NEW YORK: India is asserting itself as a global military power ready to dispatch troops thousands of miles away “to protect its oil shipments and trade routes, to defend its expatriate population in the Middle East and to shoulder international peacekeeping duties,” The New York Times reported Monday.
But The Times dispatch from Mumbai said the Indian military planning is still heavily focused on China and Pakistan, against both of which the country has fought wars. “China, whose own military expansion outstrips India’s, has not sounded public warnings about India’s military modernization. But Pakistan is more critical,” the dispatch said.
Pakistani officials “are paying attention to Indian plans to project India outside the South Asian region,” Hasan Askari Rizvi, a leading Pakistani expert on that country’s military, was quoted as saying in the report.
Noting that India has long derided the force-projecting ways of the great powers, The Times said, “But in recent years, while world attention has focused on China’s military, India has begun to refashion itself as an armed power with global reach..”
“India sees itself in a different light — not looking so much inward and looking at Pakistan, but globally,” William Cohen, a secretary of defence in the Clinton administration who in his new role as a lobbyist represents American firms seeking weapons contracts in India, was quoted as saying. “It’s sending a signal that it’s going to be a big player.”
India is buying armaments that major powers like the United States use to operate far from home: aircraft carriers, giant C-130J transport planes and airborne refueling tankers, The Times said. Meanwhile, India has helped to build a small air base in Tajikistan that it will share with its host country, it said, adding that it is modern India’s first military outpost on foreign soil.
“India also appears to be positioning itself as a caretaker and patroller of the Indian Ocean region, which stretches from Africa’s coast to Australia’s and from the subcontinent southward to Antarctica,” The Times said.
“Ten years from now, India could be a real provider of security to the entire ocean islands in the Indian Ocean,” Ashley Tellis, an Indian-born scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington who has also been an adviser to the Bush administration, was quoted as saying. “It could become a provider of security in the Persian Gulf in collaboration with the U.S. I would think of the same being true with the Central Asian states.”
“Immediately after independence, true, we had to engage ourselves for developing our country — economically, politically — because we were exploited under colonial rule for more than 200 years,” Pranab Mukherjee, India’s foreign minister, told The Times.
Now, he said, things have changed: “Naturally, a country of this size, a population of this size — we will be required to strengthen our security forces, modernize them, update them, upgrade our technology.””We are ready to play a more responsible role,” he added, “but we don’t want to impose ourselves on others.”-SANA