Two of the largest militaries in the world in terms of personnel are India and Pakistan, with both militaries having experienced rapid modernization in recent times. The two countries are located on the Indian subcontinent, separated by an international border that winds through the enchanting Himalayan mountains, cuts through arid deserts, urban centers, and stretches on to the coast where it meets the Indian ocean. This divide is heavily guarded and notoriously dangerous. Outside of the North-South Korean Demilitarized Zone, there is perhaps no other more volatile border on the planet.
Much of the Indian-Pakistan border remains lit at night by about 150,000 floodlights, and according to NASA it’s one of the few international boundaries that can be seen from space.
The 1,800 mile International Border of India and Pakistan hedges one of largest countries in the world, India. The country is 1.27 million square miles (3.29 million square kilometers), making it the seventh biggest nation in terms of landmass. Pakistan is small in comparison, with a 307,374 square mile landmass (796,095 square kilometers).
India is also much bigger in terms of population, with 1.311 billion people, making it the second most populated country next to China. Pakistan’s population is 197 million.
The number of people each country employs in the service of the military, however, is not that different. From Pakistan’s millions, 643,800 people work as active military personnel and a further 513,000 are available for combat as reserve military personnel. While India may have a billion-plus population, it’s number of active military personnel is thought to be around 1.4 million and reserve personnel 1,155,000. This makes India the third largest active military in the world behind the United states and China, but Pakistan is not far behind in sixth place. India’s military is also boosted by a huge paramilitary force of around 2 million people, tasked mostly with keeping peace and protecting the country’s borders. Pakistan has around 400,000 paramilitaries, also working as border security and other jobs such as preventing smuggling.
Not surprisingly, as the world’s third largest GDP, India has more money to spend on its military. From India’s $9.489 trillion GDP, around 55.9 billion dollars is spent on its military. This budget is expected to rise significantly in the coming years as India rapidly upgrades its military. This puts India in the top five countries for military spending, equal to a handful of other countries that lag behind the big spenders of China and the USA.
Pakistan has a relatively small defense budget at 7.6 billion, which is about 3.5 percent of its just over one trillion dollar GDP.
In terms of equipment India has been investing a lot in its effort to improve its previously criticized aged military equipment. Only this year did India invest 3 billion dollars under its Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan to buy 3,000 to 4,000 pieces of new artillery, on top of acquiring new tanks. In total, India currently has 4,426 tanks, 6,704 armored fighting vehicles, 290 self-propelled guns, 7,414 towed artillery, and 292 multiple-launch rocket systems.
In spite of Pakistan’s relatively small budget, its land equipment numbers are fairly healthy, though the machinery itself is said to be not as advanced as that of India. The country has 2,924 tanks, 2,828 armored fighting vehicles, 465 self-propelled guns, 3,278 towed artillery, and 134 multiple-launch rocket systems.
Pakistan’s most respected beast on land is probably its Al-Khalid Main Battle Tank, what’s been called the backbone of the Pakistan Army’s Armoured Corps. India arguably is developing a superior machine in the Arjun MK-II third-generation battle tank.
While land battles might be close, India almost certainly has the advantage in the air. Its mighty air force has about 1,720 aircraft and is the fourth largest in the world in terms of personnel and aircraft. Pakistan’s air force has a respectable 961 aircraft, but in terms of technology, India is way out in front. India’s fleet consists of Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30MKIs and Mikoyan MiG-29s, and is further bolstered with one of the most advanced aircraft ever built, the French multi-role fighter, Dassault Mirage 2000.
While the Pakistani Air Force’s motto is ‘second to none,’ it’s arguably second to the Indian air force, technologically speaking at least. Its pilots are highly respected. The Pakistani current fleet consists of 76 F-16 Fighting Falcons, 88 PAC JF-17 Thunders, and some older models of the French Dassault Mirage. While these aircraft are still in use, they cannot be said to be anywhere near as advanced as some of the world’s more modern aerial military technology. Pakistan is said to have the upper hand in one area though, and that’s its attack helicopters. The country has fifty-one AH-1S Cobra attack helicopters while fifteen AH-1Z Vipers have been ordered. India is somewhat light regarding these machines, although just recently the country’s Ministry of Defense approved the acquisition of 39 new attack helicopters.
In the water, India is considered as having one of the most powerful navies in the world, and Pakistan could make no such claim. However, Pakistan is in the process of investing millions of dollars in modernizing its navy fleet, while decommissioning ships that are somewhat out of date. The Indian Navy is also in the process of acquiring ships better suited to the possibility of future naval warfare.
As of this year the Indian navy has an estimated 67,109 personnel, more than Pakistan’s estimated 30-plus thousand personnel. In terms of equipment, the Indian navy has one aircraft carrier, 0 cruisers, 11 destroyers, 14 frigates, 15 submarines, 23 corvettes, 0 amphibious assault ships, 7 mine warfare ships, and 72 patrol ships.
The Pakistani navy has 0 aircraft carriers, 1 cruiser, 0 destroyers, 10 frigates, 8 submarines, 0 corvettes, 0 amphibious assault ships, 3 mine warfare ships, and 17 patrol ships.
Both India and Pakistan make up the nine countries with nuclear weapons, although the two countries have a small arsenal of these weapons compared to the USA and Russia, who own the vast majority of the world’s most powerful bombs.
It’s said that Pakistan may have just a few more nuclear weapons than India, owning around 110 to 130 to India’s 110 to 120. The Federation of American Scientists states that both countries’ nuclear weapons are non-operational, meaning they are retired or waiting for dismantlement. Interestingly, the last time India and Pakistan conducted a test of a nuclear weapon was the same year, 1998. One big threat to India, however, that has been a topic discussion over the last few years is Pakistan’s fast growing stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons, or TNWs. Pakistan has been developing its Hatf-9 missile, which is equipped with a nuclear warhead. India has so far declined to develop its own TNWs, but it’s unclear exactly what India’s nuclear stockpile consists of. While India has a no strike first policy, it does have a “massive retaliation” policy if it should ever be attacked.
In the event of a conflict, it’s difficult to say who India and Pakistan’s allies would be. This would depend on who launched the offensive and why. China and the U.S. are the biggest arms suppliers to Pakistan, respectively, while Russia and the U.S. are the biggest suppliers of arms to India, respectively. This, however, doesn’t necessarily reflect an alliance in times of conflict.
So, who do you think has a stronger military? India or Pakistan? Let us know why in the comments! And be sure sure to check out India vs the United States!