Short sighted smug­ness

Gfiles - - GOVERNANCE - ey KARAN KHARB

THE let­ter from a re­tir­ing Chief of Army Staff to the Prime Min­is­ter that made head­lines in March 2012 call­ing at­ten­tion of the Gov­ern­ment to the crit­i­cally de­plet­ing state of ar­ma­ment and equip­ment in the In­dian Army’s prin­ci­pal fight­ing arms like mech­a­nised forces, ar­tillery, air de­fence, in­fantry, Spe­cial Forces and so on was nei­ther the first nor the last. As a practice, prior to demit­ting of­fice, all mil­i­tary chiefs have been sub­mit­ting re­ports to the Prime Min­is­ter and the Min­is­ter of De­fence on the state of their re­spec­tive Ser­vices. These com­mu­ni­ca­tions, how­ever, re­main hid­den from pub­lic gaze be­cause of their se­cu­rity clas­si­fi­ca­tion. Gen VK Singh’s let­ter had, how­ever, raised a brouhaha in and out of Par­lia­ment be­cause it was leaked to the press. De­spite so much pub­lic out­cry, not much has changed since. Iron­i­cally, while the for­mer Gen­eral now holds a min­is­te­rial berth in the present gov­ern­ment, his ser­vice time whin­ing is be­ing now echoed by the Par­lia­ment’s De­fence Es­ti­mates Com­mit­tee. Even as the Modi Gov­ern­ment had de­cried the UPA’s ap­a­thy to­wards na­tional de­fence soon af­ter com­ing to power, lit­tle has moved de­spite elo­quent an­nounce­ments to speed up the process of ar­ma­ment ac­qui­si­tion and the launch­ing of Make in In­dia for build­ing up a ro­bust in­dige­nous mil­i­tary in­dus­try base. An ab­so­lute ig­no­rance of mat­ters mil­i­tary in bu­reau­crats in the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) and their ever-hard­en­ing ab­hor­rence to mil­i­tary ad­vice have proved to be for­mi­da­ble hur­dles even for a gov­ern­ment be­lieved to be re­spon­sive and de­ci­sive. The harsh truth is that the Es­ti­mates Com­mit­tee on De­fence headed by BJP’s own sea­soned MP Murli Manohar Joshi has ex­pressed ‘alarm’ at the on­go­ing ne­glect of the na­tion’s armed forces. At a time when the armed forces are cry­ing for mod­erni­sa­tion and re­plen­ish­ment of their crit­i­cal de­fi­cien­cies, the 29th re­port of the Com­mit­tee has pointed out the drop in de­fence bud­getary al­lo­ca­tion from 2.06 per cent of GDP (2014-15) to 1.56 per cent of GDP (2017-18), mak­ing it the low­est ever since 1962.

Ex­ter­nal Threats – The Fu­ture Sce­nario

Whereas on the west­ern front, we have hardly seen ‘peace’ along the Line of Con­trol (LoC) in the last 30 years, in the north there have been fre­quent in­tru­sions and tus­sles be­tween the Chi­nese and In­dian sol­diers with both sides as­sert­ing their con­flict­ing claims on ter­ri­tory at sev­eral spots along the Line of Ac­tual Con­trol (LAC). The world is aware how dan­ger­ously close to a mil­i­tary en­gage­ment In­dia and China had come at Dok­lam. On the other front, no prior bat­tle in­di­ca­tions were picked up by a smug civil-mil­i­tary dis­pen­sa­tion in In­dia in 1999 un­til it was too late in the case of Kargil. To­day again, even as threats from Pak­istan are mul­ti­ply­ing in the form of proxy war, narco-ter­ror­ism, sab­o­tage and sub­ver­sion through covert means and nu­clear black­mail, In­dia is con­tent with its prepa­ra­tions for the past but un­mind­ful of the fu­ture! China, mean­while, is playing the

game even more smartly. On the eco­nomic side, In­dia and China are on a up­swing with last year’s bi­lat­eral trade reach­ing a high of $84 bil­lion with In­dia reg­is­ter­ing a 40 per cent in­crease in its ex­ports to China. On the strate­gic side, how­ever, China is keep­ing In­dia busy along the LAC and reach­ing out to en­cir­cle In­dia by pump­ing in aid pack­ages, de­vel­op­ing ports, air­ports, rail­way lines, pipe­lines in the SAARC coun­tries to wean them away from In­dia. At a time when In­dia is cut­ting down its mil­i­tary bud­get and man­power, China is in­vest­ing heav­ily to mod­ernise and ex­pand its navy. Per­haps no other coun­try in to­day’s de­vel­oped world is threat­ened from as di­verse and mul­ti­ple threats as In­dia. Pit­ted against her two ma­jor neigh­bours with their armies flaunt­ing hos­tile pos­tur­ing and no early set­tle­ment on ex­ist­ing bor­der dis­putes yet in sight, In­dia will drop its guard at its own peril. In the given sce­nario, it could be dis­as­trous for In­dia to ig­nore mil­i­tary ad­vance­ments in her neigh­bour­hood and re­main smug about her own mili- tary that is los­ing its war-wag­ing po­ten­tial for want of funds, equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy. As per the Joshi Com­mit­tee re­port, “the cap­i­tal out­lay on Army, Navy and Air Force was 11 per cent, 11 per cent and 5 per cent lower than Bud­get Es­ti­mates 2016-17 re­spec­tively.” None­the­less, ig­nor­ing the in­escapable de­fence needs, the Fi­nance Min­is­ter has al­lo­cated to the Min­istry of De­fence a to­tal of ` 4,04,385 crore (US$62.8 bil- lion) in the Union bud­get for 2018-19. Of this to­tal al­lo­ca­tion, only ` 2,79,305 crore ($43.4 bil­lion) was ear­marked for what is es­sen­tially In­dia’s de­fence bud­get. The bal­ance would go to MoD (Mis­cel­la­neous) (`16,206 crore) and De­fence Pen­sions (`1,08,853 crore), in­clud­ing a mass of re­tir­ing non-com­bat­ant de­fence civil­ians. Much of the mar­ginal bud­getary in­crease has to cater for ris­ing man­power costs. This again leaves the armed forces gasp­ing for re­place­ment of their age­ing tanks, guns, air de­fence, air­craft, war­ships and re­plen­ish­ment of crit­i­cal de­fi­cien­cies in weapons, am­mu­ni­tion and ac­ces­sories.

NOW, let us have a look at our neigh­bours’ bud­getary al­lo­ca­tions for their armed forces. As per data re­leased by the Stock­holm In­ter­na­tional Peace Re­search In­sti­tute, China’s de­fence bud­get for 2018-19 is $228 bil­lion which is 1.9 per cent of China’s GDP, and 13 per cent of the to­tal world mil­i­tary spend­ing. It is four times In­dia’s de­fence bud­get for the cor­re­spond­ing pe­riod. While China has

The 29th re­port of the Es­ti­mates Com­mit­tee on De­fence has pointed out the drop in de­fence bud­getary al­lo­ca­tion from 2.06 per cent of GDP (2014-15) to 1.56 per cent of GDP (2017-18), mak­ing it the low­est ever since 1962

In the wake of the emerg­ing power ma­tri­ces in the re­gion—Indo-Pa­cific and the In­dian Ocean in par­tic­u­lar—In­dia needs to re­vamp and mod­ernise its Navy in a big way which is far be­hind China’s as of now

many more strate­gic am­bi­tions be­sides tack­ling In­dia from mul­ti­ple direc­tions, Pak­istan has only one ‘en­emy’—In­dia— and, there­fore, al­most all of Is­lam­abad’s mil­i­tary prepa­ra­tions are di­rected against In­dia. Yet, in con­trast to In­dia’s de­clin­ing de­fence spend­ing, Pak­istan’s de­fence bud­get for 2018-19 was pegged at ` 1.1 tril­lion, a whop­ping in­crease of 20 per cent over the previous year’s al­lo­ca­tion against In­dia’s 7 per cent. Ac­cord­ing to The Ex­press Tri­bune, this in­crease would be­come “30 per cent if the ` 100 bil­lion al­lo­cated for the Armed Forces De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (AFDP) is also in­cluded un­der de­fence spend­ing”. Even more in­ter­est­ingly, un­like In­dia’s de­fence bud­get al­lo­ca­tion, these fig­ures in Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary al­lo­ca­tion do not in­clude ` 260 bil­lion al­lo­cated for pen­sions of mil­i­tary per­son­nel, which will flow in from the ‘civil’ part of the bud­get.

WHEREAS the nu­meric com­par­i­son would show In­dia’s de­fence spend­ing higher than that of Pak­istan, a pro­por­tion­ate break­down of their mil­i­tary bud­gets would re­veal how Pak­istan is ex­ceed­ing In­dia’s mil­i­tary spend­ing de­spite its econ­omy be­ing in “sham­bles” and US aid sus­pended. The se­ri­ous­ness of Pak­istan’s eco­nomic cri­sis was openly ad­mit­ted by Prime Min­is­ter Im­ran Khan who re­cently an­nounced sev­eral mea­sures cur­tail­ing gov­ern­ment spend­ing and rais­ing funds by auc­tion­ing lux­ury cars, he­li­copters and fa­cil­i­ties used by his pre­de­ces­sor! China’s mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme has also made stun­ning progress in re­cent years, es­pe­cially af­ter Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s as­cen­dance to power. Af­ter car­ry­ing out sweep­ing re­forms in the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA), Xi ini­ti­ated nu­mer­ous other mea­sures to re­or­gan­ise and re­ori­ent PLA to “newer, larger roles”. Be­sides upgra­da­tion of the ex­ist­ing equip­ment, dozens of new war­ships, air­craft and mis­sile sys­tems have been in­ducted en­hanc­ing PLA’s naval and aerial ca­pa­bil­i­ties sig­nif­i­cantly. The PLA is now se­ri­ously or­gan­is­ing and pre­par­ing for the next gen­er­a­tion war­fare. Though much of China’s R&D in de­fence re­mains shrouded in se­crecy, it is now widely known and re­ported on­line that China has reached very close to cre­at­ing “a global, 24-hour, all-weather global re­mote sens­ing sys­tem in­clud­ing satel­lites with EO, SAR and ELINT pay­loads. BeiDou, China’s in­dige­nous com­peti­tor to GPS, is tran­scend­ing its re­gional ca­pa­bil­ity to a sys­tem with global reach. Af­ter mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant progress in Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence, China has even launched the world’s first quan­tum satel­lite. Next is the launch of con­stel­la­tions of mi­cro and nanoquan­tum satel­lites in the com­ing years”. Whereas In­dia is world’s largest im­porter of mil­i­tary hard­ware and its Make in In­dia is mov­ing wearily, China has al­ready emerged as world’s third largest arms ex­porter! There is no deny­ing that the United States re­mains the most dom­i­nant power in East Asia, con­scious of China’s ris­ing power in the re­gion though!To con­tain China in this re­gion, it needs trusted al­lies like In­dia, Ja­pan and Aus­tralia as was high­lighted in the QUAD talks held at Manila last year. In the wake of the emerg­ing power ma­tri­ces in the re­gion—Indo-Pa­cific and the In­dian Ocean in par­tic­u­lar—In­dia needs to re­vamp and mod­ernise its Navy in a big way which is far be­hind China’s as of now. The faster In­dia closes this gap, the bet­ter it will be for its own sur­vival as a power in the re­gion.

In­ter­nal Threats

Ad­ver­saries like Pak­istan and China are just one class of se­cu­rity threat against

which In­dia needs to re­main al­ways pre­pared. What is be­com­ing even more men­ac­ing is the na­ture of threats to In­dia’s se­cu­rity that is grow­ing from within. In­duc­tion of crim­i­nals into the po­lit­i­cal main­stream has brought many of them into Par­lia­ment and the State Leg­isla­tive Assem­blies. This in­crease of crim­i­nals among law­mak­ers has se­ri­ously vi­ti­ated the char­ac­ter of our po­lit­i­cal dis­course in and out of the leg­is­la­ture. As per an af­fi­davit filed by the gov­ern­ment in the Supreme Court in March this year, as many as 1,765 MPs and MLAs, or 36 per cent of par­lia­men­tar­i­ans and leg­is­la­tors are fac­ing crim­i­nal trial in 3,045 cases! Ob­vi­ously, many of them are fac­ing mul­ti­ple crim­i­nal cases. Among the in­ter­nal threats are the havens, es­tab­lish­ments and in­di­vid­u­als that would present many com­plex­i­ties for the op­er­at­ing forces. There is, there­fore, a need to har­ness covert and over sup­port from dif­fer­ent lo­cal and cen­tral agen­cies to iden­tify, pre-empt, nab and de­stroy anti-na­tional el­e­ments, ter­ror sleeper cells, cen­tres of sab­o­tage and sub­ver­sive ac­tiv­i­ties.

WHAT must worry ev­ery hon­est In­dian cit­i­zen is the grow­ing ten­dency of some of our op­po­si­tion par­ties to con­demn ev­ery mil­i­tary ac­tion against ter­ror­ists in Kash­mir echo­ing Pak­istan’s out­cry against In­dia’s war against ter­ror­ism in the Val­ley. Many top lead­ers of dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal par­ties have lent sup­port to the anti-na­tional slo­ga­neer­ing and fre­quent con­gre­ga­tions of sub­ver­sive el­e­ments in uni­ver­si­ties and else­where. They ap­pear more in sync with the en­emy stance against the In­dian Gov­ern­ment and speak like ‘proxy spokesper­sons’ for Pak­istan’s ‘prox­ies’ fight­ing in the Val­ley and else­where. Sym­pa­thies had poured in on the death of Ishrat Ja­han, a con­firmed LeT op­er­a­tive on a dan­ger­ous mis­sion,who was killed in Gu­jarat in 2004.Tears of sym­pa­thy rained from the eyes of a Party Pres­i­dent for the killed ter­ror­ists when she heard about the Batla House en­counter. Al­though not a sin­gle ‘Hindu’ has so far been con­victed for any ter­ror­ist act any­where in the world, in­sin­u­a­tions rais­ing the bo­gie of ‘Saf­fron (Hindu) Ter­ror’ were brazenly traded in Par­lia­ment and me­dia by min­is­ters and prom­i­nent lead­ers of a po­lit­i­cal party. While a Chief Min­is­ter re­cently ex­tended an open in­vi­ta­tion to wel­come Ro­hingyas in her state, no se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal dis­course has ever been heard to re­store the rights and proper-

ties of the lakhs of Kash­miri Pan­dits— In­dia’s le­git­i­mate cit­i­zens ren­dered refugees in their own coun­try! These trends im­peril In­dia’s unity and in­te­gra­tion far more dan­ger­ously than the com­bined on­slaught of all ex­ter­nal en­e­mies which can be thwarted only by a na­tion united in sol­i­dar­ity. The quest for gar­ner­ing votes by di­vid­ing com­mu­ni­ties and bar­ter­ing na­tional in­ter­ests must end be­fore the sit­u­a­tion goes out of hand. Of­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence sources have been fre­quently dis­cov­er­ing ‘sleeper cells’ of var­i­ous ter­ror out­fits, in­clud­ing Maoists. The re­cent ar­rest of a gang of so-called in­tel­lec­tu­als whose ap­peal for bail has been re­jected by the Apex Court points to the dan­ger­ous di­men­sions to which the anti-na­tional sub­ver­sive drag­net has been cast in the coun­try. While the army and para­mil­i­tary forces con­tinue chas­ing ter­ror­ists on the icy moun­tains of Kash­mir and in jun­gles of Dan­te­wada, their ‘part-time masters and pa­trons’ op­er­ate in­sid­i­ously from the safe sanc­tu­ar­ies of univer­sity hos­tels un­der the cover of hu­man rights ac­tivists and cham­pi­ons of ‘free­dom of speech’. A KGB veteran who had de­fected to the USA long ago, is said to have ad­vised Gen Mushar­raf af­ter the Kargil episode thus: “Why did you go for Kargil? What did you gain? You can never de­feat In­dia mil­i­tar­ily. There are eas­ier, cheaper op­tions for you to de­feat In­dia more de­ci­sively and eas­ily!” “What do you mean?” Mushar­raf asked. “If you can break the moral fi­bre of a na­tion, you will rule over it! Tar­get In­dia’s youth and in­vest in their antigov­ern­ment move­ments and me­dia,” said the KGB veteran. Lit­tle won­der why coun­ter­feit cur­rency and drug traf­fick­ing have flour­ished in In­dia more ram­pantly in the post Kargil era. De­mon­eti­sa­tion did put a stop to this trade and il­licit cur­rency trans­ac­tion for some time, but the op­er­a­tives are back in busi­ness again. Drug ad­dic­tion among the youths in Pun­jab has al­most de­stroyed a gen­er­a­tion in what was once In­dia’s most pro­gres­sive state. An­other se­cu­rity haz­ard mush­room­ing un­der po­lit­i­cal pa­tron­age is Hawala Trans­ac­tions. Al­legedly, al­most all po­lit­i­cal par­ties pa­tro­n­ise this practice for reap­ing un­fair gains in elec­tions, but most of these trans­ac­tions are driven from abroad un­der ISI’s pa­tron­age. In In­dia these funds are fur­ther fun­nelled to ter­ror­ists and in­sur­gents through ‘pa­trons’ in pol­i­tics, academia, me­dia and nu­mer­ous NGOs. A huge part of hawala trans­ac­tions also goes to pay the ‘prox­ies’, their sup­port bases and fam­i­lies.

Con­clu­sion

In terms of pro­fes­sional com­pe­tence, the In­dian Mil­i­tary com­mands a high rep­u­ta­tion in­ter­na­tion­ally and is of­ten en­vied by armies across the world for be­ing the most ver­sa­tile with oper­a­tional ex­pe­ri­ence in all types of war­fare—glacial war­fare, moun­tain, jun- gle, desert, plains and river­ine ter­rain war­fare be­sides ca­pa­bil­ity to tackle nu­mer­ous types of in­sur­gen­cies and ter­ror­ism. The hu­man re­sources, how­ever, need the best of weapons, equip­ment and ac­ces­sories that match their needs, en­hance their ef­fi­ciency and boost their morale. The na­tion must ful­fil these gen­uine re­quire­ments of its mil­i­tary be­fore ex­pect­ing it to achieve de­sired re­sults. With the chang­ing se­cu­rity sce­nario and grow­ing threats from ex­ter­nal en­e­mies and in­ter­nal in­sur­gents and sabo­teurs, In­dia needs to arm and equip its mil­i­tary with req­ui­site where­withal for fight­ing new threats swiftly and de­ci­sively. This calls for more al­lo­ca­tion of bud­getary funds to speed up new ac­qui­si­tions and to re­place ob­so­les­cent ar­ma­ment and equip­ment. In 1934 when the United States was pass­ing through an eco­nomic cri­sis, Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt an­nounced a 51 per cent cut in the de­fence bud­get for the fol­low­ing year with­out con­sult­ing Gen Dou­glas McArthur who was the then Chief of Army Staff. On hear­ing about the cut, McArthur was fu­ri­ous. He sought a meet­ing with the Pres­i­dent and when he found the Pres­i­dent un­re­lent­ing, McArthur is re­ported to have said: “When we lose the next war, and an Amer­i­can boy, ly­ing in the mud with an en­emy bay­o­net through his belly and an en­emy boot on his dy­ing throat, spits out his last curse, I want the name to be ‘Roo­sevelt’, not ‘McArthur’!” The In­dian Army is sim­i­larly an­guished to­day but thank­fully, the In­dian gen­er­als to­day are not as harsh on their Gov­ern­ment. If so, it is even more ex­pe­di­ent for the Gov­ern­ment to be more sen­si­tive to the na­tion’s mil­i­tary needs es­pe­cially when the se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment within and around In­dia is get­ting more vi­cious in so many ways!

China’s de­fence bud­get for 2018-19 is $228 bil­lion which is 1.9 per cent of China’s GDP, and 13 per cent of the to­tal world mil­i­tary spend­ing. It is four times In­dia’s de­fence bud­get for the cor­re­spond­ing pe­riod

Gen VK Singh called at­ten­tion to the crit­i­cally de­plet­ing state of the In­dian Army in 2012.

Un­der Xi Jin­ping, new war­ships, air­craft and mis­sile sys­tems have been in­ducted en­hanc­ing PLA’s naval and aerial ca­pa­bil­i­ties sig­nif­i­cantly.

The na­ture of threats to In­dia’s se­cu­rity, in­clud­ing from Maoists and ter­ror­ists, is grow­ing from within.

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