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India’s Defense Modernization And Regional Implications – OpEd

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The Sweden-based institute, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which focuses on conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament at global arena, in its latest findings ranked India at second position which accounted for 9.2 per cent of global arms purchase. For several years, before Saudi Arabia taken over first position, India maintained top slot in SIPRI’s list of world’s largest arms importers.

India’s obsessive spending in its defense capabilities have long benefited global military industrial complex (MIC). In addition to its increasing dependency on foreign weapons, India has also geared up its domestic weapons production capabilities which have considerably fueled regional tensions. It’s hard to turn a blind eye on the regional ramifications of overwhelming influx of latest weapons to India given its territorial disputes and long animosity with Pakistan. This unchecked weapons accumulation by India has considerable impact on Pakistan’s security calculus. 

The SIPRI’s latest estimates offer two important issues to ponder upon. First of all, fore more than five years, India remained one of the top arms importers and it continues to expand its weapons purchase till date. India, currently, is the largest arms buyer of Russian military hardware. Despite US sanctions, India has signed a $5 billion deal for Russian S-400 surface to air missile defense systems last year. In addition to that, India and Russia have already signed deals worth $14.5 billion of Russian-made weapons which also include a deal to deliver 11356 frigates to Indian forces. However, there has been a slight reduction in India’s purchase of Russian weapons in last couple of years due to latter’s defense agreements with the other countries. 

India has long quit its reliance on Russia for its defense needs. Last year, India inked biggest weapons deal with the U.S. which includes the sale of sensitive U.S. military equipment. Last month the US and India used the President Trump’s visit to announce India’s decision to purchase more than $3 billion in defense equipment. The deal includes six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for the Indian Army and 24 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters for the Indian Navy. As per U.S.-India joint statement, the helicopters will “advance shared security interests, job growth, and industrial cooperation between both countries.” 

The world’s two largest weapons producers, the US and Russia, couldn’t fill the India’s appetite for latest military hardware and weapon systems. As a result, in 2016, India inked a Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets. The Indian Air Force has already received its first Rafale fighter jet from a series of 36 aircraft purchased. India also meets its defense needs from Israeli weapons and various agreements have already been signed between two countries. All these agreements will substantially enhance India’s war fighting capabilities, leaving more room for India to flex its military muscles. 

The second major import aspect of SIPRI report is that India has figured among the list of global arms exporters. Although, India ranked at 23 among global arms exporters, but with its “make in India” initiative, it aims to increase its defense productions. In order to achieve major breakthrough in defense exports, India has brought significant shifts to its foreign direct investment (FDI) procedures in defense sector, allowing various global arms manufacturing entities to invest in India’s defense market.  As a result, global arms manufacturing giant, Lockheed Martin and other private firms have already singed MoUs with state run Indian companies such as Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL). With private companies jumping in to garner multibillions lucrative defense deals, India has virtually created a conducive environment to flourish a military-Industrial Complex (MIC). 

Both scenarios of India’s overwhelming purchase of latest weaponry as well as indigenization of defense equipment have repercussions on South Asian stability. At the moment, the India and Pakistan have virtually frozen their bilateral relationship where confidence building measures have taken a back seat. India, under Modi government, has followed policy of coercion particularly against Pakistan which shares territorial conflict with former. The influx of latest weapons in India, during such a volatile environment will further add to Pakistan’s security concerns. 

Despite Pakistan’s consistent efforts to bring peace and normalcy to the region, India’s BJP leadership has refused to initiate any kind of peace talks. There is a well-known fact that BJP government has never been a supporter of peace talks with Pakistan rather, to appease hardline Hindutava followers, BJP has turn down every opportunity to establish peace in the region.  Therefore, the unchecked weapons flow to the Hindutave hardliners controlled India, from the western capitals, is insane. Therefore, it is collective responsibility of International community to shun Indian aggressive policies which has left Indian Muslims with fears of statelessness and also millions of Kashmiris caged. It is the right time to make Indian leadership realize that it’s not the pursuit of hard power that is remedy for the disputes but diplomacy and consistent efforts for peace through dialogue is the only civilized way. 

*Zain Moeed is a Student of Current Affairs and Political Science with Masters Degree from NUST Islamabad


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