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Indian military spending

What is India upto lately on defence spending front? The feverish Indian spending on defence without a clear and present danger to its security is indicative of its regional megalomania and global narcissism. Mired in poverty and internal conflict in several states the Indian government has displayed a strange proclivity to genuflect to Durga and Kali instead of Vishnu, the Hindu deity of protection and preservation. With 73 million Indian poor eking out a miserable sustenance the mad spending on arms by India assumes criminal proportions. With $66.9 billion budget for the current year India is the 4th largest defence spender squandering hard earned money of the poor and dispossessed on military hardware and sustenance.
Indian military budget accounts for 20% of national exports while the critical defence imports are tax exempt leaving a big dent in tax revenue. This year onwards Indian Ministry of Defence through a bureaucratic sleight of hand has parked military pensions in another head presenting a misleading image of defence spending to the international community. India spends 30% annually on fresh procurements and 70% annually on maintenance of the existing forces. She has been one of the highest defence spenders on new acquisitions from 2008 to 2018 with a net spending of $32 billion on new procurements, beating UK, Russia, and France. The thrust of new spending is on multi role combat jets, S 400 radar, tanks, Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs), and six advanced submarines including Akula class submarine being procured from Russia.
In 2019 India has planned to spend $130 billion on fresh procurements in the next 5-7 years, one of the largest defence procurements in the world. Small wonder then that the arms exporting countries are wooing India and turning a blind eye to her human rights violations in Kashmir. With 110 multirole fighters, 2600 Infantry Combat Vehicles, 8 Kamov helicopters, 460 T 90 tanks and 12 Mine Counter Measure ships the thrust is on weapon systems that undermine Pakistan’s defence capability. India Navy has also finalized a plan to have 200 ships, 500 aircraft and 24 attack submarines in the next 3-4 years. At present, the Navy has around 132 ships, 220 aircraft and 15 submarines. India is going ahead with $5.4 billion S-400 Triumf surface to air missile deal with Russia for five squadrons of the system, spurning US THAAD and Patriot-3and disregarding the US law called CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act). The S-400 systems can detect, track, and destroy hostile strategic bombers, missiles, and drones at a range of 380 kms.
India has embarked upon a multi layered air defence shield for her capital territory of Delhi. The outer most layer would be composed of DRDO developed Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD), the middle layer of S-400, and next layer of Barak-8 developed through collaboration of DRDO and Israeli Aerospace industries. The inner most layer would be through the US NASAMS system which is a combination of different weapon systems like Stinger surface to air missiles, gun systems, and AIM 120 C 7 AMRAAMs (advanced medium range air to air missiles). The above multi layered defence systems have the potential of serious destabilization of the nuclear stability in the subcontinent leading towards an escalation of nuclear arms race. The strategic myopia of India and the avarice of the nuclear arms suppliers combine to induce a serious instability in the hitherto stable nuclear regime in the subcontinent.
Indian defence procurement has followed a consistent escalation in three distinct phases. The first was in 1992 when the Indians decided to adopt a market based procurement system abandoning state sanctioned Russian procurements. The second phase was post 9/11 when the Western world made a bee line to arm India in line with the US policy of containing China. The third phase has commenced after Modi’s ascension to power. The Indian grand pretensions of being one of the global powers got a new fillip under the jingoistic Hindutva creed that celebrates military strength over the erstwhile pacifism professed by India. This latest wave is more destabilizing and dangerous as it comes on the heels of bellicose Indian war rhetoric.
Indian war psychosis that manifested itself in cross border artillery shelling and air attacks is a puerile attempt to rediscover the lost space of conventional war under a nuclear overhang. One of the impelling forces behind that bellicosity is the military hardware that the Indian armed forces acquired after magnifying threats for approval of those astronomical sums from their civilian principals. The military concepts and the employment strategies instead of following the classical “threat-war concept-hardware” model has been following the “ambition-hardware-concept” model which is profligately wasteful. Despite the putative resource crunch the Indian MOD has not been deterred from ambitious capital expenditures for modernization needs of armed forces, displaying a year on year increase of 9% in army,11% in Air Force, and 10% in Navy’s future procurements from 2018-19 to 2019-20. As per an Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) report the customs duties’ relief alone for the next five years constitutes a sum of Rs 25000 crore. The same if spent on human security could have made a huge difference to Indian human development indices.
The Indian armed forces’ modernization drive is being steered by a recent organizational overhaul in Higher Defence Organization. A new appointment of CDS has been established with powers of military procurement among other powers to exercise more effective control over the armed forces and to lead the military modernization effort. Besides above Indian efforts to develop cyber and electronic warfare efforts and space warfare capacities are also being steered under the CDS. The new organizational changes in Higher Defence Organization and the main thrust of the new procurements point towards a network centric and modern instrument of war capable of neutralizing the offensive capabilities of Pakistan both in conventional as well as nuclear mode.
It is an attempt to destabilize the nuclear deterrence of a weak protagonist in the subcontinent’s nuclear equation by widening the qualitative as well as quantitative differential in military power.
Indian pretensions to regional domination are a consequence of her grandiloquent designs to play the regional hegemon. The desire to play a loyal US surrogate has blinded India to the benefits of the peace dividend in the South Asia. The Indian acquisition of S-400 and the new multi role fighters (possibly Rafael) presage a widening of the capability gap between the two armed forces lowering further the nuclear thresholds and adding a destabilizing factor in the hitherto fore stable nuclear deterrence regime in South Asia. The world powers need to take notice of this feverish military spending that threaten an Armageddon that would have global repercussions.



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