COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — On August 2, Defense News reported the Indian Defense Ministry is considering the purchase of six conventional submarines from Russia—with an estimated price tag of $12 billion—while the Indian Navy is requesting the MoD purchase two additional Russian-built subs.
In recent months, India announced several plans to bolster its military presence against geopolitical neighbors like Pakistan and China. In February, the Times of India reported India began tests of its first nuclear submarine and intercontinental ballistic missile and will inaugurate the technology sometime in the next year or so.
India wants to strengthen is military capabilities and identifies the build up of its navy as a key strategic target; however, continuing high spending on such a goal is problematic for three reasons:
1. It Will Cost Billions to Achieve Military Competitiveness in the Region
India’s willingness to purchase more naval vessels reflects a greater desire to strengthen its military capabilities generally. Indian missile defense missiles are already advanced, but matching the military might of neighbors like China is expensive.
The Indian Navy submarine fleet currently has 14 vessels, while geopolitical neighbor China has more than 60. For India to match the naval power—in quantity and quality—of the Chinese, the country would need to purchase dozens of naval vessels and invest billions into advanced nuclear technology. The cost of purchasing or producing naval vessels costs billions per vessel, and the price tag of matching China’s arsenal could easily cost over $100 billion.
2. Increasing Military Capabilities Leads to a Dangerous Cycle
In a recent statement before the House Committee on Armed Services, Philip Coyle, a senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, observed seven countries, including China, Pakistan and India; all claim to have effective missile defense systems. Specifically, India could advance its missile capabilities by arming submarines with ICBM technology.
These “claims,” says Coyle, “push military planning by their adversaries in unwanted directions as they in turn build more and more offensive systems and/or new decoys and countermeasures to defeat those defenses.” Increasing the size of India’s naval fleet can inadvertently lead to the buildup of advanced missile technology systems and perpetuate a cycle of high spending and a more militarized region.
3. Prioritization of the Military Over the Poor
According to the World Bank, India has the world’s largest share of people living on $1.25 a day or less. Currently, 400 million Indians live in extreme poverty, and that number will not decrease without prudent policy-making. Reducing poverty requires a degree of social spending and government intervention, and a government willing to spend billions on naval ships before addressing extreme poverty is telling of the government’s priorities.
It is commonplace for countries to pursue military investments in times of peace; however, hundreds of millions of Indians live indignant because of inadequate policies, and the Indian government cannot support high public spending on its military and the poor concurrently.
– Joseph McAdams