T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Vol II Issue I

The 1st Anniversary Edition

May 2003



Romeet K Watt







View Point      

K P S Gill


On Track

Sumer Kaul



Spl. Report



Sawraj Singh


State Craft

Yashwant Sinha



M V Kamath


Last Word

Ram Puniyani



About Us





How strong is India vis-a-vis Pakistan

M V Kamath

Strong criticism of the Defence Ministry has been voiced in the Lok Sabha following the tabling of a Parliamentary Committee report on 22 April, on the working of the Ministry and the garnering and spending of resources.


According to the report, notwithstanding the trauma of Kargil and other assaults on national security, defence expenditure as a proportion to the Central Government's expenditure as well as gross domestic product (GDP), has fallen over the years.


If the falling share of defence outlay, despite increasing challenges to national security was not enough, the Defence Ministry, according to the same report, has even failed to utilise a large proportion of the amount earmarked every year for purchase of major defence equipment.


Interestingly, this is in marked contrast to the days of the Rajiv Gandhi government when money was indeed spent on purchasing defence equipment but the government itself was charged with corruption. If the charge against the Congress government was that it spent a lot of money, the charge against the NDA government is that it is not spending enough when spending is so important.


A Congress spokesman has gone to the extent of charging Defence Minister George Fernandes with, of all things, 'ineptitude'. The Parliamentary Report says: 'The under-utilisation of funds earmarked for capital expenditure has weakened the process of modernisation of defence services with possibilities of ominous consequences in the prevailing international and national security environment'.


As an example, the report says that for the year 2003-2004, the Defence Ministry had sought Rs 90,000 crore even when it failed to utilise a hefty amount of much smaller allocation for the previous fiscal year. If the report is to be believed there is no purposeful planning in the Defence Ministry and no monitoring system for identifying the causes for delay in decision-making and implementation of decisions already taken. This is a serious charge.


In 1971, during the Bangladesh War, the combat ratio in conventional weapons between India and Pakistan was a substantial 1.75:1. This meant that India was almost twice as strong as Pakistan militarily. But by the time of Kargil War in 1999 the combat ratio had gone to 1.22:1, actually down from 1.56:1 in 1990. The 'combat ratio' is calculated on the basis of size and quality of equipment. And if the assessment of combat ratio is correct, then militarily India is in a bad way. It is said that if the funds asked for over the next five years are properly utilised, then the present ratio may improve slightly to about 1.51:1 which is not much of an improvement really, considering that 80 per cent of budgetary expenditure is spent on wages and salaries, fuel and ammunition, leaving very little for the purchase of sophisticated weaponry.


Defence experts say that what the Indian Army immediately needs is a battery of self-propelled guns, helicopters, tanks, guns and air defence systems in order to keep ahead of Pakistan. A lot of money was apparently kept aside during the 9th Five-Year Plan for tanks (Rs 2,000 crore), artillery (Rs 700 crore) and 120 self-propelled guns (Rs 1,398 crore) but though the tanks were bought, the guns were not. Nor were the allocations for missiles (Rs 1,021 crore for the Trishul and Rs 2,384 crore for Akash) spent because they were not ready.


According to published reports, some items, including missiles, precision-guided ammunitions, drones, the indigenous advanced light helicopter, air defence systems and surveillance devices were indeed bought but serious weaknesses apparently still remain.


While these are acknowledged by two military experts they still think that India continues to have a clear advantage over Pakistan. Writing in Dialogue Quarterly (Jan-March 2003) the experts, Lt Gen K K Hazari (former Vice Chief of Army Staff and Brigadier Vijay K Nair) insist that in a long duration war (two or three months), without external interventions, the Indian military 'can decisively and comprehensively defeat Pakistan's military, its nuclear weapons capabilities notwithstanding'.


Hazari and Nair realise that Pakistan has an 'extremely low nuclear threshold' calling for external intervention and it is precisely for that reason that they feel India must formulate and put into effect a strategy based on 'limited objectives' that are attainable by extant forces in two to three weeks. But why do these experts believe that the Indo-Pak equation is tilted sharply in favour of India for a long duration war? Their reasoning is as follows.


* The Indian military outnumbers by far the military resources that Pakistan can field in an Indo-Pak conflict. This advantage remains uncompromised despite the fact that India has to simultaneously defend the northern borders with China and deal with the nation-wide problems of insurgency that have prevailed for four decades.


The same, according to Hazari and Nair, is not true of Pakistan's land forces as in the past three years the Pakistan Army has had to deploy between 2 and 3 divisions on its western border with Afghanistan.


* Each of the Indian Army Corps tasked purely in the defensive role can muster more offensive weaponry (tanks, artillery ICVs and special forces) than either of Pakistan's offensive formations. This in itself ensures that any offensive designs by Islamabad can be easily contained and destroyed.


* Pakistan's offensive weapon systems, except for a few tanks from Ukraine and older 155 mm guns of US origin, are antiquated and dangerously short of spares. The onground muster shows huge deficiencies because of which units are working on far less numbers than are authorised. This in itself generates a reduced war fighting potential of 33 per cent.


* What, however, drastically tilts the equation in India's favour are its Air and Naval forces. Pakistan is dependent on some old overhauled frigates and destroyers that are not comparable either in quality or quantity with those fielded by India. This, it is suggested, may be the reason why Pakistan is so desperate to hold talks with India and why the United States does not want to see an outbreak of war that might end up with the break-up of Pakistan and the loss of an useful ally.


Both Pakistan and the United States are only too aware of the likely consequences of a war which would explain America's renewed interest in peace in the sub-continent. Pakistan's nuclear bluster is actually a call from Pakistan for help and the United States understands it more than anyone else.


The author is a veteran journalist and chief of the Prasar Bharati


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