Need for strate­gic vi­sion

SP's MAI - - EDITOR’S DESK - Jayant Baran­wal Pub­lisher and Ed­i­tor-in-Chief

Si­achen is said to be the world’s high­est bat­tle­field where In­dia and Pak­istan have been en­gaged in a con­flict for nearly three decades. The snow-capped moun­tain­ous ter­rain con­tin­ues to be of strate­gic im­por­tance to In­dia. How­ever, it is some­what dis­con­cert­ing that the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship is work­ing to­wards ‘de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion’ of the Si­achen re­gion.

Peace ini­tia­tives are wel­come, but walking into a trap, egged on by con­sid­er­a­tions other than na­tional se­cu­rity, is go­ing to be ‘sui­ci­dal’ for In­dia, es­pe­cially when our neigh­bour­hood can­not be trusted. The higher ech­e­lons of the In­dian armed forces have ex­pressed in no un­cer­tain terms that ‘de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion’ of Si­achen would not be in the strate­gic and se­cu­rity in­ter­est of the na­tion. Be­sides, con­trol over Si­achen has been es­tab­lished, as in the words of Win­ston Churchill, through “blood, toil, tears and sweat of the In­dian sol­dier.”

In this is­sue, Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch has taken strong ex­cep­tion to the In­dian Government’s move to de­mil­i­tarise the re­gion stat­ing that with­drawal from Si­achen would di­lute the res­o­lu­tion passed by the In­dian Par­lia­ment in 1994 that Jammu & Kash­mir is an in­te­gral part of In­dia. We con­tinue to go wrong, with or with­out coun­sel, as he cites how Jawa­har­lal Nehru trusted the Chi­nese of his own vo­li­tion, whereas the cur­rent lead­er­ship has a co­terie of ad­vis­ers. We just hope that wiser coun­sel pre­vails.

Mov­ing from the snowy re­gions, we come to an­other turf war, be­tween the In­dian Air Force (IAF) and the In­dian Army on whether the lat­ter should have its own fleet of at­tack he­li­copters. The government has fi­nally set­tled the mat­ter in favour of the Army. Air Mar­shal (Retd) B.K. Pandey in his anal­y­sis of the im­broglio states that the de­ci­sion may not end the turf war.

How­ever, for a fight­ing-fit air force, among other things, a cru­cial re­quire­ment is the avail­abil­ity of trainer air­craft, be it ba­sic, in­ter­me­di­ate or com­bat. As far as the IAF is con­cerned, it has had to ‘man­age’ with dif­fer­ent air­craft for train­ing needs. That the IAF has ‘man­aged’ it well so far, de­spite the lim­i­ta­tions, is highly com­mend­able.

Only re­cently has the government cleared the pro­cure­ment of 75 Pi­la­tus ba­sic trainer air­craft for the IAF which since 2009 has been with­out one. As for in­ter­me­di­ate jet train­ers (IJT), the story is the same. Sim­i­larly, the in­duc­tion of ad­vanced jet train­ers (AJTs) has been an ar­du­ous process. In 2004, In­dia picked BAE’s Hawk. The first 24 Hawk Mk.132 AJTs were de­liv­ered by BAE, while de­liv­er­ies on 42 air­craft which are be­ing li­cence-built by the Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­ited have got de­layed. When In­dia first sought the AJTs, the Yak-130 was on the radar, but it had not com­pleted eval­u­a­tion. Now the Yak-130 is ready and the Rus­sians are look­ing at In­dia all over again.

Talk­ing about de­lays, we hear that the Indo-Rus­sian fifth gen­er­a­tion fighter air­craft (FGFA) will be fully cer­ti­fied and ready for in­duc­tion only by 2020, three years later than that the IAF had planned for. Mov­ing from IAF to In­dian Navy, they too are await­ing the in­duc­tion of Vikra­ma­ditya (ex-Gor­shkov) air­craft car­rier since 2008. It is be­hind sched­ule by four years and has had a cost over run of $1.3 bil­lion. Such de­lays se­verely im­pact the mod­erni­sa­tion plans of the armed forces.

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