Could India’s Military Really Crush Pakistan?

Walter C. Ladwig III

Security, Asia

India’s conventional military superiority over Pakistan is exaggerated.

Following a raid by Indian special forces into Myanmar early this month, increasing attention has been given to the prospect that India might use similar means against Pakistan to pressure it to end support for anti-Indian militant groups. India’s on-going military modernization and headline-grabbing increases in defense spending have already raised concerns that it threatens to upset the delicate conventional military balance in the region and make military action a more attractive prospect for New Delhi.

Taken at face value, there appears to be some validity to this line of thinking. Indian defense spending has doubled in real terms since 1997, growing at an average of 6.3 percent per year. The Modi announced a further 11 percent hike, raising the 2015–2016 military budget to $39.8 billion. Moreover, India is presently the world’s largest buyer of conventional weapons, with upwards of $100 billion expected to be spent on modernizing its defense forces over the next decade.

Consequently, a number of scholars and analysts have suggested Indian military modernization is threatening Pakistan’s conventional deterrence and pressuring Islamabad to embrace battlefield nuclear weapons as a tool of self defense. Yet, this line of thinking overlooks the fact that the Indian military is beset by obsolete platforms.

(Recommended: If Pakistan and India Clash: 5 Pakistani Weapons of War India Should Fear)

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China’s Afghanistan Moment

Lyle J. Goldstein

Security, Asia

China’s evolving policies toward Afghanistan hardly illustrate a rising power bent on territorial expansion and could be a possible area of Washington-Beijing cooperation.

The 7th Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) with China has recently concluded in Washington.  Hawks will no doubt opine that the Obama Administration has not shown adequate backbone in standing up to China in the South China Sea.  Doves, by contrast, will complain that progress on key issues, such as North Korea’s expanding nuclear arsenal, have been superseded by tense discussions about reefs and rocks.

It has become increasingly clear that close U.S.-China cooperation is a prerequisite to managing problems across the globe, from the Ebola crisis in West Africa to the deteriorating security situation in the Persian Gulf to maintaining the delicate ecological balance in the polar regions.  A rather ripe area for regional cooperation that has not received adequate attention concerns the future of Central Asia, and the Afghanistan imbroglio, in particular.  Continuing grave instability in Afghanistan was once again underlined last week as the Taliban attacked the Parliament building in Kabul.

In a perfect world perhaps the United Nations together with the new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani would invite China to enlarge its role in fostering regional stability and PLA soldiers clad in blue helmets would flood the narrow alleyways and valleys of dangerous Helmand Province to finally accomplish what Washington has been unable or unwilling to do.  There is emphatically no support whatsoever for that scenario – least of all in Kabul and Beijing.  Still, Chinese strategists are talking about Afghanistan with an unmistakable urgency of late.  This edition of Dragon Eye will make a close examination of an early 2015 Chinese-language academic analysis of the situation in Afghanistan published in the State Council’s journal 亚非纵横 [Asia and Africa Review] by two Shanghai academics.  

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Revealed: India’s Master Plan for the Indian Ocean

C. Raja Mohan

Security, Asia

There is no doubt that Modi has embarked on a more ambitious foreign policy in the Indian Ocean.

On a March 2015 trip to Seychelles and Mauritius, Narendra Modi outlined a bold framework that overturned the political approach that India had taken towards the Indian Ocean for half a century.  Beginning in the late 1960s, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked all major powers to withdraw from the Indian Ocean out of concern for great power rivalry. This approach fit with India’s self-perception as a non-aligned and Third World state, and its desire to be economically self reliant and to distance itself from the British Raj, which had long been the central security provider in the Indian Ocean.

The context which gave rise to the Gandhi approach began to change in the 1990s, as India embarked on a policy of economic globalization and ended its military isolation. India’s new maritime imperatives did not, however, translate into a vigorous national strategy. India’s approach was weighed down by a lack of coherence, political ambivalence, and above all, persistence of a continentalist mindset in Delhi’s security establishment. The top political leadership still had neither the time nor the inclination to lay out clear goals for the Indian Ocean or the maritime space beyond. China, much like India, had long had a continentalist obsession. As China began to build a blue water navy and put its weight behind its own maritime vision for the Pacific and Indian Oceans, however, Delhi was forced to consider the implications for its own maritime security.

India’s previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government took a number of new initiatives on the Indian Ocean. It sought to inject renewed dynamism into the moribund Indian Ocean Rim Association that was set up in the 1990s to promote regional cooperation in the littoral. It launched the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium that convenes all the naval chiefs in the littoral for professional exchanges and engagement to promote maritime security. Delhi also initiated a trilateral security arrangement, coordinated at the level of national security advisers, between India, Sri Lanka and Maldives in 2011 to expand maritime security cooperation. Yet, as in so many areas, the UPA government did not have the energy to pursue these initiatives with urgency or purpose. Modi’s recent visit to the Indian Ocean islands has promised to plug that gap between good ideas and their implementation.

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Expert: India Watching U.S. Pacific Rebalance Closely

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is welcomed with an honor cordon to India's Ministry of Defense in New Delhi, india on June 3, 2015. DoD Photo

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is welcomed with an honor cordon to India’s Ministry of Defense in New Delhi, india on June 3, 2015. DoD Photo

Smaller nations are the ones mostly questioning the seriousness of the United States in re-balancing its commitment to the Indo-Pacific region when it is distracted by continuing crises in the Middle East and Ukraine, one of India’s leading foreign policy experts said Tuesday.

Hermant K. Singh, speaking at the Center for International and Strategic Studies, a Washington, D.C., think-tank, said that for decades the United States “has been a re-assuring presence” in the Indo-Pacific, but because it is a global power, America has commitments to meet in other regions as well.

“We have to do things ourselves,” he said speaking of India’s rise as a regional power. “Regional powers will be doing a lot of thinking and heavy lifting.”

“India is back in play” with a growing strategic relationship with the United States and other democracies, such as Japan and Australia. The new forcefulness also is shown in the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s idea of pursuing an “India first” pragmatic foreign policy. Singh called it “a new approach of engaging the world.” The strategy accompanying the policy also puts new emphasis on maritime security and freedom of navigation.

The security relationship with the United States is “moving closer” and is of the most importance to India.

Like the United States, Singh said India wants a “balanced, rule-based Asian security order.” He said both believe in a “multi-polar Asia where everybody rises.” He cited the recent defense framework between the two as an example of the growing relationship.

Where India and the United States do not see eye-to-eye is on some trade issues such as the impact of the Trans Pacific Partnership [India is not included] and intellectual property rights, including patents on medicines. “Luckily, we’ve re-started the dialogues” on these economic questions, he said.

“Fault lines have deepened” with China as disputes over borders continue. He termed the situation an “uneasy peace.” He said Modi’s recent visit to China was designed to establish strategic communications between the two nations, build more stable ties between them, and work on economic opportunities that benefit both.

But China needs to “realize India is also a major Asian power,” he said. “Will China accept a new type of rising power in Asia” other than itself?

In answer to a question, Singh said the growing Russian-Sino relationship “really bothers the two major democratic powers in Asia [India and Japan]” because “it really means China has a free hand” in the region.

“We’re open to a new relationship with Pakistan when they want it,” Singh said. Among the conditions to end decades of on-again, off-again war over Kashmir between the two nuclear powers would be “no support for extremist elements” in Pakistan that carry out attacks such as the one in Mumbai in 2008 that killed 164 people and wounded more than 360 others.

On Afghanistan, “we don’t have a shared road map” with Pakistan about the future there, he said.

About other nations on its borders—Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, they are finally working together on economic opportunity projects and energy. “India has a very special focus on the neighbors.” Later, he added, “We hope Pakistan will join too.”

Singh said it was important to remember that the “bulk of global economic growth over the next 30 years will come from India and other eastern countries,” making the region one of rising interest and importance.


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Today, with combat operations in Afghanistan winding down, U.S. policy toward the states of Central Asia is transitioning to a new era. The United States now has an opportunity to refashion its approach to the region.

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Restraint No More: India Reassess Its Hard Power

With its cross-border covert strike into Myanmar, India’s views on hard power come into focus.


Can China’s Nuclear Submarines Blockade India?

Zachary Keck

Security, Asia

India is growing increasingly concerned with China’s submarine deployments in the Indian Ocean.

India is growing increasing concerned about China’s submarine deployments in the Indian Ocean, as Beijing ramps up talk of being able to blockade India with nuclear submarines.

This week, the Indian-based news outlet, NDTV, cited unnamed Indian naval sources as saying that India’s Navy is worried by China’s increasingly frequent submarine deployments in the Indian Ocean.

In September 2013, China confirmed for the first time that a nuclear attack submarine would transit the Indian Ocean on its way to carry out the international anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. This was followed by submarines docking in the Chinese-funded Colombo port of Sri Lanka twice last year.

The first docking, back in September 2014, was a Song-class diesel-electric attack submarine. However, seven weeks later a Type 091 Han-class nuclear-powered submarine surfaced in Sri Lanka. Around the same time, China reportedly informed India that a Type-093 Shang-class nuclear-powered attack submarine would begin patrolling in the Indian Ocean.

It is these nuclear-powered submarines that are particularly worrisome to the Indian Navy. As NDTV reports, “the deployment of the relatively advanced Shang Class nuclear fast attack boat, [is] a significant cause of concern at Naval Headquarters.”

Both India and China rely heavily on sea-borne commerce that transits the Indian Ocean on its way to Beijing and Delhi. For example, trade represents nearly 55 percent of India’s GDP, most of which is carried by sea. China is even more reliant on trade, which in recent years has comprised about 60 percent of China’s GDP. Roughly 85 percent of China’s trade is seaborne.

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What the Pentagon Sees in India—And Vice Versa

Not that long ago, Washington and New Delhi were deeply suspicious of one another. Now, they’re talking about collaborating on an aircraft carrier and weapons production.


India and Vietnam Push Ahead with Strategic Security Cooperation

Vietnam’s defense minister is in India, with a maritime security-focused agenda.