The missing piece in India’s defence jigsaw puzzle | The Hindu

2020-02-20 | 3 minutes

Context: On 24th and 25th February, US President will visit India and procurement of 24 MH-60R Multi-Role Helicopters (MRH) was recently approved by Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) of India.


  • In September 2016, India and France signed an agreement for 36 Rafale fighter jets.
  • In October 2018, India and Russia signed a deal for S-400 Triumf Air Defence System and may finalize another deal on 200 Kamov Ka-226 light utility helicopters.
  • Between 2007 and 2019, India has bought approximately $17-billion worth defence equipment from US alone. 
  • Cabinet Committee on Security has approved $3.5-billion worth deal for 24 MH-60 Romeo Multi Mission Helicopters for Navy. The deal may be signed during the upcoming visit of US President

India’s military expenditure: India stands at fourth rank in the list of countries having the biggest highest military expenditure as per 2018 data from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an independent international institute for research on global security. U.S., China and Saudi Arabia spend more money on their military than India. Though India is one of the five countries with maximum defence spending, it needs to further increase military spending as per its strategic requirements to prepare itself for playing more prominent role in emerging global order and deal with challenges posed by neighbors like Pakistan and China. 

Need for a white paper on defence: China regularly releases defence white paper and it has released the latest white paper on 24th July, 2019. Many other countries in the world also release defence white paper. India does not release defence white paper, which helps a country in understanding the threats it faces and steps it must take to meet challenges. Though Indian political and defence leaders often say that India can easily defeat Pakistan, defence white paper will help them in understanding the real threats posed by Pakistan. China poses military, strategic and economic challenge to India. Defence white paper will help in understanding the threats posed by China. 

Defence white paper and studies to understand China’s policy towards India: Studies are needed to understand China’s strategic approach towards India. India’s defence experts need to assess and study whether China’s approach in Asia and Indo-Pacific is similar to the assertive and uncompromising approach it adopts while claiming its rights over areas falling within the nine-dash line in the South China Sea. India should not be influenced in its dealings with China by the perspective of U.S. or western countries and see China as trying to form a world order centered on the primary role for itself and secondary role for India and other countries. On the basis of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China, it can be said that China wants to form a world order centered on itself. But, this does not mean that China is planning to establish itself as a threat to Asian countries, including India. These issues will be better understood through studies that will be carried out to understand China’s policy towards India as part of defence white paper.

Potential benefits of defence white paper and studies to understand China’s policy towards India: If experts find that China is not trying to become a direct threat to India, they can suggest alternatives approaches for India’s dealings with China. Two countries can decide to limit themselves to their areas of influence and resolve the long-standing border dispute between them. China’s attempts to increase its strategic influence in South Asia, Afghanistan and parts of West Asia have been an area of conflict between India and China. Understanding gained through defence white paper may help both of them in peaceful coexistence. Recently, China has increased its investment in artificial intelligence, robotics, and bio-technology. Defence white paper may help in understanding if China is aiming at geo-economics. This can be an area for cooperation between India and China.    

Defence white paper should help India in clearly identifying its strategic threats, strengths and weaknesses. Leaders will be able to communicate clearly defined strategic threats, strengths and weaknesses to people of India. This will bring harmony in domestic politics on matters important for strategic and foreign policy of India. The paper will prevent other countries from exploiting India’s weaknesses and help India in harnessing its strengths.      

Mains Question:
Discuss why India needs to bring out a white paper on defence and how it will benefit India. (125 words)

Belt and Road Initiative (BRI):

  • It was announced as One Belt One Road (OBOR) by China in 2013.
  • OBOR was renamed as BRI in 2016.
  • It is scheduled to be completed by 2049.
  • It is aimed at increasing regional connectivity, creation of a large integrated market and infrastructure development.
  • In November 2019, US, Japan and Australia has announced Blue Dot Network to counter China’s BRI.