Indian arms imports

Dr Muhammad Khan

According to 2016 arms imports and exports reports of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Indian stood as the top arms import in the world. The report says that, between 2011-2015, India imported 14% of the total arms at the global level. It was followed by China, which accounts for only 4.7 % of world’s arms imports. A stark difference in the percentage of the arm imports between top two states. However, for the year 2015, Saudi Arabia stood number one and India at number two position in the global arms imports. Whereas India maintained the tag of top arms importer, Russia and U.S maintained their position of top exporters of the weapons, followed by China, France and Germany.
According to Indian defence experts, the major reason of heavy Indian arms imports is failure of its indigenous arms production or low quality arms production. Traditionally, India has been biggest arms importer from former Soviet Union and now Russia. Even today, most of its weaponry is Russian origin and imports during last two decades were also mostly Russian in all three arms. Since last one decade, India has started diversifying its weapon imports with major focus towards United States and European countries. This is basically a drive for attaining the quality, rather quantity.
The top Indian arms importer status cannot be seen in isolation. The political leadership of India has the ambition of India attaining the status of major power status, in line with the P-5. In this regard, recently India conducted test firing of its strategic intercontinental ballistic missile, Agni-V with a range of 5000 kms. With this drive, India would look for its inclusion in the club of super five, so far, US, Russia, France, UK and china has this capability of having ICBM with 5000-5500 kms range. Now Indian missiles can easily target almost all parts of China, Pakistan, most of Persian Gulf states and even Europe continent is not out of Indian missile range.
There are three factors in the power projection; the political objectives, the economic sustainability and military capability. These developments of Indian arms imports, strategic alliances with US and Western countries, missile programme without any international condemnation and growing economy indicates the Indian ambition of attaining the status of a major power. Regionally, it has already attained the status of a hegemon, constraining all its neighbours. Furthermore, attaining the status of a major power by India suits the super power, the United States, as it would be used against the China at the need of hour. U.S sees China as the peer competitor at the global level, therefore would like to engage it regionally, before it become a challenge for US globally.
Indian political leadership has always been looking for a bigger status for India, however, India lacked the economic power to sustain its strategic ambitions. Now, once India started growing economically, it started arming itself too. The New India Army Chief General BipinRawat, has also made some of the belligerent remarks, indeed in line with political leadership of India. After assuming the command of 1.3 million Indian Army he boasted that, India is all set to fight “two-front war” simultaneously against Pakistan and China.
General Rawat has warned both Pakistan and China with Indian Army capability of carrying out offensive; the cold start and the two front war. For Pakistan, he even boasted for another phase of surgical strike, as if India Army really had one, earlier. Nevertheless, General Rawat has to toe the line of his political leadership, who have been issuing threatening statement in the past few months. This include; Indian Prime Minister, Interior Minster and Defence Minister of India, who in violation of all diplomatic norms, threatened Pakistan with dire consequences, even its disintegration into ten parts.
A combination of the stockpiling of the weapons, the political ambitions and support of super power encourages India to behave in an abnormal manner. The threatening tone and texture of both political and military leadership of India has enhanced Indian vulnerabilities both regionally as well as globally. If US encourages India against China, it does not mean that, India really can compete with China. Just from the pattern of arms imports, China has 4% share of global arm imports with the status of world’s second largest economy and huge vulnerable border and huge military too. It means China has indigenous capability to produce high quality arms, thus militarily so strong. Can India really challenge the Chinese Military Might and can it compete Chinese economy? Wars cannot be fought on assumptions and appreciations from another power, which may have very different agenda, not suiting India.
The way forward is that, India must stop promotion of the arms race in the region. Indian offensive posture emerged from the statements of its political and military leadership and massive arms stockpiling isposing a real threat to the regional peace and stability. The offensive posture of Indian leadership has created a dilemma for Pakistan. Pakistan desires stoppage of arms race, resolution of issues through talks and peaceful negotiations. India has adopted a different course of action, aggressive and offensive in nature. With such an opposite mind set, there cannot be peace and stability. The bilateralism has not worked in the Indo-Pak relationship, therefore there is a need of global involvement and facilitation for bringing peace and stability in the subcontinent, otherwise, Indian offensive posture is an open invitation for a conflict, which may prove disastrous with unimaginable outcome, both for the region and internationally too.
— The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.

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