InternationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 07

India’s hegemonic designs

It has been reported in the Indian and Pakistani media lately that India has firmed up its plan to massively augment its military capability over the next 5-7 years.
According to information from an official document and Indian military sources, published in a leading Indian daily on September 11 and some leading English language dailies of Pakistan on October 23, India has decided to take a quantum leap vis-à-vis strengthening its military capability. As reported, India has finalised a plan to spend $130 billion over the next five to seven years to modernise its armed forces and reinforce their combat capabilities over rivals in the region.
The document, as reported in the media, says the Indian government will work on a comprehensive plan to expedite modernisation of its army, navy and the air force. Under the plan, a range of significant weapons, missiles, fighter jets, submarines and warships will be procured in the next few years. It is said, fast-track infantry modernisation, including procurement of 2,600 infantry combat vehicles and 1,700 future-ready combat vehicles for the Indian army tops the list of priorities. Another key priority is to procure 110 multirole fighter aircraft for the IAF.
According to a report by Abhinav Dutta, “India’s defence industry has failed to manage its defence requirements as of today. India is one of the largest arms importers in the world as the indigenous production of technology is one area where India continues to struggle. India’s defence preparedness, therefore, remains a question as some of the most crucial requirements in various services of the armed forces have not been fulfilled because of severe deficiencies in the defence industry.“ Adding further, he said given the track record of the Indian government and the armed forces, not much was expected. There are lots of obstacles to the way of the modernisation plan. In the past, the pace of modernisation of the Indian armed forces has been sluggish and technologically deficient, he maintained.
Regardless of all that has been reported vis-à-vis India’s plans to strengthen its armed forces phenomenally and its not so good past track-record with regard to procurement of military hardware for its armed forces, what should be a cause for major concern for the countries of the region, China and Pakistan in particular, is India’s unprecedented hegemonic designs in this part of the globe. Strongly backed by the US, in particular, and the other powers that be, in general, which are deeply engaged in selling state-of-the-art military hardware worth billions of dollars to India, augmentation of its armed forces has become a cornerstone of India’s defense policy.
According to Indian defence analysts, Pakistan is an immediate threat to India while China will be a medium-term threat, they presume. They, therefore, firmly believe that India should focus more on the Chinese military threat because, according to them, if India is prepared to take on China it could capably confront two-front wars.
A report of the Military Balance, a prestigious annual publication of The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), UK, published in an eminent Indian daily, the Economic Times, on February 15, 2018, said India overtook the UK as the fifth-largest defence spender in the world in 2017 at $52.5 billion. Quoting the Military Balance 2018 issue, the Economic Times further said that India’s defence budget broke into the world’s top five, beating the UK for the first time, signaling a key shift in the military balance between the two countries. India overtook the UK as the fifth-largest defence spender in the world in 2017 at $52.5 billion, up from $51.1 billion in 2016. In contrast, the UK’s defence budget fell from $52.5 billion in 2016 to $50.7 billion. According to a list (2019 Fact Sheet) published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India’s defense budget has risen to $66.5 in 2019.
Bolstering its armed forces beyond justifiable limits cogently reflects India’s hegemonistic ambitions. It is a known fact that India’s phenomenal military buildup is largely focused on containing Pakistan and generally the countries of the region. Yet another reason often given by India for massively augmenting the armed forces is the threat that it claims to be facing from China. The China factor vis-à-vis India’s perpetual augmentation of its armed forces is what is being strongly backed by the US in particular and the other powers that be in general. It is a universal fact that the US strongly desires to see India emerge as a regional power, particularly to contain China.
The question is, however, have people at the helm of governance in India ever realized that attainment of its hegemonic ambitions, through massive buildup of its armed forces, is costing its downtrodden masses very dearly? Have they ever thought that the people who have been bringing them to the citadel of power, time and again, deserve a better deal than what they have always got over the past seven decades? Apparently, they haven’t.
According to the latest Indian Human Development Survey, released on May 11, 2019, nearly half (47.9 per cent) the Indian households that have more than five children are severely deprived of shelter, water, sanitation, health and education as compared to 7.8 per cent of poor families without children. According to the World Bank, up to 24 per cent of the world’s poor live in India, the fifth largest country by gross domestic product in 2017. India’s richest 1per cent held 58 per cent of the country’s total wealth, which was higher than the global figure of about 50%, indicating extreme inequalities.
Sadly, the situation vis-à-vis the issue of poverty in Pakistan is not very encouraging either. Some reports reveal that roughly 40% of the population of Pakistan lives below the poverty line. The prevailing alarming poverty situation in India and Pakistan conveys a very strong and cogent message to the people at the helm of governments in both neighbouring countries that they should make sincere and sustained efforts to dedicatedly work towards the wellbeing of their masses who live by the day and for whom life continues to be murky and challenging.
India is utterly neglecting the welfare of a very large segment of its masses. It is doing so, by unjustifiably spending a significant part of its resources on strengthening its armed forces rather than on the wellbeing of over 70 percent of its (1.36 billion) underprivileged populace. Compelled by India’s massive expansion of its armed forces, Pakistan too is being forced to spend roughly Rs. 1.15 trillion (amounting to 17 percent) of its national budget on its armed forces. This too, undeniably, is a fairly sizeable amount when looked at in the context of its total annual (2019) national budget of Rs.7 trillion.
This extremely unfortunate situation solicits from those at the helm of government in India, in particular, that it should give up its hegemonic ambitions in the region and divert a significant part of the huge sum that it is spending on strengthening its armed forces towards the wellbeing of its poverty-stricken, underprivileged segment of the population. If good sense prevails and the Indian government decides to judiciously curtail its gargantuan defense expenditure, Pakistan too will naturally reduce its defence budget to a rational level and divert the resources saved in the process towards the welfare of the underprivileged segment of the country’s populace.
All this could happen only if India gives up its ambition to dominate the region through military primacy and by mending its fences with its neighbor Pakistan, in particular, and the countries of the region in general. India’s relations with Pakistan are currently at its lowest ebb. The relationship between the two countries cannot improve unless the core issue of Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK), an issue which continues to be a bone of contention between India and Pakistan for over seven decades, is not resolved forthwith. At least, for the present, there are no visible signs of any resolution of the grave issue. As known to the entire world, India’s excruciating brutalities and blatant human rights abuses in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoJ&K) have surpassed all bounds of civility. The atrocities that the brutal India forces continue to brazenly commit in the occupied territory must end immediately.
The Kashmir conundrum must be resolved without delay. The UN, the US and the world community must play a conclusive role in resolving the grave Kashmir issue by prevailing on India to grant the right to self-determination to the people of the occupied territory, in accordance with the charters of the United Nations and the UN resolution of 1948. Needless to say, peace and prosperity would continue to remain a distant dream not only for India and Pakistan but for the entire region if the decades-old issue of occupied Kashmir is not promptly and peacefully settled.