pensions account, nuclear devices, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, paramilitary forces, weapons systems
All branches of the armed services of India are made up solely of volunteers. Service, however, is considered a national duty, and competition for entry into the armed forces remains high. Although defense is considered important in India, the percentage of the GDP spent on defense has declined. It was 3.1 percent in 2000. Salaries and pensions account for a major portion of defense spending. In 2001 the strength of the army was 1.1 million, the navy comprised 53,000 members, and the air force had 110,000 people. Of 636,000 people in the paramilitary forces, 432,000 serve in units that guard the borders and join with police in suppressing insurgencies. Women have long served in the medical areas of the armed services but have only recently been allowed in limited numbers to enroll as officers in other noncombatant sections of the armed services.
Military units of all branches are well equipped. India has received extensive military aid, especially from the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Many of its weapons systems, including some of the most advanced such as missiles, are manufactured in India. The country exploded its first nuclear device in 1974, leading to an arms race with neighboring Pakistan. Exactly 24 years later, India set off five more nuclear devices and declared itself a “nuclear weapons state.” Pakistan responded within weeks with its own nuclear tests.
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