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Defence Diplomacy by India

GS2/ GS3 Paper 

 Syllabus: International Relations


Source: First Post

 Context: Recently, India announced that it will  send 16 Defence Attachés (DA) to a number of its missions in Africa and other countries (such as Ethiopia, Djibouti, Mozambique, Ivory Coast, Philippines, Armenia, Poland etc.) for the first time in a sign of expanding focus on military/defence diplomacy


What are Defence Attachés (DA) and what are their functions?

Defence Attachés (DAs) are military officers assigned to foreign embassies and diplomatic missions to represent their country’s defence interests abroad. Their primary role is to:

  1. Foster defence cooperation, promote dialogue, cooperation, and mutual understanding
  2. Facilitate military-to-military relations (facilitate defense procurements, and promote defense exports)
  3. Gather intelligence on defence-related matters in the host country
  4. Serve as liaisons between their home country’s defence establishment and the host nation’s defence authorities
  5. Provide strategic advice to their governments on defence policy, regional security issues, and emerging threats


Status of DAs:

The number of Defense Attachés from other countries in India exceeds 120, in contrast, India previously had just around 50 defence wings abroad.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, grants diplomatic status to Defense Attachés (DAs). According to the Convention, DAs are classified as members of the diplomatic staff, affording them full immunity while serving in their diplomatic capacity.


Need for additional Defence Attachés by India:

Need Description
1. Enhanced Defence Engagement India’s increasing defence engagement with multiple countries necessitates more military attachés to effectively manage and strengthen these relationships.
India has defence cooperation agreements of one kind or the other with over 50 countries.
2. Achieving Defence Targets The target for 2024-25 is Rs 1,75,000 crore worth of total annual defence production, which would include an export target of worth ₹35,000 crore.
3. Facilitating Defence Procurements Several African countries have expressed interest in buying Indian military equipment, hardware, and platforms. India has provided a line of credit to African countries to buy military platforms and weaponry from India
4. Securing Supply Chains In light of emerging challenges to global supply chains esp. strategic minerals such as Gold, Cobalt (in Ghana) etc.
5. Mitigating National Security Risks With the changing dynamics of national security threats, more attachés can help identify and mitigate potential risks by enhancing intelligence gathering and sharing.
E.g., In Central Asia, India has an air force facility and a military hospital, to manage risks from Afghanistan and other countries
6. Strengthening Defence Diplomacy Additional attachés can bolster India’s defence diplomacy efforts by expanding its presence in key strategic regions and enhancing bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
7. Defending partner countries E.g., As per the terms of the Indo-Bhutan treaty, India has discharged its obligation to defend the security of Bhutan. It has maintained a key Indian military training establishment in Bhutan since 1969.


What is Defence Diplomacy?

Defence diplomacy is the strategic use of a country’s military capabilities to advance its foreign policy objectives through cooperation with other nations.


India’s steps towards defence diplomacy:

  1. Establishment of additional Military Wings: These wings are optimized from existing billets and aim to bolster defence cooperation and presence in these regions.
  2. Engagement through Joint Exercises: Indian armed forces have been participating in joint exercises with foreign armies, engaging with 110 countries through defence cooperation activities (E.g., military exercises like Milan and Malabar)
  3. Multilateral Engagement: India has been actively engaging in multilateral forums and conferences such as the Indo-Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference (IPACC) and the India-Africa Army Chiefs’ Conclave (IACC)
  4. Defense Exports:g., Recent deals with countries like the Philippines for Brahmos cruise missiles demonstrate India’s growing defense export capabilities and partnerships.
  5. Regional Focus: India has been focusing on enhancing defense ties with Southeast Asian nations (through its SAGAR doctrine initiative), particularly in the context of the South China Sea disputes. This includes supplying defense platforms, joint production initiatives, and conducting naval war drills with countries in the region.
  6. Strategic Partnerships: India has been deepening defense cooperation with countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia through various agreements, joint exercises, and supply contracts. These partnerships aim to bolster maritime security and counter aggressive behaviour in the region, particularly from China.
  7. Support for International Law: India has expressed support for international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), particularly in the context of the South China Sea disputes.
  8. Humanitarian Assistance: India leads in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations in the region, coordinating with partner countries and conducting exercises like PANEX-21 with BIMSTEC nations.
  9. Engagement in West Asia: India fosters security cooperation with West Asian monarchies through joint naval exercises, signalling a shift from traditional dynamics and addressing emerging challenges in the region.
  10. India has a substantial presence in UN Peacekeeping Forces


To know about India’s Defence Exports Reaching an All-time High: Click Here



India is focusing on managing the fallout from Afghanistan while addressing Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific. Leveraging defence forces for regional diplomacy, India aims to sustain cooperative engagement and partnerships, requiring increased investment in naval capabilities. The Russo-Ukraine war underscores the need for India to diversify its defence portfolio and prioritize indigenous technology. To align foreign and defence policies, national interests should be paramount.


Mains Link:

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the defence sector is now set to be liberalized: What influence this is expected to have on Indian defence and economy in the short and long run? (UPSC 2014)


Prelims Link:

 Q1. Consider the following in respect of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS): (UPSC 2017)

  1. The inaugural IONS was held in India in 2015 under the chairmanship of the Indian Navy.
  2. IONS is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime cooperation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region.


Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2


Ans: B


Q2. Which one of the following is the best description of ‘INS Astradharini’, that was in the news recently? (UPSC 2016)

(a) Amphibious warfare ship
(b) Nuclear-powered submarine
(c) Torpedo launch and recovery vessel
(d) Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier


Ans: C