Meeting India’s external threats

As a peace-loving nation India has never given as much attention to defence as the country’s threat perception demanded. Pakistan has been hostile to India since its very birth. From the early 1960s China also perceived India as a major challenge to its hegemonic ambitions and started a military build-up, keeping primarily India in view. Even India’s military defeat at the hands of the Chinese in 1962 did not bring the urgency of national defence preparedness at the centre of the table. It is only since 2004 that the Centre has started giving priority to defence and embarked on making up the time lag in this respect quickly. The result is, not to mince words, India is now not ready for fighting a two-front war with China and Pakistan. Given the present inventory of ammunition, it would be difficult even to fight a month-long war with Pakistan.
Now the armed forces of the country have demanded an allocation of Rs. 26.84 lakh crore to be spent over the next five years (2017 to 2022). This money is necessary to prepare the country for the twin threats from Pakistan and China. How far the Government is able to accommodate this demand and make necessary budgetary provisions for five consecutive years remains to be seen. Apologists of the Chinese argue that India is already spending 2.6 per cent of its GDP on defence, against China’s 1.9 per cent. The comparison is misleading. China’s GDP is $11 trillion, whereas India’s is about $2 trillion. Clearly, 1.9 per cent of 11 trillion (0.2 trillion) is much bigger than 2.6 per cent of 2 trillion (0.05 trillion).
The fact of the matter is that we have not been paying as much attention and importance to defence that it deserves. The cumulative effect of the neglect has led to a growing defence asymmetry with regard to both China and Pakistan. The strength of all the three wings of the defence forces – the Army, the Navy and the Air Force – has to be augmented to bring it to the desired level – a task that cannot be accomplished overnight. It is not primarily the size of the armed forces but the ‘teeth’ they have which is of main consideration. China has recently started reducing the troop strength of its army but is giving it more lethal weapons. India has also kept another important decision in the deep freeze for a long time. It is creating the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to ensure interoperability of all the three services. A decision is overdue.

Wednesday, 19 July, 2017