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Tag Archives | Military

Snapshot of 2016 military modernisation in India

By Guru Aiyar (@guruaiyar)

 A mixed year of  hits and misses, what is most pertinent for defence policy is military modernization and overdue defence reforms

The year that has gone by has been a mixed one as far as defence forces of India are concerned. It started with an attack on Pathankot airbase . Observers were quick to point out that this was a reply to Christmas 2015 visit of Prime Minister Modi to Pakistan. Little do they realise that planning for an attack of this magnitude could not have taken place in a week. Nevertheless, this exposed a chink in the security of military bases in India. The subsequent attacks in Uri in which 17 Indian soldiers were killed kept the world waiting about India’s response. What India replied on September 29, 2016 with a ‘surgical strike’ has signalled a new normal in India-Pakistan face off. India’s defence spending at about US $ 48 billion as per the 2016-17 budget stood at the sixth position in the world rankings with China at number two.  The successful testing of 5000 plus Km range Agni V missile on December 26 has China genuinely worried.

According to defence economist Laxman Behera, the finance minister made a key change in the nature of allocation of defence budget. However, the capital expenditure component (that effectively indicates the acquisition) of about 10% (army), 30% (Air Force) and 40 % (Navy) is something that must worry the policymakers. There is a renewed thrust on Make in India as far as thrust on technological improvement is concerned. But how much it has impacted on capability is something that is highly suspect. The import bill is still phenomenally high. Prime Minister Modi rightly pointed about using technology to reduce manpower costs and making military leaner.

The Navy hosted an International Fleet Review that saw participation from more than 50 countries. With power projection and the goal being a ‘net security provider’ in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the naval display was undoubtedly the centre of attraction. With the nuclear submarine Arihant getting its punch in the form of an operational ballistic missile, the second strike capability has been completed. Of course, the Scorpene documents leak in August has put in a brake in the conventional submarine capability proving that dependence on foreign suppliers will always be with a caveat. In November, the largest ship made in India, INS Chennai guided missile destroyer was inducted. The year ended with Navy exercising with Russia in the Bay in Bay of Bengal. With a goal of 200 ship and 600 aircraft in 2027, the maneouvres of the Indian Navy would be closely watched by the US. For this is the capability that would be most vital if the US looks for a partner in developing its ‘pivot’ in East Asia as a counter to China. Justifiably, India is inching closer to sign defence agreements—the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) and Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).

The Indian government signed the landmark Rafale deal to bolster the strike capability of the Indian Air Force. Although the outgoing Air Chief Marshal Raha stated the numbers are inadequate, he vouched for its exceptional technological superiority.  With Tejas being in the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) stage, the IAF is optimistic about the aircraft to replace its ageing MiG 21 and MiG 27.

While the recent appointment of army chief had its share of controversies, the government has indicated that it will move towards the much needed joint chief of defence staff in 2017. This long standing reform will hopefully propel the military toward greater potency and ‘bang for buck.”

Guru Aiyar is a Research Fellow at Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar

Featured Image: India Gate by Arian Zwegers from creativecommons.org

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China building indigenous second aircraft carrier

China has confirmed the building of its second aircraft carrier, but the first carrier in the indigenous category.  Military observers say that the second aircraft would be completely different from the country’s first carrier Liaoning a Soviet designed carrier purchased in 2012. The new carrier will be built with a brand new propulsion system, and the IHS Jane first noted the new hull under construction. Further the carrier would be  designed to accommodate the native  developed J-15 fighters and an  upgradation from the first aircraft carrier Liaoning.



The image shows an overview of the Dalian shipyard in Northern China where China is building its indigenous second aircraft carrier.  White Paper entitled “China’s Military Strategy” is an endeavour to rejuvenate China’s capability. As the White Paper testifies it is important and relevant that China develops its maritime forces in way that it safeguards China’s national interest. The second aircraft carrier is a move toward this direction. Enhancing China’s blue water naval capability as a means to contain the US pivot in East Asia is an important directive towards this interest. China is currently working on the aircraft capability that would be on par with the USS Nimitz class super carriers. It is also speculated that the Chinese aircraft could be much smaller than the aircraft used by United States. There is also a good possibility that the new aircraft carrier might be stationed at a new facility on Hainan Island near the South China Sea. A  showcase of China’s might over the South China Sea.

The most critical objective of the program is the visualization of a blue water navy that could be operable beyond the first and second island chains. Beijing is keen to bolster its naval capabilites  as means to safeguard its maritime security. Further with China embroiled in conflict over East and South China Sea and the presence of United States in the region, convinces China to further enhance its deterrent capability. A raison d’être for China’s military expansion which is more global in nature rather than just looking at homeland defence.

Is China’s military expansion a tactics to  counter US primacy in the region or  stratagem of    reaching the Oceans, a part of its maritime strategy. Further it could be a modicum to  protect its Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) vital to China’s modernisation drive.  Despite several factors have been attributed to China’s expanded maritime interest, there is an interesting theory that unfolds China’s motivation. With China embroiled in maritime conflict in East Asia with Japan, the presence of United States a long time ally of Japan poses a major challenge to Chinese supremacy and rise. Further there is also a growing triple entente between Japan-United States-India which could be used to counter weight China.  Though India unlike the United States is not a traditional partner in East Asia, but today it is making a concerted effort to drive its economic, military and foreign policies eastward. There is a strong possibility that a Quadripolar Structure could emerge thus reframing the geo-strategic order of East Asia.

Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institute. She tweets @priyamanassa.



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Need for a systematic study of defence economics

Ensuring security from external aggression is a basic public good that the governments have to provide and given that it is not possible to reveal individual preferences, this has to be financed from taxes.   The important issue confronted by the policymakers, however, is the basic economic dilemma of scarcity and choice.  The funds allocated for defence are not available for spending on physical infrastructure or human development which are necessary to improve the living conditions of people.

As stated by David Greenwood[1], “What the budgeting system should ideally do is to ensure that the ‘right’ amount is spent on defence in the light of pattern of national priorities, and the ‘right’ military capabilities developed in the light of the structure of security priorities” The answers to what the “right” amount is depends on the economic choices the government has to exercise in providing various public goods, merit goods and services, given the overall resource envelope.


As the world’s largest democracy, with an annual gross domestic product (GDP) of almost $2 trillion it is imperative to understand what the ‘right’ amount is and to evaluate whether what we are currently spending is high, low, or indeed the ‘right’ amount. While understanding the numbers are important, it is also important to explore the following

  1. various priorities in which defence spending can happen
  2. assessing existing resources
  3. investigating the possibility of developing  normative frameworks to understand security priorities & threat perception
  4. how the defence forces can be effective and yet be fiscally prudent

The national security of a country depends on defence installations and facilities being in the right place, at the right time, with the right qualities and capacities. Spending on defence, therefore, is a resource allocation problem and the budgeting for defence has two broad functions[2]

  1. Management Function — to enable concerned personnel to spend money for various activities in an efficient and economical manner.
  2. Planning Function — Budgetary resources are to be allocated such that it enables achievements regarding operational preparedness and defence capability-building.

Defence budgeting literature indicates that budget is a three-tiered exercise in choice. First, it involves choosing how much to spend on defence, given the resource constrtaint, keeping in view other competing demands. Second, it involves choosing the basis for allocating resources among the services (army, navy and airforce). Third, it involves allocation among various programmes for capability-building, which entails what capabilities to acquire & maintain and the degree of military preparedness to aspire for[3]. Therefore, development of defence economics is necessary from the perspectives of

  • democratic accountability
  • efficiency of resource allocation to ensure preparedness
  • military effectiveness to ensure the right mix of services are deployed to ensure peace
  • improvement of service conditions — that ensures state of the art quality of life of servicemen, ex-servicemen and their families.

Varun Ramachandra is a policy analyst at Takshashila Institution and tweets @_quale

[1] David Greenwood, “Budgeting for Defence”, RUSI, 1972, p8.

[2] AK Ghosh, “ Defence budgeting and planning in India”, p.25

[3] Ibid 27

(Photo License)

PS- My thanks to Nitin Pai and Dr. M. Govinda Rao for their inputs and help.

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