Two days ago, on November 27, 2014, a text published by The Diplomat estimated that “India consistently ranks as the world’s largest importer of arms” and also (quoting a recent IHS Jane report) that “India is set to become the fourth biggest military spender in the world by 2020, surpassed only by the U.S., Russia and China”. The text we are speaking about is also relevant for openly talking about some defense policy weaknesses in India. The country, the author writes, “has historically kept Pakistan at the center of its defense posture, which would account for the heavy militarization of the northern frontiers, even though Pakistan does not pose an overt conventional risk to India. The failure of the government to adequately consider China, the Indian Ocean Region, and – more importantly – new areas such as cyberspace and orbital platforms has been the subject of much criticism. Pakistan and China have made significant advances in asymmetric warfare, but given the way they allocate the defense budget and the executive decisions they take, India’s politicians seem to have an unsaid prohibition on developing the requisite deterrence capabilities to counter this threat”[1].

In spite of such problems, India is clearly becoming more and more powerful in military terms, an evolution clearly supporting, we think, the impressive and quick general evolution of the India national power – from the large regional power status to the global power status.

In order to better understand this very significant geo-strategic trend, we will deliberately use what is usually called (in literary analysis, for example) “pars pro toto” – a method aimed at better understanding a complete and vast picture by means of simply analyzing only some tiny parts of  that large reality[2]. At the beginning of September, preparing a text[3] for an International Conference organized by the Center for Defence and Security Strategic Studies (CDSSS) within the “Carol I” National Defence University in Bucharest, I started by listing and analyzing some pieces of news dealing with the evolution of the Indian armed forces. These pieces of news we are going to explore later on are, all of them, present in Indian media along a very limited period (only two days).

Two months ago, I was writing that “at this very moment, the pace of evolution and development of the Indian global capabilities of all sorts, including several geo-strategically significant components of the Armed Forces, is simply breathtaking. Such an evaluation is not at all to be regarded as an empty figure of speech. On the contrary, it says a lot about one of the emerging world powers, which is – most probably – going to play an increasing role on the global arena”.

Eight significant pieces news and the broader geo-strategic picture behind them

In order to better understand the accelerated pace of the quantitative and qualitative growth of Indian military (including strategic) capabilities, let us briefly explore a set of very recent news, posted along a very limited timespan (September 1 and September 2, 2014), on an intensely specialized webpage called Bharat Rakshak: The Consortium of Indian Military Websites[4].

On September 1, the first piece of news we are taking into account said that the Indian government has decided to purchase “two separate types of US-produced specialised helicopters, one used in attack role and the other for lifting heavy load”. The contract will have a total value of “$ 2.5 billion”. The same source says that India “accepted the proposals” of Boeing “that will supply these copters – 15 heavy lift CH47F Chinook and 22 AH-64-D Apache — meant for the newly created Mountain Strike Corps”, and that “the US copters won the bid in an open competition beating the Russian-built Mi-26 and the Mi-28-H[5].

On the same day, another open source published a piece of news dealing, among other topics, with the long-term evolution of the Indian Navy. It says that “India’s leading shipyard Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd (GRSE) is now eyeing to tap export market”, by means of “exporting an off-shore patrol vessel to Mauritius”. A senior military official says that other “four or five more countries are in talk” with the same shipbuilder for other important contracts. The same senior official also declared that “GRSE will be developing 44 warships in next 10 years, including 16 at its Kolkata shipyard”. The same open source quoted another high official, who said that “no nation can aspire to be powerful to reckon with on borrowed strength”[6].

Also on September 1, 2014, Ashok Malik, an influential Delhi-based political commentator, published an article dealing with India’s oceanic destiny. Malik states that “twice in recent weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent significant time on new acquisitions of the Indian Navy. He visited the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and then commissioned INS Kolkata, the largest warship built in India”, and that “bolstering maritime security for both military and trade purposes…. is crucial for India; after all, more than 90% of its international trade is dependent on the sea”. The author also underlines that “more recently, India has woken up to securing its claims as a paramount naval power in the Indian Ocean before the Chinese surge proved too much”. The basic solution India might adopt in order to prevent a too strong enlargement of China’s sphere of influence is “the creation of a new city and infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands – this could be India’s Pudong, India’s Singapore, India’s Hawaii, whatever you want”. The conclusion is that this project could transform India into a “serious power in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian region”, and that “when it comes to national security, Pakistan represents a tactical challenge; China is the longer-term and strategic challenge”, so that “in some senses, the [national] defence lies in the Indo-Pacific, the Indian Ocean…, just off the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. What India does – or doesn’t do – on those Islands will determine its destiny in the 21st century”[7].

On September 1, The New Indian Express reported that “India is all set to achieve self-reliance in testing of armoured vehicles, as Asia’s first Ballistic Research Centre will soon be functioning at Gujarat Forensic Science University (GFSU)” in Gandhinagar. A senior official declared that “we are open to provide services to other countries also, including our neighbours”. Testing procedures were briefly presented[8].

On the same day, the same New Indian Express published another article also dealing with important military-strategic issues. The article states that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is going “to ensure delivery of cutting edge weapon systems to the Armed Forces in time so that the country can keep pace with other nations in the national security arena”. More precisely, “the DRDO plans to test nuclear capable Agni-I, sub-sonic cruise missile Nirbhay and longest range Agni-V”. The newspaper reports that Nirbhay has a range of 1,000 km, and that “the next generation missile Agni-VI” will have “a range of more than 8,000 km”[9].

Also on September 1, IBNlive published an illustrated presentation of the seven major commando units of the Indian armed forces. The text starts by stating that “the Indian armed forces is a combination of the all the military forces including the Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and Indian Coast Guard. With 1.3 million soldiers, Indian has the world's “third largest military force and the largest standing volunteer army in the world”. Then commando units are listed, some of them employed in strategic missions – defense of vital infrastructure or fighting terrorist entities”[10].

On the same day, the Consortium of Indian Military Websites published a quite long text dealing with the country’s efforts aimed at developing its own ballistic defense system. The author says that the system will “provide credible capability against theatre ballistic missiles (TBM) launched from up to 2,000 kms away”, and that in the next few years DRDO will develop “two new interceptors… capable of neutralizing RVs delivered by ballistic missiles fired from more than 5,000 km away”. The final lines of the text indicate that “this means that India has all the elements in place for a direct ascent counter space system that can easily be used for anti-satellite purposes”[11].

And one day later, on September 2, Business Standard published an article dealing with the newest combat ship to be commissioned by the Indian Navy. It is the “Offshore Patrol Vessel INS Sumitra”, and a Defence Ministry release said that “the induction of INS Sumitra in the Eastern Naval Command and her basing at Chennai will enhance the offshore surveillance and maritime patrolling capability on India's eastern seaboard in addition to giving a fillip to anti-piracy operations actively being undertaken by the Indian Navy”. The ship has “a displacement of about 2,200 tonnes” and an “impressive weapon and sensor outfit”[12].

If are to summarize all these pieces of news along the two days we have been speaking about (September 1 and 2, 2014), the basic elements are these ones: eight pieces of news, all of them significant at several levels, including the strategic one (and most of them at geo-strategic level as well). Three texts are directly dealing with the Navy (including one speaking about geo-strategic competition with China); two of them are dealing with ballistic weapons (offensive ones, with a range up to 8,000 kilometers, or modern defensive ABM systems); one of them is speaking about both a strong partnership with the U.S., and increased helicopter capabilities (including attack aircraft, and heavy transport ones – these are a major strategic asset, at least in the mountains and high hills on the Chinese and Pakistani borders); one of them is dealing with advanced military testing facilities; and another text is dealing with commando (Special Forces) units, which can be deployed in various contexts, including some which clearly are geo-strategically significant).

Put together, all these texts generate a vivid image (even if it is a partial one, it can be easily extrapolated to better understand long-term trends, using what literature studies and analysis call ‘pars pro toto’ method) of the impressive might, goals (including the geo-strategic ones) and evolution of the Indian armed forces.


[1] Amit R. SAKSENA, “India’s Urgent Need for Defense Modernization”, The Diplomat, November 27, 2014, at the Internet address

[2] For briefly but clearly defining pars pro toto see, for example, “pars pro toto”, at the Internet address; and also “pars pro toto”, at the Internet address

[3] The final text is: Florin DIACONU, „India’s effort to become a global power: Some important military-strategic elements”, în Stan ANTON, Alexandra SARCINSCHI (editors), Proceedings of the International Scientific Conference Strategies XXI, 12th edition: The complex and dynamic nature of the security environment, volume II, Carol I National Defence University. Center for Defence and Security Strategic Studies, 2014, ISSN 2285-8318 (print), ISSN-L 285-8318, pp. 193-201

[4] The part we are directly quoting and commenting of the webpage we are speaking about can be accessed at the Internet address

[5] “US copters for Mountain Strike Corps”, and “Boeing to supply 37 choppers”, The Tribune, August 29, 2014, posted on September 1, 2014 at the Internet address

[6] For all these see “GRSE eyeing to tap export market: CMD”, in Business Standard, August 30, 2014, posted on September 1, 2014, at the Internet address

[7] Ashok MALIK (Delhi-based political commentator), “Our string of islands theory”, in Hindustan Times, written on September 1, 2014, and posted on September 1, 2014, at the Internet address

[8] PTI, “Gujarat to Get Asia's First Ballistic Research Centre”, The New Indian Express, September 1, 2014, and posted on September 1, 2014, at the Internet address

[9] Hemant Kumar ROUT, “More Tests on DRDO Radar”, The New Indian Express, updated on September 2, 2014, posted on September 1, 2014 at at the Internet address

[10] For all these see “The smart Black Cat commandos and the safari suits of SPG commandos: 7 Indian armed forces uniform codes that you need to know”, IBNLive, September 1, 2014, posted on September 1, 2014 at the Internet address

[11] Saurav JHA, “Some notes on DRDO's PDV ballistic missile defence interceptor”, IBNLive (and Geek at Large), August 30, 2014, posted on September 1, 2014, at the Internet address

[12] Press Trust of India, “Navy to commission INS Sumitra on September 4”, Business Standard, September 2, 2014, posted on September 2, 2014 at the Internet address

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...