunachal Pradesh.
The Indian air defence capability close to LAC has shown quantum improvement with acquisition of AWACS aircraft and 19 low altitude transportable medium power radars.
While the Indian Army and the IAF have begun to gear up for the Chinese challenge it is in development of the Indian Navy Force structure where Indians are investing in a major way to follow up their dreams of ruling the oceans. India has acquired through a 10 years’ lease an Akula class nuclear submarine, INS Chakra from Russia in August this year.
Meanwhile INS Arihant, India’s first locally built, nuclear powered submarine is expected to undergo two to three years of sea trial before commissioning; the vessel was launched in July 2009.
India is also in the process of buying six Russian P-751 submarines at an estimated cost of $10.72bn; making it one of India’s largest arms deal.
This is in addition to the six French Scorpene submarines, which will begin to enter service in 2014-2015. Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya with MiG 29 K on deck will be inducted into the Indian Navy by the end of 2012. It will be followed into service by INS Vikrant in 2015; becoming India’s first locally manufactured aircraft carrier.
Given the state of our economy, the run amok Indian military buildup is impossible to match for Pakistan. Despite Indian efforts to structure its force goals and military strategy to take on China in the years to come, the cutting edge of her military capability still and for long times to come, will continue to remain Pakistan centric.
Out of five Indian Theatre Commands, four viz Northern Command, Western Command, Southern Command and part of Central Command are designated, equipped and positioned for operations against Pakistan.
Her principal offensive formations constituting three Strike Corps, built around a nucleus of an armoured division and mechanized troops, are meant to operate in the desert and semi-desert areas of Pakistan; not in the frigid heights of the Indo-China border. So is the positioning of her air assets and bases.
As indicated by FP, quietly but inexorably, the Indian military juggernaut is gearing up for regional dominance.
This presents military planners in Pakistan with difficult options to maintain a credible balance of deterrence. In this stark calculus Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence acquires a vital and an irrefutable relevance of its own.