The news item that India is about to test fire a medium range missile with a 1500 miles range and a capability to lift one ton payload is a matter of concern not only to India’s neighbors but also the major powers and the U.S, It may be recalled that India successfully tested another missile with a range of 150 miles last year. The question arises what is India up to?

India, one of the twenty poorest countries in the world, continues to add to its military arsenal at an unprecedented pace one that overshadows the great U.S: military buildup of the 1980s. While the U.S. doubled its defense budget in a decade India had quadrupled its defense spending in about the same period e.g. from an expenditure of 3000 crores in 1979 to 13500 crores in 1989.

SIPRI, a Swedish based peace studies research institute and TISS, a London based defense analysis organization reported last year that India has been “number one importer of armaments” in the last two years and placed the figure of such purchases at U.S. 45 billion dollars each year.

India has expanded its defense establishment to proportions that have caused concern in South Asia and the Indian Ocean. India has raised additional units of Army, expanded and upgraded nearly all of its air squadrons with the latest aircraft from USSR, France, UK et al, expanded its navy by leasing nuclear powered submarines from the Soviets; expanded its paramilitary forces beyond the limits imposed by the Parliament some years back.

India has also undertaken one of the most ambitious space missiles and nuclear experimentation programs. To make matters worst India has refused to sign the nonproliferation treaty on various excuses. Although it has been claiming that it has no nuclear ambitions it shocked the world in 1974 by exploding an underground nuclear device in clear violation of the undertakings given to the U.S. and other Western nations who had supplied nuclear technology to India.

All along India has claimed that these programs are of a defensive nature and are being undertaken to maintain the “state of art” edge in technological knowhow. But how can India’s neighbors take India’s word at its face value?

While talking about nonviolence and “Panch Sheel” India invaded Goa indeed a despicable colonial legacy in 1965; launched its forces to divide Pakistan in1971; has been giving aid to Afghanistan against the freedom fighters since the late 1970’s; Janded 80,000 troops in Sri Lanka in 1987 and more recently in Maladives.

Conventional wisdom is that nation arm themselves for two main reasons. Firstly, to counter a perceived foreign threat; and secondly to divert the attention of its citizens from the failed domestic policies. (Nagaland, Punjab, Manipur, Tamil Nadu, Kashmir etc.), Once a military force is created defensive or otherwise it invariably gets used both internally and externally thus bringing tragedy to people at large. Remember Hitler’s use of its military and para forces against the Jewish minority internally and against other countries externally?

It is clear that India does not need the kind of military buildup and costly space programs when it is already the major power in ‘South Asia and when over forty percent of its population or 320 million people are living below the UN accepted poverty line.

Article extracted from this publication >>  April 7, 1989