strong is India vis-a-vis Pakistan
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.
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.
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
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.
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'.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
author is a veteran journalist and chief of the Prasar Bharati