14 March 2011

China SignPost™ (洞察中国) #29: India Plays Catch-up with China: Asia’s titans boost 2011 defense budgets

Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, India Plays Catch-up with China: Asia’s titans boost 2011 defense budgets,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 29 (14 March 2011).

Air and naval implications of India’s higher spending and evolving strategic priorities

China SignPost 洞察中国–“Clear, high-impact China analysis.”©

China announced on 5 March 2011 that it would boost defense spending by 12.7% in 2011 to US$91.5 billion, up strongly from the 7.5% increase seen in 2010. India, China’s other Asian peer aside from Japan, recently boosted its defense budget by 11.6% for 2011 to US$36.5 billion, after a rise of only 4% in 2010 (Nezavisimaya Gazeta). India’s defense procurement spending is slated to rise by 14% in 2011, to US$15.4 billion, with the Indian Navy’s budget set to rise by nearly 17%, the Army budget by 23%, and the Air Force budget by 24%, according to Defense News.

We find the spending increases noteworthy because while China is preparing for a range of contingencies and sees the U.S. as its key strategic competitor, India is taking a Pakistan- and (increasingly) China-centric approach to its defense planning and acquisitions. A recent example of a more China-facing Indian strategic choice is the Indian Air Force’s decision to deploy two squadrons of SU-30 fighters—India’s most capable—to Chabua and Tezpur airbases in Assam, which lies near the strategic border state of Arunachal Pradesh (Hindustan Times). They will complement two new infantry divisions being raised, likewise to strengthen defense in India’s northeast. Meanwhile, China has been building and upgrading transport infrastructure on the Tibetan Plateau to facilitate faster movements near the border and patrols the area aggressively. India’s Defense Ministry accuses China of making at least 350 illegal border incursions over the past several years in Arunachal Pradesh alone (Indian Defence).

The Indian Navy plans to acquire 60 new ships, submarines, an aircraft carrier, maritime surveillance aircraft, and satellites in addition to 32 vessels and six submarines being built in India over the next 10 years, according to Defense News. This suggest the country’s leadership recognizes the need for building and maintaining a strong maritime presence in the Indian Ocean as other rising powers such as China also focus on the Indian Ocean region. …