India is in the news today as much for its economic growth rate and increasingly aggressive economic investments within the country and world wide, as for its growing dominance in international fora. It is also in the news for its aggressive militarization.
India today is considered one of the largest arms purchasers in the world, and the arms merchants from US, Russia, France, Israel, South Africa and other countries are vying with one another to strike lucrative deals with India.
Within the country, the big capitalists of India are eagerly looking to increase their share in the arms industry, in collaboration with foreign arms companies.
The technical capabilities of armed forces have been greatly increased since the present round of militarization began in 1990, as the Cold War was ending and the Indian bourgeoisie began readjusting its international strategy to utilize the new situation to emerge as a world class imperialist power. The militarization has gone hand in hand with the liberalization and globalization program, and the military strategy has been further developed in line with the Indian imperialist strategy post cold war.
Land, sea and air forces are being continuously beefed up and modernized with the latest weapons systems and delivery systems. India has developed nuclear weapons, as well as is developing strike capability, through different ranges of missiles which can be launched from land, sea or air, to attack far off lands with nuclear as well as conventional warheads. The armed forces are trained for warfare in different terrains – like mountains, deserts and jungles—as well as against different enemies —both regular armed forces of other countries, as well as against insurgencies.
In addition to the regular armed forces comprising and integrated Army, Navy and Air Force, which comprise nearly 1.3 million men and women, there are an equal number of people in the para military forces. The main paramilitary forces are the Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Rashtriya Rifles, Assam Rifles, and Defence Security Corps. Their roles range from border defence and counter insurgency to crushing workers struggles. In times of war, they work under the command of the armed forces.
At the present time, the Indian bourgeoisie is talking of peace; it is talking as if its militarisation is merely to counter external threats to India. But the workers and peasants must not be fooled by this talk. The quality and quantity of militarisation is a clear indication that it is preparing for wars of aggression.
Why is the Indian bourgeoisie spending so much precious resources on a parasitical sector like the military sector? The answer to this lies in the imperialist strategy of the Indian bourgeoisie in the context of the changing balance of economic, political and military power amongst the big powers in the region and world wide.
The imperialist strategy has a number of interlinked components.
A primary aim is to defend the exploitation of the working masses and vast natural resources of India by the bourgeoisie from internal threat. Internally, it is directed against the struggles of all the oppressed peoples who are fighting for self determination, as well as against the threat of revolution by the workers and peasants and oppressed peoples. Today, nearly three quarters of the Indian armed forces are engaged in active counter insurgency duty in Kashmir and the North East provinces. Today, the armed forces are being called into action to support the police and paramilitary forces in land and aerial operations in Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa etc.
India and China have gone to war in the 1960’s over territories along their long border both in the North Western region in Ladakh-Leh and in the North Eastern Sector from Sikkim to Arunachal. India has sponsored Tibet insurgency in the past, just as China has sponsored insurgencies in the North East. India and Pakistan have gone to war several times over Kashmir, with India never reconciled to the existence of Pakistan. China and Pakistan have a strategic alliance to counter India. Thus, India has an adversarial relationship with both Pakistan and China which it continues to regard as threats to its imperialist aims in the region.
Indian bourgeoisie regards the countries of the South Asian region as part of its sphere of domination. This includes Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar. Its striving for domination over these countries face challenges both from internal forces in these countries as well as other contending powers. India uses its economic power as well as armed might to support its efforts at domination. In the past, it has intervened militarily in Sri Lanka, and it continues to assist the Sri Lankan armed forces in crushing internal revolts. It has intervened in the Maldives, Bhutan and in Afghanistan in the past. It has control over the Nepalese Army. One aim of Indian militarisation is to ensure that it is regarded as the unquestioned regional super power whose domination all in the region must accept.
The Indian bourgeoisie considers the entire Indian Ocean region stretching from straits of Mallaca (Singapore/Malaysia) to the Gulf of Aden (at the mouth of Red Sea), including the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, as its "natural" sphere of influence. It has been developing naval power to have a blue water navy, i.e., one that is not limited to the coastline, but can police the entire region mentioned above. Backed by air power, it has been engaging in limited shows of strength in this region, like attacking so called pirate ships along the Somalia coast in Africa, to ensure the safety of the oil and trade routes to India.
The Indian bourgeoisie has been making strategic investments in Afghanistan, Iran, Vietnam, Sudan, Myanmar, some of the Central Asian states, as well as in some countries in Southern Africa. It is planning to build road and rail links through the ASEAN countries linking India to Vietnam. In South East Asia, it is directly contending with China. In Afghanistan, it is contending with Pakistan. Another aim of its militarization is to defend and extend these strategic investments.
Overall, the Indian bourgeoisie is pursuing relentlessly a course to become a world class imperialist power. Asia, especially East Asia, South Asia and South East Asia are some of the worlds fastest growing economies. West Asia and Central Asia as well as Africa are rich in oil and gas and other precious natural resources. The major imperialist powers —US, European powers, Russia, China, India etc are colluding and contending to advance their own imperialist interests in different regions.
The US is targeting China as its main rival at this time, and is working to build alliances to ring China. India and China are contending in South East Asia, as well as in other countries. India sees the China-Pakistan axis as a block to its imperialist drive. There is a convergence of interests between India and US as regards China.
India and China are relatively late entrants into the inter imperialist war for redivision of the world, but now with their economies rapidly growing relative to older imperialist powers, they are carrying out aggressive militarization to back their claim to “their rightful share” of the world. Simultaneously, the US, the world’s biggest imperialist power, both in terms of economy and military power, is determined to defend and extend its plunder and domination of other countries through military force. There has been a change in the relative economic strengths of different imperialist powers since the end of the Cold War. In this situation, what is now a relatively "peaceful" period of inter imperialist conflicts, wherein the US along with various powers has been militarily changing the strategic architecture unilaterally in Eastern Europe and in West Asia, may change into a period of open interimperialist wars between different imperialist powers. The arming of India is a clear indication that the Indian bourgeoisie is actively pursuing the policy of preparing for war as an option to achieve its aims, and to participate in inter imperialist wars.
The militarisation of India, in pursuit of its imperialist goals, is against the interests of the workers and peasants of India. We must never forget that the crushing of the revolutionary struggle of the workers and peasants and oppressed peoples of our country, and of those of other lands is a primary target of this militarisation. Simultaneously, inter imperialist wars will mean massive destruction for our people and other peoples. The communists and workers must vigorously oppose the militarization and war plans of the Indian bourgeoisie.