Geostrategy

At Daggers Drawn: Comparing India & Pakistan War Capabilities

India, Pakistan, War
Osama Khurshid
Written by Osama Khurshid

Introduction:

India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads on the Kashmir issue since their independence from the British Raj in 1947. After the independence and the partition of the Indian subcontinent into two countries, Pakistan chose to be an Islamic republic and aligned with the USA in the Cold War, India on the other hand, chose to remain politically neutral and opted for a democratic government while keeping military ties with former-USSR. These choices turned out to be the turning points in the political and military future of both these countries.

India and Pakistan have long engaged in four wars, including one undeclared war, as well as many border skirmishes and military stand-offs due to a territorial dispute in the Kashmir region. Originally, the conflict began when the subcontinent was divided after World War II for the sole purpose of separating Muslims from the Hindus. However, this division was not as effective as it was foreseen, and the long and bloody series of the Indo-Pakistani conflicts began.

 Analysis of Indian Capabilities and Strengths:

Today, the border between India and Pakistan is relatively quiet, but the conflict between the two countries is far from over. In almost all aspects, India holds the upper hand; numerically, technologically, and economically, India is significantly superior to Pakistan. India is the world’s second largest importer of arms and weapons from a variety of contractors and manufacturers including the US, UK, China, Russia, and several others. New Delhi does not shy away from spending billions of dollars from its coffers in order to bulk up its armed forces.

India is the world’s second largest importer of arms and weapons from a variety of contractors and manufacturers including the US, UK, China, Russia, and several others. New Delhi does not shy away from spending billions of dollars from its coffers in order to bulk up its armed forces.

It has recently concluded a deal with France for the acquisition of top-of-the-line fighters, the Rafale. At the same time, it is also striking deals with Israel for the development of missile defense systems like the effective Israeli Iron Dome Shield. For almost two decades, India has sought to develop and deploy ballistic and other missiles. User trials of the Prithvi-1 (150 km-range) and Prithvi-2 (250 km-range) ballistic missiles have been completed; both variants have been “inducted” into the Indian Army and Air Force respectively.

One of the main policies of India in recent years is to strengthen its national power by raising a formidable military force. Thus, India has to increase its defense budget, adopt a new war doctrine and purchase plentiful technologically advanced armaments. All of these measures have been manifested and seen as a threat to her neighbors specially Pakistan. This is likely to result in subduing her neighboring states, through threat or actual use of force in future.

 Indian Defense Budget:

India has been constantly increasing her defense budget over the last two decades. This trend is worrisome and poses a serious threat to the security and integrity of not only her neighboring countries but also to the entire region of South Asia. India, being a huge country with a population of 1.3 billion and an area of 3.28 million square meters, is aspirant to become a super power. Keeping in view the Indian belligerent intentions against its neighbors, especially Pakistan and China, and a constant increase in its defense budget since the last 10-15 years, Pakistan is required to devise a mechanism in collaboration with other neighboring countries to combat this menace.

Keeping in view the Indian belligerent intentions against its neighbors, especially Pakistan and China, and a constant increase in its defense budget since the last 10-15 years, Pakistan is required to devise a mechanism in collaboration with other neighboring countries to combat this menace.

However recapping the Indian defense budget until 1962; Indian defense spending was limited. Post 1962 Indo-China war, defense spending gradually rose from 2.1 percent of the GNP in fiscal year (FY) 1962 to 4.5 percent in FY 1964. In FY 1994, defense spending was slightly less than 5 percent of the GDP. Gradually there was a rapid increase noticed in Indian Defense Budget. In 2008-09, there was a 10.00 percent increase, in 2009-10, 34.19 percent increase, in 2011-12 there was 11.59 percent increase and in 2012-13, a 17.63 percent increase. A 9.98 percent upsurge was noted in the fiscal year 2014-15. India has announced a $40 billion defense budget for 2015-16, representing a 7.9 percent rise over the allocation of 2014-15.

There are various reasons for such increase in defense budget by India. In this milieu, an influential reason is the regional trend of increasing defense budget as China did in the past years. Most likely the second reason is the Indian projection of regional hegemony and in order to attain the desired status India needs a powerful defense expedited with modern technology. The final and most important reason for an escalation in the defense budget of India is to balance out the Chinese Forces and discredit Pakistan’s Conventional Forces.

Comparison of India-Pak Defense Budget:

Being an existential threat to Pakistan’s territorial integrity, India’s defense expenditure cannot be seen in isolation. There has remained a palpable difference between the defense expenditures of India and Pakistan with India spending huge sums on its defense. In the FY 2014-2015 India spent about USD 37 billion on its armed forces as compared to Pakistan’s defense budget of USD 6.27 billion. Disparity cannot only be seen in the defense expenditures but also in India’s defense allocation, which is multiplying with each passing year. This does not however mean that Pakistan should follow the course and engage itself in an ambitious arms race, it means that it should not ignore the Indian developments at the expense of its sacrosanct core national interests.

In the FY 2014-2015 India spent about USD 37 billion on its armed forces as compared to Pakistan’s defense budget of USD 6.27 billion. Disparity cannot only be seen in the defense expenditures but also in India’s defense allocation, which is multiplying with each passing year.

Pakistan is militarily much weaker than India, and would likely lose in any conventional war. Like North Korea, Pakistan is a weak state that invested in nuclear weapons as an inexpensive way to assure territorial integrity. An invasion of Pakistan is now likely to be extremely dangerous and one of the surest ways to a nuclear war. In that respect, Pakistan’s nuclear program can be considered a success.

On the other hand, Pakistan does have a respectable military. The Operation Rah-e-Nijat, Operation Rah-e-Rast and Operation Zarb e Azab drove away the seemingly powerful Taliban forces from its rural strongholds, further highlighting to the world that Pakistan is no nation to reckon with. However, in a toe-to-toe conflict with India, Pakistan will surely succumb to the aforementioned superiority of the former, if not of the latter’s nuclear deterrence.

 Potential of Pakistan’s Defense:

Our armed forces are fit for purpose. Pakistan is not planning an occupation of India; Pakistan plans to keep Pakistan free. The size of the armed forces is proportional. Today, our troops have the same equipment as any armed forces around the world. We’ve completed upgrades of old tanks, inducted the cutting edge Al Khalid, in huge figures. They are supported with APCs (armored personnel carrier) and IFVs (infantry fighting vehicle), they fight as an integrated unit with the PAF and have over 10 years combat experience.

The United States handed over 14 combat aircraft, 59 military trainer jets and 374 armored personnel carriers which were earlier used in Afghanistan and Iran. But Pakistan should not put all balls in one basket. Pakistan should also strike deals with Russia and other countries and most importantly Pakistan should focus on its indigenous policy through which Pakistan can make its own military hardware.

The upgrade to PAF is massive. Our best fighter was F16A/B without Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile system or spare parts in 2001. Our focus was re-equipping F-7s and keeping Mirage fighters from the 60s in the air by cannibalizing parts from around the world. Today we have 4th generation fighters in form of JF17, F-16 (a much larger fleet) and J-10 (coming soon). Our concern now is inducting 5th Generation fighters. We have force multipliers like AWACS, we can fire cruise missiles, like in 2001 when we were speculating whether the PAF had any planes equipped to drop nuclear bombs by tossing.

Pakistan Navy has four state of the art submarines and surface vessels. We are hoping to acquire another 6 submarines this year. Our navy can target and reach Indian navy vessels with cruise missiles which have a 500km range; in 2001 our vessels couldn’t even detect that far. Our combat reach was 150KM of the harpoon and Exocet missiles.

Our strategic forces have developed too. We have more nuclear bombs than India; we have miniaturized them for battlefield use and have cruise missiles as well as a range of ballistic missiles. There is not a corner of India we cannot reach.

Moreover discussing Defense Corporation with USA, this year The United States handed over 14 combat aircraft, 59 military trainer jets and 374 armored personnel carriers which were earlier used in Afghanistan and Iran. But Pakistan should not put all balls in one basket. Pakistan should also strike deals with Russia and other countries and most importantly Pakistan should focus on its indigenous policy through which Pakistan can make its own military hardware.

Pakistan has lost 50,000 plus lives to terrorism, every province is hit. The war on terror has sabotaged our economy, infrastructure has been wiped out‚ lawlessness has become inevitable and there is scarcity of basic necessities. Yet every day markets and mosques are open, we march forward each day head up high. This is the potential of Pakistan, the bravest nation on this planet.

Conclusion:

India is a large country and a huge market with considerable potential for growth. But it can realize its potential only if it can overcome the multiple political and social challenges it confronts internally.

Seventy years since independence, secular democracy has not succeeded in overcoming India’s caste, class, religious and ethnic divisions.

As far as economy and internal infrastructure are concerned unlike China, the Indian government, running large budget deficits, does not have the money to finance the construction of vital infrastructure ports, roads, railways, which can generate jobs resulting in growth, creating the foundation for domestic and foreign private investment. Infrastructure development cannot be left to the private sector which can at best complement government spending and leadership but not replace it.

Power relationships are, in their essence, a zero sum game. India’s proclivity is to profit from each relationship but refuses to pay the costs involved in sustaining these relationships.

India wants unconditional US support against Pakistan. Given the US need for Pakistan’s cooperation in Afghanistan and to fight terrorism, Washington is unlikely, at least in the near term, to risk a break with Pakistan to accommodate India, unless India fully endorses America’s strategic objectives.

For instance, the US wants India to join it in containing China, support its policies on Afghanistan, Iran and other issues as well as open its market for US exports and investment. India remains reluctant to compromise its relations with Russia or Iran or, so far, to confront China overtly.

For its part, India wants unconditional US support against Pakistan. Given the US need for Pakistan’s cooperation in Afghanistan and to fight terrorism, Washington is unlikely, at least in the near term, to risk a break with Pakistan to accommodate India, unless India fully endorses America’s strategic objectives.

On the other side India will find it impossible to repress Pakistan into accepting India’s regional domination. Once Pakistan-Afghan relations are fully normalized, India will lose its principle avenue for waging its apparent shadow war against Pakistan through the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and the Balochistan Liberation Army. On the other hand, as the BJP’s Hindu extremists antagonize Kashmiri Muslims, India’s Achilles’ heel will once again be fully exposed.

Nor is Pakistan likely to be financially overwhelmed or strategically intimidated by India’s massive arms build-up. It will acquire defensive capabilities cheaply from China and possibly Russia. In any case, India appears to be arming itself for the wrong war. The next India-Pakistan war, if allowed to happen, will be fought not so much with aircraft, tanks or ships, but mostly with missiles. Such a war will be short and destructive and most likely escalate to the nuclear level.

About the author

Osama Khurshid

Osama Khurshid

is currently is currently working as Assistant Director. He is an MPhil Scholar at National Defence University Islamabad. He has previously worked in NDU’s research think tank ISSRA in 2015. His area of interest is Defence Studies and Foreign Policy of United States, and he writes on regional contemporary issues. His research focuses on changing world orders.

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