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India’s military security challenges, both current and long-term, came into unintended focus in this month, with the increase in foreign direct investment in defence manufacturing to 74% being announced as a part of the Economic Stimulus Package.

India’s Military Security Situation

  • The eastern Ladakh sector saw a stand-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Pangong Tso sector.
  • Nepal summoned the Indian ambassador on May 11 to lodge a protest against the construction of a road by India in an area (Lipu Lekh pass to Dharchula in Uttarakhand) that Kathmandu claims lies within its territory.
  • Reports have emerged of China enhancing its Indian Ocean (IO) footprint in an island proximate to Male in the Maldives.
  • The regional strategic environment became rough for India when China acquired nuclear weapons in October 1964; the subsequent Sino-Pakistan weapons of mass destruction (WMD) covert cooperation presented Delhi with a sui generis security conundrum.

India’s Capacity to Handle

  • For years experts have been pointing out that the annual defence allocation cannot sustain the kind of human, material and inventory profile that India needs. The last defence budget (excluding pensions) was ~3,37,000 crore. The amount available for modernisation of equipment and new acquisitions was shrinking to about 32% from the optimum of 40% of the budget.
  • The fiscal deficit is set to breach the recommended 3.5% limit, Thus, it is unlikely that the armed forces will receive anything close to ~3,50,000 crore.

Way Forward

  • Given that the Covid-19 challenge and its accumulating debris of economic devastation and human destitution will be the higher national priority for some years, India will have to embark on a radical review of its security challenges and the road map to deal with this complex spectrum.
  • Many nations are facing a similar predicament, but some abiding elements in the Indian context must be noted. Strategic geography and its attendant security exigencies will not change due to the pandemic.
  • The low-intensity conflict stoked by Pakistan and the internal security fabric will be turbulent and the political apex will seek to assuage national sentiment in this regard.
  • What kind of military capability India needs, its technological contour, and how this can be both nurtured and sustained in an affordable manner in a post-Covid-19 world needs careful and objective assessment.

-Source: Hindustan Times

December 2023