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China increases defence budget by 7.2% to accelerate military modernisation; Here’s how India’s preparedness holds up

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China has announced a 7.2% increase in its defence budget, crossing $230 billion, exceeding three times India’s military expenditure. This rise comes despite a slowdown in China’s economic growth and its refusal to de-escalate tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India.

Strategic Intent and Military Modernisation

China’s two-million-strong armed forces are rapidly modernizing to deter the US from interference, especially in Taiwan. Recent moves include strengthening conventional military and nuclear forces and strategic moves in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), including a military assistance pact with the Maldives.

β€œChina continues to strengthen its conventional military and nuclear forces as well as its strategic moves in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), with the latest instance being the free military assistance pact with the Maldives on Monday,” a top military officer said in a TOI report.

Ongoing Military Confrontations and Deployments

In eastern Ladakh, China continues to deploy 50,000 to 60,000 troops in the western and central sectors of the LAC and 90,000 soldiers in the east. Air bases facing India, like Hotan, Kashgar, Gargunsa, Shigatse, Hoping, Lingzhi and Lhasa-Gonggar have seen upgrades with additional fighters, bombers, and AWACS systems, indicating a long-term commitment.β€œThey are not going to go back. Additional runways, hardened shelters and fuel dumps have all come up,” a senior IAF officer said in the previously mentioned TOI report.

India’s Challenges and defence Preparedness

India faces significant challenges in matching China’s military capabilities, primarily due to budget constraints and operational shortages. The country’s defense budget, while substantial, is not efficiently allocated, with just 28% earmarked for military modernization. This has resulted in operational shortfalls in critical areas such as fighters, submarines, helicopters, and air defense weapons.

One of the key hindrances to India’s military capabilities is the lack of concrete long-term plans. The delay in setting up integrated war-fighting machinery, such as theater commands, has limited India’s ability to effectively integrate military operations. In contrast, China has a more streamlined approach, with the Western Theater Command handling the entire Line of Actual Control (LAC).

India also lags behind in missile capabilities, particularly in long-range conventional missiles essential for precision targeting. Additionally, the country faces challenges in fields like space and cyber warfare, where China has made significant advancements.

Naval modernization is another area where India has fallen behind. Long-pending projects for a third aircraft carrier and nuclear-powered attack submarines have yet to be approved. This delay comes at a time when China is rapidly expanding its naval footprint and logistical facilities in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

India’s efforts to modernize its armed forces are crucial amidst growing regional tensions. Addressing these challenges will be essential for India to maintain a strong defence posture and counter emerging threats effectively.

China-Pakistan Military Cooperation

China’s military cooperation with Pakistan further complicates India’s security landscape. Beijing’s support for Islamabad, including the delivery of naval frigates and submarines, poses a significant challenge to India’s security interests.

International Response and Future Outlook

China’s increased defence spending reflects its ambitions to challenge the US and its allies in the region. Despite efforts to modernize its armed forces, concerns over corruption and the effectiveness of its military modernization drive persist. Tensions with the US and its allies, especially over Taiwan and the South China Sea, continue to impact regional security dynamics.

(With inputs from TOI)



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