India Accelerates Alarming Arms Race in South Asia
It is most regrettable that by ignoring the modern global trends like renunciation of war, peaceful settlement of disputes and economic development, India has accelerated alarming arms race in South Asia.
In this regard, in its report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has revealed on February 17, 2020 that in 2019, total global military expenditure rose to $1917 billion in 2019. It said that the five largest spenders in 2019 accounted for 62 per cent of expenditure. India is among the world’s largest recipient of arms.´
According to the ‘Military Balance 2018’ report of IISS, “India’s defence budget broke into the world’s top five…beating the UK for the first time…India overtook the UK as the fifth-largest defence spender in the world in 2017 at $52.5 billion, up from $51.1 billion in 2016.”
It is notable that India test-fired its longest range surface-to-surface nuclear ballistic missile Agni-5 on December 26, 2017.
Agni-5 is capable of striking a target of more than 5,000 km away. The missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tone. It can target almost all of Asia, including Pakistan, China and Europe. While, the Agni-6 is reported to be in early stages of development and the most advanced version, with a strike-range of 8,000-10,000 km.
New Delhi already has in its arsenal—the Agni 1, 2, 3 and 4 missile systems and supersonic cruise missiles like Brahmos.
According to Times of India, “Once the Agni-V is inducted, India will join the super exclusive club of countries with ICBMs (missiles with a range of over 5,000-5,500km) alongside the US, Russia, China, France and the UK.”
Although peace and brinksmanship cannot co-exist in the modern era, yet India seeks to destabilize Asia through its aggressive designs, activated with new arms race.
Recall, on September 25, 2008, President Barack Obama, while accusing President Bush’s policies in the region, offered it as part of his policy to encourage India and Pakistan to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and resolve the Kashmir problem to reduce nuclear dangers in South Asia and militancy in the region.
Quite contrary to his commitments, during his first visit to New Delhi, on November 6, 2010 President Obama announced the measures, America would take regarding removal of Indian space and defence companies from a restricted “entities list”, and supported Indian demand for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, including membership of four key global nuclear nonproliferation regimes.
And as part of the double standards, America set aside the Indian poor record regarding the safety of nuclear weapons and materials. Despite, Indian violations of various international agreements and its refusal to sign Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Washington signed a pact of nuclear civil technology with New Delhi in 2008. During American President Barack Obama’s visit to India, on January 25, 2016, the US and India announced a breakthrough on the pact which would allow American companies to supply New Delhi with civilian nuclear technology.
New Delhi’s military is acquiring a slew of new equipments from combat aircraft to submarines and artillery.
In this connection, on November 2, 2010, the US agreed to sell India the new F-35 fighter jets, including US F-16 and F-18 fighters, C-17 and C-130 aircraft, radar systems, Harpoon weapons etc. Besides acquisition of arms and weapons from other western countries—especially Israel, America is a potential military supplier to India. US also pressurized IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group to grant a waiver to New Delhi for obtaining civil nuclear trade on larger scale.
Besides, French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation has handed over three Rafale multirole fighter aircraft to the Indian Air Force. Delivery of all 36 aircraft is expected to be completed by April 2022.
In fact, US wants New Delhi to continue anti-China and anti-Pakistan role. Beijing is apprehensive about the emerging threat, as during the last visit of Obama to New Delhi, the intent of President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quite clear, while mentioning about free sea lanes and air passages in the South China Sea.
It is mentionable that during the US President Donald Trump’s two-day visit to India, New Delhi and Washington on February 25, this year signed defence deals worth $3 billion, as President Donald Trump in a joint statement with PM Narendra Modi stated that the two countries have finalised defence deals.
It is worth-mentioning that as part of Indian war-mongering diplomacy, in the recent past tensions which still remains, arose between India and China when in response to India’s construction of roads and airstrips adjacent to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which will improve connectivity and enable easier mobility for Indian troops in the area, thousands of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops moved into the regions along the eastern Ladakh border, setting up tents and stationing vehicles and heavy machinery.
Likewise, tension remains over the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, as India keeps on violating the ceasefire-agreement by shelling Pakistani side of Kashmir in wake of the unresolved issue of Kashmir.
India has escalated tensions with Islamabad particularly in the aftermath of the false flag terror attack at Puwama-Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). In this respect, on February 27, last year, in response to the Indian so-called pre-emptive air strike near the town of Balakot, close to the border with Pakistan’s sector of Kashmir, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) shot down two Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets and launched aerial strikes at six targets in the IOK.
Meanwhile, implementing the August 5 announcement of 2019, Indian central government issued a map on October 31, 2019. In accordance with it, Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two union territories—Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and identifies Pakistani side of Azad Kashmir as well as certain areas of Gilgit-Baltistan as an Indian territory. Islamabad and Beijing had rejected the map.
Regarding the India-Nepal confrontation, a new road opened by New Delhi which passes through the disputed territory has roused territorial dispute between the two countries. The link road connects Dharchula in the India state of Uttarakhand to the Lipu Lekh pass near the LAC–India’s border with China.
Notably, under the Pak-China pretext, Indian ex-Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor had said on December 29, 2010 that the Indian army “is now revising its five-year old doctrine” and is preparing for a “possible two-front war with China and Pakistan.”
And with the US-led Indo-Israeli secret diplomacy, New Delhi has been acquiring an element of strategic depth by setting up logistical bases in the Indian Ocean for its navy.
In this context, while replying to a question, in his interview, published in the Indian weekly Outlook on February 18, 2008, the then Israel’s ambassador to India, Mark Sofer, had surprisingly revealed: “We do have a defense relationship with India, and with all due respect, the secret part will remain a secret.”
Particularly, fast growing economic power of China coupled with her rising strategic relationship with Russia, the Third World and especially Pakistan—after signing of the agreement, “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” which is, though for the benefit of South Asia, but, has irked the eyes of Americans, Indians and Israelis. Owing to jealousy, America desires to make India a major power to counterbalance China in Asia.
It is owing to the American dual policy that New Delhi openly follows threatening diplomacy in South Asia. In this respect, in May 1998 when India detonated five nuclear tests and also compelled Pakistan to follow the suit. The then Defense Minister George Fernandes had also declared publicly that “China is India’s potential threat No. 1.” Now, by setting aside peace-offers of Beijing and Islamabad, New Delhi has entangled the latter in a deadly arms race.
Similarly, by pursuing the US double standards, President Trump is also favouring India. So, manipulating American conflicting policy in South Asia, New Delhi is destabilizing the regional countries in general and Afghanistan, Pakistan and China in particular by supporting insurgency in these countries.
While, international community has been making strenuous efforts for world peace in wake of global financial crisis and war against terrorism, especially against ISIL (Daesh or ISIS), but, emboldened by the US, India has accelerated alarming nuclear arms race in South Asia where people are already facing multiple problems of grave nature. Majority of South Asian people are living below the poverty level, lacking basic facilities like fresh food and clean water. Yielding to acute poverty, every day, some persons commit suicide.
Even, Indian civil society organizations, while complaining of Indian excessive defense spending, pointed out that the government spends very little amount for the betterment of people. Indian defense analyst Ravinder Pal Singh, while indicating New Delhi’s unending defense expenditures at the cost of poverty-alleviation, calls it guns-versus-butter question.
We can conclude that India has accelerated alarming arms race in South Asia, while following war-like strategy against Pakistan and China. If not checked by the international community, it can culminate into a nuclear war between India and Pakistan or between India and China.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations