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India has taken steps to modernise its military, reduce dependence on Russian arms: US

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Washington: Observing that India has showcased itself as a global leader, the top intelligence official from the US Department of Defense has told the Congress that in 2023, India took steps to modernise its military to compete with China and reduce its dependency on Russian origin-equipment.

“During the past year, India has showcased itself as a global leader by hosting the Group of 20 economic summit and demonstrated a greater willingness to counter PRC (People’s Republic of China) activity throughout the Indo-Pacific region,” Lt Gen Jeffrey Kruse, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency told members of the House Armed Services Committee – the subcommittee on intelligence and special operations during a Congressional hearing on defence intelligence countering China.

India, he said, has advanced partnerships in the Indo-Pacific with regional South China Sea claimants, such as the Philippines, through training and defence sales and deepened cooperation with the US, Australia, France and Japan.

“In 2023, India took steps to modernise its military to compete with China and reduce its dependency on Russian-origin equipment. India conducted sea trials for its first domestically produced aircraft carrier and also has negotiated with several Western countries on the transfer of key defense technologies,” Kruse said.

“In 2024, New Delhi probably will focus on securing its national parliamentary elections, maintaining economic growth, and building on its ‘Make in India’ initiative as part of its military modernisation effort — which is aimed at countering Beijing,” he told the lawmakers.

Bilateral relations between India and China remain tense following the 2020 Galwan clash that killed 20 Indian soldiers and at least five PLA soldiers. In October 2023, senior Indian and PLA officers failed to resolve disputes about the two remaining standoff locations in eastern Ladakh during their twentieth round of talks. Both sides maintain approximately 50,000-60,000 troops in the area and continue to improve their military infrastructure near the border, Kruse told the lawmakers. “India has maintained its neutral stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia remains India’s most substantial defence partner and New Delhi continues to acquire weapons from Moscow, such as the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, despite New Delhi’s desire to diversify its defence acquisition partnerships,” Kruse said. On Pakistan, Kruse told lawmakers that it has sought international support, including from the UN Security Council, to resolve its dispute with India about Kashmir. Separately, Islamabad and New Delhi have maintained an uneasy ceasefire along the shared Line of Control since February 2021.

“Pakistan has sustained its nuclear modernisation efforts despite its economic turmoil. Terrorist violence against Pakistani security forces and civilians also rose last year,” Kruse said.

In 2023, militants killed approximately 400 security forces, a nine-year high, and Pakistani security forces have conducted almost daily counterterrorism operations during the past year. Pakistan’s contentious relationship with India continues to drive its defence policy, Kruse said. However, cross-border violence between the countries has decreased since their February 2021 recommitment to a ceasefire, he said.

“Islamabad is modernising its nuclear arsenal and improving the security of its nuclear materials and nuclear C2. In October, Pakistan successfully tested its Ababeel medium-range ballistic missile,” he said.

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