India's spendings on defence and diplomatic reforms slipped further as compared to China in the last five years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government even as the ruling BJP party is riding high on national security in the race to form the next government. Several economic surveys have proved that India's ranking continued to fall further below China when it came to expanding defence and diplomatic structural network.
The findings may prove detrimental to PM Modi's efforts to convince the voters in India that his government has strengthened the country's armed forces and improved the diplomatic relations to outdo China. The fact remains that China has marched way ahead than India and is not only expanding its defence network but also establishing key geo-strategic locations in the Indian Ocean.
There is no denying the fact that India's economy has grown steadily overshadowing developed countries like France over last few years but a large factor for the same can be attributed to the $84 billion trade with China which has only improved even as the diplomatic relations between the two countries have gone sour.
Lately, PM Modi's solo television appearance announcing India as the "space power" joining the league of a few countries that include the US and China has reportedly also not impressed many at the international level especially since China was already in possession of such a technology a decade ago.
China's focus on modernizing its armed forces gave it an edge?
For the last decade or so, China has steadily worked on introducing cutting-edge technology to aid its armed forces and done away with banking heavily on the headcount. Its space as well as cyber technology strength is greater than India's that has understandably helped its armed forces. On the other hand, India's reliance on combat personnel has proved costly as the country spends most of the defence budget on salaries and pensions of its security personnel, both in-service and retired.
There hasn't been any noticeable addition to the equipment, war plans and submarines or even modernising the existing ones. To add to India's woes, the most recent decision taken by the Modi government of buying more than two dozen Rafale fighter jets from France has ended up in stirring controversy with the opposition parties levying corruption charges against him.
BJP argues that India and China's economies are different and their budgets on military and economic infrastructure shouldn't be compared.
"Under PM, Modi's rule, India has increased its defence spending as well as giving the armed forces more autonomy. You cannot compare the economy of China with that of India. China is a bigger economy and has a defence budget in line with its plans and needs. India, on the other hand, has enough defence budget and the reforms are an ongoing process," GVL Narasimha Rao, a BJP spokesperson told Bloomberg.
How has China outdone India on diplomatic front?
Despite PM Modi being in news for all his international trips during the tenure of his government, the figures show that India still does not have enough diplomatic presence at the international level despite being the second most populous country in the world. Compared with China's 7, 500 diplomats, India has just 900.
"Modi's injection of personal enthusiasm into Indian foreign policy hasn't led to more resources at the severely short-staffed Ministry of External Affairs," said Happymon Jacob, an associate professor at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University's School of International Studies.
According to Lowy Institute's Asia power index, India ranks below China when it comes to economic resources, military capability, diplomatic influence, defence network and cultural relations.
India has, however, tried to establish itself as an alternative Asian power while colluding with the United States which is trying to set up the former as China's key Asian rival. China's concrete efforts to set up military bases in Nepal and Pakistan near the Indian border have invited sharp criticism from India's allies like the US, Japan, Australia and France.
China, therefore, sees India as a potential threat and has often times invited the latter's wrath by helping Pakistan strengthen its defence network and open an economic corridor. Additionally, China's repeated attempts to block India's efforts at designating Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar, who has been accused of plotting major terrorist activities, has also irked India.
PM Modi, who is most likely to return to power after the general elections, has made his resentment clear by not sending any Indian delegation to the ongoing Belt and Road infrastructure forum currently being held in China.