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Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
India and Pakistan: The Military balance
Indian military action in Kashmir
India sees itself as a rising regional power
By Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus

In straight numerical terms of population, economic might, military manpower and equipment it is almost meaningless to speak about an India-Pakistan balance.

"Imbalance" would be a more appropriate term since India dominates in every respect.

India
Fit for military service: 161,223,332
Defence expenditure: $10.05bn
2.5% of GDP
Pakistan
Military manpower: 21,206, 148
Defence expenditure: $2.43bn
3.9% of GDP
Source: CIA Factbook
What has to be understood from the outset is that the two countries have very different military aspirations.

India sees itself as a rising regional actor, and it sees military power as one element in this process.

As any aspiring regional player must do it looks around for potential partners and potential enemies.

China too has growing regional ambitions.

The two countries need not be enemies, but clearly India's military planners must have at least one eye on China as they draw up their own modernisation proposals.

Pakistan is in an altogether different position.

It seeks to provide itself with the military means to deter any pressure from India.

It cannot match India man-for-man or gun-for-gun. But as it modernises its armed forces, it can seek to invest in those technologies that maximise its capabilities and take an effective toll against any enemy.

India modernises

India's broader strategic goals mean that it is pursuing an ambitious modernisation programme across all of its armed services.

Indian Navy submarine and frigate
The Indian Navy plans to deploy new warships
The air force is getting the largest share of new money, with plans for new combat aircraft, airborne warning and control systems and missiles.

The army is destined to get new tanks and new artillery.

And the navy hopes to deploy new Russian-built warships, along with home-constructed vessels, new aircraft carriers and new submarines.

The plan is to spend some $95bn over the next 15 years.

How far these plans actually come to fruition will depend both on economics and upon potential suppliers.

India also has huge maintenance problems, in part due to the poor supply of spares from Russia but also to inadequate local servicing facilities.

India is eager to boost its own impressive arms industry but for the foreseeable future, many "big ticket" items will come from abroad.

Russian supplies

Russia is still the principal source of advance weaponry and looks set to continue in this role.

Indian multi-barrel rocket launcher
India is also looking to Israel for cutting-edge weaponry
A protocol signed between the two governments in June 2001 covers Russian supplies of some $10bn worth of weaponry and other military hardware over the coming decade.

India could have a joint role in developing a new Russian fighter aircraft and an upgraded transport plane.

Interestingly, India is interested in Russian air defence systems as well, with persistent reports that India's long-term aim is to deploy an anti-ballistic missile system of its own, perhaps based upon the Russian S-300VM system.

It's not surprising then that India has responded in generally positive terms to US President George Bush's proposals for limited missile defence.

India is also developing a close and little-reported relationship with Israel whose own arms industry has much to offer in terms of cutting-edge technology, especially in fields like unmanned reconnaissance aircraft and air-launched munitions.

India's rise is acknowledged in Washington and there is a lot of talk about a potential US-Indian strategic partnership, though nuclear-proliferation issues continue to dog relations.

China helps Pakistan

In the face of India's growing military arsenal, Pakistan is seeking to modernise its forces.

Clearly, it has put a good deal of effort into the nuclear and missile fields - areas where it can at least offer some credible deterrent against a potential threat.

China remains Pakistan's principal arms supplier, though Pakistan's purchases are modest in comparison to India's.

Pakistani T69 tanks
Pakistan has bought tanks from Ukraine
It has recently begun to receive the first deliveries of 50 Chinese F-7MG aircraft. And the two countries continue to collaborate on a joint programme for a new combat jet.

Pakistan also gets small amounts of sophisticated weaponry from France. In the past year it has taken delivery of a further eight upgraded Mirage III and Mirage V combat aircraft.

France is also supplying Pakistan with new, badly needed, diesel submarines. The first was commissioned in late 1999, with two more being built under licence in Karachi.

Pakistan is also eager to diversify its arms purchases - its bought battle tanks from Ukraine and is reportedly exploring the possibility of starting local production of an upgraded version known as the Al Khalid.

This is a priority since India recently signed a deal to buy over 300 Russian T-90 tanks.

But overall India's conventional dominance is something that Pakistan cannot match.

Its essential policy is to have sufficient forces to inflict heavy casualties on any attacker in the event of a war, while relying upon its nuclear forces to deter any conflict in the first place.

See also:

13 Feb 01 | South Asia
Russia and India bolster military ties
19 Jun 01 | South Asia
Date set for India-Pakistan summit
24 Aug 00 | South Asia
India and Pakistan: Troubled relations
24 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: India
20 Jun 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
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