Can India afford a million-man army? Apart from being a question to be answered by strategists, this question is an emotive one. This is because, as every Indian will aver, the most respected national institution is the Indian army.
This question, however, arose during the Galwan episode, largely because the Chinese PLA, which constantly appears on our borders in overwhelming numbers, actually has only 9,75,000 officers and men. This is considerably fewer than the Indian army, which according to diverse sources, numbers between 12,50,000 and 14,00,000 officers and men.
China is an aspiring world power that spends $252 billion on its defence budget, as compared to $72.9 billion that India spends. Both countries limit their budget to around 2 per cent of their GDP, which in China’s case is five times our size.
They have downsized their army and built a navy, which is growing faster than the US navy. They are invulnerable on land, and their only strategic weakness is their reliance on the Indian Ocean SLOCs (sea lines of communications) for 70 per cent of their imported oil.
The only guarantee of Chinese non-aggression and good behaviour is a well-crafted threat to their oil tankers and a complete naval mastery of the escalation that is bound to follow.