India Today - - THE BIG STORY -

In March this year, the Cabi­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity ( CCS) de­lib­er­ated over a shock­ing pre­sen­ta­tion. An in­ter­nal study by the In­dian Army found crit­i­cal short­ages of Rs 60,000 crore worth of am­mu­ni­tion, mis­siles and equip­ment. This is roughly 10 per cent of the army’s to­tal in­ven­tory of Rs 9 lakh crore worth of equip­ment. “For­get mod­erni­sa­tion or trans­for­ma­tion, we are ex­tremely low on our ex­ist­ing in­ven­to­ries and war wastage re­serves,” says a se­nior army of­fi­cer. Years of ac­cu­mu­lated ne­glect have hol­lowed out the core of the world’s sec­ond largest army and ren­dered it un­fit for war. An­other se­nior of­fi­cer men­tions ex­ist­ing de­fi­cien­cies of “be­tween 20 and 30 per cent” in the three strike corps, the army’s prin­ci­pal of­fen­sive for­ma­tions. This means the army ef­fec­tively has only two strike corps. It ex­plains why former army chief Gen­eral Deepak Kapoor told the CCS af­ter the 26/11 Mum­bai at­tack that the army “was not ready for war”.

The last war the army fought, evict­ing in­trud­ers from the Kargil heights in 1999, was on its own soil. Eleven years on, the wars the army is now pre­par­ing to fight are gi­gan­tic. It en­vis­ages a si­mul­ta­ne­ous “two-and-a-half-front war”: against Pak­istan and China as well as an in­ter­nal in­sur­gency. It has a shop­ping list of $50 bil­lion (Rs 2.2 lakh crore) to meet these threats. How­ever, the pro­ce­dures for buy­ing arms are so cum­ber­some that a clas­si­fied army study says the force will be fully ready only a decade hence, by 2022.The army has bought less than half the equip­ment it planned to ac­quire dur­ing the 11th FiveYear Plan pe­riod run­ning from 2007 to 2012. Weapons not bought in­clude ar­tillery worth Rs 20,000 crore, and air de­fence mis­siles worth Rs 10,000 crore.

These have left gap­ing holes in its pre­pared­ness. Hence, a pro­jected surge in its com­bat ra­tio to 1:1.5—or a one-anda-half times su­pe­ri­or­ity in troops and equip­ment over the Pak­istan Army—by 2012 has not ma­te­ri­alised. De­spite the In­dian Army’s Rs 83,000 crore spend ac­count­ing for over half the to­tal de­fence bud­get, the fight­ing ma­chine is bloated. The 1.1 mil­lion-strong force will add 30,000 soldiers to counter the China threat by 2015, its largest ex­pan­sion in three decades.

The force car­ries a colo­nial legacy of over 50,000 driv­ers and sa­hayaks (or­der­lies). Yet, there are short­ages where it mat­ters. The army has 35,000 of­fi­cers and is wrestling with a crip­pling short­age of be­tween 22 and 24 per cent. Its 400-odd in­fantry bat­tal­ions, each with 800 soldiers, cur­rently func­tion with less than half the sanc­tioned strength of 40 of­fi­cers. It needs 12,000 young cap­tains and ma­jors to lead its sec­tions and com­pa­nies in the field.

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