On January 26, the Indian state will once again display its armed might to the people of India and the world. On show will be the latest acquisitions of military hardware by the Indian Armed Forces. This is being accompanied by incessant propaganda about the threat to India from foreign powers and the necessity to produce and acquire the most sophisticated arms to combat this threat.
The Indian state has been purchasing military equipment and systems at a frenzied pace. Contracts have been signed in recent months for some of the most advanced surface-to-air missile systems, self-propelled guns, fighter jets, anti-tank guided missiles, minesweepers, attack and heavy-lift helicopters, etc. While the US is the largest supplier of arms to the Indian state at present, Israel, Russia, France, Italy and South Korea are among other significant suppliers. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported in February 2016 that India was the world’s largest arms importer over the five-year period 2011-2015. It accounted for 14 per cent of all weapons imports.
This feverish acquisition of sophisticated arms has to be seen in the context of the fact that the Indian state has already developed long range missile launching capabilities with the ability to drop nuclear as well as conventional bombs on targets thousands of miles from our borders. India has the third largest standing army in the world. Its defence budget for 2017-2018 was Rs 3,59,854 crore (US$ 53.5 billion at the then exchange rate). Defence is one of the largest heads of expenditure of the central government, amounting to more than one-sixth of the total. (See Figure 1 – Defence budget compared to some other heads of expenditure for 2015-2016).
The last few years has witnessed stepped-up collaboration between the government of India and the US state in intelligence and defence. In August 2016, India signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with USA, which commits the Indian state to providing wide-ranging military logistical support to the US. By this agreement, the two countries would enable each other to use their military capabilities. The joint statement issued by the two countries on the occasion of signing this agreement said, “To this end, the US has agreed to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with its closest allies and partners.”
Simply put, this means an increase in purchase of sophisticated military equipment by India from the US. It also means that the Indian state will more closely dovetail its military strategy in the Indo pacific region with that of the US. In the context of the drive of US imperialism to establish its domination over Asia through wars of aggression, there is great danger of India being drawn into such wars against other Asian countries. The US is pushing hard for a quadrilateral alliance – a military alliance including India, Japan, Australia and US – for the Indo-Pacific region, with a greater role for India. The US is egging the ambitions of the Indian big bourgeoisie to join it in encircling China.
The Indian big bourgeoisie is fired by the imperialist ambition to become the dominant power in the Indo Pacific region. Towards this end, it is trying to build up its naval power. In July 2017, increased steps were taken by the Indian state in the direction of enhancing its maritime capabilities. The 21st edition of the trilateral Malabar naval exercise between India, the US and Japan took place from July 9-17. Indian war- ships stationed themselves in international waters from the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden in the west to the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea in the east on permanent deployment. India and Russia held their first ever tri-services exercise in 2017. The Indian state also entered into several maritime defence engagements with a number of countries, including France and Singapore, which has offered its Changi Naval base to India for logistic support to Indian Navy ships.
All in all, the Indian state is arming itself to the teeth and to advance its aim to be the “policeman” of the Indian Ocean from the Africa in the West to the Malaysian peninsula and beyond to the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. It is trying to set up bases in countries of Africa and Asia.
One of the main aims of the big bourgeoisie behind the militarization program is to make maximum guaranteed profits by developing a war industry under its domination. Under the signboard of “Make in India”, private monopolies have entered in a big way in the production of military hardware for the Indian Armed Forces. A Military Industrial complex is being built. The Indian monopoly houses are excited at this prospect. They are striking deals with arms manufacturing companies of various imperialist countries to set up joint production units in India.
Private sector in defence production
Some recent examples of private companies in defence production in India
Accordingly, several major Indian corporate groups have come forward and invested in creating the military production facilities and infrastructure for research during the past decade. (See Box -- Private sector in defence production). Some of the key big business houses of the country, such as the Tatas, L&T, Reliance, and Mahindra, are investing in the sector and have made big plans to get a substantial chunk of the military pie. Recently, the government cleared 19 proposals from several large Indian corporate houses – including the Tatas, Mahindra, Reliance, Punj Lloyd, and Bharat Forge – for military manufacturing. Major corporate groups in India like Tata, Reliance, Mahindra Group, Kalyani Bharat Forge, L&T, Adani and Godrej have struck strategic partnerships with global arms manufacturers to cash in on the lucrative business opportunities this is providing.
The US model of Military Industrial complex is what the Indian bourgeoisie wants to emulate. (See Box : US Military Industrial complex). It is important to understand that the Military Industrial complex is an extremely profitable and lucrative business opportunity for investments for the monopoly capitalists, Indian and foreign. Unlike other sectors of the economy which may from time to time be faced with the crisis of overproduction and be subject to the boom and bust of capitalist crises, the military industrial complex is protected against it, the Indian state is a guaranteed customer! The Indian bourgeoisie is also gearing up to enter into the global arms business, worth billions of dollars, as an exporter.
Major think tanks of the Indian big bourgeoisie (Vivekanand Foundation, NIAS) as well as various strategic investment reports brought out by agencies like ASSOCHAM, Boston Consulting Group, CII, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Frost & Sullivan, ICRIER, KPMG, McKinsey, Observer Research Foundation, Price Waterhouse Coopers have been articulating the need and in fact, have proposed the road map for accomplishing this task. A former chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and former adviser to the Defence Minister, has been inducted as an important member of the Niti-Aayog, the think tank of the state directly advising the Prime Minister.
US Military Industrial complex
Whereas, throughout the period of the Cold War the US used the “threat of communism” to justify its military-industrial complex, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it used the “threat of Islamic fundamentalism” and the “war against terror” for the same ends. In its efforts to establish its unrivalled hegemony over a uni-polar world, the US imperialists organized and financed various overt and covert groups to carry out various coloured revolutions and destabilize those regimes which were unwilling to toe the US line completely. They have been carrying out brutal aggression and intervention in other countries to establish their dictate. US warships, equipped with missiles and nuclear warheads are stationed in various parts of the world, threatening the sovereignty and security of the people in those countries. As a result, the Military Industrial complex in the US is thriving.
To justify this priority agenda of the Indian ruling class, there is much official propaganda about the “threat” to India. Promoting this agenda of rapid military acquisition of the Indian state, the corporate-controlled media continuously carries out jingoistic propaganda about the threat from China, Pakistan, etc. The chief of the armed forces has referred to the need for India to be prepared to fight wars on two and a half fronts (i.e. Pakistan, China and Kashmir).
The bourgeoisie has also been carrying out incessant propaganda about how the Indian military is in dire need of modernisation (i.e. getting the latest weapons available internationally); that the country’s production system of military hardware (consisting mostly of public sector units – PSUs) has failed to deliver and has become a massive drain of resources; hence the need to look to imports and foreign direct investment (FDI) and the private sector for military modernisation. An arms acquisition plan of about US$250 billion (roughly Rs.16 lakh crores) over the next few years, including imports and domestic manufacture of arms has been worked out.
To sum up, the Indian bourgeoisie is pursuing a course of rapid militarization of its economy, moving from imports to FDI and domestic corporate investment in building up a massive military industrial complex. The big bourgeoisie recognizes that this is essential for India to effectively contend with other imperialist powers to capture and expand its own sphere of influence on the global scale. The Indian bourgeoisie is an imperialist bourgeoisie which is aggressively pushing to advance its imperialist interests around the world and emerge as a big power that can take its place at the high table with the other big imperialist powers of the world. Internally, it uses its military might to crush every form of struggle of the Indian people through brutal state terror and line them up behind its warmongering and imperialist agenda.
Expenditure on militarization is parasitic. It is a drain on our economy. The wealth created by our people through their labour is being deployed for building and acquiring weapons of destruction to fulfil the insatiable greed of the big capitalist monopolies for maximum profits.
Contrary to the bourgeois propaganda, militarization is not to protect the Indian people, but instead to embroil our people in imperialist wars, in collaboration with the US – the greatest enemy of the freedom and sovereignty of all countries and peoples. Simultaneously, the Indian state is arming itself to the teeth to brutally crush all opposition to its anti-national and anti-social course. Not the least, the capitalist monopolies are pushing for militarization to boost their profits.
It is very clear that thrust of the Indian bourgeoisie towards greater militarization will further endanger the peace and security of our people. Its increasing collaboration with the US threatens the peace and security of the entire Indian subcontinent and beyond.