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India – A Powerful and Still Growing Nation with Strong Defence By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.

No doubt much will be said and written today to mark the seventieth anniversary of India’s independence from Britain on this day in 1947. Yesterday it was Pakistan that celebrated its 70 years of independence but today it is India, the largest democracy in the world, one that that we in Britain hold in enormous respect as we observe not only what has been achieved by its various governments and leaders but also because India built its foundations of independence on peace.

Having travelled extensively in my time particularly in the Far and Middle East regions it may surprise you to learn that I have never been to India. But for all that, brought up as I was to observe and respect India and to recognise that our own past history in that country was far from perfect. India is not one system but several but despite everything democracy has not only survived in this country but it has prospered. Peaceful coexistence with Pakistan remains a challenge for both countries and while India respects China its fears it too.

India has prospered since independence but compared to the similarly poor so-called Tiger economies of South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan, progress in India has been slow. Many of the population continue to live in poverty but for all that, the nations’ economy continues to grow at an average rate in excess of 6%. One day India may well become the largest or second largest economy in the world but that is still a long way off.

In the meantime India’ Prime Minister, Narendra Modi understands that while India will continue to grow  the pace of change will of necessity continue to be slow. India will undoubtedly fulfil its economic potential and I am sure that it will stand proud over its peers. I have no idea whether India’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi would be proud of what India has so far achieved since independence but I do believe that his chosen prime minister and long-time leader of the nation, Pandit Nehru would be very proud and justifiably so.

With a population of 1.3 billion people of which approximately 4.2 million are engaged in the military, 1,362 billion of these deemed as being active personnel and 2.8 billion as Reserve Personnel, India reminds us that it is manpower that drives a given military force and that Wars of attrition traditionally favour those with more available manpower for a given effort.

Today then, as India celebrates 70 years of independence from Britain, it perhaps worth reminding ourselves that in respect of defence capability this is a country that from an air power perspective has a total strength of 2,102 military aircraft. Of these, 676 are classified as fighter aircraft, 809 as attack aircraft, 857 as transports/reconnaissance and 323 as Trainer aircraft. In addition, total rotary strength is given as 666 helicopters of which 16 are classified as attack. Figures are provided by Global Firepower.

India has a very large Navy too with total naval assets given as 295 of which 2 are aircraft carriers (only one currently in service), 14 Frigates, 11 Destroyers, 23 Corvettes, a mix of 15 diesel-electric and nuclear powered Submarines, 139 Patrol vessels and 6 Mine warfare Vessels.

In respect of its Army, according to Global Firepower India currently has around 4,426 Combat Tanks, 6,704 Armoured Fighting Vehicles, 290 Self-Propelled Artillery, 7,414 Towed artillery and 292 Rocket projectors.

In February the Government announced that India’s defence budget would rise to 2.74 trillion Indian rupees (2016 2.49 Trillion) – this marking a second consecutive budget increase of 10%. The pension component within this rose by 5%. In US dollar terms the 2017 defence budget is approximately $56 billion and India’s defence as a proportion of GDP is approximately 2.7%.

India is well served by its strength in air power and in respect of naval power, the country has the fifth largest navy in the world. This is not surprising given that India has a coastline of 7,516.6 km and is bounded by Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Lakshadweep Sea and Bay of Bengal.

The next seventy year progress will be very interesting for all to observe and we wish them great success.

CHW (London – 15th August 2017)

Howard Wheeldon FRAeS

Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,

M: +44 7710 779785

Skype: chwheeldon




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