Armed and Danger­ous

The In­dian mil­i­tary ma­chine is fast ac­quir­ing so­phis­ti­cated weapons. Since the coun­try prefers ex­pen­sive arms pur­chases to spend­ing on so­cial is­sues, ei­ther Pak­istan will bear the brunt of this pe­cu­liar fix­a­tion in the times to come - or China.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Dr. Moo­nis Ah­mar

In­dia is fast ac­quir­ing new mil­i­tary weapons.

Ac­cord­ing to The Mil­i­tary Bal­ance 2012 pub­lished by the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Strate­gic Stud­ies, Lon­don, “In­dia has the third-largest army in the world and is among the largest providers of per­son­nel for UN peace-keep­ing op­er­a­tions. Its armed forces reg­u­larly carry out com­bined arms and joint-ser­vice ex­er­cises and have joined multi­na­tional ex­er­cises with the US, France and UK among oth­ers.”

This rev­e­la­tion about In­dia’s grow­ing mil­i­tary pro­file fur­ther brings out New Delhi’s age-old am­bi­tion to emerge as a ma­jor power while fo­cus­ing on mod­ern­iz­ing its ‘blue wa­ter navy.’ Ac­cord­ing to The Econ­o­mist (March 30, 2013, Lon­don is­sue) “In­dia is poised to be­come one of the four largest mil­i­tary pow­ers in the world by the end of the decade. In­dia has more ac­tive mil­i­tary per­son­nel than any Asian coun­try [be­sides] China, and its de­fense bud­get has risen to $46.8 bil­lion. To­day, it is the world’s sev­enth largest mil­i­tary spender. It has a nu­clear stock­pile of 80 or more war­heads to which it could eas­ily add more, and bal­lis­tic mis­siles that can de­liver some of them to any point in Pak­istan. It has re­cently tested a mis­sile with a range of 5,000km which would reach most of China.”

In an­other ar­ti­cle ti­tled ‘Over­look­ing In­dia’s Mil­i­tary Buildup’ in The News In­ter­na­tional (De­cem­ber 6, 2011), Momin Iftikhar wrote: “be­tween… 2006-2010, In­dia has be­come the world’s largest weapon im­porter and ac­counts for nine per cent of the in­ter­na­tional arms trans­fer. To up­date its age­ing mil­i­tary in­ven­tory by 2015, In­dia will spend an es­ti­mated $80 bil­lion on the mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram. In­dia is also in the process of buy­ing six Rus­sian P-751 sub­marines at an es­ti­mated cost of $10.72 bil­lion, mak­ing it [the coun­try’s] largest arms deal. This is in ad­di­tion to the six French Scor­pene sub­marines which will be­gin to en­ter ser­vice in 201415.” Fur­ther­more, “In­dia un­veiled its first in­dige­nous air­craft car­rier, the INS Vikrant in Au­gust 2013” which will sig­nif­i­cantly add to its naval strength.

Sim­i­larly an ar­ti­cle in The Econ­o­mist (Au­gust 17, 2013) called ‘In­dian mil­i­tary power all at sea.’ It was re­ported that “on Au­gust 10, In­dia’s prime min­is­ter, Man­mo­han Singh, proudly an­nounced that the re­ac­tor of the coun­try’s first in­dige­nously de­signed and built nu­clear-pow­ered sub­ma­rine, the Ari­hant (De­stroyer of En­e­mies) had been ac­ti­vated and the ves­sel would soon be­gin sea tri­als. This gi­ant stride was quickly fol­lowed by an­other two days later, with the launch of the coun­try’s first do­mes­ti­cally built air­craft car­rier, the Vikrant, which is ex­pected to en­ter ser­vice in 2018.”

The afore-men­tioned facts help in draw­ing a few sig­nif­i­cant con­clu­sions. For starters, al­though In­dia’s de­fense bud­get is merely 2.5 per cent of its GDP un­like Pak­istan’s 3.5 per cent, there has been a surge in its mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­tures in the last few years. Ac­cord­ing to the In­sti­tute for De­fense Stud­ies and Analy­ses ((IDSA), New

Delhi, the union bud­get 2012-2013 pre­sented to the par­lia­ment on March 16, 2012, [in­creased] the de­fence out­lays to Rs1,93,407 crore (40.44 bil­lion). This rep­re­sents a growth of 17.63 per cent over the pre­vi­ous year’s out­lays, [thus mak­ing it] one of the high­est in­creases in re­cent years, ex­clud­ing 2009-10 when the bud­get was in­creased to over 34 per cent mostly to ac­com­mo­date the [salary hikes] caused by the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Sixth Cen­tral Pay Com­mis­sion. How­ever, In­dia is also spend­ing a huge sum on the pur­chase of so­phis­ti­cated weapons from Rus­sia, France, the United States and the United King­dom. In fact, the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion has been a ma­jor sup­plier of weapons to In­dia. Ar­ma­ment fac­to­ries with the help of Moscow were es­tab­lished in In­dia sev­eral decades ago and deep­ened de­fense co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries.

In­dia’s in­dige­nous weapon’s pro­duc­tion pro­gram in its three ser­vices, along with the man­u­fac­tur­ing of nu­clear mis­siles, takes a large chunk of its mil­i­tary spend­ing. Fur­ther­more, the coun­try’s grow­ing mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­tures fol­lowed by its re­gional and ex­tra-re­gional am­bi­tions, tend to aug­ment the arms race in South Asia. If In­dia’s drive to seek a ma­jor mil­i­tary sta­tus is in reaction to China, Pak­istan is com­pelled to bridge the gap with con­ven­tional weapons. In a re­cent in­ter­view for The Tele­graph, Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif called for an end to the “un­for­tu­nate arms race” be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan be­cause, “the money wasted in de­fense should have gone into so­cial sec­tors; it should have gone into ed­u­ca­tion; it should have gone into health care.”

Sadly, in view of New Delhi’s sin­gle-minded ap­proach to ac­cel­er­ate the mod­ern­iza­tion and ex­pan­sion of its armed forces, there is lit­tle like­li­hood of In­dia re­cip­ro­cat­ing to Nawaz Sharif’s pro­posal to re­duce de­fense ex­pen­di­tures along with Pak­istan. As far as the threat per­cep­tion from the In­dian side is con­cerned, it seems it is China more than Pak­istan that is per­ceived as a ma­jor threat to New Delhi. China’s econ­omy is sec­ond in the world af­ter the United States and it can af­ford to spend gen­er­ously on de­fense and mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­tures, but In­dia – with more than 40 per cent of its pop­u­la­tion liv­ing be­low the poverty line along with var­i­ous other eco­nomic and se­cu­rity is­sues – can hardly af­ford to di­vert its scarce re­sources from de­vel­op­ment to de­fence. In the last one decade or so, the In­dian econ­omy grew at the rate of 6-8 per cent per an­num, but cur­rently, both the growth rate and the coun­try’s cur­rency have gone down (vis-à-vis the US dol­lar and other ma­jor in­ter­na­tional cur­ren­cies). Will the loom­ing down­ward trend in the In­dian econ­omy re­strain its grow­ing mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­tures?

There are also re­ports about wide­spread cor­rup­tion in the In­dian mil­i­tary pur­chases, pro­cure­ment and award of con­tracts. In fact, PM Ra­jiv Gandhi lost the 1989 gen­eral elec­tions pri­mar­ily be­cause of the al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion – the Bo­fors Scan­dal. His op­po­nents al­leged that he re­ceived kick­backs on the pur­chase deal of lon­grange Bo­fors guns from Swe­den. While this is a com­mon prac­tice in In­dia, the charge has also tar­geted the coun­try’s civil­ian lead­er­ship, par­tic­u­larly those hold­ing top po­si­tions.

Fi­nally, many be­lieve that a seg­ment of the army has de­vel­oped a vested in­ter­est in sus­tain­ing its con­flict with Pak­istan, par­tic­u­larly over Jammu and Kash­mir and Si­achen, to en­sure priv­i­leges and kick­backs that they re­ceive in ac­quir­ing mil­i­tary con­tracts. Re­ports of the army now ex­er­cis­ing a veto on national se­cu­rity mat­ters and par­tic­u­larly in the Si­achen con­flict are dis­turb­ing be­cause such a trend will even­tu­ally limit civil­ian po­lit­i­cal con­trol over the mil­i­tary and en­cour­age men in uni­form to deepen their in­volve­ment in national af­fairs.

Is the In­dian mil­i­tary fol­low­ing those coun­tries where the weak­nesses of civil­ian gov­ern­ments have pro­vided enough temp­ta­tion to ei­ther seize power or seek a ma­jor share in the power struc­ture? In­dia is the world’s largest democ­racy and suc­ces­sive regimes from Nehru to date have been able to keep con­trol over the power am­bi­tions of gen­er­als. How­ever, it seems the grow­ing in­flu­ence of the In­dian mil­i­tary in mat­ters re­lated to in­sur­gency and con­flict in the north­east states, in Jammu and Kash­mir and in Si­achen may even­tu­ally trans­form the threat of its power am­bi­tions into a re­al­ity.

Of course, the ‘com­pe­ti­tion’ with China is not a new phe­nom­e­non. The two coun­tries share a long moun­tain­ous bor­der which is the MacMo­han line drawn dur­ing the Bri­tish im­pe­rial days in the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent. In­dia and China were en­gaged in an armed con­flict known as the Si­noIn­dian Bor­der War which took place in 1962. The poor per­for­mance of the In­dian army in that war cre­ated a psy­cho­log­i­cal com­plex in New Delhi which re­in­forced the per­cep­tion that the real se­cu­rity threat em­anates not from Pak­istan but from the north, that is, China. The con­flict be­tween the two coun­tries since then has been pos­i­tively trans­formed and man­aged to the ex­tent that China is now In­dia’s largest trad­ing part­ner. Yet, oddly enough, In­dian mil­i­tary pre­pared­ness is pri­mar­ily tar­geted against China, as it is con­sid­ered to be a long-term threat to its in­ter­ests.

By de­vel­op­ing bet­ter re­la­tions with its neigh­bors, In­dia will cer­tainly put an end to all neg­a­tive no­tions about its ag­gres­sive and ex­pan­sion­ist de­signs largely at­trib­uted to the grow­ing pro­file of the In­dian mil­i­tary. In view of the surg­ing chal­lenge of poverty and un­der­de­vel­op­ment, In­dia needs to pos­i­tively re­cip­ro­cate to the Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter’s pro­posal for a re­duc­tion in the arms race.

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