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What kind of military power is India?

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Dr Muhammad Ali Ehsan  |

India is a country with the world’s third largest military by personal strength. It also has the world’s 5th largest defence budget and is a growing economic and military power that is flexing its muscles and wants the world to notice. While China is executing an increasingly assertive regional posture, India is also doing everything it can to match it by enhancing its own military capability and capacity. Doing this is alright but will rising India be able to sustain such increased defence expenditures considering the fact that it has an ever increasing population that is likely to make it the world’s most populous country (overtaking China) by 2024.

This isn’t the only issue. It is home to the largest poor population in the world (26% of global extreme poor) over 270 million people (21.92% of population) today that live in extreme poverty living under the subsistence level. Marred by the “Modi Phenomenon” which has introduced ‘national socialism’ with a BJP proffered almost insane ‘ideological fixations’, is India really going to become the rising India that it is expected to be?  

Germany’s Panzer divisions and waging war on Europe through the blitzkrieg it employed gave Germany nothing. PM Modi’s India may also eventually realize this one-day.

PM Modi’s has introduced many key initiatives – ‘Start up India’ , ‘skill India’ , ‘make up India’ but is the PM Modi desired ‘Indianization’ and economic turnaround translating into India becoming a military power as well? Alyssa Ayres writing a piece, “Will India start acting like a global power” for Foreign Affairs Magazine (November/December 2017) has unfolded  the brighter economic and military might of ‘giant India’.

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She writes that India “recently replaced its aging aircraft carrier in a much-delayed deal with Russia in 2013, it now has a second carrier under construction, developed and built at home, although it may not be ready for as long as a decade. India has a third carrier scheduled for construction, also to be made domestically and it has plans to add at least three nuclear powered submarines to its fleet”.

But it’s not the nuclear submarines and the aircraft carriers that will drive the Indian ‘military power house” – without efficient air machines (multi role fighter aircrafts) and ground machines (MBTs – main battle tanks) no army can boast of possessing a superior offensive punch and it is India’s indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Teja’ and the MBT ‘Arjun’ that is failing to come up to the expectations of the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army and standing out as a recipe of failure for any future offensive undertaking by the Indian military.

India today has two sides to its ‘rising India story’ – economically it is doing well but its population continues to swell with an ever-increasing number of people below the poverty line.

The Indian dynamism under the Modi government rises not only from its interplay of multiple strategic partnership and power alliances thus diversifying its economic and military capabilities but also producing its own indigenously built military machines instead of importing them. However, what are not often highlighted are the snag and the utter failure of some of the technologically developing India’s military products.     

Teja is the baby of HAL Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (State owned Indian aircraft maker) and as the Indian ministry of defence tries to push it through to its air force the Indian air force is rejecting these aircrafts for their insufficient airborne flight endurance (59 minutes versus three hours for Gripen and nearly four hours for F-16); smaller payload capacity (payload of 3 tons against nearly 6 tons by Gripen and 7 tons by F-16), increased maintenance hours (20 hours of servicing for every hour of flying against 6 hours for Gripen and 3.5 hours for F-16) and service life (20 years as against 40 years for both the Gripen and F-16).  

Read more: Pakistan: No option but to hit back at India & its…

Under development since 1983 HAL has not been able to meet the target of producing eight Teja aircrafts per year. With all the given inadequacies in Tejas the Indian air force is still scheduled to receive 40 Tejas Mark -1 aircraft by 2018. The indigenous development of Arjun the Indian MBT is often referred to as the ‘country’s longest and most trouble-ridden armament programmes started in the mid-1970’s and the service date for this ground machine was set for 1985. By 2009 nearly 35 years after it was originally conceived the Indian Army was forced to buy 124 Arjuns.

Multiple strategic partnership and power alliances thus diversifying its economic and military capabilities but also producing its own indigenously built military machines instead of importing them.

According to a report published in Indian Economic Times, April 30th, 2015 (Army fleet of Arjun tanks face technical issues; major production of 124 tanks in service not operational) by mid-2015, two years after the Indian army had purchased all tanks nearly 75% of Arjuns became inoperable due to technical reasons. Arjun with its increased armored protection has its weight ballooned from the original 40 ton specification to 60 tons. This increased protection has come at the cost of its tactical and operational unsuitability, as the Indian army believes that with its weight this MBT is only suitable for desert or semi desert terrain sectors for the west thus making it unsuitable as an all-weather all terrain MBT.

India today has two sides to its ‘rising India story’ – economically it is doing well but its population continues to swell with an ever-increasing number of people below the poverty line. Similarly militarily it showcases aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines to project its military power potential but its domestically produced fighter aircrafts and tanks are low grade military machines that cannot be relied upon to challenge some of the other professional armies of the world with better military machines and gadgets.

India is a country with the world’s third largest military by personal strength. It also has the world’s 5th largest defence budget and is a growing economic and military power that is flexing its muscles and wants the world to notice.

Writing in his autobiography Mein Kampf, Hitler before becoming the Fuhrer described Germany as a country ‘gleaming with wealth which alternates abruptly with repellent poverty’ the same can be said today about India. In the 1920’s and 30’s Hitler spent most of his time developing Germany into an economic and military power. The same can be said about PM Modi’s rising India today.

There is also another commonality that I draw between Germany’s former fascist Fuhrer and India’s Modi – the paranoid Jew hatred had become the center piece of Hitler’s political activity relegating him to the dustbin of history as a tyrant who only employed violent ends to seek his goals. PM Modi by his very nature is also a man who can never be focused on having a relationship that can go to and grow with Pakistan.

Germany’s Panzer divisions and waging war on Europe through the blitzkrieg it employed gave Germany nothing. PM Modi’s India may also eventually realize this one-day. India may consider diverting a portion of their defence budget in elevating the crippling poverty that infects it rather than wasting money on failed projects like the Arjuns and the Tejas.

Dr. Muhammad Ali Ehsan did his doctorate in International Relations from Karachi Univ; where he also teaches. His Ph.D. work is on ‘Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan’. He served for 25 years in Pakistan Army and remained an Instructor in Pakistan Military Academy. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.


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