Par­rikar’s exit and its im­pact on lan­guish­ing de­fence projects

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - The views ex­pressed herein are the per­sonal views of the author.

Manohar Par­rikar who held the of­fice of the De­fence Min­is­ter of In­dia for two years and four months has now re­turned to Goa to take over as the new Chief Min­is­ter af­ter the re­cent elec­tion in Goa. While it may be po­lit­i­cally ex­pe­di­ent by the Bharatiya Janata Party to do so to help sta­bilise the fluid sit­u­a­tion in Goa, it does not au­gur well for the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) where a large num­ber of de­fence projects are lan­guish­ing for want of de­ci­sions and ac­tion which would have a long-term im­pact on mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­ity as well as na­tional se­cu­rity in the two-front chal­lenge fac­ing the coun­try.

Tu­mul­tuous Ten­ure

The pe­riod spent by Par­rikar in of­fice as the De­fence Min­is­ter has been rather tu­mul­tuous. He took over the mam­moth MoD at a time when the mod­erni­sa­tion had hit the rock bot­tom and equip­ment short­ages had mul­ti­plied many­fold due to to­tal in­ac­tion and ne­glect by the UPA govern­ment. Thus when Par­rikar took over as De­fence Min­is­ter from Arun Jait­ley on Novem­ber 9, 2014, af­ter the lat­ter had been in of­fice for about six months, there was a sense of re­lief as well as op­ti­mism be­cause Jait­ley, then wear­ing two hats, had his hands full with the Min­istry of Fi­nance and hence his at­ten­tion was rightly on the North Block. Prior to Jait­ley the Min­istry

was sad­dled with A.K. Antony for seven-and-a-half years. Un­der him, de­ci­sion-mak­ing in the min­istry had slowed to a crawl. It had cat­a­strophic con­se­quences for de­fence pre­pared­ness. In­dia’s mil­i­tary ma­chine — still equipped with tanks, fighter jets and war­ships ac­quired mostly in the 1980s was in a poor state of main­te­nance due to a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. Ar­tillery how­itzers had not been re­placed since early 1980s, new sub­marines had been de­layed in­or­di­nately and fighter jet pro­pos­als were pend­ing since 1999. Light helicopters were ready to be dis­carded and army was los­ing pre­cious lives of its pi­lots. The $100-bil­lion list of pend­ing mil­i­tary re­quire­ments would take over a decade or two to be met. This is why Rear Ad­mi­ral K. Raja Menon (Retd), a well known mil­i­tary an­a­lyst, called Antony the “worst De­fence Min­is­ter ever”. Jaitey’s short ten­ure could not see much head­way to­wards solv­ing long pend­ing de­mands of the three ser­vices and there­fore it was at this crit­i­cal junc­ture that Manohar Par­rikar took over as the De­fence Min­is­ter.

The mil­i­tary wel­comed the ar­rival of a pro­fes­sional and tech­ni­cally sound politi­cian. They re­posed their faith in him and ex­pected that he would en­sure a bet­ter deal for them; would as­sist them in re­gain­ing their pride and élan that had been se­verely eroded over the past two decades; set right the civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions and were look­ing for­ward to move to­wards mod­erni­sa­tion that had vir­tu­ally stopped.

High­lights of Par­rikar’s Ten­ure

Par­rikar brought dy­namism and hard work to his of­fice. Files were cleared faster than they ac­cu­mu­lated as he set about ac­quaint­ing him­self with the nu­ances of mil­i­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions and equip­ment. An out­sider in Delhi, Par­rikar was quick to grasp the in­tri­ca­cies of the min­istry, the work­ing of the armed forces and the chal­lenges of mod­ernising the mil­i­tary in the face of shrink­ing bud­gets. How­ever, it is only at the fag end of his ten­ure that Par­rikar had launched a con­certed drive to make up the ex­ist­ing de­fi­cien­cies by in­vok­ing emer­gency fi­nan­cial pow­ers of the govern­ment. The govern­ment had, at long last, be­gun to ad­dress the ‘crit­i­cal hol­low­ness’ plagu­ing de­fence pre­pared­ness — a term used by the for­mer Army Chief Gen­eral V.K. Singh in 2012 when he wrote to the Prime Min­is­ter on this is­sue. Ad­di­tion­ally Par­rikar also ini­ti­ated re­forms in the pro­ce­dures for the ac­qui­si­tion and in­dige­nous man­u­fac­ture of weapons and equip­ment and en­sured the preparation and pub­li­ca­tion of the new De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure, 2016. There­fore his de­par­ture when the ini­tia­tives by him were fruc­ti­fy­ing is wor­ri­some be­cause in In­dia, based on past ex­pe­ri­ence, our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers have the un­canny abil­ity to roll back to sta­tus quo faster than oth­ers.

Some of the high­lights of his ten­ure as a De­fence Min­is­ter need to be re­called. These are given in the suc­ceed­ing para­graphs along with our com­ments of what needs to be done in the fu­ture with re­gard to each is­sue high­lighted.

One Rank, One Pen­sion

Par­rikar de­serves credit for im­ple­men­ta­tion of the OROP scheme in 2015. A more than four­decade-old de­mand, the scheme grants equal pen­sion to mil­i­tary per­son­nel re­tir­ing in the same rank with the same length of ser­vice, re­gard­less of the date of re­tire­ment. Nearly three mil­lion ex-ser­vice­men and wi­d­ows ben­e­fited from the scheme. How­ever, it seems that the de­mands of the ex-ser­vice­men were not met fully. As it was a long-pend­ing and a highly emo­tive is­sue, OROP as it was meant to be was not im­ple­mented fully but a wa­tered down ver­sion was im­ple­mented. In­ad­e­quacy of funds was the ex­cuse given by the Fi­nance Min­istry as well as bu­reau­crats of the MoD which did not go down well with the veter­ans. In the bar­gain, he alien­ated veter­ans which also af­fected the morale of the forces. Ul­ti­mately, while the mil­i­tary con­tin­ued to strug­gle to get their dues in fi­nan­cial terms, the bu­reau­crats, po­lice and other civil ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices man­aged to get all kinds of in­cre­ments, perks and the like. Even the so­called Non-Func­tional Upgra­da­tion (NFU) is be­ing de­nied to the mil­i­tary, de­spite the rec­om­men­da­tion of the Sev­enth Cen­tral Pay Com­mis­sion and a ju­di­cial rul­ing on the is­sue.

Ju­di­cial Com­mit­tee Report. The com­plaints by the ex-ser­vice­men on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of OROP com­pelled the govern­ment to ap­point a Ju­di­cial Com­mit­tee headed by Jus­tice L. Narasimha Reddy, for­mer Chief Jus­tice of Patna High Court, to look into the anom­alies of im­ple­men­ta­tion of OROP. The Com­mit­tee has sub­mit­ted its report on Oc­to­ber 26, 2016. This report needs to be made pub­lic and then im­ple­mented.

Mil­i­tary Mod­erni­sa­tion and Ca­pa­bil­ity En­hance­ment

His ten­ure as De­fence Min­is­ter saw the ink­ing of some ma­jor de­fence con­tracts. The main projects con­cluded in­clude a $8.7 bil­lion deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets, a $ 3.1-bil­lion or­der for 22 Boe­ing AH-64E Apache Long­bow at­tack helicopters and 15 Chi­nook heavylift chop­pers and a $750-mil­lion deal for 145 ul­tra-light how­itzers (M777) from the US. The De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil also gave the green light to sev­eral key projects in­clud­ing 420 air de­fence guns for ` 16,900 crore, 814 ar­tillery guns for ` 15,750 crore and 118 Ar­jun Mk-II tanks for ` 6,600 crore.

Crit­i­cal Gaps which Need to be Plugged. Not­with­stand­ing the above deals, crit­i­cal gaps still need to be ad­dressed, rang­ing from bul­let-proof vests, as­sault ri­fles and car­bines for the in­fantry, minesweep­ers, light helicopters for the three ser­vices, equip­ment for spe­cial forces and sub­marines be­ing some of the im­por­tant types equip­ment which need to be in­ducted/re­placed and we know that de­ci­sions taken even to­day will im­ply that the equip­ment will start com­ing in only five years later and ‘Make in In­dia’ projects will take even longer to fruc­tify.

Sur­gi­cal Strikes

On June 10, 2015, In­dia’s Spe­cial Forces car­ried a cross-bor­der raid in Myanmar against Naga mil­i­tant camps in­flict­ing heavy causal­ties as a re­tal­i­a­tion to the NSCN-K am­bush on In­dian Army con­voy of 6 Dogra which killed 18 sol­diers. Sim­i­larly on night of Septem­ber 28/29, 2016, In­dian Army car­ried out sur­gi­cal strikes at seven ar­eas in Pak­istan-oc­cu­pied Kash­mir (PoK) and in­flicted heavy ca­su­al­ties on ter­ror­ists and Pak­istan mil­i­tary pre­par­ing to cross over to In­dia. The army’s cross-bor­der op­er­a­tion came af­ter 19 sol­diers were killed in an at­tack on an army base in Kash­mir’s Uri sec­tor that In­dia blames on ter­ror­ists who crossed from the Pak­istani ter­ri­tory. The sur­gi­cal strikes demon­strated In­dia’s hard­ened mil­i­tary re­solve to the world. Par­rikar said last year’s sur­gi­cal strikes against ter­ror pads in PoK had in­jected un­cer­tainty into the neigh­bour’s mind. Thus Par­rikar’s term saw In­dia not only carry out sur­gi­cal strikes in Myanmar and PoK and but also claim po­lit­i­cal own­er­ship of the tar­geted oper­a­tions. The dar­ing move won ac­co­lades from po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and civil so­ci­ety alike.

Par­rikar ini­ti­ated re­forms in the pro­ce­dures for the ac­qui­si­tion and in­dige­nous man­u­fac­ture of weapons and equip­ment and en­sured the preparation and pub­li­ca­tion of the new De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure, 2016

Ef­fects of Sur­gi­cal Strikes. Pak­istani ter­ror tanz­ims have not stopped their in­fil­tra­tion into the Kash­mir Val­ley to carry out ter­ror strikes which are con­tin­u­ing and there­fore the govern­ment will have to en­sure ef­fec­tive de­fen­sive and of­fen­sive mea­sures in­clud­ing the use of mod­ern tech­no­log­i­cal aids to pre­vent the ter­ror­ists from suc­ceed­ing in their ef­forts.

Indo-US Strate­gic Part­ner­ship

In­dia and the United States have signed an im­por­tant lo­gis­tics agree­ment that will en­able forces of both the coun­tries to use each other’s bases for re­pair and re­plen­ish­ment of supplies. US De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash Carter and De­fence Min­is­ter Par­rikar for­mally signed the Lo­gis­tics Ex­change Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment (LEMOA) on Au­gust 29, 2016. It has been spe­cially drafted and de­signed for In­dia due to the ap­pre­hen­sions ex­pressed by the In­dian Govern­ment re­gard­ing the Lo­gis­tics Sup­port Agree­ment (LSA) which has been signed by nearly 100 coun­tries some of who are seen as close mil­i­tary al­lies of the US. The LSA failed to pass muster with the two pre­vi­ous UPA regimes and even the Modi govern­ment, on tak­ing over, was sen­si­tive to its con­tent. Par­rikar’s term wit­nessed the sign­ing of this long-pend­ing agree­ment with the US.

Fu­ture Agree­ments. The LEMOA is one of the three foun­da­tional agree­ments pro­posed by the US more than a decade ago for tai­lor­ing a more ro­bust strate­gic part­ner­ship. There’s been no progress on the other two: the com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­ter­op­er­abil­ity and se­cu­rity mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment (CISMOA) that will al­low In­dia to ac­cess CISMOA-con­trolled se­cure equip­ment and the ba­sic ex­change and co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment (BECA) for ex­change of geospa­tial in­for­ma­tion such as maps, charts, im­agery and other data for dig­i­tal map­ping. Par­rikar’s per­sonal rap­port with his then US coun­ter­part Ash Carter played a key role in broad­en­ing the scope of Indo-US de­fence co­op­er­a­tion.

The Size and Shape of the In­dia’s Mil­i­tary Ma­chine

With dwin­dling de­fence bud­gets, Par­rikar was deter­mined to see how the MoD could cut down on su­per­flu­ous man­power so as to re­duce the rev­enue bud­gets and utilise the de­fence bud­gets more ef­fec­tively. An 11-mem­ber panel, headed by Lt Gen­eral D.B. Shekatkar (Retd), was ap­pointed by the govern­ment to en­hance the com­bat po­ten­tial of the armed forces and re­bal­anc­ing de­fence ex­pen­di­ture. The com­mit­tee has rec­om­mended a num­ber of mea­sures to trim, re­de­ploy and in­te­grate man­power un­der the Min­istry of De­fence in a grad­ual man­ner to meet the ob­jec­tive of an ag­ile but ef­fec­tive mil­i­tary to meet cur­rent and fu­ture threats that In­dia faces. The report which was sub­mit­ted on De­cem­ber 21, 2016, is be­ing stud­ied by the govern­ment. The panel pre­pared the report by tak­ing into ac­count the ex­ist­ing mod­els of work­forces and bud­gets of lead­ing mil­i­taries, in­clud­ing China’s Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, for a com­par­a­tive anal­y­sis.

Im­ple­men­ta­tion. While a large num­ber of re­ports are pre­pared, very few are im­ple­mented fully. With the move of Par­rikar to Goa it re­mains to be seen as what would be the fu­ture of this report.

De­fence Bud­gets Pay Re­vi­sion

The Sev­enth Cen­tral Pay Com­mis­sion for the ser­vices has not been im­ple­mented af­ter the Ser­vice Chiefs had met the Prime Min­is­ter to ap­prise him of the anom­alies that ex­isted and needed res­o­lu­tion and the car­ry­over of anom­alies of the Sixth Pay Com­mis­sion which had not been re­solved. The is­sue is be­ing looked into by the anom­alies com­mit­tee and there is grow­ing re­sent­ment among the ser­vices over the de­lay. Presently the Ser­vices are be­ing paid 10 per cent in­crease over the cur­rent salaries. This is­sue needs to be sorted out at the ear­li­est.

Ap­point­ment of a Per­ma­nent Chair­man, Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee (PC COSC) /CDS

Par­rikar was very keen that this re­form, pend­ing from the Group of Min­is­ters rec­om­men­da­tions fol­low­ing the Kargil War, should be im­ple­mented at the ear­li­est so to en­sure a sin­gle-point mil­i­tary ad­vice and this ad­di­tional four star gen­eral is vi­tal not only for pro­vid­ing sin­gle-point mil­i­tary ad­vise to the govern­ment but also to usher in syn­ergy ver­ti­cally and hor­i­zon­tally be­tween the three Ser­vices to en­sure greater joint­ness and in­te­gra­tion grad­u­ally and build mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­ity on ba­sis of an over­all tri ser­vice plan of ac­tion rather than sin­gle ser­vice plans. One of the ar­eas that Par­rikar has not been able to ren­der as­sis­tance is in the bud­get al­lo­ca­tions for de­fence. It is a fact that the share of the rev­enue ex­pen­di­ture in the to­tal de­fence bud­get has been in­creas­ing over the years. The in­crease is pri­mar­ily due to the hike in the man­power cost of the armed forces, which ac­counts for over 83 per cent (or ` 11,071 crore) of the over­all growth of ` 13,291 crore in the de­fence bud­get 2017-18. It is sig­nif­i­cant to note that the man­power driven de­fence bud­get is not unique to the cur­rent bud­get. In the last sev­eral years, it has been a re­cur­ring fea­ture with a de­bil­i­tat­ing ef­fect on two vi­tal el­e­ments of the de­fence bud­get, namely rev­enue stores and cap­i­tal mod­erni­sa­tion which to­gether play a vi­tal role in the op­er­a­tional pre­pared­ness of the armed forces. The com­bined share of these two el­e­ments has de­clined from 55 per cent in 2007-08 to 40 per cent in 2016-17. This does not au­gur well, espe­cially when there ex­ists a huge void in In­dia’s de­fence pre­pared­ness, and the armed forces have grave short­ages in many ar­eas rang­ing from am­mu­ni­tion, as­sault ri­fles, bul­let-proof jack­ets, night-fight­ing de­vices to how­itzers, mis­siles, helicopters, fight­ers and war­ships. Need­less to say that for a cred­i­ble de­fence pre­pared­ness, the present ra­tio needs to change for bet­ter for which al­lo­ca­tion un­der rev­enue stores and cap­i­tal mod­erni­sa­tion needs to be aug­mented sub­stan­tially.

The above men­tioned is­sues are some of the most im­por­tant as­pects which the new De­fence Min­is­ter will have to look into and re­solve at the ear­li­est so as to en­sure the de­vel­op­ment of a ro­bust mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­ity to pre­clude threats to our na­tional se­cu­rity.

Par­rikar’s per­sonal rap­port with his then US coun­ter­part Ash Carter played a key role in broad­en­ing the scope of Indo-US de­fence co­op­er­a­tion

The then De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar in­ter­act­ing with the troops in Ra­jouri sec­tor, Jammu and Kash­mir, in May 2015

LT GEN­ERAL

V.K. KAPOOR (RETD)

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