2012-03-23 (China Military News cited from the-diplomat.com and by Trefor Moss) — Modern India is economically and strategically buoyant, and has every reason to feel confident as the 21st century progresses. So it’s strange to think that this same confident place is developing an inferiority complex over China’s military power.
Never mind that New Delhi just announced a hefty 13 percent defense budget increase for 2012-13, or that the country is now the world’s biggest importer of military systems. Most Indian commentators seem to have digested these two pieces of news by focusing on the downside: that the country’s $39 billion defense budget remains quite modest compared with the $106 billion military budget at China’s disposal.
Second, the Indian military has long since accepted two facts of strategic life: that the Chinese military will always be bigger; and that it will always be richer.
That doesn’t mean the Chinese military will necessarily be better, and overcoming the comparative disadvantages of wealth and scale is what Indian military strategy, at least vis-à-vis China, is all about. The solution comes in two parts. First, the Indian military knows it has to focus on quality rather than quantity, investing in weapon systems that China, hindered by international arms embargoes, cannot match. It then also means capitalizing on regional unease about China’s rise and on forging smart alliances. China might be more powerful, but India knows it can be more popular.
The Indian media is therefore over hasty in viewing defense matters through the China inferiority lens. The Times of India, for example, headlined last week’s defense budget announcement by bemoaning the fact that the “Military plays catch-up but China [is] a long march ahead.”
That’s a self-defeating way to look at things. The important questions Indians should be asking are whether their government is giving defense the resources it needs – and based on successive double-digit spending increases, you’d have to say that it is; and whether that money is being used wisely to bankroll a coherent military modernization strategy. It’s when you look more closely at this second point that you begin to appreciate that India – not China – is its own worst enemy.
Writing in the Business Standard, Ajai Shukla observed this week that the Indian Army is being starved of funds, while the Navy and Air Force soak up all the investment. Indeed, the numbers don’t look good from the Army’s perspective. The Air Force has a capital expenditure to operational cost ratio of two to one; the ratio for the Navy is about three to two. By contrast, the Army spends six times as much on day-to-day running costs as it does on new equipment.