India preparing to upgrade offensive forces

India preparing to upgrade offensive forces

SAM Report,

India, the largest country in South Asia, has always been alert about its  own military defense. Although this was one of the architect nations in the neutral alliance during cold war, India always maintained strategic and defensive relations with the Soviet Union. The country also had a special relationship with the United States. Within a short time when the alliances embarked on an offensive preparation, India is seemingly reappearing on the scene with some of the recent events and activities. India has already made a military and nuclear co-operation agreement with the United States, the biggest economic power in the world. And recently Delhi signed another significant nuclear contract with Asia’s superpower Japan. Also, another contract was made to purchase advanced air defense system from Russia. India is also having military exercises one after another alongside their small neighboring countries. These preparations portray a situation where India might be expecting war or sever conflict in near future.

The nuclear agreement with Japan was signed on 10th November. With this agreement, Japan can export nuclear technology, fuel for a nuclear reactor and other related things to India. Narendra Modi signed the deal during his visit to Tokyo. Japan Prime minister Shinzo Abe said this nuclear agreement was made only for civil and development purposes. One of the focuses of the agreement was not to use nuclear weapons. But a prominent nuclear researcher in Japan, Nakata Yakashi, said India was experimenting with nuclear weapons. If they use this aid from Japan to produce nuclear weapons, it will be a threat to world peace.

Pressuring China or somewhat stopping the country to gain influence might be the reason behind this agreement. Indian newspapers are also saying that the contract will repel China. No explanation was given to the question why China is relevant if peaceful energy creation is the purpose.

India signed this agreement at a time when they are trying to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group without the obligatory signing of nuclear expansion prevention treaty. Japan is the first country in “Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty” who made an agreement with a nuclear-armed state. The agreement came at a time when Japan is becoming uneasy with the growing threat of China naval force in the South China Sea. Analysts in Tokyo think that India will be a major power by their side in preventing China’s maritime threat.

Last year Japan government passed a security bill allowing its soldiers  to fight abroad.  With this Japan’s military force can play an active role  outside of the country. One of the main reasons for tension in this part of Asia is the rise of China as a superpower and America going all out to prevent this ascension. Eighty percent of China’s energy supply comes through the Strait of Malacca, South China Sea. Beijing thinks America is trying to control this route to impede China’s economic rise. In last few decades, America’s strategy was to restrain their competitor in their own region.

With the fear of US using neighboring countries of South China Sea to work against China, Beijing is showing aggressiveness regarding the sovereignty of the South China Sea. Thus, China is in constant disputes over maritime boundary with its neighboring countries.

Conflict with Japan recently got reinforced over Senkaku Island. China is taking efforts to solve this through bilateral discussions rather accepting the verdict of the International Court of Arbitration. At the same time, they are looking for an alternative trade and energy route. With this in focus China is now investing in seaports of various Asian countries. Security experts have identified this as “Pearl of the sting”.

As a part of this project China is investing in Pakistan’s Gwadar port and taking the same approach in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Indian security analysts are assuming such activities as China’s attempt to dominate the Indian Ocean. Delhi is working alongside America’s plan to restrain this China naval influence. Engaging the USA Sixth Fleet in Asia is presumed as a part of this strategy.

Competition for gaining influence over Asia has already created two security circles. Japan and India supported by the USA is on one side while China and Pakistan supported by Russia on the other. The competition between these two affiliations has become more open due to several events in recent years.

The most critical event was India’s acute opposition to “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” that spans from Pakistan’s Gwadar port to China’s Xinjiang Kashgar. Beijing wasn’t to build this as an alternative route for energy supply and as a modern silk road. China wants to add a large part of South, South-East-Asia, and Central Asia to this mega highway. To prevent the implementation of this top priority project, Delhi is protesting against it time to time amid the allegation of creating a sudden superficial unrest in Baluchistan.

Revolving around this Baluchistan crisis, the SAARC summit was postponed and now a new initiative is taken to create an alternative regional co-operative group. Pakistan and China’s reaction to these Indian activities is resulting in huge tension in the region. India is trying to create its own circle with the neighboring countries to counter this tension. Subsequently, after cancellation of Islamabad SAARC conference, they arranged BIMSTEC summit in Goa during the BRICS summit where Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan were on their side. With this New Delhi is trying to create a regional co-operative organization dominated by India.

Concurrently India is trying to increase military capability of their forces. Recently, a series of defense-related proposals were approved by the Indian government to increase the military strength. A project was approved where 100 Fighter Jet and 400 tanks will be built internally. Overall this will cost almost 820 billion rupees. In the context of tensions with Pakistan and disagreement with China, India’s Defense Acquisition Council took this decision. Purchase of total 82 light combat aircraft “TEJAS MK1” was also approved by them.  It is one of the lightest multi-role supersonic fighter jets. It was designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force and Navy.

In addition, decision to purchase 15 Light Combat Helicopter, 464 T-90 tanks was made at the same time. Apart from this Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher will be brought for the army. In conjunction with increasing military capability, India also has taken significant initiatives to develop collective regional security.

With the present Bangladesh government coming to power an undisclosed security agreement was made between Delhi and Dhaka. Under which Indian military can intervene in a situation link to  terrorism. Most recently Delhi started a joint military exercise in Tangail, Bangladesh called “SAMPRITI-2016” which will continue till the third week of November. Meanwhile, preparations for naval exercise are also going on. Prior to this Sheikh Hasina government has almost finished the construction of transit infrastructures that will connect India’s mainland with the Seven Sister states.  Moheshkhali-Kutubdia LNG terminal construction, coal-based power plant, involvement in deep-sea project, India’s naval observation of Oil-gas blocks leasing etc. are done to increase India’s supervision.

In contrast, many commercial and infrastructure development projects are given to Chinese companies. However, after Chinese president’s recent visit to Dhaka and commitment of large-scale investment, the actual progress is slow in these projects. Delhi already stated their objection to several of these investment proposals.  India has also carried out joint military exercises with Nepal which took place from October 31 to November 13. India’s army chief of military operations also took part in the exercise program in the mountain region.

Another important country in the region Sri Lanka also had a joint military exercise with India called “MITRA SHAKTI 2016” which spanned 24 October to 6th November. The drill focused on naval battle.  Military links with Afghanistan also increased even though there was no joint exercise. Several advanced military vehicles and helicopters have been provided to them by Delhi. Official reason of these activities was compliance with UN Counter-Terrorism and Counterinsurgency.

Sources in Delhi, however, linked this with ongoing regional tension.  No major changes are expected in South Asia before new US administration takes over. Nonetheless, anticipation of a major conflict is compelling the regional forces to increase their military capabilities.