India's growing global military power


Now ranked as having the 4th largest armed forces worldwide with more than 4.8 million active and reserved military personnel, India was also the largest importer of major arms in 2012-2016, accounting for 13 percent of the global total, besting even regional powerhouse rivals China & Pakistan.

India continues to be on the global race in many fronts, including the military, where it has spent billions of dollars to modernize its equipment and capabilities.

The Global Firepower 2017 list has ranked India in the 4th place in terms of armed forces size, with the United States in the top spot, followed by Russia and China. Its belligerent neighbor – Pakistan – is ranked 13th.

On September 7, 2017, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appointed Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman as defense minister whose main task is to further strengthen the country's military power.


On assuming her new role, Ms. Sitharaman, the only woman to head  India's defense ministry after Indira Gandhi who was first appointed in 1975 then again in 1980-82, said: “My priority will definitely be the armed forces preparedness. It is important that the Indian armed forces receive the attention in terms of giving them every endowment and equipment necessary for them to perform their duty with the best of equipment available.”

5th biggest military spender

According to the latest report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is fifth on the list of the world's biggest military spenders as its military expenditure grewto $55.9 billion last year.

India was the world's largest importer

of major arms in 2012–16, accounting for 13 percent of the global total. Between 2007–11 and 2012–16 it increased its arms imports by 43 percent. In 2012–16 India's imports were far greater than those of its regional rivals China and Pakistan.

India increased its allocation for defense in 2017-18 by 6 percent to Rs.

2.74 lakh crore, including Rs. 86,488 crore for modernization.

But with India facing constant threats on both the northeast and west fronts—from China and Pakistan—the modest increase could hurt its military modernization plans. Military spending has averaged an annual increase of 10% during the past three years, much to the disappointment of the military that is struggling to scale up its capabilities.Big-ticket deals India’s Armed Forces are currently negotiating several big-ticket deals for Rafale fighter jets, Apache, Chinook and Kamov helicopters and the M-777 lightweight howitzers. On September 22,2015,the Cabinet Committee on Security(CCS) approved the procurement of Apache attack helicopters for the Indian Air Force.The army says it was also promised these air assets by the Center.

However,now the acquisition of the second lot of these helicopters for the army is stuck. The Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting, which was to be held on July 31, on procurement of Apache helicopters was postponed and the subsequent defence secretary-led meeting did not make much 

headway in procurement of 11 Apache helicopters forthe army.

The defense minister said India will continue to modernize its military and its nuclear capabilities keeping an eye on China.

India has made known to the world it believes in nuclear deterrence and no first strike. As a regional power and in line with its responsibilities, India has to keep itself armed.

The country has been fast developing new military technology, acquiring what  is  required,  manufacturing

weapons, aircraft, naval vessels, etc., to make its military a strong force to handle threats.

India's nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program has also caused concerns for its adversaries. Adding to this, the increased pace of acquisitions and commissioning of defense equipment shows that India is wary of the threats and wants to upgrade and bolster the military as much as possible.

With the Prime Minister going aggressive on the 'Make in India' theme,the defense industrial base is getting activated with collaborations from foreign partners. This should, in the long run, prove to be a game-changer for a country which has been so dependent on foreign powers for its arms and ammunition.

According to Global Firepower, Indian military has a combined 4,207,250 active and reserve personnel in service. Since resources like aircraft, personnel, helicopters, etc., are spread across the three services – Army, Air Force and Navy – the picture becomes complete knowing their stockpile.

Air power

Air power is crucial in times of war, con flict, for reconnaissance,surveillance, rescue, special ops, etc. The Indian military has attack aircraft, fighter aircraft,bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, transporters, attack helicopters, air superiority fighters, among others.

Some aircraft can serve multiple roles like the Rafale multi-role combat aircraft. The Defense Ministry had signed an order for 36 Rafale fighters with the French government last September, which will be inducted by 2023. There is a follow-up clause for buying another 36 fighters as part of the

deal, which may be exercised at a later date.

According to media reports, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has shortlisted American F-16 and Swedish Gripen fighter aircraft for induction into its fleet to make up the shortfall of fighter squadrons. The selection between these two single- engine fighter jets will be done using the Strategic Partnership (SP) model while there are no immediate plans to induct more twin-engine Rafale aircraft.

Growing fleet               Fighters/ Interceptors676

Attack aircraft809

Transport aircraft857

Trainer aircraft323


Attack helicopters16

Serviceable airports346

Naval prowes

The Indian Navy is the fifth largest in the world with a fleet that includes tactical submarines,nuclear-powered submarines, conventionally powered submarines,aircraft carrier,destroyers,frigates,amphibious warfare ships, corvettes, among others.

The Navy played a crucial role in India's  victory in the 1971 warwith Pakistan and also plays a key role in securing India and its interests in Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, South China Sea, etc.

India's biggest ship, aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, was acquired from Russia. It is a Kiev class aircraft carrier commissioned by the Russian Navy in 1987 under the name Baku. INS Chennai is the largest-everwarship to be built in India.

Merchant marine strength 340 Major ports and terminals 7

Strong Army

The Indian Army is arguably the backbone of the Indian Armed Forces. The foot soldiers who guard India's borders and deal with the security threats to the country in the most testing situations have made the Indian Army one of the most versatile forces in the world.


The Army's soldiers are divided into 35 Divisions within 13 Corps. The Indian Army is the third strongest in the world, according to Global Firepower on the basis of strength of personnel.


active personnel


Armored fighting6,704 vehicles (AFVs)

Self-propelled guns290

Towed artillery7,414 Multiple launch rocket292


India's nuclear missile capability

According to Arms Control Association, India's nuclear stockpile has 130 warheads. ACA data from July 2017 shows India's nuclear stockpile as the 7th largest in the world. India has a variety of launch systems that can deliver nuclear warheads for example missiles launched from land  or from navalvessels and even submarines.

India's nuclearweapons are believed to be plutonium-based. As of 2015 India's weapon-grade plutonium stockpile was estimated to be between 0.57 and

0.61 tons. It has plans to build six fast breeder  reactors, which  will

significantly increase its capacity to produce plutonium for weapons, making it capable of thwarting any kind ofthreats.

With over 1.2 million soldiers, India has the second largest army in the world, well equipped with complete spectrum of weaponry required to fight any type of war from nuclear to low intensity/sub- conventional and asymmetric warfare.

India is fast ascending as a global military power. In recent years, it has began to heavily invest on its Air Force and the Navy, which are smaller in size compared to the Army.