Source: The Island lk
India is pumping billions into fighting machines such as stealth jets, modern fighter, aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines, submarine hunter planes, special operations aircraft and attack helicopters——to be able to defend itself just in case it has to fight a two-front war with China and Pakistan in not so distant future.
In such a war, the Indian plan is to defeat Pakistan and hold China.
But the pace of induction needs to be speeded up, The Hindustan Times quoted military experts as saying in a report published on Sunday.
In 2009, the Indian Army carried out top-secret war games — codenamed Divine Matrix — aimed at analysing China’s threat to the country. The conclusion: China could attack India by 2017, and there was a possibility of Pakistan stirring the pot by trying to trouble India at the same time.
Three years later, while there are no immediate signs of hostility on either border, a rare visit by China’s defence minister to India last week has thrown into focus this country’s military capabilities to defend itself in a volatile neighbourhood.
Since India became independent in 1947, it has fought five wars: four with Pakistan and one with China.
While Beijing hailed General Liang Guanglie’s visit to India — the first by a Chinese defence minister in eight years — as “successful”, Indian military experts have cautioned against taking the eyes off the ball on the security implications of China’s rapidly modernising military.
Pakistan, they say, is not even seeded in the game. “We have adequate deterrence against Pakistan, but the policy of dissuasion against China needs to be upgraded to credible deterrence so that Beijing can’t spring a surprise. We are not quite there yet,” says strategic affairs expert Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (retd).
With its defence outlay for 2012 officially pegged at $106.41 billion, but actual military spending suspected to be twice as much, China is buffing up its war stores with strategic missiles, space-based assets, aircraft carriers, fighter jets and warships.
China’s focus has shifted from land forces to air force and navy to expand its military reach.
India’s defence outlay of $35.09 billion pales before China’s military spending. Meanwhile, Pakistan will spend $6 billion on defence this year, not factoring in American aid.
India hasn’t ignored the possibility of a two-front war at a time when Beijing’s strategic intentions remain unclear.
Defence minister AK Antony told Parliament in May that his ministry would seek an additional outlay of $8.18 billion from the Government, factoring in “changed threat perception”, a euphemism for the possibility of China and Pakistan ganging up against India.
If such a scenario were to crop up, the Indian strategy would revolve around defeating Pakistan and holding China, experts said.
The proposed increase will take India’s defence expenditure from 1.9% of the GDP to 2.35%. The country’s defence spending averaged 1.59% of the GDP from 1947 to 1962, when the Indian army suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese in the Himalayas.
Experts have argued India’s defence spending ought to be around 3% of the GDP to keep up with China’s military build-up.
Former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Major says, “One-party autocracy is the secret behind China’s swift military upgrade. Democracies will have their delays.”
China is hard to beat in terms of sheer numbers. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) reportedly operates upwards of 3,500 aircraft, though much of the inventory consists of outdated designs.
In comparison, the IAF has a fleet of 600-plus fighters.
But the PLAAF is fast ridding itself of obsolete platforms from the 1960s and inducting fighters such as Sukhoi-30s and JF-17 Thunder light combat aircraft.
“China may be upgrading rapidly but let’s not place it on a huge pedestal. The IAF can hold its own in a head-to-head comparison,” says Major.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), too, is numerically superior to the Indian Navy. Compared to India’s 135 warships, the Chinese fleet has close to 400 vessels, but the PLAN lacks robust blue-water capabilities to deploy forces far away from its shores.
China is aggressively working on expanding its footprint in the Indian Ocean region, which the Indian Navy regards as its own backyard. The PLAN’s first aircraft carrier Varyag — bought from Russia in 1998 — is currently undergoing sea trials.
China eventually wants to deploy four to five carriers, an ambition that symbolises its growing maritime appetite.
Former navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta says, “We currently have an edge but the equation may change in a decade when the PLAN stabilises its integral air elements. They have also made significant advances in building new destroyers. We can’t afford to fall behind in fleet modernisation.”
There are other flanks that need to be covered as well. The Indian Army has not bought a single new artillery gun since the Bofors scandal exploded in the late 1980s. The $4 billion artillery modernisation plan has failed to take off.
Firepower is a serious handicap. Also, India does not have a mountain strike corps, limiting its capability to take the war deep into Chinese territory in the event of a war breaking out.