Comparative military potential and reforms

By admin Feb3,2023 #Pakistan Army

Lt Gen (retd) Naeem Khalid Lodhi is a former Corps Commmander, Bahawalpur and Defence Secretary.

Though ‘numbers and sizes’ is a constant factor while computing combat military potentials of various countries, a host of other factors have to be counted, some having more weightage than the size of forces, provided the ratio of numbers lies between a certainly acceptable bracket. As Napoleon said, “moral is to material as three is to one”. But in this piece, the ‘moral’ and the ‘faith’ factors will not be touched to keep the comparison objective and non-controversial. The roots of organisations, training and traditions of both Pakistani and Indian Armed Forces emanate from the British era, though both countries covered a lot of distance in pursuit of indigenous reforms and instituted some new aspects. Yet the British flavour is still dominant even though Pak Forces embraced more American and European equipment and training, whereas Indian Forces initially got influenced by Russian equipment and doctrines. But after the Chinese influence on Pakistani military acquisitions and Indian opening up to induct military equipment from all over the world, the two forces in terms of their world view and military philosophies are nearly more or less the same in their characteristics.

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As far as the military spendings are concerned India spends about seven to eight times more than Pakistan in terms of dollars. Last year India spent about $ 56 Bn as compared to Pakistan’s $ 7.5 Bn on sustaining and modernising their armed forces. Indian military expenditure is a little above 2 percent of their GDP, and in Pakistan’s case, it hovers above 3 percent of GDP. As we are witnessing an expansion in the Indian economy and a contraction in the case of Pakistan, the armed forces of the two countries are likely to develop and stagnate accordingly. Difficult times lie ahead for the Pakistan military unless some rethinking is immediately done about the organisations, fighting strategy and administrative aspects of all the four forces (considering nuclear forces the fourth one). The only redeeming factor is the time lag between economic weakness and its effects on the war readiness and fighting ability of any force. But there is no time for procrastination and delaying the review of the total political, economic and security environment, and then an immediate adjustment to suit the modern character of wars and evolving new doctrines. The armed forces cannot insist on maintaining the same organisational and recruitment outfits, training and administrative routines while remaining oblivious to the hard economic conditions and international political facts. The changing character of modern warfare also needs to be embraced, which is hybrid in nature and cannot be successfully prosecuted by kinetic forces alone. Both India and Pakistan need to respond to the modern warfare demands, whosoever exhibits agility to conform to the prevailing environment earlier will be better off. India to an extent has understood the importance of employing non-state actors, economic and political instruments etc, whereas Pakistan under international pressure seems to have retracted in these areas, creating a big disadvantage for itself.

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Indian land forces are more than double that of Pakistan (1200,000 vs 550,000), and their paramilitary forces are five times larger (2500,000 vs 500,000). India also maintains a much larger reservist pool. The combat potential of the Indian air force is about two and half times and that of the Indian Navy is close to three and half times that of ours. In these comparisons, the ratio of high-tech components has not been weighed in. But how much of this apparent fighting potential can get translated into real combat, is anybody’s guess. However some recent events like PAF’s ‘Swift Retort’, the Pakistan Navy’s detection of Indian submarines and the ‘clash and skirmishes at Galwan’, clearly indicate the vulnerabilities of a large fighting force that is well equipped but wants in waging modern integrated operations. Pakistan most probably enjoys an advantage in net-centric integrated operations and is likely to possess more drones, specifically killer drones, many of them indigenously manufactured. So in any limited conflict, Pak forces are not likely to face any major disadvantage, and in any large-scale aggression India will be risking touching the hitherto unknown and ambiguous nuclear threshold of Pakistan.

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The nuclear forces of the two sides are nearly at parity, however, many assessments show that Pakistani arsenal and delivery means to be better organised and probably more in numbers. The Indian advantage of possessing ICBMs of longer ranges is irrelevant in the Indo-Pak context. All said and done, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is the great equaliser.

Even if we keep the two sides’ senior leadership at the same keel, Pakistan’s junior leadership and the ranks in the forces have displayed extraordinary skills and valour. This fact emerges from the analysis of minor operations where our junior officers led from the front, fought valiantly and in many cases embraced martyrdom in unprecedented ratios concerning rank and file. Pakistan Armed Forces are known for their stringent standards of training, especially training with troops and equipment in the field. Due to economic constraints, there may be a downward trend in this real environment training, but this has been amply compensated by actual fighting against terrorism. However, being an asymmetric conflict it only hones a portion of the force and not necessarily the entire military outfit.

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Synergy in policies (foreign, economic, security, interior, etc) creates a multiplying effect and strengthens the overall internal cohesion of any country. India is doing well in this area except for their attitude towards minorities which is its Achilles heel. In our case the policies need to be better coordinated, that at times are not well aligned, resulting in a weaker net effect. Whereas this is true that diplomacy, economy and security should be dealt with by the specialists in their fields, nevertheless the main direction and focus must be provided by the apex political authority. In case of any inefficiency or procrastination, the vacuum gets filled by non-specialist entities and that kills the entire system. Our institutions (legislature, executive, judiciary, Armed Forces, media, etc) must learn to operate within their own special and ordained domains. Non-adherence to this can create a huge negative impact on the professionalism and respect of various institutions including the Armed Forces. And for a fighting force, the support of the people is the backbone of their morale.

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Pakistan Armed Forces (including the nuclear prowess) presently are in a reasonable position to deter any Indian aggressive designs and can re-establish deterrence if it fails temporarily. But Pakistan suffers weakness in the lower spectrum of conflicts due to our unwarranted acquiescence to international pressures and not fully comprehending the consequences of appeasing policies.


  1. Review the entire military system to make it smart, efficient, participatory, and responsive to the latest means and doctrines of warfare.
  2. Make the system economical by leveraging the nuclear capability in terms of policies and doctrines.
  3. Create an apex hybrid warfare headquarters that plans, directs and supervises the hybrid operations. The head (NSA, CJCSC, or any appropriate appointee) of this entity should be directly responsible to the PM and must house all requisite expertise under one roof, with relevant institutions and ministries mandated to execute the instructions.
  4. Decision-making mechanisms of all force headquarters be modified and honed to eradicate the vulnerability of pursuing one man’s thought process, ensuring the formal consultative process is mandatory and binding, rather than keeping it optional. All strategic decisions must remain within the directives and approvals of apex political policy.
  5. The govt, def ministry and armed forces must consider and remove the gaps if any in our full spectrum deterrence and consider instituting the low-intensity and hybrid warfare instruments and reorganising accordingly. The importance of exhibiting the ‘political and military will’ in the ‘deterrence theory’ must be fully grasped.
  6. Defence pacts and mutually beneficial security arrangements with friendly countries should be given importance and priority, to balance out the unprecedented and ever-increasing gap between the Pakistani and Indian forces.

A smart strategy dictates evolving intelligent plans, to achieve political objectives, by integrating and making the best use of available resources.

February 02, 2023


By admin

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