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Tuesday, 29 February, 2000, 12:19 GMT
India's growing defence costs
ship on exercises
Conventional forces are to be bolstered
By Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus

The steep rise in India's defence spending is intended to bolster the country's conventional defences at a time of continuing tensions with Pakistan.

India is now widely believed to have a small but capable nuclear arsenal.

But it is the very fact that India is now a nuclear power that gives such urgency to its modernisation plans.

India is in the process of elaborating a sophisticated new defence doctrine that gives its nuclear arsenal a clear deterrent role.

It is also intended to provide an adequate capacity to retaliate if deterrence fails.

But Indian leaders are well aware of the nuclear dangers on the sub-continent, given the fact that both India and Pakistan have invested heavily to develop both nuclear weapons and the systems to deliver them.

'Push nuclear threshold'

Thus the aim of this significant rise in defence spending is to push the nuclear threshold as high as possible.

In other words to afford India highly credible conventional forces that themselves could defend the country in the event of attack thus avoiding the need to go nuclear.

Of course, India's nuclear programme has soaked up a good deal of money.

And with ambitious modernisation plans for all three armed services additional money was badly needed.

Russian arms manufacturers could be among the main beneficiaries of the rise in Indian defence spending.

India has been negotiating to build Sukhoi SU-30 jets under licence; and it is interested in buying Russian warships, air defence systems and modern tanks.

India is also thought to be interested in leasing Russian airborne early warning aircraft along with Tupolev long-range bombers.

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