India has been engaged in an ongoing comprehensive process of military modernization to develop the effective military capabilities for protecting and promoting Indian national interest abroad specially assert its regional hegemony in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.
Since its entry into power corridor as a result of victory in 2014 general elections, the elected government under Premier Narendra Modi has reinvigorated the pace of this ongoing process of military modernization. This military modernization drive has transformed strategic outlay of India into an ultra-ambitious quest for great power status by dictating regional political and security environment.
The Modi government has introduced broad reforms under its “Make in India” initiative in order to revolutionize the domain and pace of military modernization by liberalizing Indian defence industry in shape of increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) limit up to 49% from 26%. India is aiming to develop military projection capabilities. Shankar Joshi in his book Indian Power Projection: Ambition, Arms, and Influence, 2015 noted that “economic and military growth, broadening interests, the rise of China and the military’s willing adoption of new roles – have been among the primary drivers of Indian interest and investment in power-projection capabilities.”
Indian ministry of defence plays a watchdog role as the regulatory body on behalf of the government of India in materializing this process of military modernization. This modernization agenda has resulted in broad-based transformations in defence infrastructure, increased military build-up, spiked defence spending and budgetary allocations, weapon procurement policy reforms and source diversification, troops reorganization and doctrinal changes in the military outlay of India. India has been ranked as the fourth greatest military power after USA, Russia and China as per global firepower index review 2017. Assessment of current military capabilities and firepower capacity is essential for the estimation of the military strength of any state. This scenario demands a detailed examination of trends in the military modernization of India in order to explain the underlying rationale of this process.
Military modernization as theory and practice has been the process of changes and sophistication in warfighting doctrines and military capabilities of the armed forces of any state in order to achieve its political objectives. The primary incentive behind military modernization has been to develop enough military capability in order to mitigate threats, protect national material interests and power projection by sabre-rattling as the great power. Hence, the phenomenon of military modernization heads toward developing offensive capabilities after acquiring enough defence capabilities because of maximalist national interests and foreign policy goals of states.
Thus, military modernization becomes the basis of balancing and counterbalancing process of states in the international system which is an endless phenomenon. The other states similarly pursue military modernization as their counter-effort in order to balance the military power of the earlier state. The outcome of military modernization is arms race which absorbs exchequer money in defence expenditures at the cost of development of State. However, political conception of friend and adversary state acts as the main determinant to influence this process which is evolutionary in its nature and non-permanent in its scope.
India seeks to develop offensive doctrinal and operational network-centric warfare capabilities of its armed forces through modernization across six key domains. These dimensions include the army, air force, navy, cyberspace, nuclear/missile and outer space. The military modernization is carried out at two levels which include thematic/doctrinal and operational/military firepower capability development of armed forces. The primary objective is to mitigate threats emerging from “two and half front” while protecting India’s material national interests and project its image globally as the superpower. The Modi administration has reinvigorated the pace of this military modernization.
Two and half front threat matrix includes external threats from Pakistan and China with internal threats originating from secessionist movements to the security of India. Rajat Ganguly argued that “the process of transforming the Indian military into a fighting force commensurate with India’s stated ambition to be a superpower. However, the Indian military’s further modernization, expansion and transformation into a modern, technologically savvy and effective fighting force fit for an aspiring superpower are inevitable”. It is evident that there is a broad consensus in the political elite of India for executing military modernization in order to materialize its dream of superpower but the realist rationale sees irritants in the fulfilment of this dream.
The thematic/doctrinal development of Indian military modernization paradigm has evolved in historical phases. This domain includes Land army, Airforce, Navy, Nuclear, Outer space and Cyberspace modernization trends. The operational military modernization network has three main characterizes.
Firstly, it seeks to develop human capital by developing trained professional manpower which is essential for warfighting army. Secondly, it seeks to develop, innovate and modernize technology-centric hardware for a sophisticated army to advance its military capabilities. It entails both quantitative increase and qualitative improvement in the defence arsenal of the military. Thirdly, it focuses on logistics, infrastructure and means of utilization to use manpower and technologically advanced arsenal.
It entails mechanized infantry vehicles, nuclear warhead carriers, fighter aircraft, naval ships, frigates and submarines, Spaceships and cyber security equipment. The operational military modernization network of India works under the auspices of the Indian ministry of defence (MoD). Indian MoD carries out these three tasks of developing manpower, defence infrastructure and acquisition of defence equipment. Recent nuclear armament deals with the US under the auspices of 2+2 dialogue and signing of S-400 missile defence system from Russia are its manifestation. India has placed the order for the procurement of multi-role fighter aircraft from Rafael developers of France. Induction of Naval warship fleets Arihant, Vikram and Vikramdata in naval forces is the reflection of ambitious India. Arihant has already joined blue water Indian navy while Vikram and Vikramdata are expected to join Indian naval fleet in 2018 and 2022.
India has already procured ballistic missile defence system from Israel for attaining most ambitious nuclear missile defence shield around its megacities as the bid of developing second strike capability in case of nuclear war after completion of its nuclear triad. Revision of Indian nuclear deterrence strategy in military doctrine 2017 from CMD credible minimum deterrence to CM credible deterrence and revisited commitment to has offset strategic stability and balance of terror in South Asia.
India is aspirant to develop cybersecurity force of 5,00,00 trained and skilled professional under 2013 national cybersecurity (NCS) policy. India has launched commercial space satellite in 2017 and offered south Asian states its services for commercial and entertainment purposes as part of India’s space diplomacy. Joining of Afghanistan on this service is the clear signal of growing the regional influence of India. India has used its cyber force to control communication network in IOK and tried to crush freedom movement through the use of force which backfired.
Incorporation of (FINAS) Future Infantry Soldier as a System as the cornerstone of building technology savvy smart army has revolutionized style and technique of Indian army’s troop and terrain warfare strategy. The FINAS army equipped with smart arms, light dress, technologically advanced equipment and information superiority over enemy enables the army to execute surprise attack with shock factor to gain the advantage over the enemy in troop warfare in difficult terrain. India is trying to operational this strategy against Pakistan in difficult terrain and altitude warfare on LoC in Kashmir valley.
India has claimed about surgical strikes in September 2016 and September 2018 as sabre rattling and muscle flexing exercise to coerce Pakistan. Pakistan has responded to this situation with effective strategic communication by exposing false Indian claims. India has increased skirmishes on LoC against Pakistan since 2014 with an increase in every next year and reached to more than 1700 ceasefire violations in 2018. India is using sub-conventional means to destabilize Pakistan. The arrest of Kalbushan Yadav, a serving Indian navy commander from the soil of Pakistan is its evidence.
In 2017, India made an aggressive attempt by capturing Chinese road route in old disputed territory what India called Dokhlan. This resulted in the military standoff between India and China called it Dokhlan crisis. Later, India and China resolved this crisis amicably due to economic interdependence and ideological animosities like Pakistan and India. Despite the fact that India and China compete in the strategic realm they have open-ended conflict resolution mechanism. Pakistan and India need to move toward developing amicable conflict resolution mechanism due to mutual security interdependence.
The transformation in strategic outlay through military modernization has created realization in the political elite and security establishment of the polity that India can exercise power projection potential against Pakistan and China to strengthen its regional security grip which is exaggerated and inflated because of its quest for hegemonic regional great power status. This Indian drive has resulted in counterbalancing exercise between Pakistan and China with the inclusion of CPEC to expand cooperation from geo-strategy to geo-economic.
Resetting of Pakistan-Russia relations and developing consensus among Pakistan, China, Iran and Russia and Afghanistan are strategic responses to changing the strategic environment of South Asia. Increased military spending, armament and extensive military cooperation between and among states of this region is the result of Indian hegemonic tendencies. Strategic miscalculation and escalation of Indo-Pak military conflict into full-fledged nuclear war can be its fallout.
Therefore, effective and continuous communication on the pattern of hotline link and flagship meetings must be carried out with consistency to mitigate any emerging conflict scenario between Pakistan and India. Otherwise, ultra-ambitious India can put regional and global peace in jeopardy. Security stewardship has only left the option to Pakistan and India in current circumstances.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.