Progress in the de­fence sec­tor in the past one year

It is high time that the na­tion car­ried out a fresh re­view of our de­fence ca­pa­bil­ity in light of the changed global and re­gional en­vi­ron­ment and ‘nu­cle­ari­sa­tion’ of the re­gion to de­cide on the over­all strength of the armed forces which are even now or­gani


The present NDA Gov­ern­ment was sworn in on May 26, 2014. To ap­pre­ci­ate the ac­tions of the gov­ern­ment in the past one year in the de­fence sec­tor we have to go back to check the re­al­ity that ex­isted in May 2014 as far as the op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity of the armed forces is con­cerned and then as­sess the pol­icy changes/ac­tion taken. Let us start with the Army’s op­er­a­tional readi­ness pro­file.

It was re­ported in the media that the for­mer COAS, Gen­eral V.K. Singh (Retd), had writ­ten to the Prime Min­is­ter on March 12, 2012, re­gard­ing the glar­ing de­fi­cien­cies in the army. When the Gen­er­als age re­lated con­tro­versy was rag­ing this let­ter was de­lib­er­ately leaked to the media. How­ever the pos­i­tive ef­fect was that it re­vealed the ap­a­thy in the then UPA Gov­ern­ment and the Min­istry of De­fence led by an in­de­ci­sive De­fence Min­is­ter. 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 am­mu­ni­tion, night­fight­ing de­vices were in­suf­fi­cient, avi­a­tion corps he­li­copters needed ur­gent re­place­ments, and hold­ings of all types of mis­siles, anti-tank and spe­cialised am­mu­ni­tion was crit­i­cally low. As if this was not enough, we may now add the lack of suit­able as­sault ri­fles and car­bines for the in­fantry and bullet-proof jack­ets. The over­all list is too long to be counted here but suf­fice it to say that for­mer De­fence Min­is­ter Antony’s ‘lost decade’ has left gap­ing holes in In­dia’s de­fence pre­pared­ness.

Sim­i­larly the In­dian Air Force (IAF) is down to 34 squadrons against 42 au­tho­rised. This would dip to 30 squadrons by the end of this decade, as nine squadrons of MiG-21 and MiG-27s re­tire. Un­der the cir­cum­stances, the IAF is ex­tend­ing the life of many of its older gen­er­a­tion fight­ers.

The state of the In­dian Navy is equally dis­mal as far as their sub­ma­rine fleet is con­cerned. With Pak­istan ac­quir­ing mod­ern sub­marines, and Chi­nese sub­ma­rine strength in­creas­ing in over­whelm­ing num­bers, ex­pand­ing In­dia’s sub­ma­rine fleet be­came an ob­vi­ous na­tional pri­or­ity.

While much dis­cus­sion en­sued, as it usu­ally hap­pens in In­dia, the UPA Gov­ern­ment did not fully wake up from its slum­ber. The way we treat our op­er­a­tional pre­pared­ness can be seen by the re­cent CAG re­port of 2015 on Am­mu­ni­tion Man­age­ment cov­er­ing the pe­riod 2008-09 to 2012-13 which was tabled in the Par­lia­ment on May 6, 2015. It said that Army units were presently man­ag­ing with just the ‘Bot­tom Line’ or ‘Min­i­mum Ac­cept­able Risk Level’ (MARL) re­quire­ments which av­er­aged to 20 days in­stead of 40.

In light of the above in­her­i­tance what ac­tions has the Modi Gov­ern­ment taken to ame­lio­rate the equip­ment sit­u­a­tion in the armed forces? These are given in the suc­ceed­ing para­graphs.

Re-en­er­gis­ing the Min­istry of De­fence

Pri­ori­ti­sa­tion. Pri­ori­ti­sa­tion of projects was the first step. The De­fence Min­is­ter found that the bu­reau­cracy in the min­istry — both civil and mil­i­tary — was sit­ting on some 400-odd big and small projects that were crit­i­cal to the three armed forces. A thor­ough re­view re­vealed that nearly one-third of the 400-odd projects were now ir­rel­e­vant. So they were dis­carded. About 50 projects were ac­cel­er­ated since they were of crit­i­cal im­por­tance.

The Min­is­ter with his close aids iden­ti­fied crit­i­cal schemes across the three ser­vices that needed im­me­di­ate fund­ing and im­ple­men­ta­tion. These were put on fast track. The pur­chase of 50,000 bullet- proof jack­ets, for in­stance, was sanc­tioned on a fast-track ba­sis sim­i­larly sup­ply of Ex­treme High Al­ti­tude Cloth­ing (for sol­diers posted in Si­achen and sim­i­lar ter­rain) stuck for more than two years was also sanc­tioned. The Min­is­ter per­son­ally in­ter­vened and re­solved the is­sue.

Com­mit­tee for Re­vis­ing the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure. A 10-mem­ber Com­mit­tee of Ex­perts to sug­gest amend­ments to the ex­ist­ing DPP and for­mu­late a new pol­icy frame­work for de­fence ac­qui­si­tion has been in­sti­tuted.

The terms of ref­er­ence for the com­mit­tee are in­ter­est­ing: It is man­dated to (a) evolve a pol­icy frame­work to fa­cil­i­tate ‘Make in In­dia’ in De­fence Man­u­fac­tur­ing and align the pol­icy evolved with the DPP 2013 and (b) to sug­gest req­ui­site amend­ments to DPP 2013 to re­move the bot­tle­necks in the pro­cure­ment process and also sim­plify/ra­tio­nalise var­i­ous as­pects of de­fence pro­cure­ments. The Com­mit­tee, made up of eight non-gov­ern­ment and re­tired gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and two serv­ing bu­reau­crats from the De­fence Min­istry, has been asked to sub­mit


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