The military preparedness of India and its defense spending have lately been getting a lot of media attention. Obviously, military readiness is connected with defense capabilities. The threat perception of India is first of all shaped by fear of China, second by the extremist threats emanating from Pakistan and thirdly by domestic instability resulting from the activity of groups such as the Maoist.
The perceived weakness in confronting the threats posed to Indian security means the country would have to increase defense spending and develop its security capabilities. The western defense industries are well placed to meet Indian needs in times of global recession. Moreover, the extremist risk helps in keeping India aligned with the West.
India’s Decaying Military, China, And Pakistan
The leak of a letter from General V.K Singh, who retired earlier this year, has caused a lot of commotion. He had written this letter to the prime minister describing the shortcomings of the Indian armed forces stating,
“The state of the major (fighting) arms i.e. mechanized forces, artillery, air defense, infantry and Special Forces, as well as the engineers and signals, is indeed alarming.”
According to Singh, there is a shortage of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks and the 97% of air defense are obsolete. The infantry is crippled with deficiencies and lacks capabilities such as night fighting equipments.
The letter almost seems like a justification, providing impetus to the argument for why India should dramatically increase its defense spending. Media reports recently indicated India is enhancing its military spending by 17 percent to $40 billion, in a bid to counter China’s military prowess and its traditional rival Pakistan. The increased military spending will be utilized in upgrading the country’s aging military hardware. India is also acquiring new military equipment ranging from combat aircraft to submarines and artillery. It is presently finalizing a deal with France Dassault Aviation worth $12 billion, for 126 Rafale fighter jets.
Early in March, Chinese spokesman for the Fifth Session of the 11th National People’s Congress (NPC), Li Zhaoxing had announced a hike in Chinese defense budget by a double digit of 11.2 percent. This amounts to $106.4 billion as compared to $92 billion in 2011. China also spent $100 billion on internal security last year.
However, according to the report of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India has emerged as the worlds top importer of arms and accounts for 10 percent of the global arms sales. India’s imports of major weapons surged by 38 percent in 2007-11, closely followed by China and Pakistan.
During this period, Pakistan imported 50 JF-17s from China and 30 F-16s from the US. On the other hand, China’s imports dropped due to indigenous production of arms and rising exports. Pakistan is the main buyer of China’s arms exports. According to SIPRI, India will spend more than $100 billion on weapons and systems in the next 15 years.
Friction With Western Nations
This means there is a lot of competition to provide for India’s defense needs, and this is becoming a cause of friction for its ties with the western nations. For example, Britain is concluding its aid program to India. UK’s International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell stated recently that Britain has spent 1 billion pounds on aid programs to India over the past 6 years and had committed to another 600 million pounds until 2015; however, the aid package had been called off due to India’s economy booms.
Mitchell added that the aid program to India was being questioned, and the aid withdrawal came after a series of perceived snubs from India over weapons deals. New Delhi struck a deal with France for Rafale fighter jets while British government was also competing for the contract.
Homeland Security; Pakistan And Maoist
On the other hand, in addition to the nuclear deal, Indian and US intelligence cooperation has grown tremendously in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks. American companies and security institutions are well placed to provide the expertise and capabilities related to the homeland security needs of India. The officials of the two countries have carried on extensive brainstorming to develop a framework for interoperability in this area.
Homeland security threats to India mainly come from extremists based in Pakistan. US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, Michael Sheehan recently stated that said that Pakistan has an addiction of playing around with militant groups against India. “They have an addiction to playing around with militia groups to achieve certain interests, particularly vis-à-vis India. That gets them in all kinds of trouble.” He said the US has been having a discussion with Pakistan to change this mindset with regard to India, but it has been largely unsuccessful.
In a development today, US has offered a bounty of $10 million for Hafiz Saeed, the alleged perpetrator of the Mumbai attack in 2008. This move will not only be pleasing to India, but at the same time, it serves as a warning to Pakistan that has continued to block NATO supply lines since the Salala attack last November. Pakistan-India relations have been improving recently and both nations have taken steps to bolster regional economic cooperation. India and Pakistan are also on the same wavelength on matters of Iran and Syria. President Zardari of Pakistan is expected to visit India on April 8th.
Another threat to India’s homeland security comes from the Maoist rebels. In an ambush last week, Maoist ambushed a patrol team in central India, killing 13 policemen. The rebels are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong and have a presence in 20 Indian states. There are about 10,000 to 20,000 rebels. An Italian man was recently abducted from Orissa and such incidents pose a direct threat to foreign investments and economic activity in the country.