India's defence expenditure is expected to accelerate over the next 30 years to rival that of the US and China – which could help make it a global military power in terms of conventional weapons, according to a study by the UK's defence ministry.
The Global Strategic Trends - Out to 2045 report prepared by the ministry's Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, analyses data across various sectors of energy, mineral resources, conflict and migration.
The study says that by 2045 India is likely to become the third-largest defence spender in the world, with purchases of $654 billion.
''Although China's military-industrial complex is unlikely to surpass the technological sophistication of the US by 2045, it may rival it in terms of size, as could India's. Both India and China will probably seek to develop sizeable and technically advanced armed forces, including ocean-going navies, capable of delivering an enduring and capable maritime presence both regionally and further afield,'' the paper says.
The analysis on South & East Asia and Oceania says, ''The military capabilities of other countries in the region are also likely to increase but only China, India, Australia, Japan (which is actively increasing its military capability) and South Korea are likely to have the ability to project conventional military power globally''.
However, the analysis notes that although India is likely to spend more on defence than the UK, it will ''almost certainly have to overcome domestic political issues and improve the way it invests to attain the capabilities needed to project conventional military power globally''.
According to the projection, the US and China are likely to have similarly-sized defence budgets, potentially out-spending the rest of the world by 2045. India could have a defence budget equivalent to the EU's total spending on defence, it says.
''Additionally, China, India and the US are likely to lead in defence-related research and development – further enhancing their military capabilities'', the paper says.
In terms of technology, the paper says that China and India are likely to attain global leadership in select technical disciplines, achieving parity with the West in a number of niche areas as soon as 2015 and more widely by 2045.
Iterating that China and India will ''almost certainly continue to be the dominant powers'' in the region, the paper says that the ways the two countries manage their societies' demands and their internal methods of governance will be important to the region's development.
In terms of potential conflict, it is projected that Kashmir would continue to be an area of tension, as would the border dispute between China and India. ''The risk of a major state-on-state conflict in the region cannot be ruled out,'' it says.
The paper is based on inputs from a range of individuals and global institutions, including India's Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, the United Services Institute and the Vivekananda International Foundation.