Man­date for the De­fence Min­is­ter

The pri­vate sec­tor must be pro­vided a level play­ing field to com­pete shoul­der-toshoul­der with the pub­lic sec­tor. This will be a man­date for the Min­is­ter that would be in sync with the ‘Make in In­dia’ phi­los­o­phy prop­a­gated by the Prime Min­is­ter.

SP's MAI - - MILITARY AGENDA FOR NEW DEFENCE MINISTER - AIR MAR­SHAL B.K. PANDEY (RETD) The au­thor is for­mer Air Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing-in-Chief of Train­ing Com­mand of the In­dian Air Force.

The for­mer Chief Min­is­ter of Goa Manohar Par­rikar has taken over as the Min­is­ter of De­fence at a time when the na­tion is con­fronted with se­ri­ous and for­mi­da­ble chal­lenges. The first and fore­most is that the se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment es­pe­cially in In­dia’s im­me­di­ate neigh­bour­hood has been de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. Se­condly, while both China and Pak­istan con­tinue to bol­ster their mil­i­tary power, the In­dian armed forces have been se­verely hand­i­capped on ac­count of per­pet­ual short­age of mil­i­tary hard­ware across the board re­sult­ing in se­ri­ous ero­sion of com­bat po­ten­tial. Ef­forts by the three ser­vices to mod­ernise speed­ily and build up the ca­pa­bil­ity not only to fight a two-front war, but also to safe­guard the na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests that tran­scend well beyond our bor­ders, have so far not been suc­cess­ful. This, to some ex­tent, is at­trib­ut­able to a te­dious De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure (DPP) which has proved to be merely a cler­i­cal ex­er­cise for the Min­istry of De­fence and has clearly failed to ad­dress the im­per­a­tives of na­tional se­cu­rity.

The in­dige­nous de­fence and aero­space in­dus­try has failed to de­liver and dur­ing the decade-long ten­ure of the UPA Gov­ern­ment, ef­forts at pro­cure­ment of mil­i­tary hard­ware from for­eign sources have been re­peat­edly frus­trated by scams and al­le­ga­tions of mis­de­meanour. Th­ese re­sulted in ag­o­nis­ing de­lays in pro­cure­ment, in­ves­ti­ga­tions that de­mol­ished well es­tab­lished reputations, can­cel­la­tions of con­tracts and in­dis­crim­i­nate black­list­ing of de­fence and aero­space firms of global stand­ing.

To be­gin with, the new Min­is­ter of De­fence will have to ad­dress the prob­lem of not only crit­i­cal short­ages of equip­ment but also of hu­man re­source. He must work to re­store the sta­tus of those in uni­form and to achieve this, he would need to in­ter­act proac­tively with the Sev­enth Pay Com­mis­sion to make the In­dian armed forces an at­trac­tive and an hon­ourable ca­reer op­tion for the youth of the na­tion. In or­der to speed up the process of mod­erni­sa­tion, the Min­is­ter must strive to en­hance the bud­getary al­lo­ca­tion for de­fence from the cur­rent 1.75 per cent of GDP to a min­i­mum of three per cent, a level rec­om­mended by sev­eral Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tees on De­fence in the past. The Min­is­ter would need to bear in mind that on de­fence, ri­val China spends around 7.5 per cent of its GDP and even Pak­istan, a failed state, spends in ex­cess of 5 per cent.

The Min­is­ter will have to en­sure that a num­ber of con­tracts for the In­dian Air Force (IAF) that have been in­or­di­nately de­layed are fi­nalised with­out fur­ther de­lay. Th­ese would in­clude the long pend­ing con­tracts for the 126 Rafale medium multi-role com­bat air­craft from Dassault Avi­a­tion of France, 22 AH-64D Apache at­tack he­li­copters and 15 CH-47F Chi­nook heavy-lift he­li­copters, both from Boe­ing as well as for six Air­bus A330 multi-role tanker trans­port air­craft from Air­bus Mil­i­tary. Apart from th­ese, there are a num­ber other con­tracts such as for field ar­tillery for the In­dian Army, sub­marines for the In­dian Navy and sup­port­ing weapon sys­tems for the IAF.

But most im­por­tantly, the Min­is­ter would have to re­view and pos­si­bly re­place the ex­ist­ing DPP with a sys­tem that de­liv­ers. While it will not be easy to wish away wrong­do­ing in de­fence pro­cure­ment con­tracts, the Min­is­ter must in­sti­tute a sys­tem wherein ‘crime’ is sep­a­rated from ‘con­tract’ and han­dled in a man­ner that the for­mer does not im­pinge on the lat­ter to the detri­ment of na­tional se­cu­rity. In the business of de­fence pro­cure­ment as in other regimes, it is im­pru­dent to be­lieve that ‘mid­dle­men’ can be done away with. It would be more prac­ti­cal to ac­cept this re­al­ity and re­struc­ture poli­cies to ex­ploit its ad­van­tage rather than al­low de­fence deals to run aground on ac­count of a rigid and un­wise pol­icy frame­work.

The Min­is­ter must also ex­am­ine the is­sue of ‘black­list­ing’ of firms, an ex­er­cise that was a favourite pas­time of the Min­is­ter of De­fence dur­ing the ten­ure of the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment. While this may have ap­peared ex­pe­di­ent and per­haps a seem­ingly ef­fec­tive way to deal with de­fault­ing firms, the im­pli­ca­tions of such a step on the in­ven­to­ries of the In­dian armed forces is de­bil­i­tat­ing. As was the ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing the UPA regime, ‘black­list­ing’ of re­puted global de­fence and aero­space com­pa­nies ac­tu­ally amounted to shoot­ing one­self in the foot!

And fi­nally, the Min­is­ter will have to re­vi­talise the In­dian de­fence and aero­space in­dus­try in the pub­lic sec­tor, im­pose higher ac­count­abil­ity and make them de­liver. The pri­vate sec­tor must be pro­vided a level play­ing field to com­pete shoul­der-to-shoul­der with the pub­lic sec­tor. This will be a man­date for the Min­is­ter that would be in sync with the ‘Make in In­dia’ phi­los­o­phy prop­a­gated by the Prime Min­is­ter.

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