Indian Force Modernization: A Threat to Strategic Stability in South Asia

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    Hans J Morgenthau in his classical work of Politics Among Nations stated that the aspiration for power on part of several nations, each trying to maintain or overthrow the status quo and policies aim to preserve it, leads to a necessity of configuration that is called balance of power.[1]This concept lead to coining the terms of strategic stability and arms race following competing states ambitions to maintain balance and stability.

    The evolving cycle of new arms race in international arena among major powers has ensued rapid force modernization at conventional and strategic level. The global defense spending has reached $1.917 trillion in 2019according to SIPRI, while, US ($732billion) China ($261billion), India ($71.1billion), Russia ($65.1 billion), KSA ($62 billion) remain among the highest military spenders.[2] Indian defense spending due to its hegemonic ambitions has increased by6.8%in 2019 as compared to $66.5 B in 2018.

    The Indian MoD has spent and allocated over $ 16.91 billion for acquiring new weapon systems for its armed forces. During the first 50 days of Modi second term BJP government spent over USD 1.23 billion on armed forces. While, amid current India china military standoff Indian government approved $67,365,400 ($67 million) on emergency bases. Thus, the build-up and expansion of forces by India is impacting the delicate balance of power in the South Asia.

    The Indian Army has been the major focus of force modernization which include acquiring and procuring new weapon systems across the force spectrum for infantry soldier to mechanized infantry, artillery, and armored branches. One of the major modernization project is Indian Army’s Future Infantry Soldier System (F-INSAS)which has seen an investment of over $ 6-8 billion by the DRDO for equipping infantry soldiers and upgrading 325 Battalions with new weapon systems, armor protection and communication systems along with network centric capabilities.[3] The Indian Army has also made deals worth of $5 billion to acquire battle rifles of various calibers including 650,000 units of AK-103, 72,000 units of SIG 716 and 94,000 units of Caracal 816.The Indian Army has allocated $3.4 billion (80% of its capital budget) for procurement of artillery and howitzer guns under Field Artillery Rationalization Program with aim to equip 169 artillery regiments with 3,000 155mm howitzers in self-propelled, tracked, ultra-light configuration by 2025. The Indian army is planning on inducting:

    1,100 units of 55 km range Dhanush ATAGS copy of French Bofors FH-72B howitzers worth $2.9 bn by 2021.
    100 units of K-9 Vajra-T self-propelled howitzer guns.
    140 units of M777 howitzer guns for $700 Million with US.[4]
    Indian Army currently fields 65 armored regiments consisting approximately 3000 MBTs and is beefing them up. For this purpose Indian Army has initiated various deals.

    A deal for 464 units of T-90MS MBTs has been made with Russia which worth $1.93 billion and has furthered order for 1345 units of T-90S Bhishma MBTs to be developed indigenously.
    Deal worth of $1.7 B for acquiring Milan 2T ATGMs from France, subsequent deals for Spike ATGMs are in pipeline with Israel.
    Indian Army is also negotiating with South Korea for Hanwha K-30 Biho mobile ADS worth of $2.5 billion.
    The Indian Air Force has embarked upon a major force modernization process. Purchases worth Rs USD 1.088 billion cleared for IAF in just last 2 months from May-July 2019.

    IAF has processed the deal of procuring 170 air crafts worth $22 billion for 114 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) with contenders from Boeing F/A-18, Lockheed Martin F-21, Saab Gripen-E, Russian Su30 and Mig 29 and 56 twin turbo C-295 cargo jet under joint venture of TATA-Air Bus.
    Apart from this a $8.6 billion deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets is underway which will be inducted in IAF by 2022.
    A deal worth of $ 2.43 billion for 33 Russian fighter jets including 21 Mig-29 and 12 Su-30 MKI including upgradation of 59 existing Mig 29 jets amid military standoff with China. [5]
    IAF project on Tejas Mk I, II which costed $1 billion and has inducted only 16 out of 123 planned jets.
    The Indo-Russian deal for S-400 BMD of $5.5 billion will materialize till October 2020-2023.[6]
    The IAF is also procuring gunship helicopters from Boeing with 22 Apache AH-64E and 6 Chinook CH-47F (I) utility helicopters worth of $ 3.1 billion.
    The IAF has initiated project for stealth Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle named Ghatak and allocated $37 million developed by DRDO by 2025.[7]
    India has given tender to HAL for USD 1.415 billion to develop Indian Multi Role Helicopter (IMRH) replacing its fleet of Russian Mi-8/17.
    The Indian Air Force is procuring BVR Stand-off missiles such as METEOR and SCALP along with R-37 RVV-BD missiles to target AWACS and support aircrafts within hostile air space. IAF has also tested and inducted BrahMos Cruise Missile with extended range upto 500 km launched from Su-30 MKI. IAF has also conducted tests of BVR Astra missiles with a range of 100 km, a Mach speed of 4.5 with payload capacity of 15 kg to be deployed on Su-30 MKI.

    Under its hegemonic ambitions India has been heavily investing in its navy and embarking on equipping over 200 vessels by 2027 under its force modernization process.

    India has signed deals with Russia including development of two guided missile frigates worth $950 million under Project 11356. Akula Class Nuclear powered attack submarine SSN worth $3 billion for leasing by 2025.Further procurement deal for Naval EWACS helicopters Kamov 31 for $ 521 million is also underway.[8]
    India also plans on procuring 6 next generation missile vessels worth $2 billion.
    The development of 4 out of 6 Kalvari Class/ Scorpene Class diesel-electric, AIP, submarines is underway with a net cost of $3.4 billion by 2020 under P75 project at Mazagon Docks Mumbai.This will be followed by six more conventional submarines under project P-75I for which the Indian government has placed tender for global ship-builders including French, German, Swedish, Spanish and Russian companies for a worth for 6.6 billion USD by 2030. Moreover, a tender worth USD 291 million for critical heavy-weight torpedoes for the under-construction Scorpene Class subs has been made to global manufacturers.[9]
    Indian Navy’s Advance Technology Vessel (ATV) project worth $13 billion is underway to develop six Arihant Class SSNsand seven Project 17 A class stealth frigates to be delivered by 2022.
    INS Vikrant which costs about $2.4 billion is under construction at Cochin Shipyard in Kerala will enter into sea trails by 2021 and inducted by Indian Navy in 2023, while proposed project of INS Vishal a 50,000 tonnage vessel is under negotiation with Royal Navy for $5 billion.[10]
    India is also procuring 24 MH-60 Seahawk helicopters from US for $2.4 billion for anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare. Procurement of 10 P-8 Poseidon maritime aircraft for $3 billion signed with US, maturing from 2020-2023.[11]
    Turkish TAIS has secured a tender worth of $2.3 B for manufacturing five support tanker vessels with 45,000 tonnage.
    The DRDO has also carried out test trails of Electro Magnetic Rail Gun EMRG for the Indian Navy. The EMRG can fire projectiles with a speed of Mach 6.
    ISRO would be developing $ 231 million military satellite GSAT-7R for communications between warships, aircraft and shore based units, to be launched in 2020.[12]
    Indian indigenous defense production corporations are also engaging in various joint ventures with international defense industries. Indian Missile and Defense equipment manufacturer Baharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) has procured orders worth $ 3.63 billion including $ 1.1 billion currently on hand to be executed by 2023-24. BDL is also engaged in joint venture with DRDO for QR SAM, Akash 1S-NG, ATGMs and sonobuoys. The company has an MoU with Thales, UK for STARSTREAK HVM for air defense. Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has awarded Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems a $100 million contract to supply missile kits for Barak-8 medium-range surface-to-air missiles and MRSAM worth USD 50 million with IAI. Under a $2.5 billion program launched in 2017, the IAF will induct 18 firing units and 450 missiles while the Indian Army will induct 14 firing units and 500 missiles.[13]

    India has maintained an unsafeguarded nuclear program by manipulating the Atoms for Peace program and carrying out nuclear tests in 1973. India over the years has developed significant nuclear weapons program, increasing stockpiles for fissile materials. The currently under construction Indian Nuclear City project at Challakere, Karnataka would host largest nuclear site in Asia upon its completion. This facility will be able to produce enriched uranium fuel for nuclear weapons and for hydrogen bomb also.It is estimated that India maintains30%-45%highly enriched Uranium HEU U-235 with stocks ranging to 4.0±1.4 at various sites maintaining lare centrifuge plants mainly at Rattehalli and Cgitradurga plant under Rare Materials Project, operational since 1990.

    India also maintains a considerable amount of weapons grade plutonium which is being produced in two major reactors located near Mumbai in Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). In BAC complex two reactors produce weapon grade plutonium; a 100 MWt Dhruva plant commissioned in 1985 and another 40 MWt CIRUS which was decommissioned in 2010. India is also planning to construct a 100 MWt reactor in Vizag located in Andhra Pradesh. The estimated amount of weapon grade plutonium maintained by India is around 0.6 + 0.15 tonnes, while 6.5+3.5 tonnes of reactor grade plutonium which is produced from unsafeguarded heavy-water reactors used for power production which can be used for producing military grade plutonium in future. India is also using over 2 tonnes of plutonium as fuel for fueling the core of under construction Fast Breeder Test Reactor. The estimated nuclear weapons of India are around 125+ with sufficient fissile material to manufacture 300 to 492 weapons.[14]

    India maintains a considerable space program with over 55 satellites in space including designated military satellites which are around 8 and over 17 dual use satellites. These satellites are laden with electro optical, and radar imaging, electromagnetic and cartographic sensors used for various ISR missions. Indian space program has a budget of over $1.6 billion and has recently embarked on launching manned mission to moon. India on March 27, 2019 conducted an Anti-Satellite mission which created debris and threatened the peace in outer space which is a global common.[15]

    The hegemonic ambitions and destabilizing actions to peace and strategic stability of India are evident from Indian rapid force modernization. The rapid restructuring of the armed forces, shifts and changes in nuclear doctrines from No-First Use to First Use and issuance of Land Warfare Doctrine 2018 an evolution of Cold Start Doctrine CSD, indicates the hostile and belligerent ambitions of India. Modi regime has spent billions of dollars for upgrading its armed forces in India is on a spree to force modernization for quenching its hegemonic desires while projecting its actions to counter China, while in reality its force projection and modernization is aimed against Pakistan at the cost of destabilizing strategic balance in South Asia. Thus, the irrational decisions and aggressive posturing of India has placed Pakistan in a position to secure its own national interests and security by countering potential Indian military capabilities. The major areas of concern for Pakistan would be apart from conventional and nuclear domain would be cyber and space domains where India has been excessively investing and developing its capabilities. Pakistan due to its economic constraints and conventional asymmetry vis-à-vis India must invest in force multiplier platforms, long-range and deep strike capable weapon systems including strategic and cruise missiles along with developing redundant and survivable command, control, communications, computer, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR) systems. For this purpose Pakistan should focus upon developing and increasing its indigenous capabilities, investing in research and development and enhancing human resources in emerging technologies, and enhancing bilateral cooperation with allies in various sectors to attain strategic advantage against Indian hegemonic ambitions to maintain the strategic balance in the South Asian region.

    [1] See, Morgenthau, Hans J, ”Politics Among Nations”, (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1948)

    [2]“Global military expenditure sees largest annual increase in a decade—says SIPRI—reaching $1917 billion in 2019,”

    SIPRI, April 27, 2020, https://www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2020/global-military-expenditure-sees-largest-annual-increase-decade-says-sipri-reaching-1917-billion#:~:text=(Stockholm%2C%2027%20April%202020),growth%20in%20spending%20since%202010.

    [3]“Future infantry: unravelling the Indian Army’s F-INSAS programme,” Army Technology, February 20, 2012, https://www.army-technology.com/features/featurefuture-infantry-unravelling-the-indian-armys-f-insas-programme/.

    [4]Sandeep Unnithan, “Bang for the buck?,” India Today, February 22, 2018, https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/the-big-story/story/20180305-bang-for-the-buck-make-in-india-military-hardware-1176002-2018-02-22.

    [5] “India to buy 33 Russian fighter jets for $2.43bn,” Al Jazeera, July 3, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/07/india-buy-33-russian-fighter-jets-243bn-200703045842841.html

    [6]“S-400 Triumf missile deal: India mulls euro payments for Russian arms to escape US sanctions,” Business Today, June 28, 2019, https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/s400-triumf-missile-deal-india-russia-euro-payment-russian-arms-us-sanctions/story/359683.html.

    [7]Shiv Aroor, “EXCLUSIVE: Inside The World Of India’s Most Secret Combat Aircraft Program,” LiveFist Defense, February 02, 2018, https://www.livefistdefence.com/2018/02/exclusive-inside-the-world-of-indias-most-secret-combat-aircraft.html

    [8]“Defence ministry approves Navy’s Rs 3,600-crore deal with Russia for 10 Kamov-31 helicopters,” India Today, May 3, 2019, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/defence-ministry-indian-navy-russia-kamov-31-helicopters-1516576-2019-05-03.

    [9] “India Wants global warship builders to build new submarines for $6.6 billion,” Defense News, July 12, 2019, http://www.defencenews.in/article/PM%e2%80%89Modi-wants-global-warship-makers-to-build-new-submarines-for-$66-billion%e2%80%89Report-585762.

    [10]Ajai Shukla, “Budgetary woes put India’s supercarrier ‘INS Vishal’ on hold,” Business Standard, May 06, 2019, https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/budgetary-woes-put-india-s-supercarrier-ins-vishal-on-hold-119050600047_1.html.

    [11]“US approves sale of 24 MH 60 Seahawk helicopters to India for $2.4 bn,” Economic Times, April 3, 2019, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/us-approves-sale-of-24-mh-60-romeo-seahawk-helicopters-to-india-for-usd-2-4-bn/articleshow/68698990.cms.

    [12]Manu Pubby, “Navy to buy Rs 1589 crore satellite from ISRO,” The Economic Times, July 19, 2019, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/navy-to-buy-rs-1589-crore-satellite-from-isro/articleshow/70283927.cms

    [13]Vivek Raghuvanshi, “Joint Israeli, Indian venture to make missiles kits for Barak-8 weapon,” Defense News, July 11, 2019, https://www.defensenews.com/global/asia-pacific/2019/07/11/joint-israeli-indian-venture-to-make-missiles-kits-for-barak-8-weapon/

    [14]Indian Fissile Material, International Panel on Fissile Materials, February 12, 2018, http://fissilematerials.org/countries/india.html

    [15]“India’s Military To Create Defence Space And Cyber Agencies As Part of Reforms,” SpaceWatch, April 30, 2019, https://spacewatch.global/2018/10/indias-military-to-create-defence-space-and-cyber-agencies-as-part-of-reforms/.

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