India is today, the world’s largest arms importer, having imported over the past five years weapon systems in excess of $22 billion, spending almost double of the $12 to 13 billion that Pakistan or South Korea did, as per SIPRI/IMF sources. And with a $10 billion plus deal ( with all costs added) for the French Rafale fighters, plus approval for purchases from the US of around $10 billion ( for aircrafts and artillery systems) the India market is still an attractive one, for not just Russia, that accounts for 17% of sales, but for the US, Britain, Israel, Italy and others. It is believed that India could import more weapons (worth another $80 billion) over the next five years! These increases in India’s outlay, will fill the gap that has been created in the global ‘arms bazaar’ by the United States which – though still with the world’s largest defence spender – has decided to decrease military spending by $478 billion dollars over the next decade. That’s an average of $48 billion annually; and coincidentally the same that India would be spending! Therefore clearly, those looking for a market have been building ground to move quickly into India.
But imports apart, India has announced an increase of 17% in military spending for 2013, and is thus slated to spend about $47 billion per annum on its defence forces and another $8 billion on its police. This ranks India as the world’s 7th largest spender on defence , and by 2020 it’ll make India possibly the 4th largest, having overtaken Japan, France and Britain, ( as per IHS Jane’s), says The Economist, March 30, 2013. It further points out that, a major shortcoming in India is “the absence of clear strategic thinking as India shuffles along impeded by its caution and bureaucratic inertia…. The symbol of these failings is the absence of a huge defence industrial base, making India dependent on foreigners.”
And until this changes, undeterred by India’s painfully long process of defence procurement, there are many defence manufacturers that still keen on their share of the ‘Indian pie’, as 70 percent of India’s military needs are still fulfilled by foreign vendors, even though India’s arms acquisition process is still labeled as ‘ad hoc’ as it ‘arms without aiming.’ In fact Asia’s largest defence expo is bi-annually hosted in New Delhi now hosts the largest Defence Expo in Asia. Delegations from 90 countries attended the event in 2012, and within this space the fastest growing area is of Homeland Security.
The experience of the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai in particular, plus other attacks on Indian cities in general, the long battles with terrorists and insurgents in Kashmir, and the increasing footprint of the Maoists in Central India and the tribal militants in India’s northeast, has created a sense of urgency in fortifying the country like never before. Clearly, nowhere is safe in India, anymore. So if there is a lesson to learn from over two decades of battling terror, then it is: ‘India must prepare to preempt’ future terror strikes. However not enough has been has been done to that effect, until now.
While India’s armed forces have methodically convinced India’s political masters to get toys for their boys, the true bulwark against the terror strikes – India’s police and para military men – the foot soldiers who fight the terrorists hiding in the shadows, are still far from well equipped. They need not just helicopters and armoured fighting vehicles, but also night vision devices, interceptors, cameras, radar and communication systems, all the gadgetries to use to prevent another major terror attack. However, barring a handful of special units, most of India’s policemen are still ill-equipped to battle suicidal fidayeen warriors. To do so, they have to prepare to fight the terrorist, like a terrorist.
Maroof Raza is a commentator on strategic affairs. To know more about the author visit: www. maroofraza.com