Tues­day, April 1 saw the un­furl­ing of a his­toric de­ci­sion in Ja­pan. Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe de­cided to take his na­tion away govern­ment dis­carded a nearly half-century ban on the ex­port of weapons and mil­i­tary hard­ware. This move is ob­vi­ously aimed at help­ing Ja­pan as­sume a larger re­gional se­cu­rity role to off­set China’s grow­ing mil­i­tary might.

Ja­pan’s post-World War II re­nun­ci­a­tion of war, along with - vented suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments from tak­ing a more proac­tive ap­proach. It is this ban that has been re­moved but with self-re­stric­tive guide­lines that per­mit the ex­port of weapons only to al­lies and part­ners that agrees not to sell them to third na­tions with­out Ja­panese ap­proval. Eco­nom­i­cally it will im­ply open­ing new mar­kets for Ja­panese de­fence com­pa­nies at a time when Ja­pan’s own mil­i­tary spend­ing is in­creas­ing while the de­fence budget is se­verely con - cits. More­over with an in­creas­ingly as­sertive China, Ja­pans, re­gional this needs cor­rec­tion. There­fore Abe has de­cided to carry out the long-dis­cussed change to achieve a larger strate­gic goal: aug­ment by of­fer­ing its tech­no­log­i­cally su­pe­rior hard­ware to coun­tries who are locked in ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes with China.

First week of April has also seen the par­lia­men­tary elec­tion scene in In­dia heat­ing up. As usual each party is putting its best foot for­ward and gen­er­ally try­ing to cleaner record in pub­lic life. What - ing elec­tions is that the en­tire na­tion wants a change from the cor­rupt pol­i­tics and politi­cians of the UPA era. There­fore it is re­fresh­ing to see that this time, un­like on ear­lier oc­ca­sions, people are fo­cus­ing on in­di­vid­u­als and per­son­al­i­ties and their lead­er­ship qual­i­ties so that they can look for­ward to a govern­ment with de­ci­sive lead­ers in place.

Cul­mi­na­tions of par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in the month of May will un­doubt­edly bring about a new po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion and there ex­am­ine the legacy be­ing left be­hind by the cur­rent regime as far as the op­er­a­tional pre­pared­ness of the armed forces is con­cerned. All three ser­vices are fac­ing se­vere short­ages of vi­tal weapons and mu­ni­tions. In the case of the Army, 600 odd mod­erni­sa­tion schemes amount­ing to over ` 70,000 crore in the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12) alone have over the years has done lit­tle to ac­cel­er­ate the pace of mod­erni­sa­tion. There are se­ri­ous voids in equip­ment and mu­ni­tions of the to­gether with the lack of mod­erni­sa­tion of equip­ment, in vir­tu­ally all - bility gap vis-à-vis our likely ad­ver­saries ex­ists and this is be­com­ing more pro­nounced day by day. It is in this con­text that we should view the let­ter writ­ten by Gen­eral (Retd) V.K. Singh, the for­mer Chief of Army Staff (COAS), to the Prime Min­is­ter on March 12, 2012, point­ing out the lack of pre­pared­ness to -

Fol­low­ing this it seems that 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 sit­u­a­tion has never been so crit­i­cal ear­lier.

Lt Gen­eral (Retd) V.K. Kapoor

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