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Sunday, May 1, 2011

India’s ambitious defence policy

Sajjad Shaukat

While exposing India’s ambitious defence policy, Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) has disclosed in its report of April 2011 that India has planned “to spend an estimated $80 billion on military modernization programs by 2015 so as to further increase its military build-up against China and disrupt security-balance in South Asia.”

The report elaborated, “India is expected to maintain this position in the coming years…at the same time, the Indian Ministry of Defence has laid out an ambitious agenda to substantially increase the country’s capacity to produce military hardware by the end of the decade.”

The CSIS report further mentioned, “Consequently, India’s defence budget has roughly quadrupled (in real terms) since 2001—reaching $36.3 billion in the 2011–2012 budget—and enabled the implementation of long-term acquisition plans. Of the total defence budget, approximately 40 percent (some $14.5 billion) is allocated to the defence capital outlay budget, which funds arms procurements, construction and maintenance of installations, additional infrastructure, and other military equipment modernizations.”

It is notable that in February 2010, Indian military procurement units descended on the DefExpo 2010 trade fair in New Delhi. Inaugurating the Indian Defence Exhibition, Defence Minister A.K. Antony had said that India’s defence expenditure which is 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), is going to increase. He pointed out, “our defence industry is open up to 100 percent for Indian private sector, while foreign direct investment is allowed up to 26 percent.” Antony further indicated, “Our government is committed to rapid modernisation of armed forces.” Over the next 12 years, India is set to spend a whopping US$200 billion on defence acquisitions to replace its outdated inventory. In this respect, on February 15, 2010, a report of the Indian strategic defense magazine (India Strategic’s DefExpo) had revealed that 70 per cent of the inventory of the Indian armed forces is 20-plus years old, and needs to be replaced with the modern technology. It explained that nearly half of this funding ($100b) will go to the Indian Air Force (IAF), which would need to replace more than half of its combat jet fleet as well as the entire transport aircraft and helicopter fleet. The army needs new guns, tanks, rocket launchers, multi-terrain vehicles, while the navy needs ships, aircraft carriers and new range of nuclear submarines.

In an overanxious quest for military advantage along its border with China, New Delhi is intensifying its military cooperation with the United States and Russia—stepping up its military penetration of small border-states adjoining China and India. In the past decade, India had bought arms worth US$50 billion from the United States, Russia, Britain, Germany, Israel and France, making it the biggest arms importer in the developing world.

Particularly, the US has emerged as a potential military supplier to India since the two countries signed a deal of civil energy technology in 2008, which lifted sanctions on New Delhi in order to import nuclear technology. India is likely to become a major customer for the US military-industrial complex over the next few years.

In recent years, India has bought reconnaissance aircraft from US aerospace major Boeing worth 2.1 billion-dollars, medium range missiles for 1.4 billion dollars from Israeli Aerospace Industries, and signed an upgrade service contract with the Russian Aircraft Corporation to upgrade its MiG 29 squadrons for 965 million dollars. Several deals are planned for the near future including one of the largest arms contracts of recent times—a 11-billion-dollar project to acquire 126 multi-role combat aircraft. It is mentionable that after 9/11, both India and Israel which had openly jumped on Bush’s anti-terrorism enterprise are acting upon a secret diplomacy, targeting Pakistan China, Iran and Syria. In this context, Indo-Israeli secret diplomacy could be assessed from the interview of Israel’s ambassador to India, Mark Sofer published in the Indian weekly Outlook on February 18, 2008. Regarding India’s defence arrangements with Tel Aviv, Sofer had surprisingly disclosed “We do have a defence relationship with India, which is no secret” and “with all due respect, the secret part will remain a secret.” As regards joint exercises, Sofer replied, “Certain issues need to remain under wraps for whatever reason.”

While, India’s ‘The Tribune’ had written on September 10, 2003, “India and Israel took giant leaps forward in bolstering the existing strategic ties”, and Tel Aviv has “agreed to share its expertise with India in various fields such as anti-fidayeen operations, surveillance satellites, intelligence sharing and space exploration.” With the support of Israel, New Delhi has been acquiring an element of strategic depth by setting up logistical bases in the Indian Ocean for its navy.

Defence experts opine that taking the concept of a two front war with Pakistan and China a step further, India has launched an ambitious military buildup plan, along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Nevertheless, currently, more than half of India’s budget is allocated for military, paramilitary, various security forces and debt servicing. That leaves less than half for everything else including infrastructure development projects, education, healthcare, poverty alleviation, and various human services. New Delhi’ s latest arms buildup will leave even less for what India needs most to lift hundreds of millions of its citizens from abject poverty, hunger illiteracy and disease.

Even Indian civil society organisations, while complaining of excessive defence spending indicated that the government spends 2.35 per cent of GDP on defence, but only 1.72 per cent on the social sector. The defence budget has been increasing rapidly every year.

Indian defence analyst Ravinder Pal Singh, while calling New Delhi’s unending defence spending at the cost of poverty-alleviation—with security requirements competing with socio-economic concerns for money calls it “guns-versus-butter question.”

Meanwhile, a report of United Nations pointed out that India ranks 134th of 182 countries on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index. It estimated that 50 per cent of the world’s undernourished population lives in India. Nearly 31 per cent of the billion-plus Indians earn less than a dollar a day. Secretary General of the Control Arms Foundation of India, Binalakshmi Nepram remarks, “When people are dying of poverty and bad sanitation, what protection will arms provide them?”

On the one hand, international community has been making strenuous efforts for world peace in wake of global financial crisis and war against terrorism, on the other, India has initiated deadly nuclear arms in South Asia where people are already facing multiple problems of grave nature. Majority of South Asian people are living below the poverty level, lacking basic facilities like fresh food and clean water. While yielding to acute poverty, every day, some persons commit suicide.

Setting aside regional problems and resolution of Indo-Pak issues-especially thorny dispute of Kashmir, Indian rulers state that they don’t have any aggressive designs. But it becomes a big joke of the 21st century, reminding a maxim, “armed to the teeth, but no enemy”, if we take cognisance of India’s unending defence expenditure. Nonetheless, India’s ambitious defence policy is aimed at destroying regional peace and stability, and gives a wake up call to other Asian powers, while reflecting the truce face of New Delhi.
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