Operational Deficiencies in India’s Defense Preparedness: Deterrence Compromised

Published date01 December 2013
Date01 December 2013
Shubhodeep Chakrabarti is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Scottish
Church College, Kolkata, India. E-mail: shubhodeep900@rediffmail.com
Deficiencies in India’s
Defense Preparedness:
Shubhodeep Chakrabarti
India faces a hostile geo-strategic environment of having two adver-
sarial nuclear neighbors on her western and northern borders, namely
Pakistan and China who share a collusive military partnership aimed at
stultifying India’s rise as a pre eminent Asian power. The Kargil con-
flict of 1999, fought after the overt nuclear weaponization of India and
Pakistan exposed India’s blunted conventional military capability in light
of critical deficiencies of artillery, precision guided munitions as well
as night vision devices. Despite confronting multiple crises relating to
national security during the last fifteen years, successive governments
have displayed perilous apathy regarding the urgently needed moderni-
zation of our armed forces. This article tries to analyze the security
ramifications arising out of this neglect and the need to undertake sus-
tained and meaningful defense reforms in view of our serious threat
perceptions which must factor in the possibility of having to simultane-
ously fight a ‘two-front’ war in the near future.
Deterrence, Operational readiness, Military modernization, Indian Armed
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
17(2) 153–183
2013 Jadavpur University
SAGE Publications
Los Angeles, London,
New Delhi, Singapore,
Washington DC
DOI: 10.1177/0973598414535060
154 Shubhodeep Chakrabarti
Jadavpur Journal of International Relations, 17, 2 (2013): 153–183
The most intrinsic necessity of any nation state to uphold its sovereignty
is the attainment of the requisite military capability to defend its unity
and territorial integrity from external aggression and maintain internal
cohesion from subversive and secessionist elements. To achieve these
objectives it is not only imperative to maintain a robust and potent mili-
tary capability, but most importantly to periodically upgrade that capa-
bility in sophistication and lethality by induction of new weapon systems,
commensurate with the changing threat perceptions to a country’s secu-
rity. Since times immemorial, right from the ages of the great Greek and
Roman Empires, to the modern age, states transcending varied historical
epochs have always fallen back on their military when confronted with
an existential threat. The military therefore is the most crucial protective
armor of any sovereign country, which in times of eventuality does not
think twice before sacrificing itself at the altar of national security, for
preserving the existential identity of the state it represents. It is undoubt-
edly the fulcrum which holds the state in cohesion and that explains the
proclivity of nation states to rely upon their armies when confronted with
grave adversities. Reciprocally, therefore, it is an indispensable respon-
sibility and solemn duty on part of any country to fulfil the requirements
of its armed forces in terms of equipment and weaponry and more impor-
tantly strive for its holistic welfare.
The neorealist approach to International Relations conceives the
international system as anarchic where there is no overarching authority
to maintain order and guarantee security, and the constituent units, that
is, sovereign states are acting according to the logic of self help, by
increasing their capabilities vis-à-vis their rivals. States act as security
maximizing agents because they face a security dilemma; given the
increase in military capabilities of their adversaries, they have to act
appropriately for safeguarding their own existence. Neoclassical realism
argues that the scope and ambition of a country’s foreign policy is driven
first and foremost by the country’s relative material power which includes
a combination of both military and economic leverages. Anarchy or the
absence of a universal sovereign or worldwide government is the permis-
sive cause of international conflict (Lobel et al. 2009: 4–5). Systemic
forces create incentives for all states to strive for greater efficiency in
providing security for themselves. Relative power distributions and
Operational Deficiencies in India’s Defense Preparedness 155
Jadavpur Journal of International Relations, 17, 2 (2013): 153–183
trends set broad parameters for states’ external behavior (Lobel et al.
2009: 4–5).
Geographic contours have created a highly detrimental security envi-
ronment for India. No other country in the world confronts such a hostile
geostrategic location of having two adversarial nuclear powers, one on
its western border, and the other on the north, namely Pakistan and
China. Both these countries are embraced in a close strategic and politico-
economic partnership. The rise of China as a major economic and
military power is bound to upset the balance of power in Asia. China’s
growing assertion of power in South Asia was a contributing factor in
India’s decision to weaponize its nuclear program China is an emerging
superpower which is engaged in the process of the world’s biggest mili-
tary expansion, the sheer scale of which evokes deep concern through-
out Asia-Pacific (The Economist 2012). China’s ascent as a regional
hegemon and a future superpower has serious ramifications for Indian
security. The Chinese today possess around 9,000 main battle tanks
(MBT) in addition to long-range ICBMs, both land based, the DF-31
with 14,000 kilometers range and the submarine launched JL-2 with a
range of 8000–10,000 kilometers strike range, besides hundreds of tacti-
cal ballistic and cruise missiles in addition to a potent air defense system.
In comparison India has less than 3,000 main battle tanks, the obsolete
Vijayantas still part of the arsenal and the T-72s (inducted way back in
the 1970s) forming a major chunk of the fleet. Around 80 percent of
Indian tanks do not have night vision capabilities (Singh 2012). The PLA
Air Force has more than 3,500 aircrafts, while the Indian Air Force’s
fighter fleet is fast dwindling made up of around 650 aircraft of which
the obsolete MIG-21s forms a substantial part, and the Chinese operate
around fifty-five submarines out of which five are nuclear powered
(Singh 2012). India’s sole nuclear powered submarine, the Arihant has
not been inducted yet and the long-range Submarine Launched Ballistic
Missile (SLBM) crucial for a reliable second strike capability still years
away from formal induction. Compared to the Indian Navy’s 140 ships,
the Chinese have an arsenal of around 400 ships (Singh 2012).
Since her independence, India has been subjected to external aggres-
sions both by Pakistan and China who have coveted Indian territory. The
end of the Cold War has not ushered in any lasting peace on the subcon-
tinent, with cross border terrorism aided and abetted by Pakistan since
1989 under Operation Topac, launched by the ISI to foment terrorism in

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