India concedes pole position to China in arms race

Mi-35 Hind Akbar The symbolic reminder of China's official military budget crossing $100 billion couldn't have come at a worse...

Mi-35 Hind Akbar

The symbolic reminder of China's official military budget crossing $100 billion couldn't have come at a worse time for India that is seeing a series of steps to curtail defence spending due to mounting fiscal crisis. 

On Sunday,
the Chinese government announced that it was raising its defence budget by 11.2% to $106.4 billion (670 billion yuan). Beijing reiterated that it would stick to "peaceful development" and its military allocation was only 1.28% of its GDP. 

A senior government source here said that India couldn't afford to be in the arms race with China. "In terms of allocation and pace of modernization, they are far ahead of us. We will have to think of our own ways of military modernization that is suitable for us," he said. 

The official said the government has decided not to approve any more defence purchases this fiscal, and has requested the military headquarters to prioritize the procurement because of the strain on defence capital budget. "We have a serious fiscal deficit issue and our committed liabilities are touching 70% of the capital budget," he said. 

"We have to be aware of the developments across the border. We have taken decisions to modernize the border with China and improve infrastructure," he said. 

"If Chinese GDP grows at the present rate, their defence budget would be almost a quarter of a trillion ($250 billion) by 2016. It will create enormous military capability. Hence, the asymmetry between India and China would grow further in every sphere," says C Uday Bhaskar, a former director of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). 

If there is any lesson to be drawn from the Chinese military modernization, steadily rising since 1991, it is the "clarity and determination" of its political leadership towards it, he explained. "A complete contrast is visible in India, no political stakeholder seems to have such levels of commitment to national security," Bhaskar added. If the present commitment of China to military modernization persists and India fumbles, New Delhi may lose whatever edge it has even in naval matters in near future. 

A senior military officer said it was time India drew some lessons from China. "The quick indigenization that China has undertaken is probably the biggest lesson. Today most of its military equipment is met by the domestic industry," he said. 

Another officer said it was time that military became a bigger stakeholder in the national decision-making process to get better attention. "It cannot be that our chiefs keep writing to government seeking their indulgence in getting contracts approved," he added. 

In fact, Army chief General VK Singh last week wrote to defence minister AK Antony complaining that the fighting capabilities of the Army has been seriously degraded because of the delays in deciding procurement and other issues.

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