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Indian Army Set To Become World’s Largest Armed Force Overtaking China

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With approximately 14 lakh servicemen in the Indian Army along with another nine lakh in reserve, the Indian Army has become the world’s largest ground force, ahead of China, which has cut down its strength by half.

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China held the top position for decades with strength of nearly twenty lakh soldiers. However, according to a defence report commissioned by the Government of Japan, China now commands the third-largest ground force in the world following India and neighbour North Korea, with approximately 9,80,000 personnel.  North Korea is estimated to have 12 lakh active personnel, according to a US-based thinktank.

The Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) was always regarded as the largest army in the world with an approximate strength of two million soldiers. India, which has been keenly watching the PLA’s modernisation, is just in the initial stages of building a leaner and modern technology-enabled force as envisioned by PM Modi in 2015.

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However, while China has been working on a massive modernisation of its force, India’s modernisation plans for its large personnel-driven force have been stalled by a cash crunch and a constantly increasing pension.

The Indian Army has so far carried out four transformation studies and is working on trimming its force by about 1.5 lakh personnel, which could take a minimum of five years.

Chinese president Xi Jinping had in 2015 announced the downsizing of the PLA to make the force leaner and reliant on modern warfare. The unprecedented reform began in November that year during which the focus shifted to technology for cyber and space and futuristic weapons besides giving a greater emphasis on building up the PLA’s Navy and the Air Force.

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“Since 1985, China has continuously sought to modernize its military by curtailing the number of personnel and streamlining organizations and systems through reforms, including those currently being implemented, in order to improve operational capabilities … China has rapidly modernized its missile forces in recent years,” the Japanese military document said.

PLA ground forces cut by half

In January 2020, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported that China had cut the size of its land-based PLA by about 50 per cent and significantly boosted its navy and air force as part of an “unprecedented” strategic shift designed to transform its army into a comprehensive modern force.

The report indicated that the four other branches of the PLA — the navy, air force, rocket force and strategic support force, which is responsible for areas such as cyber warfare — together make up more than half of the Chinese military, overtaking the army, which has traditionally been the dominant unit of the PLA, the South China Morning Post reported.

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Shanghai-based military analyst Ni Lexiong was quoted by the newspaper as saying that the overhaul marked a significant strategic shift from having a homeland-based defensive force to one with the capacity to allow Beijing to flex its muscles beyond its national borders and to protect its interests overseas.

He explained that modern warfare puts a greater emphasis on superiority in areas such as the air, space and cyberspace — further reducing the importance of the ground force.  He added that the Chinese Army had to be reformed and optimized to meet the pressing needs of the changing times and this was the purpose of the overhaul. He also said that in the old set up, the PLA had too many officers and in this overhaul the all these officers must find new positions and adapt or they will be made redundant.

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China, under Xi Jinping, is looking to develop its armed forces as it gets deeper entrenched in a strategic competition with the United States. Over the years, the Chinese have raised their defence spending as it grew richer due to its miraculous economic progress.

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The US remains the dominant military power in the world with a plethora of strategic assets across the Indo-Pacific region. The Americans also have a highly advanced force in all areas of the military, something that the Chinese are trying to catch up with.

India has also been in the process of military modernization by integrating advanced equipment and developing state-of-the-art technical know-how. However, with a defence budget estimated to be less than a quarter of its northern neighbour’s, India has limited resources to pull in.

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The armed forces have been largely dependent on imported weapons from the US, Israel and Russia; but a renewed push is being given to domestic defence manufacturing under the Make in India initiative.

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US Troops Withdraw From Five Bases in Afghanistan As Part Of Peace Deal With Taliban – Officials

The US has withdrawn from five military bases in Afghanistan. Afghan media outlet Tolo reported the five U.S. bases that closed are located in Helmand, Uruzgan, Paktika and Laghman provinces, in southern and eastern Afghanistan. 

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The US has closed five military bases in Afghanistan as part of an agreement with the Taliban, a Pentagon official said Tuesday. The official, who wanted to remain anonymous, confirmed the bases were in Helmand, Uruzgan, Paktika and Laghman provinces.

According to the deal, the US had 135 days to fulfil its pledge to reduce troops to 8,600 from nearly 14,000 in the conflict-hit country, which ended Monday.

The agreement was signed Feb. 29 and is aimed at reducing violence in hopes of fostering bilateral talks between the Afghan government and the extremist group to end the war-torn nation’s 18-year conflict.

The Taliban agreed not to allow al-Qaeda, Daesh or any other militant group to operate in areas they control, as part of the pact.

“The U.S. has worked hard to carry out the 1st phase of its commitments under the Agreement, including to reduce forces & depart five bases. NATO troops have come down in proportional numbers,” Khalilzad said on Twitter.

Afghan media outlet Tolo News reported the five U.S. bases that closed are located in Helmand, Uruzgan, Paktika and Laghman provinces, in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The larger U.S. bases in Bagram, located outside Kabul, and Kandahar Air Field in southern Afghanistan remain open.

Despite the reduction in U.S. soldiers as part of the pact, violence between the Taliban and Afghan forces has spiked in recent months, according to the Afghan government.

Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, US President Donald Trump has reiterated his resolve to “bring our soldiers back home” from Afghanistan, publicly questioning the purpose of the U.S. military presence in the war-torn region of Afghanistan.

Donald Trump reemphasised his objective amid reports that the ongoing U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan “is well ahead of schedule” outlined in a historical pact signed between the US and Taliban to end the nearly 19-year-old war.

“We are acting as a police force, not the fighting force that we are, in Afghanistan,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. After 19 years, it was time for Afghan authorities to police their own country, he wrote.

Under the U.S.-Taliban pact, Washington had promised to reduce its military strength in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 by mid-July before withdrawing all soldiers, along with several thousand partners in a NATO-led non-combatant mission by mid-2021.

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Pakistan Affirms Full Support To Turkey On The Eve Of Defeated Coup In Ankara

Pakistan, he added, “stands by Turkey and has been taking all possible steps to support Turkey’s efforts to address the threat posed by Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization (FETO),” the group behind the defeated coup.

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Pakistani PM Imran Khan has reaffirmed his country’s support and solidarity for Turkey on the eve of the July 15, 2016, defeated coup. Pakistan and Turkey share a historical bond and both nations are viewed as ‘iron brothers’. 

“Four years ago the Turkish people displayed their characteristic resilience and legendary bravery to defy the forces of darkness targeting Turkey’s peace and stability as well as its democratic institutions,” Imran Khan said in his message for Democracy and National Unity Day, a public holiday in Turkey.

“The saga of human courage and determination witnessed on July 15, 2016 was indeed an inspiration for millions across the globe and will be remembered in the annals of history.”

Drawing parallels with Khilafat Movement, Khan said the spirit of Turks on that day was similar to what “motivated our forefathers not to hesitate from making any sacrifice for their Turkish brethren a century ago.”

In 1918, South Asian Muslims struggled to save the Ottoman Empire from falling.

“We join the people of Turkey in honouring the martyrs and supporting their families,” the Pakistani premier said.

Pakistan, he added, “stands by Turkey and has been taking all possible steps to support Turkey’s efforts to address the threat posed by Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization (FETO),” the group behind the defeated coup.

The speakers of lower and upper houses of parliament also expressed solidarity in separate statements.

“We always have, and will continue to stand by Turkey in the face of all challenges,” said Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.

Pakistanis stood by Turkey on the night of July 15, 2016, and will continue to do so, said National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser.

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With China In Mind, India To ‘Urgently’ Acquire Heron Drones, Spike ATGM From Israel

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India plans to acquire for Heron drones and Spike anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) from Israel under the emergency financial powers granted by the government according to reports the ANI.

The Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are already in the Air Force, Navy, and the Army and are being used extensively at the moment by both Army surveillance and Target acquisition batteries and Air Force in the Ladakh sector.

“There is a need for acquisition of Heron UAVs to add to the existing fleet of these drones for meeting the requirements of our Air Force fleet. We are planning to place orders for these UAVs,” government sources told ANI here without specifying the numbers to be procured.

The forces are also working towards inducting an armed version of the UAV, as well as upgrading the existing fleet into combat UAVs under the ambitious ‘Project Cheetah’ spearheaded by the Indian Air Force.

On the other hand, the Indian Army is planning to acquire additional Spike ATGM (anti-tank guided missiles) which were received by it last year from Israel under the emergency financial powers granted to the services.

Last time, the Indian Army had procured 12 launchers and 200 Spike missiles. “We are planning to acquire more of these anti-tank missiles for tackling any threat from the enemy armoured regiments,” the sources said.

Spike is fire-and-forget anti-tank guided missile and anti-personnel missile with a tandem-charge HEAT warhead and is designed by the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

Earlier as EurAsian Times reported, the Indian Army was given the green light to purchase the Israeli ATGMs after the February 2019 military conflict between India and Pakistan following Balakot airstrikes.  The decision to procure the 240 ATGMs and 12 launchers were reportedly made during the five-day biannual Army Commanders’ Conference in New Delhi, according to IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly.

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