India’s voracious appetite for possessing military hardware remains insatiable. It keeps spending billions of dollars on purchases of weapons system, all with an eye on its arch foes, China and Pakistan. Some deals, such as the one it cut last year with a South Korean defence contractor for the supply of 100 self-propelled howitzers, are meant to implement its so-called Cold Start Doctrine of a limited conventional war with Pakistan.
Its obsession with arms build-up knows no bounds. Small wonder then that New Delhi emerged as the largest buyer of Israeli arms in 2017. Tel Aviv’s exports are principally made up of aerial defence, radar systems and ammunition which New Delhi is ever so eager to pounce upon. It even lifted a ban on two Israeli arms companies, Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defence System Ltd, it had blacklisted over graft charges in 2006, to allow for a $2 billion deal with the former.
The latest contract to add to its arsenal is the sale of S-400 missiles by Russia. President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed the high-profile, dearly-priced deal earlier this month. It will cost the Indian state coffers some $5.43 billion. But aside from the cost, it will serve to add to bellicosity in a region already riven by tensions.
The deal was bound to elicit a warning and a little bit of bluster in the neighbourhood. Islamabad, for its part, said the purchase could destabilise the region but hastened to talk down its efficacy, noting that Pakistan had developed capabilities that could defeat India’s planned Ballistic Missile Defence system. Defence experts, however, are unsure if this heavy investment will bear the intended fruit, noting that India may not be able to mount an effective defence against strikes by Pakistani missiles in case hostilities break out.
Be that as it may, the arms race is never in the interest of teeming millions inhabiting the two countries. At the risk of sounding clichéd, we suggest that the money poured into weapons purchases be instead ploughed back into social causes and for lifting the two countries’ people out of poverty.