Military experts say that it is more likely that India will deploy the S-400 systems purchased from Russia in the western border area with Pakistan, not the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
India signed an agreement to buy $ 5.43 billion 5 complexes S-400 from Russia in October 2018. Dmitry Shugaev, Director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), recently emphasized that Russia has begun the delivery of S-400 complexes to India. The first S-400 complex will be delivered by the end of this year.
Where will India deploy the S-400?
Former Indian Air Force deputy commander Bhushan Gokhale told Eurasian that Pakistan is not entirely the focus. Depending on the number of S-400 systems that India receives, New Delhi could also deploy along the northeastern border area.
When asked about the possibility of deployment along the Pakistani border, Mr. Gokhale explained that: “It is not necessary that the deployment of the S-400 is only aimed at Pakistan.
These are portable systems. Moreover, the reality will depend on the number of air defense complexes that India can buy. They will be deployed in a way that can deter all threats to India.”
According to Mr. Gokhale, an advantage when India deploys the S-400 on the Pakistani side is that there is no radar gap because the terrain is quite flat. The terrain along the Chinese side of the border is mountainous and can sometimes lead to loss of radar contact and other technical problems because of mountains.
However, today there are many systems, such as anti-radar systems, that can overcome these challenges. There are also many radar systems that work quite well in mountainous terrain areas. On the other hand, India does not necessarily only deploy the S-400 in the western region.
“India will deploy weapons based on the concept of multi-layered defense. There are many systems in use, the idea of deploying the S-400 is to eliminate enemy aircraft or air threats as soon as possible,” Gokhale said.
Threat from the West
“There are many reasons for prioritizing the western border, from geographical proximity to strategic necessity, ease of deployment, as well as the fact that Pakistan is a volatile adversary,” said Indian military analyst Rajinder Kushwaha.
Deploying the S-400 in the west could give India the flexibility to strike against [terrorist] targets in Pakistan while deterring Pakistan from taking retaliatory actions.
The geographical features of China’s border do not allow Beijing to recklessly attack India. China will have to use long-range missiles.
If so, China would also anticipate a commensurate retaliation from India. While the Chinese border also merits India deploying an effective air defense system, Pakistan’s geographical proximity makes it a priority for India.
“The Pakistan border area is a priority because Islamabad has a serious hostility towards India. The political instability in Pakistan shows that religious groups can besiege power, and when they do, they will inevitably enter another spiral of military conflict with India.
The requisite is operational readiness for any misstep from the capricious Pakistani leadership. The S-400 can guarantee this goal,” Kushwaha said.
According to Kushwaha, the deployment of the S-400 air defense system is also a strategically necessary move in a two-front war with China and Pakistan. China’s military target appears to be east of Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh.
But the mountainous terrain and high altitude here limit China’s air maneuverability. In the case of Pakistan, there are no such difficulties, and Kashmir is the primary target. This area must be protected at all costs.
“While India may wish to deploy an effective air defense system along both its western and northern-eastern borders, New Delhi must map out priorities based on ease of deployment as well as the necessary, needs.
While China is the number one rival, Pakistan is more “dangerous”. Therefore, India’s priority should be the western region,” Kushwaha said.
Meanwhile, military analyst Joseph P Chacko said: “If the deployment of the S-400 is to keep an eye on both Pakistan and China, it will be deployed in Kashmir.
Another scenario is that the missiles of the S-400 will be deployed against Pakistan and the complex’s radar system – capable of detecting targets at a distance of 1,000 km – can be used to detect incoming threats come from both Pakistan and China.”
Talking about why the S-400 can be deployed along India’s boundary with Pakistan and not China, analyst Chacko said: “Pakistan Air Force is a more credible threat than with China. India has air superiority in the LAC over China due to its topographical advantage.
Miguel Miranda, a South Asian military analyst in the Philippines, also said that the threat to India along the Line of Control (LoC) because of Pakistan’s stock of short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) is constantly increasing.
In addition, recently Islamabad has also made many advanced missiles like the Babur ground-attack cruise missile, the Nasr SRBM and the Fateh long-range multiple rocket launcher. On the other hand, Pakistan’s air force is also a formidable opponent.