India retains fourth ‘most-powerful’ military status; Worries are over China and Pakistan


By Haider Abbas

As India is set to embark on its next Republic Day, when the President, the commander of the armed forces, takes to the salute from the Red Fort, there is a positive development, which has every potential to boost our military prowess and power. It has been reported on January 19, that India has retained its fourth most powerful military status according to the World Global Firepower Ranking, which comes out as based on each nation’s potential defence capability across land, sea and air by conventional means. The study considered 145 world powers. The US stands the most powerful, followed by Russia and then China, as the top three militaries of the world. India stands fourth. This list is published every year since 2006.

The big question is that how is Global Firepower Index calculated? It is based on fifty individual factors from geography to logistical capability. How these rankings are calculated deserve to be understood, as per CurrentAffiars.Adda247 1, the criterion for this ranking ‘includes manpower, land forces, airpower, natural resources, naval forces, logistics and financials. Under manpower, the factors considered are total population, paramilitary, reaching military age annually, active reserves and active services. Under equipment, the factors considered are trainer fleet, aircraft fleet strength, helicopter fleet, attack fleets, rocket projectors, tank strength, towed artillery, aircraft carriers, naval fleet strength, destroyers, submarines, coastal patrol craft, frigates, mine warfare craft, coastal patrol craft and tanker fleets. The finance factors include external debt, defence budget, reserves of foreign exchange and gold and purchasing power parity.

The latest rankings have shocked-the-world as some powerful nations have slipped down while many have upgraded their rank. Unlike what was anticipated, the top four powers remained unchanged, despite the Russia-Ukraine war. It was expected that Russia would ‘roll-down’ but it did not, this is of course what may be called as the most-worrying-point for US. But, ironically Ukraine has also upgraded itself, from 22nd last year to 15th in 2023, owing to massive financial and military support from US and Europe, while there have series of been most stringent economic sanctions slapped on Russia. The war in now almost one year old. Interestingly, China is also yet to overtake Russia towards the second rank.

India stands below China and it is expected to throw an enormous challenge, only when India is to enhance its defence budget past the 100 billion USD mark! India’s defence budget stands today at 70.6 billion USD, majority of it goes towards salaries and pensions, hence, India is likely to remain on the same pedestal for a long time to come. However, UK has climbed to 5th rank from its 8th rank previous year, this could happen as UK had recently announced that it would carry its defence budget to more than a 100 billion Pounds by 2030, as per Reuters 2 on December 24, 2022. This would be almost more than a double of what UK spends right now. UK has also started to make strong-agreements with Japan etc and is set to start building a stream of new aircraft carriers in the coming days. UK lags behind India only due to the population factor or else UK was to have taken-over India in the rankings. It is here India need to worry about.

The most shocking variant for India is Pakistan which has notched-up a seventh position unlike the ninth last year. This just does not augurs well for India as Pakistan has been at odds with India on almost all of the issues. Now Pakistan is considered as more powerful that Japan (8th), France (9th) and Italy( 10th). Turkey stands on 11th position. The most potent element in Pakistan high ranking is its increasing population which may be converted into for military purposes, the other factor is the 12% increase in Pakistan defence! This is despite Pakistan under floods and worst inflation. It has been reported by Janes.Com 3 on June 13, 2022 that ‘ Pakistan ha(d)s announced a 2022–23 defence budget of PKR1.53 trillion (USD7.5 billion). The allocation is a 12% increase over the original military expenditure in 2021–22 and a 3% increase over the revised expenditure last year of PKR1.48 trillion.’ Pakistan also could get the boost as US gave a military package offer to Pakistan, reported MoneyControl 4 on September 29, 2022. It is another matter that the US promise is quite ‘distant’ to be materialized. However, this is where-in lies the real race for India.

The debacle of course has come for Japan, which trails at eighth position and the sole factor it is its dwindling population, and also that, the general populace in Japan does not want to make a career in military. Japan has about 120 million people and it is expected that it would come down to about 100 million by 2014. US provides every kind of security to Japan. France is also handicapped by the increase of ‘protests-inside’ but its budget is also not on the increase as such. Plus, France withdrawal of its military from Africa i.e. Mali etc has also dented its worldwide image. France however, is focused on Indo-Pacific, where around 8000 of its soldiers are stationed and about 1.5 million of French citizens reside, as per CEPS on November 14, 2022. If France is to make any fresh moves ahead, to the ire of China in Indo-Pacific, and to India’s advantage, it is likely to enhance its ranking.

If India’s immediate neighbours are to be counted, then, Bangladesh comes at 40th position, while Nepal is much lower at 129th. Nepal is a landlocked country and does not have a navy and relies only on air force and army. Sri Lanka is on 71st rank which is not that much of a worry for India. Sri Lanka’s position is to stumble more as it has announced to slash its military strength to cut into its expenditure. Afghanistan stands at 114. India is poised to become more powerful but the threat of a war from China looms large on it. India and US are together along with Japan and Australia, which all as a part of QUAD, are likely to combat China over Taiwan ( 23rd ) in the Indo-Pacific. This is what holds the keys, as Russia and China, the two major powers are also joined against QUAD. This is where the next theatre of war may take place or may be between Iran (17th) and Israel ( 18th).

Interestingly, Iran has been under the worst economic sanctions since the last around five decades while Israel has enjoyed an unstinted US support from the past 70 years. Turkey is on 11th, Indonesia on 13th, Egypt on 14th, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 22nd position and Ukraine is on 15th.


The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international politics.


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