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How India hoodwinks the world about its real military budget

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India’s Union Budget for the financial year 2020-21 envisages a total outlay of Rs. 30,42,230 crore. Out of this, Rest. 3, 37,553 crore has been allocated for military (excluding military pension). For military pensions, an amount of Rs. 1, 33,825 crore has been provided in Budget Estimates 2020-21. There is an increase of Rs. 40,367.21 crore in the total military allocations (Rs. 4, 71,378 crore) including military over the financial year 2019-20. Total military budget accounts for 15.49 per cent of the total central government expenditure for the year 2020-21.

The allocation of Rs. 4, 71,378 crore represents a growth of 9.37 per cent over Budget Estimates (Rs. 4, 31,010.79 crore) for the financial year 2019-20. Out of Rs. 3, 37,553 crore allocated for the financial year 2020-21, Rs. 2, 18,998 crore is for the Revenue (Net) expenditure and Rs. 1, 18,555 crore is for capital expenditure for the Defence Services and the Organisations/Departments under Ministry of Defence. The amount of Rs. 1, 18,555 crore allocated for capital expenditure includes modernisation related expenditure.  A think-tank published the key indicators as shown in following table which slightly differ from some media reports.

India’s Military Budget: Key Indicators

Indicator        2019-202020-21
Military Budget (Rs. in Crore)3,05,2963,23,053
Growth of military Budget (%)     9.35.8
Revenue Expenditure  (Rs. in Crore)                     2,01,9022,09,319
Revenue Expenditure (Rs. in Crore)                     2,01,9022,09,319
Growth of Revenue Expenditure (%)         8.93.7
Growth of Revenue Expenditure (%)         8.93.7
Growth of Revenue Expenditure (%)8.93.7
Share of Revenue Expenditure in Military Budget (%)6665
Capital Expenditure (Rs. in Crore) 1,03,3941,13,734
Growth of Capital Expenditure (%)         10.010.0
Share of Capital Expenditure in military Budget (%)3435
Share of Capital Expenditure in Central Government Capital3128
Capital Acquisition (Rs. in Crore)80,95990,649^
Growth of Capital Acquisition (%)          9.212.0
Share of military Budget in GDP (%)1.491.44
Share of military Budget in Central Government Expenditure (%)         11.010.6
Defence Pension (Rs. in Crore) 1,12,0801,33,825
Growth of military Pension (%)3.019.4
MoD (Civil) (Rs. in Crore)           13,63514,500
Growth in MoD (Civil) (%)-15.96.3
MoD’s Budget (Rs. in Crore) 4,31,0114,71,378
Growth in MoD’s Budget (%)     6.6       9.4 
Share of MoD Budget in GDP (%)2.12.1
Share of MoD Budget in Central Government Expenditure (%)         15.515.5

Deceptive figures: India showcases its ‘transparent’ military expenditures on websites.  But the real expenditure in past years has been much greater than that exhibited on websites. In the past, India unnoticeably increased its military outlays in revised and then actual estimates.  Thus the actual military expenditure is much higher than the initial estimates, quoted in international media under a hypnotic spell.

To hoodwink general reader, India deflates its military expenditure through clever stratagems. It publishes its `demands for grants for “defence” services’ separately from demands for grants of civil ministries that includes its defence ministry (MoD).

It clubs military pensions in civil estimates. There are several other quasi-military provisions that are similarly shoved in civil estimates. Such concealed defence provisions include public-sector undertakings under MoD like dockyards, machine tool industries (Mishra Dhatu Nigham), and Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited, besides space-and-nuke/chemical/biological-research projects, border and strategic roads and a host of paramilitary forces (Border Security Force, Industrial Reserve Force, etc.).

Why India does so? It does so to `lower’ its military budget as proportion of Gross National Product. Through such ploys, India, as compared with its neighbours, gets a favourable image in The Military Balance, Jane’s Defense, and other international magazines.

The analyses of India’s military spending suffer from an inherent shortcoming. They have to rely on figures showcased by India on official websites. As such, the true quantum of military budget is deflated. The deflated figures are used to make inter-country, inter-region or endogenous comparisons like military budget as proportion of total civil and military outlay.

Without a hard copy of Explanatory Memorandum to Demands for Grants, it is difficult to analyse the budget. The approved outlays are further increased via revised outlays and upward readjustments of actual-expenditures.

The memorandum could throw light on India’s mega purchases. They include carbine rifles for army, Advanced Jet Trainers, Airborne Warning and Control system, additional Mi-17 Helicopters, MiG-29 upgrade, Low-Level Transportable Radar, Integrated Air Command and Control System and Surveillance Radar Element in respect for the air force. Weapon Locating Radar and T- 72 upgrade in respect of the Army, Rafaels, so on.

During his visit to India, president Trump of the United States It offered to sell India US$ 3 billion (per one unit) Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missile defence systems as an alternative to the Russian S-400 system. India ditched Russia from whom it had decided to purchase five S-400s Russian S-400s air defence systems at cost of US$5.4 billion. With US tacit support, India is getting tougher with China. There was a 73-day standoff on the Doklam 

(Donglang in Chinese) plateau near the Nathula Pass on Sikkim border last year. Being at a disadvantage vis-a-vis India, China was compelled to resolve the stand-off through negotiations.  In the later period, China developed high-altitude “electromagnetic catapult” rockets for its artillery units to liquidate Indian advantage there, as also in Tibet Autonomous Region. China intends to mount a magnetically-propelled high-velocity rail-gun on its 10,000-ton-class missile destroyer 055 being  built.

India took up the development of the Sittwe Port in Myanmar as part of the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project for building a multi-modal sea, river and road transport corridor for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar through Sittwe. India upgraded its existing listening post in northern Madagascar. India has obtained access to the US naval base in Diego Garcia, and to the French naval bases in Mayotte and Reunion islands, besides Australian naval base in Cocos (Keeling. Robert Kaplan, in his book, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and Future of American Power, argues that the geopolitics of the twenty-first century will hinge on the Indian Ocean. Waters of the Indian Ocean reach 28 countries which together account for 35 per cent of the world’s population and 19 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. Sixty per cent of the world’s oil shipments from the Gulf countries to China, Japan and other Asian countries pass through these waters which host 23 of the world’s busiest ports.

China is currently exploring an area of 10000 Square kilometres in the South-West Indian Ocean Ridge through its state-controlled China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association It is  also exploring Clarion- Clipperton Fracture Zone in the Pacific. Simultaneously, it is modernising and upgrading its naval fleet on a massive scale. Besides, China is technologically augmenting its  indigenous manufacturing capability by empowering its two largest state-owned shipbuilders, China State Shipbuilding Corporation and Shipbuilding Industry Corporation.Conspicuously, India is set for big purchases in the new budget to master the skies and the Indian Ocean. It reflects her desire’to establish her hegemony in the region.

World’s third largest military spender: Earlier Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) has observed India’s military spending grew 6.8 % to touch $71.1 billion outpacing Japan ($47.6 billion) and South Korea ($43.9 billion). The US, China and India were the world’s three biggest military spenders in 2019, followed by Russia and Saudi Arabia. Now, the two Asian countries have become top three for the first time. The three countries were ahead of Russia ($65 billion) and Saudi Arabia ($61.8 billion) who together were world’s top military spenders. They accounted for 62% of the global military spend including salaries, benefits, operational expenses, arms and equipment purchases, military construction, research and development, central administration, command and support.

India’s spending rose by 6.8 % and touching $71.1 billion outpacing Japan’s ($47.6 billion) and South Korea’s ($43.9 billion).

Misconception:  Indian policy of increasing her military outlays is based on strategic misconceptions. India thinks it would be suicidal for Pakistan to increase her military budget pari passu with India’s.  In any case, Pakistan could not afford to spend more than half the increase in India’s military budget. A higher allocation would sap Pakistan’s resource potential for growth in future.

India thinks Pakistan has to choose between Scylla and Charybdis, that is economic collapse or military preparation. India’s perceptions historically have proved to be wrong. Pakistan neutralised the impact of this differential economic performance by, going nuclear, and developing tactical nuclear weapons like Nasr short-range missile.

Comparison with binary Pakistan: Pakistan conventionally mentions ‘a one-line cumulative military outlay’ in its defence budget. This gives the negative impression that defence establishment compels lawmakers to thumb-impress military demands for grants. Ayesha Siddiqa, author of Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy says, “Pakistan’s Auditor General has expressed reservations in the past at the Public Accounts Committee meeting at the National Assembly about the lack of auditing of the military budget.”  Her view is based on fact that, in 2016, the Auditor General of Pakistan, a constitutional body empowered to examine all government expenditures made from public money, told the Pakistani parliament that the funds given to military institutions were exempt from audit.

The truth however remain that Pakistan’s military authorities, including its defence ministry, publicly announced that they would provide whatever information the people’s representatives need. The reps have never been curious notwithstanding.

Pakistan’s defence demands undergo a rigorous scrutiny by relevant parliamentary committees and audit bodies.  Legislators and MoD babus are properly briefed about need for provisions.  Whenever demanded, the details of the defence budget for the current, as well as for the coming, financial year were placed before the parliament.  Even the expenditure on Zarb-e-Azb appeared more than once in media.

Most legislators lack acumen to analyse numerical rigmarole.  So they themselves do not wish to be bothered with the job being done by competent professionals in various ministries and parliamentary committees.

Pakistan should separate expenditure of forces to defend China Pakistan Economic Corridor and key installations including parliament from normal demands for defence grants.

Historically, a common feature of all strong states was that they had strong military and civil institutions, dejure capability to defend their territory and policies that favoured the citizenry rather than the dominant classes. Historically, a common feature of all strong states was that they had strong military and civil institutions, dejure capability to defend their territory and policies that favoured the citizenry rather than the dominant classes.

Let us see how our vociferous opposition strikes a balance between constraints of security and welfare. In case our lawmakers feel handicapped in understanding the intricacies of defence budgeting in the context of internal and external security situation, GHQ may arrange a briefing for them

Let us see how our vociferous opposition strikes a balance between constraints of security and welfare. In case our lawmakers feel handicapped in understanding the intricacies of defence budgeting in the context of internal and external security situation, GHQ may arrange a briefing for them.

Back in 1996-97, British Labour Party Defence Study Group tried to highlight defence burden on public exchequer. In that report, they drew comparisons between the defence and social costs. For instance, £ 7,000 million cost of Tornado multi-role combat aircraft project was more than the total cost of Britain’s health and personal social services projects for 1976-77. £ 16 million price of the Frigate Ambuscade could provide a new 50S-bed hospital in Bangor. The submarine Superb was more expensive than building 4,000 new homes.

 Lt Gen Attiqur Rehman in my defence course says: “In a democracy, the defence services belong to the people through their representatives in parliament. Thus, the people have the right to know what is going on, how their money is being spent, and how the defence services are being managed and administered. In fact, they have a right to know everything, except details of the actual war plans.”

Some concealed aspects

Nuclear research: Indian Air Force chiefs keep Indian Air Force ( IAF)  is capable of detecting nuclear targets in Pakistan and is ready to strike them out.  But, the decision has to be taken by the government. India’s another swaggering braggart, ex-army chief now CDS chairman is never tired of claiming India’s capability to fight a two front war with China and Pakistan, and win it. Any war could flare up into nuclear Armageddon. India conceals its real nuclear bomb-making capacity under civil ministries’ provisions.

Nuclear/Chemical capability: It  is pertinent to mention that: (1) Robert S. McNamara, in his address to the World Bank Annual Conference on Development Economics at Washington, DC, as far back as on April 25, 1991 inter alia classified India among the’ Countries reported by the Western governments as seeking a CW capability or suspected to be possessing chemical weapons’. The explanatory footnote to the Table 111-2: Distribution of Chemical Weapons, 1990, states that the classified countries denied possession of chemical weapons, or intentions to acquire such weapons (Source: The Post-Cold War World and its Implications for Military Expenditures in the. Developing Countries, by Robert McNamara).

Methyl isocyanates were being produced at the Union Carbide India when it exploded killing thousands of people. There were 27 factories producing products including Carbaryl through cyanates supplied by UCIL. Where does provision for CBW research appears in India’s military budgets.

The Washington Post reported in 2013 that the police in occupied Kashmir published a notice in the Greater Kashmir (now under black out), advising people about nuclear-war survival tips. The tips included constructing well-stocked bunkers in basements or front yards, and having a stock of food and batteries or candles to last at least two weeks.

Colossal expenditure on conventional weapons by a nuclear power is not understood. Nuclear deterrence does not mean matching bomb for bomb.

A US proxy: India is emerging as the US proxy against rising China, which is determined to surpass the USA in GDP by 2027. India is opposed to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Besides, it uses its aid, trade and border contiguity to obstruct Chinese influence in Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

At India’s bidding, those countries toe the Indian line in SAARC and other international forums like G-20. In 2005, Washington expressed its intention to help India become a major world power in the 21st century (according to K. Alan Kronsstadt, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, 13 February 2007). It was later re-affirmed by Ambassador David Mulford in a US Embassy press in 2005. The USA’s resolve later translated into modification of domestic laws to facilitate export of sensitive military technology to India. The Nuclear Supplier Group also relaxed its controls to begin exports to India’s civilian nuclear reactor (enabling India to divert resources to military use).

Raj Mohan, Shyam Saran and several others point out that India follows Kautliya’s mandala (concentric, asymptotic and intersecting circles, inter-relationships) doctrine in foreign policy. It is akin to Henry Kissinger’s `spheres of influence’. According to this doctrine ‘all neighbouring countries are actual or potential enemies’. However, short-run policy should be based on common volatile, dynamic, mercurial interests, like the intersection of two sets.

Former Indian foreign secretary, Shyam Saran in his book How India Sees the World says, ‘Kautliyan [Chanakyan] template would say the options for India are sandhi, conciliation; asana, neutrality; and yana, victory through war. One could add dana, buying allegiance through gifts; and bheda, sowing discord. The option of yana, of course would be the last in today’s world’ (p. 64, ibid.). It appears that Kautliya’s and Saran’s last-advised option is India’s first option, with regard to China and Pakistan, nowadays.

Raj Mohan elucidates India’s ambition, in terms of Kauliya’s mandala (inter-relationships), to emerge as South Asian hegemon in following words:

‘India’s grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighbourhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over actions of outside powers. In the second who encompasses the so-called extended neighourhood, stretching across Asia and Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great power, a key player in international peace and security. (C. Raja Mohan, India and the Balance of Power, Foreign Affairs July-August 2006).

Henry Kissinger views Indian ambitions in the following words: ‘Just as the early American leaders developed in the Monroe Doctrine concept for America’s special role in the Western Hemisphere, so India has established in practice a special positioning the Indian Ocean region between East Indies and the horn of Africa. Like Britain with respect to Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, India strives to prevent the emergence of a dominant power in this vast portion of the globe. Just as early American leaders did not seek approval of the countries of the Western Hemisphere with respect to the Monroe Doctrine, so Indian in the region of its special strategic interests conducts its policy on the basis of its own definition of a South Asian order’ (World Order, New York, Penguin Press, 2014).

Zbigniew Brzeszinsky takes note of India’s ambition to rival China thus: ‘Indian strategies speak openly of greater India exercising a dominant position in an area ranging from Iran to Thailand. India is also position itself to control the Indian Ocean militarily, its naval and air power programs point clearly in that direction as do politically guided efforts to establish for Indi strong positions, with geostrategic implications in adjoining Bangladesh and Burma (Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power).

To woo India firmly into its fold, the USA offered to sell India Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD, for $3 billion per unit) and Patriot Advance Capability (PAC-3) missile defence systems as an alternative to the Russian S-400 air defence system. India ditched Russia from whom it had earlier decided to purchase five S-400s at a cost of $5.4 billion.

With tacit US support, India is getting tougher with China. There was a 73-day standoff on the Doklam Plateau near the Nathula Pass on the Sikkim border last year. Being at a disadvantage vis-à-vis India, China was compelled to resolve the stand-off through negotiations. China later developed high-altitude “electromagnetic catapult” rockets for its artillery units to liquidate the Indian advantage there, as also in Tibet Autonomous Region. China intends to mount a magnetically-propelled high-velocity rail-gun on its 055-class under-construction missile destroyer 055.

India’s ambition to become the South Asian hegemon is reflected in its successive defence budgets. Aside from the showcased marginal increase in the defence budget, the three services have been asked to devise a five-year model plan for capital acquisitions. The Indian navy wants a 200-ship strong fleet by 2027. Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh had in December pointed out China added over 80 ships in the last five years. The Navy wants to procure six new conventional submarines and 111 Naval Utility Helicopters to replace the vintage fleet of Chetaks. The IAF wants to procure 114 new fighters besides the 36 Rafales ordered in 2015, still in process.

Quaid on Indo-Pak joint defence: Pakistan’s founder Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah cherished desire for lasting Indo-Pak peace even before creation of Pakistan. During his last days, The Quaid was perturbed at the Cold War rivalry emerging between the USA and the USSR.

The Quaid keenly desired that the subcontinent and all of South Asia should remain aloof from the rivalry. Therefore, he proposed a joint defence pact with India. Had India accepted his idea, the two countries would not have been at daggers drawn after independence.

Before his final flight (Aug 7, 1947) from Delhi to Pakistan, he sent a message to the Indian government, “the past must be buried and let us start as two independent sovereign states of Hindustan and Pakistan, I wish Hindustan prosperity and peace.” Vallabhbhai Patel replied from Delhi “the poison has been removed from the body of India. As for the Muslims, they have their roots, their sacred places and their centres here. I do not know what they can possibly do in Pakistan. It will not be long before they return to us.”

Even Nehru, an ostensibly liberal leader, regarded the creation of Pakistan as a blunder. His rancour against Pakistan reaches a crescendo in his remarks: “I shall not have that carbuncle on my back.” (D. H. Bhutani, The Future of Pakistan, page 14). Will India stop its worldwide defence purchases to open a new chapter in relations with Pakistan?

Let India lower her expenditure first! It should be a leader to compel Pakistan to follow suit.  It must shun hegemonic designs, at least for the time being, when Covid19 rages.

Inferences: Any analysis of India’s military budget should be based on actual Demands for Grants coupled with Explanatory memoranda. The allocations concealed under civil ministries outlays should be ferreted out and added to military allocations. The successive increases n revised and then actual budget estimates should be taken into account. As a result of India’s rising military expenditures, Pakistan also increases her defence expenditure. If Pakistan weakens its defence by slashing its defence expenditure, will India guarantee that it will not attack Pakistan or go for a quasi-attack (Operation Parakram costing Rs. 74 crore). The colossal increase in big brother’s military budget is untenable in light of its teeming millions living below the poverty line.

Each year India increases her defence budget.  The estimated outlays are further increased via revised outlays and upward re-adjustments of actual-expenditures.

Indian policy of increasing her defence outlays is based on strategic misconceptions. India visualised it would be suicidal for Pakistan to increase her defence budget pari passu with India’s budget.  In any case, Pakistan could not afford to spend more than half the increase in India’s defence budget. A higher allocation would sap Pakistan’s resource potential for sustained growth in future.

India thought Pakistan had to choose between Scylla and Charybdis that is economic collapse or defence preparations (same quandary as of former USSR). However, India’s perceptions proved to be wrong. Pakistan has neutralised the impact of this differential economic performance by, going nuclear.

India’s rising defence expenditures appear to have been actuated by a misconception of national security. The national security of a country depends upon many factors, variously interpreted and defined like soldiers’ morale, scientists’ ingenuity, military and political leaders’ character and skill, geographic position, and economic wherewithal. Indian planners are oblivious of the fact that, in general, the more resources the nation devotes to national security, the less it will have for social security and vice versa. Some economists conceive of a ‘social welfare function’ to be maximized by an appropriate allocation of the nation’s resources satisfying various objectives (including defence).

National security, from the point of view of an economist, depends on three factors: (a) The quantity of national resources available, now and in future, (b) The proportion of these resources allocated to national security purposes, and (c) The efficiency with which the resources so allocated are used.

Resources are always limited vis-à-vis unlimited wants. As such, the problem of defence allocations should, in effect, be a problem of constrained resource optimization, not blind allocation of resources. Let India lower her expenditure. 

Amna Javed is currently working with Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR) as a research fellow. She is also a visiting faculty at School of Politics and IR, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

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COVID-19 and Challenges to the Indian Defence Establishment

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The COVID-19 pandemic has created an uncertain situation all over the world. It is defined as the greatest challenge faced by the world since World War II. At a certain point, the pandemic had forced world governments to announce lockdowns in their respective countries that led to more than half of the human population being home quarantined. Since then, social distancing, travel bans, and cancellation of international summits have become a routine exercise. Most sectors such as agriculture, health, education, economy, manufacturing have been severely hit across the globe. One such sector which is vital to national security that has been impacted due to the pandemic is defence.

The effect of influenza and pneumonia during WWI on the US military was huge. The necessity to mobilise troops across the Atlantic made it even ideal for the diseases to spread rapidly among the defence personnel and civilians. Between mid-1917 and 1919, the fatalities were more so due to the disease than getting killed in action. Due to COVID-19, there have been many implications within the defence sector. Amid the ongoing transgressions in Ladakh, it becomes imperative to analyse the preparedness of the Indian defence establishment to tackle the challenges at hand.

Disrupting the Status Quo

Many personnel in the Indian armed forces have been tested positive for COVID-19. This puts the operational capabilities at risk. In one isolated incident, 26 personnel of the Navy had been placed in quarantine after being tested positive for COVID-19. The French and the Americans had a great challenge ahead of them as hundreds of soldiers were getting infected onboard their Naval vessels. Furthermore, the Army saw some cases being tested positive as well. In one such incident, the headquarters of the Indian Army had to be temporarily shut down because of a soldier contracting the virus. These uncalled disruptions are very dangerous for our armed forces. These disruptions challenge the recruitment process and training exercises.

Since the Indian Army has been involved in quarantining tasks, this exposes the personnel to the virus. As a result of this, the first soldier was tested positive on March 20 in Leh. Among them, those who work as medical personnel are even more exposed to the virus. In order to enforce damage control to the operational capabilities, the Army made sure that the non-essential training, travel, and attending conferences remained cancelled. They called off any foreign assignments and postings for the time being. The Army also made it a point to extend leaves for that personnel who were already on absence. This was a major preventive measure adopted to prevent further infection.

As a result of the lockdown that had been imposed nationwide, the defence services were forced to temporarily stall all the activities that relate to soldiering during peacetime. These activities include training, pursuing professional qualification, fitness tests and regimes, equipment maintenance such as unit assets and stores, up-gradation of the cadres among others. Since the Indian Army boasts of a force that has signed up voluntarily to guard the borders, most of the troops are away from their families, which makes it even more difficult during the times of crises. The mega biennial naval exercises scheduled to be held in Vizag were cancelled due to COVID-19. A total of 41 navies were planned to be a part of the joint exercises called MILAN. The Service Selection Board (SSB) training and the recruitment process have been put to a halt as well. This will severely impact the intake process for this year.

Handling Biohazards

The Army’s capable of operating in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) environment and has sufficient equipment like infantry vehicles, helicopters and tanks which can operate without any hassles. Since instances of chemical warfare have been witnessed in West Asia and other regions in the last two decades, the focus of the Army has been on that and not on biological warfare. Most Armies believe that bio-weaponry is still fictional and won’t come into play any time soon. Naturally, due to this mindset, most Armies are not capable of handling biohazards. This is a major setback in the time of COVID-19 and has to be addressed.

Riding Down the Slope

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Indian economy has been nose-diving day by day. This is some bad news for the defence sector since the military spending will possibly be reduced as a result of the slowdown. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India’s GDP will grow at 1.9 per cent. This is one of the lowest in the history of post-independent India. Allocations and spendings will naturally take a hit and will take a long time to revive again. Defence manufacturing will also face a setback and discourage indigenous players who are looking at getting involved in the manufacturing and innovation sector. MoD has already received the Ministry of Finance’s circular that called for the defence spending to be limited to 15-20 per cent of the total amount allocated. This will ensure that the defence budget is not the priority for the finance ministry. A gap of Rs. 1,03,000 crore has been highlighted between the requirement and the allocated money. More than 60 per cent of this allocated amount anyway goes towards paying salaries and pensions. This means that the modernisation efforts will face a major slowdown in the next two years. Defence procurement is already difficult due to the bureaucratic hurdles, now the monetary crunch only adds more woes.

Moreover, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had announced earlier that more than 9,000 posts belonging to the Military Engineering Services (MES) will be abolished in the said industrial division. The reason cited was that this would bring about a balance to the expenditure. Due to the lockdown, the military development has taken a hit and has seen a decline in the production of freights. As of now, there is no manufacturing that is ongoing as far as fighter planes or aircraft, in general, is concerned. Some of the signed defence deals and contracts are said to be reviewed due to the financial crunch. India’s defence budget is expected to see some cuts due to the economy slowing down. The pandemic has worsened this even further. There is already an existing order to cap the spending for the first quarter of this fiscal year. Most of the payments that are being disbursed is largely that of paying for the existing contracts. This will diminish any scope for procurement of newer defence equipment that helps in modernising the armed forces in the long run. According to a report, it says that the Ministry of Defence is looking at a savings of anywhere between Rs. 400 and 800 billion in the 2020-21 financial year. To quote Yuval Noah Harari from his recent article in the Financial Times would seem relevant in this case, “Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours.”  India has displayed the significant political will to make impactful decisions during the pandemic. The question is, how far and how soon can we push ourselves to be prepared on all fronts?

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Rafale deal: A change in aerial balance in South Asia?

Shaheer Ahmad

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The induction of the first consignment of five Rafale jets in the Indian Air Force inventory is considered to be a game-changer in the aerial balance of the South Asian region. A multi-billion-dollar package will be beneficial to increase the air prowess of Indian Airforce. While equipped with weapons of tangible accuracy including long-range SCALP and Meteor missiles, it will be able to hunt any target with accurate precision.  The arrival of French-made engines has concerned neighboring Pakistan and China due to its high accuracy of conducting sea and ground attacks.

The experience of operation ‘Swift Retort’ and Chinese intrusion in Ladakh, compelled New Delhi to introspect the efficiency of IAF in any major or minor engagement in the future. The deal to acquire Rafale fighting jets to plug the loopholes in the aerial power of IAF was inked in September 2016.  This induction is meant to enhance the Indian Air force’s operational capabilities and will also assist it to overcome the technological disparity with the US manufactured Pakistan’s F-16 and Chinese Chengdu JF-17 thunder. However, the task for PAF to restrict IAF moves in the future has become more challenging. Despite its competence and better training of its personals as compared to IAF the air superiority is still not guaranteed if the technological gap between IAF and PAF gets wider. Notably, it’s hard to assess the proficiencies of one jet over another because the ‘man behind the machine is more critical’. 

Rafale is a twin-engine Medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRC) whose design instigate from Dassault Mirage with an up to date frame of the 1990s, already used by the French Navy and air force as well as by Egypt and Qatar. Furthermore, these jets were also engaged in combat missions in Afghanistan and Libya where they demonstrated a high proficiency. Whilst JF-17 thunder holds a conventional design originating from Mig 33 having an airframe of 1980s and it also demonstrated its capabilities in PAF’s Operation “Swift Retort”.

In an overall assessment, JF17 is a lightweight, conventional, fuel-economical, and cost-effective jet aircraft. The most momentous factor in JF17 thunder is it’s beyond visual range capabilities and integration of AESA radar that will not only allow detecting the wide-ranged targets but also to detect and lock multiple targets instantaneously. Meanwhile, it is less disposed to jamming and leaves a low sign to radar that makes the detection of fighter difficult hence increasing its reliability. Moreover, a crop numerical advantage and training aptitude due to the use of a similar platform and its cost-effectiveness makes itself a suitable aircraft for the Pakistan air force. Similarly, the ability of any up-gradation domestically for JF-17 also increases the feasibility of this aircraft, while Rafale lacks this opportunity because Indians lack the platform that can guarantee any domestic up-gradation for Rafale. Generally, Dassault Rafale is advanced in airframe, delta wing Canard design, semi stealth specter to counter threats as well as MBDA meteor that makes it a very affluent fighter with a high operational cost.

Rafales are considered superior over existing fighter jets present in PAF inventory and with the advanced technology they will relish an edge over Pakistani jets. But in case of any aerial engagement on Pakistani soil, Experts orate that in such a scenario Pakistani fighters will enjoy an edge due to its enhanced Air defense ground environment (ADGE) and also a window will remain open for PAF that when and where to carry out a counter strike as it did during operation ‘Swift Retort’. In such case, Indian numerical advantage and war resilience will be of less significance because these factors are relished by the party having a counter-strike option and that party will decide that how much allocation of resources is needed to engage for a mission after having a careful assessment of adversary’s air defense capabilities.

It’s also important to know that PAF and IAF can carry out surprise air raids nearby to the international border in peacetime without the probability of interception by adversary radars. Neither sides have the strength and capabilities to maintain 24/7 air surveillance across a 3323-kilometer long international border. Hence it’s also necessary for Pakistan to counter or deter any kind of surgical or tactical strike in the future. But the concern is still there that after the Balakot experience will India be deterred for conducting similar strikes in the future?

While viewing this scenario and having an experience of Balakot episode, PAF efforts to enhance its capabilities of airborne intercept radar and BVR missiles in JF-17 thunder’s fleet are noteworthy.  However, PAF should pursue an up-gradation on its existing F16 squadron. The presence of Rafale and S-400 air defense system will be challenging for PAF to retaliate, but the Indian S-400 and Rafale jets can’t shield the whole international border so the PAF needs a careful assessment to choose the targets that are not under the umbrella of S-400 or the access of Rafales while keeping in mind not to carry out an action that can trigger the adversary towards any escalation.

In a nutshell, the arrival of French-made engines equipped with long-range SCALP and meteor missiles having high precision is not only beneficial for Indian air prowess but it has also concerned its neighbors notably Pakistan for countermeasures. The experience of Operation Swift Retort and the recent military standoff in Ladakh has compelled New Delhi to modernize its Soviet-era air force by the induction of Dassault Rafales that will provide IAF an edge over the existing fighter jets in PAF’s inventory. However, the crop numerical advantage and training aptitude due to the use of a similar platform increases the feasibility of JF-17 thunder in PAF’s inventory. Hence in case of any aerial engagement in future the numerical advantage will be of more concern as 100+ JF-17 thunders will relish an edge over 36 Rafales and PAF will have the option of counterstrike that when and where to carry out a retaliation after carefully assessing the adversary capabilities in light of S-400 air defense system and Dassault Rafales. Hence Rafale jets have air superiority over existing Pakistani fighter jets but it can’t alter the aerial balance in South Asian region unilaterally.

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Defense

Pakistan’s Nuclear Diplomacy: Commitment Towards Non-Proliferation

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Ever since Pakistan became a nuclear weapon state, Pakistan’s nuclear diplomacy has been in practice on the principles of restraint and responsibility. Pakistan was even reluctant to enter the club of nuclear weapon states but soon after India had conducted its first nuclear test in the year 1974, going nuclear became Pakistan’s strategic compulsion. India’s series of nuclear tests in 1998 had compelled Pakistan to demonstrate its nuclear weapon capability accordingly to restore the strategic balance in South Asia. The development of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon capability primarily serves the purpose of a credible and reliable defence against the existential threat from India and to maintain peace and stability in the region. After the inevitable nuclearization of South Asia, Pakistan has never been a part of any arms race in South Asia.  Pakistan can neither afford and nor have an intent to indulge in an arms race in the region This is evident from the very fact that Pakistan has always been open for dialogues and arms control initiatives at the regional and international levels. In this regard, Pakistan’s recent proposal at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva is also part of its responsible nuclear diplomacy to urge the international community to take steps and develop consensus on arms control and disarmament. These factors show Pakistan’s commitment and adherence to achieve the goal of nuclear non-proliferation. 

As part of its non-proliferation efforts, in the past, Pakistan had also proposed various Confidence Building Measures (CBMs)at the regional level. For instance, in 1974 Pakistan had proposed to make South Asia a nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ), in1978 proposal for the joint Indo-Pak declaration renouncing the manufacture and acquisition of nuclear weapons was presented. Similarly, in 1979 Pakistan had proposed the mutual inspection of each other’s nuclear facilities to build confidence and promote transparency. Moreover, being a responsible international player, in 1979 Pakistan had proposed to simultaneously sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)along with India as non-nuclear-weapon states. In 1988 Pakistan had proposed a bilateral treaty to ban the nuclear tests to elude overt nuclearization and reduce the nuclear risk. With the high risk attached to the emerging technologies and delivery systems, in 1994 Pakistan had proposed the South Asia zero-missile zone. Hence over the period, Pakistan has continued its efforts towards nuclear CBMs by proposing various regional and bilateral non-proliferation initiatives. These were aimed at strengthening strategic stability and to reduce the risk of any nuclear conflict in the region. Unfortunately, India has always shown a negative attitude to all such proposals and disrupted various technical, political, and strategic level talks on nuclear CBMs. This historical evidence further validates Pakistan’s appropriate nuclear diplomacy and enhances its credibility as a responsible nuclear-weapon state.

In continuation of its responsible nuclear diplomacy, most recently at the plenary meeting of CD, being held in June 2020, Pakistan has put forth its concerns regarding the nuclear disarmament. While speaking at the conference, Pakistan’s permanent representative to CD Ambassador Khalil Hashmi deliberated upon that with the emerging global conflicts, the consensus on non-proliferation and disarmament has also abraded. The likelihood of a resumption of nuclear testing by countries like the USA, Russia, and India and increased prospects of nuclear use has made the global arms control regime dormant. The increasing trend of double standards and discrimination of the western countries was also highlighted. It was pointed out that the politics of granting waivers to certain states particularly India serves as one of the reasons that the confidence in the nuclear non-proliferation regime has eroded. India’s aspiration of regional hegemony and aggressive military posture against Pakistan are the main contributing factors towards instability and turbulence in South Asia. Moreover, India’s non- compliance with international law has emboldened it to intimidate its neighboring countries and to continue its brutalities in the Kashmir region. India’s irresponsible and incendiary rhetoric combined with its enhanced and aggressive nuclear capabilities is a huge threat to regional peace and security.

To address the above concerns, Pakistan has outlined eleven points roadmap to build the global consensus on non-proliferation. Some of the important steps include; the ‘right of equal security for all states’ in both conventional and non-conventional domains at the national and international levels. The SSOD-I (Special Session on disarmament) has unanimously agreed to this principle of equal security. This shows that Pakistan’s nuclear diplomacy and its non-proliferation efforts have been acknowledged at such an international forum. Another pragmatic step would be that through a non-discriminatory Fissile Material Treaty, all the states must eliminate the current fissile material stock and abandon future production. Likewise, all non-nuclear-weapon states must be provided with security assurances until nuclear disarmament is achieved. A non-discriminatory and universal agreement must be developed to address the concerns regarding the proliferation and development of ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) systems. Furthermore, there is a need to strengthen laws to prevent the militarization of outer space and development of LAWS (Lethal Autonomous Weapons System) to be brought under international regulation. Hence to deal with the existing and future challenges to nuclear non-proliferation, international efforts are needed to rethink and re-evaluate the foundations of the non-proliferation regime.

Hence, in this nuclear age, global strategic stability cannot be achieved through discriminatory non-proliferation measures. There is a need for an enabling environment at both the global and regional levels for successful nuclear non-proliferation engagements. In South Asia, India’s offensive doctrines of a limited war under a nuclear overhang, nuclear brinkmanship, and notions of a splendid first strike have posed a serious threat to regional security. In this regard, CBMs and crisis control along with nuclear risk reduction are direly needed to help reinstate a stable regional nuclear order. This would likely serve the key to enduring peace and stability. Despite India’s perilous and pessimist role in the non-proliferation realm, Pakistan should continue to act responsibly and maintain a constructive and responsible nuclear diplomacy.

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