Can India Emerge As A Top Global Military Power?


A recent study by Britain’s ministry of defence has predicted that India is likely to be among the top three military powers in the world by 2045, along with the US and China, with a projected defence outlay of $654 billion.

A recent study by Britain’s ministry of defence has predicted that India is likely to be among the top three military powers in the world by 2045, along with the US and China, with a projected defence outlay of $654 billion. Though India’s military-industrial acumen is unlikely to surpass technological sophistication of the US by 2045, it may, along with China, rival it in terms of size.

It is also likely to surpass Japan, Australia and South Korea (which will be ahead of other regional military powers) by developing sizeable and technically advanced armed forces, including ocean-going navies, capable of delivering an enduring and capable maritime presence both regionally and further afield, according to the study titled ‘Global Strategic Trends – Out to 2045’.

This projection explains why the Narendra Modi government is aggressively pushing its defence agenda. Recently the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) cleared purchases worth Rs 80,000 crore, including six submarines worth Rs 50,000 crore. DAC also approved purchase of 8,356 Spike anti-tank guided missiles and 321 launchers from Israel. Modi’s reaction to the recent Pakistan-engineered skirmish on the Kashmir border—which resulted in the death of hordes of civilians besides forcing hundreds of villages to flee their homes as troops exchanged fire in perhaps the worst violence in the region in a decade—also amply demonstrated that India is posed to strongly defend its borders and foil any peer attempt aimed at weakening its military might.

Modi not only asked the army to retaliate befittingly, but warned Pakistan that its military infiltration may cost the neighbour more than what it imagines. Pakistan’s subsequent retreat showed that it was sort of taken aback by the strong, calculated response from the Indian side. India’s ‘retaliation response’ to Pakistan followed its equally strong reaction during the recent border standoff with Chinese forces that overshadowed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India aimed at deepening commercial ties between the two countries.

The Modi government also unveiled plans to build 54 more border posts in Arunachal Pradesh and strengthen Indo-Tibetan Border Police, which guards the Indo-China border. In another geopolitical move, India said it will supply naval vessels to Vietnam and help it modernise its defence system during the India visit of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. All these recent moves are early signs of India’s determination to strengthen its defence prowess and slowly emerge a top military power globally.

While the US will continue to be a key partner in India’s quest to emerge a global military power, as reflected by the Modi government’s recent decision to acquire Boeing’s Chinook and Apache helicopters in a deal worth $2.5 billion, what is more important is India’s growing defence alliance with Israel. The fact India chose to buy anti-tank guided missiles worth $670 million from Israel, rejecting a rival US offer despite US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel’s ‘unprecedented’ offer to co-develop and co-produce US’ Javelin missiles in India during his recent India visit, reinforces that Israel is likely to be a crucial defence ally for India going ahead.

A key feature of Modi’s government’s defence strategy is to indigenously develop military equipment as part of its broad ‘Make in India’ strategy—the decision to build six submarines in India at a cost of about Rs 50,000 crore is a clear deviation from the hitherto followed strategy of sourcing military equipment from outside. However, the government will find it difficult to convince the top honchos of armed forces which want sophisticated, ready-to-use foreign weaponry, than trying to develop it locally which may involve a lot of time and effort. The Modi government also has to keep lobbyists for foreign manufacturers of defence equipment at abeyance.

While study by the Britain’s ministry of defence portrayed a bullish future for India as a military power, it warned that the country has to “overcome domestic political issues and improve the way it invests to attain the capabilities needed to project conventional military power globally”. One hopes that PM Modi is listening.

Jai Hind.



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