India should be concerned at the recently announced steep rise in Pakistan’s defense budget — especially as its own budget has been squeezed, experts said on Saturday.
Late last month in its budget announcement for the financial year, Islamabad laid out a nearly 20 percent hike in its military spend, a huge boost to its defense spending and one that is likely to stir more tension with its larger neighbor India.
The two are nuclear-armed and what worries experts about Islamabad’s budget rise is that the money could go toward boosting its nuclear program, including plans for a sea leg of its nuclear deterrent program.
“New Delhi should be concerned,” said Sharad Joshi, assistant professor its nuclear deterrent program.
“New Delhi should be concerned,” said Sharad Joshi, assistant professor at Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California, “especially when the increased focus by Islamabad is on its nuclear program, its quest for a sea-based deterrent capability, including the expansion of its nuclear-capable cruise missile fleet.”
The news comes at a time when India’s military, owing to a budget crunch, reportedly has a depleted arsenal and no cash to replenish it — even as the government wants its armed forces to be ready to deal with a conflict simultaneously with Pakistan and China.
The possibility of such a two-front war has been on the agenda for the forces. Last month the Indian Air Force held its biggest ever combat exercise — with an eye on being prepared for a simultaneous threat from Pakistan and China.
That two-week exercise, which ran day and night, was done in two phases — the first phase was on the Western side, along the border with Pakistan. The second phase was in the north and included operations that involved landing at high-altitude areas, reportedly aimed at Chinese defenses on the Tibet front.
Barely a week later, army commanders gathered to take stock of the country’s security in a bi-annual exercise in which they focused on management of existing security infrastructure, how to mitigate future security threats, how to increase India’s combat edge over potential adversaries and ways to optimize the budget to make up for the critical deficiency in ammunition.
Like Pakistan, India and China, too, are old rivals. India has lost one war to its eastern neighbor and the two continue to wrestle for dominance in the subcontinent where India likes to hold sway. More importantly, China is also a political and military ally of Pakistan.
In June, India and China were locked in a stand-off on the Doklam plateau, an area spread over less than a 100 sq km comprising a plateau and a valley between India, Bhutan and China, and which is disputed between China and Bhutan.
That dispute started when Chinese troops attempted to build a road in the area and India, at Bhutan’s request, sent in troops to stop the Chinese. The standoff lasted nearly three months.
More recently, China sold Pakistan a highly sophisticated, large-scale optical tracking and measurement system, making it the first country in the subcontinent to acquire a missile capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads and one that can overwhelm a missile defense system.
The news of that sale came on the heels of India testing its Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile, which has a range long enough to strike nearly all of China.
Experts agreed that the “leak” of the sale of the tracking equipment was China’s message to India that it had ways to counter the Agni-V.
Joshi said that even if New Delhi does allocate more money to its armed forces, the question is whether any increase in spending is sufficient for a two-front scenario. After all, that is what “India’s defense planners are focusing on,” he said.
By: Arab News
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