The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Foreign Policy a la Modi Modi Beefs Up Indian Military

Following up on his campaign promise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inserted a 14% increase in defense spending in the proposed budget for 2014-15. The budget also has a provision to increase foreign investment limits on the domestic arms industry from 26% to 49%, fulfilling another promise on the campaign trail to cut red tape and make India more business friendly. Reuters has the report:

“Finance Minister Arun Jaitley set the military budget at 2.29 trillion Indian rupees ($38.35 billion) for 2014-15, 50 billion rupees more than what the previous government agreed in an interim budget earlier this year.

Defence expenditure for 2013/14 was kept at 2.04 trillion rupees.

“Modernisation of the armed forces is critical to enable them to play their role effectively in the defence of India’s strategic interests,” he said to the thumping of desks in the lower house of parliament, where he presented the new government’s first budget.”

The defense increase should not come as a surprise. The Game of Thrones has expanded into the Indian Ocean, as China continues to assert itself militarily and economically in a region India has long considered its domain. To remain competitive, India needs to replace its Cold War era, Soviet-made hardware with modern weapons, including ships, planes, and guns. Neighboring Pakistan’s continuing domestic turmoil has also compelled India to beef up security along its contested western border. Nor are India’s security requirements new. India has been the largest arms buyer in the world for the past three years, and weapons manufacturers from all over are currently hunting for a lucrative contract.

A couple of caveats, however. India’s increased military budget, at just under $40 billion, is still less than a third of China’s. So while India continues to play catch-up, it still has a long way to go. Also, the expansion of the military budget certainly won’t ease relations between India and Pakistan, which already share one of the most militarized borders on earth.

Modi certainly seems to be following up on his promise to enact a more “muscular” Indian foreign policy.

Published on July 14, 2014 11:50 am
  • Kevin

    My hunch is that the new government will need to be very vigilant to make sure the additional funding leads to greater capabilities and not tied up in symbolic but militarily useless prestige projects or just disappearing into a black hole of contractor corruption.

  • Corlyss

    Since the folks that post comments to this site are very sophisticated readers and observers of the international developments, I recommend Robert D. Kaplan’s title from a couple of years ago, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power.

  • PKCasimir

    Given the sad state of the Indian Armed Forces and the need to procure modern jetfighters, modern transport, modern tankers, modern artillery, modern submarines, and tanks, among other things, the increased expenditure is totally insufficient even if increased for inflation and sustained over ten years.
    No Western arms manufacturer is going to invest in an Indian weapons manufacturer given the Indian government’s stance on responsibility and the fact that Indian weapons manufacturers are far below even minimal Western standards unless they have majority control.