In addition, six Scorpene subs being built in India under license from France in a $5 billion deal are expected to start going into service in 2015, three years behind schedule, said Defense Minister A.K. Antony. Labor problems and difficulties procuring needed technology have hampered the project, he told the Indian Parliament recently. Critics also blame India's sluggish bureaucracy for the delays.
"India's efforts at modernizing its forces have been very slow," said Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a defense analyst at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.
Some Indian military experts complain that the country is not doing enough to upgrade its forces to the level befitting the regional power it aspires to be.
"It's not only China that is rising. India is on the ascent too, and it's a trend that will continue for some decades," said retired Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak at the Centre for Air Power Studies in New Delhi.
India may be worrying over China's overtures to its neighbors, but New Delhi is reaching out to the Southeast Asian and East Asian countries in Beijing's backyard as well.
India has struck a strategic partnership with Vietnam, including helping Hanoi beef up its defense capabilities. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been actively pursuing a "Look East" policy, engaging the leaders of South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, among others. The policy has resulted in a troupe of high-level visits to India, bolstering trade and economic cooperation.
Nowhere is the contest between China and India more evident than in Myanmar, where both of the energy-seeking Asian giants are caught in a race to gain access to the country's natural gas sources.
India has regularly conducted defense exercises with countries in the region. It is scheduled to host the navies of 14 Asian countries in maritime exercises later this week; the Chinese and Pakistani navies have not been invited.
And, while India is increasing its defense capabilities, China is doing the same, but faster, making it difficult for India to catch up. The Chinese government's military budget is the second largest in the world after the United States.
India has raised two mountain divisions of soldiers to add to its existing high-altitude troops. Around 36,000 soldiers and officers of the divisions have been posted in the remote northeast, not far from India's Arunachal Pradesh state, which China claims as part of its territory.
A proposal for a mountain strike corps is awaiting clearance by India's Cabinet, and an independent armored brigade for the mountain region also is in the works. India hopes to show it can strike deep beyond its neighbor's borders to serve as a deterrent for any Chinese aggression, Kanwal said.
"India is building up its capability for offensive operations in the mountains with a view to taking the fight into Chinese territory," Kanwal said.
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