- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

India and Pakistan: A Shift in the Military Calculus?

John H. Gill


This chapter investigates how the security concerns and military modernization programs of India and Pakistan might alter regional security dynamics over the near term.

Main Argument

  • India’s forces today are sufficient to defend against China beyond the near term, but do not guarantee a quick, decisive conventional victory over Pakistan. Qualitative changes in technology, doctrine, and military culture, however, could shift the calculus in India’s favor in the next ten to fifteen years.
  • While trying to cope with domestic instability and maintain promising economic growth, Pakistan will modernize its armed forces at the margins in order to keep pace with India; these modernization efforts will continue to be based on incremental hardware improvements rather than doctrinal changes.

Policy Implications

  • Fundamental miscalculations regarding comparative force capabilities and terrorist violence remain the two most likely sparks for military confrontation. Stability could be fostered on the subcontinent if the nascent India-Pakistan dialogue can be reinforced, particularly in the institutionalization of conflict management measures.
  • Pressing for an unambiguous end to militant infiltration into Indian Kashmir and for the dismantlement of terrorist infrastructure, as well as helping reconstruct Pakistani civil society and political institutions that neutralize extremist elements, could help reduce the threat to Pakistan’s stability and regional peace posed by radical non-state groups.
  • If New Delhi pursues an agenda of tailored modernization, including interoperability with U.S. and other foreign forces, then India will have the potential to become an important security provider in the region.