EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Indian general election of 2019 will be a decisive moment for South Asia’s overall security. As India is a major power player in the region, the 2019 elections will pose challenges as well as opportunities for both India and its neighbors. Also, it remains to be seen whether India will be able to maintain its power position in the region in the wake of the recent election of Pakistani PM Imran Khan.
Over the past four years, India has increased its defense budget from $37 billion to $52.5 billion and modernized its air defense systems and maritime capacities. The commissioned INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, submarines, and battleships of the Indian Navy will change India’s security dynamics. The Andaman, Nicobar, and Lakshadweep islands are also key strategic points on India’s southern maritime boundaries that are responsible for stabilizing the security environment of the Indian Ocean.
Similarly, during the tenure of the former PM of Pakistan, the defense budget increased to 19.6%, bolstering Islamabad’s position as a regional military power. Furthermore, Pakistan’s nuclear and naval capacities, consisting of submarines with cruise missile abilities, could counterbalance India’s defense strategies in the western half of the Indian Ocean’s maritime boundaries. Also, Pakistan’s alignment with Maldives is challenging India’s defense and foreign policy engagements with its South Asian neighbors.