India Beefs Up for Great Game
Image Credit: US Navy

India Beefs Up for Great Game


Given India’s size and numerous disputed borders, it’s hardly surprising that the country’s army – the third largest in the world – has for decades been central to New Delhi’s military planning. But for the past five years India has also, belatedly, started to focus on strengthening its maritime and aerospace capabilities to counter potential challenges.

The figures speak for themselves. The Indian Defence Ministry spent more than 54,000 crore rupees ($11.6 billion) on capital acquisition for the Navy and the Air Force combined during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 fiscal years. This compared with just 13,539 crore rupees on the Army over the same period, according to figures submitted to the country’s parliament.

The shift in spending shouldn’t, of course, be mistaken as a sign that the Army is diminishing in importance. But it does highlight India’s increasing willingness to broaden its horizons in preparation for a possible future contingency further afield.

The Indian Navy, a seasoned force with a solid track record, is quietly expanding for a larger role in military diplomacy and outreach.  Indeed, its near-term plans suggest ambitions to become a three battle carrier group force by 2020.

While its most prestigious acquisition – the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, which was renamed the INS Vikramaditya – is likely to be inducted into the fleet by March 2013 at the latest, the country is also readying an indigenously built carrier that will most likely join the service by 2015.

At present, India operates a single aircraft carrier, the INS Viraat – a British-vessel from the 1960s that is seeing an extended lease of life thanks to the Navy’s innovative engineers and planners. The INS Vikramaditya, currently at harbour and conducting sea trials in Russia, will therefore give India a much needed edge in its maritime capabilities, not least because it will come equipped with the latest MiG-29 K series of aircraft. Indian naval aviators are already hard at work training with the planes away from the ship.

Traditionally, the Indian navy has sourced most of its ships from the former Soviet Union, but over the past decade, defence planners have leaned hard on Indian shipbuilding yards to deliver a variety of warships for the Indian Navy. For example, two recently commissioned stealth ships – INS Shivalik and INS Satpura – have been designed and built by public sector firm Mazgaon Docks Limited. The order books of India’s oldest government-owned shipbuilders are chock full with orders from the Navy, which is eyeing four more such guided missile frigates over the next five years.

And there are more acquisitions in the pipeline, including: four anti-submarine corvettes, four guided missile destroyers, three stealth frigates, six Scorpene submarines (being built at Mazgaon Docks with French technology and assistance) and two nuclear-powered submarines.

India’s conventional diesel-powered submarine fleet, meanwhile, is down to single digits, but the country is hoping to have the Russian-built Nerpa class nuclear submarine (leased for a decade) join service later this year. But the biggest force accretion in recent years has come in the form of the Boeing Pi-8 long range maritime reconnaissance (LRMR) plane, which gives the Indian Navy a reach and capability to mount surveillance far beyond its traditional areas of influence.

The Air Force isn’t far behind.

Recently retired Indian Air Force Chief Marshal PV Naik told me last month that the Indian Air Force will be transformed over the next five years, with capability enhancements planned across the entire spectrum of war fighting.

December 10, 2012 at 01:35

Dear! If we would have busted them how could the face of the Islamic Pakistan came to the world!
You worry about your nation friend!
Because we are off and no one can stop us.

January 12, 2012 at 03:16

@ Frank. Stop comparing China and India.No matter how hard everyone in the West tries,we two are not going to war anytime soon.The West needs to keep up the bogey of confrontation between China and India maybe to sell its weapons or maybe other such stupid reason.Fact is that in 5000 yrs of civilisation we have fought only one small time.(Even twin brother fight more often)But then i dont think you noticed,because you wernt there at 5000 yrs ago.The West is having their own problems,so they better first look inside.We will take care of our poor,you take care of yours.America is the country with many poor.Only 1% of the people own 99% of the wealth.If this is not a recipe for disaster and social uprising,I dont know what is.US keeps on promoting the Arab springs,some day they are going to be shocked when there will be an uprising in Washington or in London or Paris.

January 12, 2012 at 03:06

The biggest of powers fall under their own weight.Who defeated the French in the 18th century?No one.Who defeated the British?Who defeated USSR?In fact there was never a war.Who is defeating the Europeans and Americans today?Who beat the Japanese?They fall under their own weight.China is only following them.Its a classic case.There is absolutely no difference.The hubris and trumpetting gets so loud that they cant hear the alarm bells even when they are so loud and so near.So I would be very scared of talking loftily about oneself as a country.The biggest enemy a country has today is within.There are no enemies outside bigger than the ones inside.These stupid analysts can cry hoarse as otherwise how can they justify defence spending.Look at UK and France today.Who wants to fight with them?Nobody,yet they have huge defence spending.War as a concept is dead.Especially after Iraq and Afghanistan.The US cant even invent a worthy enemy anymore.And the beareded terrorists there are,they cant even defeat after spending a trillion dollars!!

January 12, 2012 at 02:53

There were 1,80,000 officially declared incidents of disturbance in China last year.Actual figure will be atleast 5 times more.Rather than preaching to the world,China should look inside.The enemy is clearly within.Your buildings and infrastructure and your USD dont fool us.The Americans and Europeans have plenty of them.And look where they are today.We dont need lessons from others.We aernt afraid of our problems because we can deal with them.We talk about them openly and dont hide behind them.Our media is our eyes and ears.Hype is better than being blind and deaf.Sometimes I am baffled that the Chineese believe everything their telling them.The day you can talk and listen to your problems openly like we do,you will be truly scared and will have no where to run.Tibet was never a part of China.Why are people there burning themselves if there is so much developement?Whats happening in Xingang?What happened in Wukan? Come down from your ivory towers.Its burning already my friend.Am only trying to save you from yourself.

Jackie chan
December 6, 2013 at 01:14

You’re right, A O K USA!!

January 1, 2012 at 15:41

India has enemies on its western and northern borders. They have been the focus of terrorist acts perpetrated by its enemy to the west Pakistan; China on the other hand has had a shooting war with India not that long ago, and their relations haven’t changed all that much.

Watching the movement of nations and peoples all around the world gives me pause. It will be just a matter of time before Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt move on Israel. This I believe will become a chemical/nuclear conflict. Syria has been practicing putting chemical warheads on missiles.. we know this because they keep failing and killing everyone in the area.

China is moving on every nation in the Indian ocean, including the United States. They are not in the same league as the US, but with their money and the data they stole from us under the Clinton administration, they will be in no time

December 3, 2011 at 19:25

i havent read this book u say about(first time hearing it ), but let me remind me just when u point fingers it will be easy to see your hands are dirty. India had a perfect deal on border with Tibet, which China have clearly occupied and also Arunachal Pradesh is also called South Tibet as is East Bengal- Bangladesh but it hardly is Indian territry. Tibetian refugees in India, they have their government and also a military contingent that helps India are in massive numbers how come they never had this claim. Dont know about you but i personally met a lot of Tibetians and like you they have many stories sadly everyone of them tell about the horrors Chinese commit on their families.

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief