SP's LandForces - - COVER STORY -

The De­fence Min­is­ter has re­cently an­nounced the for­ma­tion of an 11-mem­ber com­mit­tee led by Lt Gen­eral D.B. Shekatkar (Retd). This in­cludes sev­eral well as civil­ian ex­perts, who have been given three months to chalk out an ac­tion plan. The over­all aim is to en­sure In­di­aÕs com­bat ca­pa­bil­i­ties and po­ten­tial are en­hanced, with a bet­ter teeth-to-tail com­bat ra­tio, within bud­getary con­straints. It is re­ported that the com­mit­tee will - fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar once he re­turns from his May 2023 trip to Oman and UAE.

It is hoped that this would en­able a cer­tain amount of re­duc­tion in the over­all num­ber of per­son­nel which in turn would al­low sav­ings of funds and man­power. This would fa­cil­i­tate new rais­ings such as the Moun­tain Strike Corps (MSC) whose ne­ces­sity stands es­tab­lished but whose rais­ing has been de­layed. The MSC will im­part of­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­ity to the ground forces in the East­ern theatre across the line of ac­tual con­trol (LAC) against China which is not only con­sid­ered vi­tal for an of­fen­sive / counter-of­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­ity in the East but it will also give the armed forces additional and in­tra theatre.

With the in­creas­ing rev­enue bud­get, due to in­creased strengths, and re­vised salaries and al­lowances from time to time, the avail­abil­ity of funds for mod­erni­sa­tion of the armed forces es­pe­cially the Army is de­clin­ing ev­ery year. The bur­geon­ing rev­enue, pen­sion and salary bill is af­fect­ing the mod­erni­sa­tion of the Ser­vices. A case in point is the pen­sion bill which is a stag­ger­ing ` 82,332 crore, about ` 12,000 year. The salary and pen­sion and the rev­enue ex­pen­di­ture put to­gether is more than the money avail­able to buy new weapon sys­tems this year. The Army with the max­i­mum man­power is the worst suf­ferer and the ris­ing trend in rev­enue ex­pen­di­ture is only likely to in­crease in the com­ing years.

No new weapon sys­tem has been in­ducted in the Army in the past three decades or so not­with­stand­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of some indige­nous mis­sile sys­tems which are only us­able in full-scale con - tion has be­come crit­i­cal be­cause of the past ne­glect. To­day the Army re­quires re­place­ment of vir­tu­ally all types of weapons rang­ing from the in­fantry man Õ s as­sault ri air de­fence guns and mis­siles and Army avi­a­tion heli­copters. We are at the Ô bot­tom of the pit Õ as far as is con­cerned.

While the In­dian Navy is vi­tal for the pro­tec­tion of our sea lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and pro­tec­tion of our off­shore and coastal as­sets and in­deed for a host of other equally vi­tal rea­sons, and the IAF for air de­fence of In­dia and for pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary de­ter­rence to bel­liger­ent neigh­bours, it is the ground forces which have to in­vari­ably bear the brunt of any ag­gres­sion small or big of our op­po­nents across our land borders and even in the proxy war waged in our bor­der re­gions. With dis­put line of con­trol (LoC) with Pak­istan in the West and LAC with China in the North and North­east, the ground forces have to be ever vig­i­lant and un­for­tu­nately it is the Army that is the most ne­glected ser­vice to­day as far as mod­erni­sa­tion is con­cerned.

This year the de­fence bud­get is only 1.47 per cent of the GDP an ever de­creas­ing per­cent­age de­spite the Ô hol­low­ness Õ in the three Ser­vices. We would not be ex­ag­ger­at­ing if we state that the sta­tus of the armed forces equip it was in 1962 vis-ˆ-vis our likely ad­ver­saries.

In view of the above the lead ar­ti­cle in our cur­rent is­sue of SP’s

Land Forces is au­thored by a for­mer Chief of Army Staff, Gen­eral V.P. Ma­lik and the sub­ject is Ò Are Our Politi­cians Los­ing In­ter­est in In­dia Õs De­fence? Ó Ad­di­tion­ally we have also in­cluded the fol­low­ing ar­ti­cles in this is­sue: Night Vi­sion De­vices and Sight­ing Sys­tems in Small Arms.

Lt Gen­eral V.K. Kapoor (Retd)

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