India's military buildup is 2011's 'most overlooked event'

Last Updated 29 November 2011, 13:21 IST

The unique list, released yesterday and topped by India's military build-up, has Euro, Mexico's drug war, US immigration crackdown, expanding wings of piracy, and Rwanda as other events that have missed the spotlight they needed.

"China's new aircraft carrier -- actually just a refitted Gorbachev-era Soviet model purchased for USD 20 million from the Russians -- made international headlines when it began sea trials this year, signalling Beijing's growing military ambitions in East Asia.

"But it isn't the only Asian giant investing heavily in new military hardware.

"India has kept pace with its neighbour to the north and, in some areas, is actually exceeding it -- a development that, though much less noted, is a sign of the growing militarisation of the region as a new generation of emerging powers with global ambitions jockeys for regional supremacy," says the Foreign Policy magazine's 'The Stories You Missed in 2011'.

It said India is now the world's largest weapons importer, according to a 2011 report by
arms watchdog SIPRI, accounting for 9 per cent of the world's international arms transfers -- most from Russia -- between 2006 and 2010.

India will spend an estimated USD 80 billion on military modernisation programs by 2015, according to an estimate from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, it said.

The Foreign Policy magazine said, "In particular, India is focusing on sea power, a crucial new area of competition. The country is planning to spend almost USD 45 billion over the next 20 years on 103 new warships, including destroyers and nuclear submarines.

"By comparison, China's investment over the same period is projected to be around USD 25 billion for 135 vessels, according to data on both countries from maritime analysis firm AMI International."

It added that on top of long-running tensions with Pakistan and festering insurgencies by Kashmiri separatists and Maoist rebels, India's military planners are increasingly concerned about the prospect of military hostilities with China -- hence the new focus on naval power.

For now, the US seems much more comfortable with India's military ambitions than China's, the Foreign Policy says.

"The Pentagon's 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review welcomed 'a more influential role in global affairs' for India, including in the Indian Ocean region.
"But there are some troubling signs that the area might not be big enough for two rising superpowers," it said.

Ranking "Pakistan's Other War" on sixth slot, the Foreign Policy says Baluchistan may be Pakistan's largest province, covering nearly half the country's land area, but the raging separatist violence in the region -- sometimes called Pakistan's secret war -- gets only a fraction of the attention that the country's other crises receive.

"Separatist groups, the largest of which is the Baluchistan Liberation Army, have been waging an insurgency since 2007 in the resource-rich province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan.

"It's the fifth Baluchi uprising since Pakistan's independence in 1947, and even by the country's standards, the province appears increasingly out of control," it says.

Baluchistan saw the highest number of militant attacks of any Pakistani province in 2010, and the trend has continued in 2011, with multiple bombings of key gas pipelines, the murder of Punjab settlers who have moved to the region, and the assassinations of several prominent politicians and oil-company employees, the magazine writes.

Baluchistan's instability has international consequences, it says adding that the Taliban, headquartered in the provincial capital of Quetta, use Baluchistan's 800-mile-long border to slip in and out of Afghanistan.

The sparsely populated region also provides safe haven for drug smugglers and Iranian rebel groups. The CIA is believed to launch drone strikes from bases in Baluchistan.
"And then, of course, there's India, which Pakistan has repeatedly accused of funding the rebels, a charge India vehemently denies.

"The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is an ethnic Baluchi, as is his nephew Ramzi Yousef, who plotted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing," it says.
The magazine added, "For now, the Pakistani government is benefiting from the scant media attention given to the region and its problems. But it can't be swept under the rug forever".

(Published 29 November 2011, 09:58 IST)

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