Leadership: India Turns Away From Pakistan


May 29, 2009: Indian military leaders now consider China their major military threat, rather than Pakistan. Several different trends brought this about. First, China is modernizing their armed forces at a rapid rate. This means a navy that is capable of operating in the Indian ocean, and is obtaining bases in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, to better keep an eye on the sea lanes that supply most of the oil, and many other natural resources, needed by the booming Chinese economy.

China and India share a common border, but it's high in the Himalayan mountains. Although India lost several border skirmishes to Chinese troops along that border in the 1960s, China was never considered a real threat. That's because there were no Chinese railroads leading to their side of the Himalayan frontier. With only a few roads leading into Tibet, from China proper, the Chinese could never launch a major offensive across the Himalayan border. That changed three years ago when China completed a railroad into Tibet.

So China is now a threat from all sides. India is particularly annoyed at China intruding into the waters surrounding India. It's not called the Indian Ocean for nothing, and the Indians consider these waters sacrosanct. Chinese naval power is not welcome.

And then there is the declining threat from Pakistan. First of all, both countries are finally, after decades of bickering and shooting, talking peace together. But most important is the realization that the Pakistanis are much less of a military threat than Indian realized. This became known last year when, for the first time in over four decades, Pakistan released information on its defense spending.

The current year's Pakistani budget was $4.1 billion. That figure explains why this data has been kept secret for so long. That's because Pakistan's long time arch-enemy, and neighbor, India was increasing its defense budget by nearly 50 percent, to $39 billion. The difference should be no surprise. India has six times the population (at 1.1 billion) and 7.5 times the GDP ($1.1 trillion compared to $145 billion). India's economy has been booming for over a decade, while Pakistan's largely stagnates.

 This military spending disparity was long suspected, even with all the secrecy. The GDP differences were well known, as were the details of how the two forces were equipped. This, of course, is why Pakistan put so much effort into developing nuclear weapons. Only this would provide a credible defense against a militarily superior India. Pakistan has been spending about percent of GDP on defense, while India was long spending two percent (the proposed increase will make it three percent). The global average is about 2.5 percent.

China has long been a principal weapons supplier to Pakistan, which Russia supplied India.


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