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A preamble to India’s growing defense

In these troubled times, the question of safety is paramount, and nothing concerns a nationalistic regime like ours more than national security and defence. The Indian Military has gone through many highs and lows while dealing with both international issues like instability in the neighbourhood or domestic issues that stem from politics. While originally being a celebration of the implementation of the Constitution, Republic Day has recently become a way to showcase India’s diversity and military prowess. Staying true to this, the 71st Republic Day showcased the military might and advancements of the Republic of India.

In the new century, India’s defense budget has favored the air and marine forces, which has caused a soaring demand for increasing the ground forces at the frontier. The confrontations with China and Pakistan have led to the formation of the mountain strike corps and two varying opinions about how to deal with Chinese border pressure. One emphasizes on being defensive on land and focusing on the superiority of the navy in the Indian Ocean to threaten China’s imports and economy. The other focuses on land forces, stressing the strengthening of defence infrastructure along the border area so that we are capable of a strong counterattack in the event of armed conflict.

In terms of active manpower and the number of ships and planes, our armed forces are already among the world’s top five. Having revealed its nuclear capability in 1998 with a series of tests, India has developed its own ground-hugging cruise missiles and is trying to perfect submarine-launched intercontinental ones, too. While India is the largest importer of arms, it still lacks adequate defence equipment and technology. The army has still failed to provide soldiers with adequate body armour, antiquated MiG-21 fighter jets still patrol the skies and the navy’s shipbuilding programme is a decade behind schedule. Despite the current regime’s chest-thumping, the defence budget has actually shrunk over the past decade as a proportion of GDP and is far below China’s in dollar terms.

In the budget for the financial year 2019-20, presented by the Finance Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharaman, Rs 3,18,931.22 crore had been earmarked for Defence (excluding Defence Pension). The government will spend around $43 billion in the financial year 2019-20 ending in March 2020, in comparison to $41 billion in 2018-19. Some of the big-ticket upgrades it has made recently includes the controversial and newly added fleet of Dassault Rafale from France. The Indian Navy added INS Arighat, the second of the Arihant-class nuclear attack submarines, and the government is also in the market for six missile warships and other vessels worth $2.2bn. India is also spending $5bn on buying Russia’s S-400 missile defence system, plus another $5bn on helicopters, warships and other gear including Apache and Chinook Helicopters. India also developed Agni-5, it’s intercontinental ballistic missile.

India has finalised a road map to spend USD 130 billion in the next five to seven years to modernise the armed forces and bolster their combat capabilities. The plan includes procurement of a range of weapons and defence systems for the 3 forces. It also includes the new position of the CDS or Chief of Defence Staff – the CDS will play a key role in implementing the modernisation drive in the three forces, with his first agenda including the establishment of a central Air Command. The government’s plan is to get 1,700 future ready combat vehicles, 110 multirole fighter aircraft, 200 ships and 24 attack submarines in the next 3-4 years. The military will also induct the Agni V intercontinental ballistic missile system which has a strike range of 5,000 kmand and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. With possibly tumultuous times ahead, this Republic Day must serve as a reminder to us that it is imperative that we invest in our Armed Forces beyond tokenistic reforms and give our soldiers their due.

By Kshitij Barua,1st year undergraduate student, SRCC.
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