Defexpo India 2014, the eighth in the series of biennial Land, Naval and Internal Homeland Security Systems Exhibition, will be held at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi from February 6-9, 2014. IndiaÕs Ministry of Defence believes that Defexpo India is clearly steering the path of steady growth and has been receiving overwhelming and unprecedented international response with each edition. While this maybe true, however this time let us hope that Defexpo has more deliverables at the end. The reason is that there is no discernable forward motion in defence procurements. While the military is anguished at the inordinate delays in procuring new equipment to replace obsolescent hardware, the industry is frustrated at the less than the pedestrian pace at which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is moving. The succeeding paragraphs will give an idea of the frustrations of military leadership. Security, both internal and external, is an area of serious concern for the miltary. The aggression on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by China and the violence on the line of control (LoC) by Pakistan in the past seven to eight months have occupied large media space in recent times. In the case of LAC, the month of October 2013 saw India and China taking some necessary steps forward in order to end the growing trust pacts signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese premier Li Keqiang on October 23, 2013, during the Indian Prime MinisterÕs visit, one of the most important was on maintaining peace and tranquility along the LAC between the two countries. In the context of the violence on LoC, both India and Pakistan on December 24, 2013, decided to Ôre-energiseÕ existing mecha on the LoC as per the declaration that came at a meeting of the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two sides, who held face-to-face talks Wagah border.
While efforts to maintain peace and tranquility at the bor is also indicative of the fact that skirmishes along unresolved borders can break out at any time and this constitutes a challenge as well as a threat. In any case media reports as well as statements from the former army chiefs from 2009 onwards indicate that the army considers that it may have to in a future war. Therefore it has to ensure that a two-front capability exists apart from an internal capability to counter-insurgencies and terrorism by non-state actors and that it is operationally prepared for such eventualities. It is in this context that the unhappiness of - dian armyÕs modernization and capability building efforts have been tardy and sluggish to say the least and the political leadership, the bureaucracy and the military themselves are all to blame for this indefensible and unpardonable state of affairs as it directly impacts upon the security of the country. Some details in respect of the army are given in the succeeding paragraphs.
Indian ArmyÕs modernisation schemes amounting to over ` 70,000 crore in the Eleventh Plan (2007-12) alone, have not Procurement Procedure ( DPP) over the years has done little to accelerate the pace of modernisation. A dispassionate analysis would indicate that the voids in equipment and munitions in the - gether with the lack of modernisation of equipment in virtually alarming and has caused a capability gap vis-ˆ -vis our likely adversaries and this is becoming more pronounced day by day. It is in this context that the letter written by General (Retd) V.K. Singh, the former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), to the Prime Minister on March 12, 2012, which was deliberately leaked to the media, should be viewed. It highlighted that the mission reliability of mechanised vehicles was poor, the artillery was obsolete and inadequate, air defence was antiquated, armour was unreliable due to regular barrel accidents caused by mismatch between indigenous barrels and - corps helicopters needed urgent replacements, and holdings of all types of missiles, anti-tank and specialised ammunition was critically low. Thus pointing out the 21st century
Following this it seems that the Defence Ministry had asked Army Headquarters to fast-track acquisitions and the list of essentials was prepared and sent. However, the situation has not improved but in fact has worsened in the last one year. On the one hand, nothing has come so far, on the other hand, missiles and specialised ammunition holdings which have a shelf life, have dipped further. The government has now sanctioned the Twelfth Five Year Defence Plan as a result of the severe criticism over delays in the past. However, for the Army it is a cosmetic paper exercise as even the Eleventh Plan procurements have not materialised. Thus considering the lack of implementation of the Eleventh Plan and the ArmyÕs modernisation process, the procurement of both Eleventh and Twelfth Plans need to be hastened.
The defence budget for 201314 grew by 5 per cent over the previous year, with defence capital acquisitions growing by 9 per more than 5 per cent since February, and the rupee depreciating by 14 per cent against the dollar over the same period, that modest nominal budget increase is actually a real budget decrease and considering the austerity measures required to be undertaken with a slowing economy, and the parliamentary elections in May this year it is unlikely that any big-ticket item, like artillery howitzers, air defence guns/ missiles, aviation assets, night categories or even basic small and new carbines for the infantry will fructify. In the meanwhile the Cabinet has sanctioned the raising of a Strike Corps for the mountains and the work on it has commenced. However except for manpower it is not understood as to how will the Army equip this operational level formation which, apart from basic weaponry and communications, requires many types of force multipliers to be effective in the mountains.
Moreover what is surprising is that this sorry state of affairs - ness is not even being talked about by the major political parties in their in their attempts to woo voters prior to the elections in 2014. In fact the current weaknesses need wide publicity so that the people themselves put the pressure on the Government of the day. A country like India, which faces innumerable security challenges, needs a political leadership which is alive to the dangers of not being militar The current leadership presents a dismal picture and the future leadership seems blissfully unaware of the dangers.