SP's LandForces - - INTERVIEW - Lt Gen­eral (Retd) V.K. Kapoor

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.

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