India began receiving delivery of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia in December last year, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told members of the Committee on Senate Armed Forces during a recent congressional hearing.
In October 2021, the Indian Army was seeking to equip itself with advanced surveillance systems to strengthen its land and sea borders and enhance its offensive and defensive cyber capabilities.
“In December, India received its initial delivery of the Russian S-400 air defense system, and it intends to operate the system to defend against Pakistani and Chinese threats by June 2022,” he said. Berrier said.
“India has continued to develop its own hypersonic, ballistic, cruise and air defense missile capabilities, carrying out several tests in 2021. India has an increasing number of satellites in
and expands its use of space assets, likely pursuing offensive space capabilities,” he said.
Berrier told lawmakers that New Delhi is pursuing a broad military modernization effort encompassing air, land, naval and strategic nuclear forces, with an emphasis on national defense production.
India is taking steps to establish integrated theater commands that will enhance its joint capability between its three military services.
Since 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has prioritized boosting India’s economy by developing its national defense industry and establishing a negative import list to reduce defense purchases from foreign suppliers.
“India’s long-standing defense relationship with Russia remains strong, holding their first talks in the ‘2+2’ format in December – a joint foreign and defense ministerial meeting that India was only hosting before than with the United States, Japan and Australia.
“India has maintained a neutral stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and continues to call for peace,” Berrier told lawmakers.
According to Berrier, throughout 2021, New Delhi has continued to implement a foreign policy aimed at demonstrating India’s role as a premier power and net provider of security in the Indian Ocean region.
India seeks to promote prosperity and ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific region by seeking strategic partnerships to enhance its influence through bilateral and multilateral mechanisms such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and the Association of Nations Southeast Asia (ASEAN), he said.
“New Delhi seeks to deepen cybersecurity intelligence and operational cooperation, protect critical information infrastructure, prevent adversary manipulation of public opinion, and create standards and norms that protect and secure data governance,” Berrier said.
Following the collapse of the Afghan government, New Delhi is increasingly concerned about potential attacks on India by Pakistan-based terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed – bolstered by an Afghan controlled by the Taliban, he said.
The evacuation of Indian personnel from Afghanistan has degraded its resources to monitor potential threats and cultivate influence on regional stability, he said.
Despite its recommitment to the 2003 ceasefire, India remains willing to respond to perceived threats from militants and has continued counterterrorism operations in Kashmir, Berrier said.
“Occasional skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani troops will continue, and a high-profile attack in India by Pakistan-based terrorists risks an Indian military response,” he said.
Berrier said Sino-Indian relations remain strained following deadly clashes in the summer of 2020 between their respective forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
In 2021, the two sides held several rounds of high-level diplomatic and military talks that resulted in a mutual withdrawal of forces from several sticking points.
However, both sides maintain nearly 50,000 troops as well as artillery, tanks and multiple rocket launchers, and both are building infrastructure along the LAC, Berrier added.