India’s Growing Military Diplomacy
Image Credit: REUTERS/Stephen Morrison/Pool

India’s Growing Military Diplomacy


For years the Indian security establishment has been excessively obsessed with Pakistan and the proxy war it has waged against India. Over the past half a dozen years, the focus has gradually shifted to meeting the rising challenge posed by China’s rising military capabilities in Tibet.

Apart from two new army divisions now deployed in the country’s north-east after they were sanctioned in 2009, the Indian Cabinet has also a fortnight ago cleared a new mountain strike corps  specifically meant for offensive operations against China. The new formation, which is likely to cost well over $10 billion, will take at least seven years to be fully functional according to current assessments. Given the long and drawn out border dispute with  China, Indian policymakers have naturally tended to think “continentally” and looked at countering China on land.

That may however be changing too. As part of its two decade-old Look East policy, India has substantially stepped up engagement with East Asian and ASEAN nations. Last December, during an India-ASEAN Commemorative summit, the relationship was elevated to a strategic partnership.

As Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared in Phnom Penh in November 2012: “India and ASEAN should not only work for shared prosperity and closer links between our peoples, but also to promote peace, security and stability in the region. I am happy to note our growing engagement in areas such as defence, maritime security and counter-terrorism.”

Although never explicitly stated, ASEAN and East Asian nations want New Delhi to be a counterweight to increasing Chinese footprints in the region. Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and, particularly, Vietnam and Myanmar have time and again pressed India to help them both in terms of military training and weapons supply.

Myanmar’s Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Thura Thet Swe during his four-day visit to India in late July held wide-ranging consultations with top officials from the Indian Ministry of Defence. Apart from increasing the number of training slots of Myanmarese officers in Indian military training establishments, India has agreed to build at least four Offshore Patrol Vehicles (OPV) in Indian Shipyards to be used by Myanmar’s navy.

In the recent past, despite its military junta’s perceived closeness to China, Myanmar had sourced 105 mm artillery guns, mortars, armored personnel carriers and rifles from India. But now it wants India to do more. In the near future, air force personnel, especially helicopter pilots, are likely to train in India in larger numbers. Even as Myanmar opens up to the world, its military is moving closer to India than ever before. That all three Indian service chiefs visited Myanmar in the past one year is testimony to India’s military diplomacy with Southeast and East Asian nations.

But it is Vietnam more than any other country in Southeast Asia that India seeks to support and engage.  Both India and Vietnam have long-pending territorial disputes with China. Both have long-standing ties, dating back to Jawaharlal Nehru’s time. So, for more than a decade now, India has been providing Vietnam with assistance in beefing up its naval and air capabilities. For instance, India has repaired and upgraded more than 100 MiG 21 planes of the Vietnam People’s Air Force and supplied them with enhanced avionics and radar systems. Indian Air Force pilots have also been training their Vietnamese counterparts.

September 25, 2013 at 22:06

If there is WAR b/w India & China then both countries will suffer a huge loss which will take more than two or three decades to get over it and become a stable economy.

surya kant
September 11, 2013 at 18:29

My Dear Uncle Ho

 Are you really living in america ?I really doubt.I think you are living in any poor village in china and having no any important work.The way you are bosting about china is really rediculas.Actually, India is getting day by day stronger in defence.Earlier indian policy was only focused on the development of indian citizen and infrastructure.But the country's policy changed due to china.Now,Indian Govt is sincere for there citizens but also more focusing on best possible defence and if needed offence against china!so the GDP is not going up.The GDP and indian rupees is getting weak ,no problem because india is purchasing the defence /Military items from doller -currency countries also .It is a fact.Indians can be poor or whatever you feel but Indian can not and can not afford any of its terrotery even a single inch of land to china.

surya kant
September 11, 2013 at 18:13

I really disagree with Kanees on comments regarding growing ties with Myanmar ,Vietnam and other look east policy .Now India has actively started ite attempts to give final shape of tie-up with Myanmar and Vietnam.Because Vietnam conflict with china is a world known fact.Even during and after the conflict with vietnam,china could not extracted from it rather lost the lives,money and time of own chines people.Above all,a weapon is a weapon whether its an aircraft like Mig 29 or so,it will be sufficent to cause damage in any territory if fitted with modern warfares..Definetly vietnamese airforce will be more powerful then before because they are being trained by the indian air force fighter pilots who ranks number one in the world because they are known for accomplishing the mission with measure disasters  untill the last breath!

September 10, 2013 at 04:45

I will just give some facts . Its true both India and china are asian super power,and if we compare strictly then at present china is far ahead of india in the field of military and economy . china ranks 3rd and India rank 4th in world ranking in military power at present . 

But the fact also say that both are nuclear powered and both has long range ballistic missile to target each other deep inside, and in nuke war only the non-participator wins  . So if a full scale war is decleared betn these two asian giants the both will lose it and its non participating enemies will win.


As for pakisthan , its not a major issue for India , in every field eg. economy , geography , military etc india is superior . Now pak ranks 12th in world ranking in military which is far away from india .

And am sure china will not help pak directly in any war against india as we have seen in karil war as a latest example. 

August 28, 2013 at 13:34

whatever someone wants to speak about India…I want to tell him INDIA IS GROWING…A MARCH TO BE A SUPERPOWER…..we are not in 1965 ….this is 2013… total different….

India is curently Regional Power…can handel both pak and china in one war…..

Ramesh Deshmukh
August 27, 2013 at 20:27

Dear Kanes,yes, India is  financially a poor nation. India alone can not  face the joint nasty designs of China and Pakistan.  That is why India  is making so many defence pacts. The credit goes to China. China has simultaneously threatened so many nations in the region. It is but natural  that all such threatened nations  shall come together to form an alliiance. China is playing a very dangerous game. What China has achieved is "many enemies and very few friends."

Ramesh Deshmukh
August 27, 2013 at 18:56

Yes , Pompey. you are correct. Uncle Ho is trying his best to divide India and Vietnam. India and Vietnam are friends. Both are trying to face the hegemonic designs of China.

August 21, 2013 at 18:48

Uncle Ho is really a Chinese. His motive is to break India-Vietnam partnership against Chia. Don't fall into his trap.

August 21, 2013 at 03:46

India and Vietnam are not competing, they are partners against China. Stop your attempt to rub each against the other as everyone can see through it. In war friends help each other and that's what they are. Infact, India has many more friends, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Myanmar, Thailand and soon the Philippines on its side. China too has friends like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia and not forgetting North Korea.

August 20, 2013 at 04:20

Ya just like India can look at the Tibet, Uhigir, Manchu and Inner Mongolia seperatism in China.

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