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.