Mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion ka­put – And the curse of com­mit­tees

SP's MAI - - MILITARY VIEWPOINT - The views ex­pressed herein are the per­sonal views of the au­thor.

The Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on De­fence has slammed the gov­ern­ment on March 9 through its re­port tabled in Par­lia­ment on De­mands for Grants for 2017-18, for its lack ad­ho­cism, ca­sual and lack­adaisi­cal ap­proach say­ing it would ad­versely af­fect the coun­try’s de­fence pre­pared­ness as well as hit the morale of the armed forces. Me­dia may en­joy us­ing the term “slammed” but what is the use? This com­mit­tee, like all other com­mit­tees, is just an ad­vi­sory body whose ob­ser­va­tions and rec­om­men­da­tions are con­signed to the cup­board or trash can with­out much ado. It is cer­tainly not akin to the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee of the US, to whom the US Gov­ern­ment is an­swer­able, which should be the case in any democ­racy. Isn’t it a shame that in a pa­per sub­mit­ted to the In­dian Gov­ern­ment, the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil had ap­pre­ci­ated Par­lia­ment as the top tar­get of ter­ror­ists three years be­fore the at­tack that found us to­tally un­pre­pared? But mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion is not the only is­sue that is hit­ting the morale of the armed forces, as in­di­cated by the above com­mit­tee.

There are many is­sues con­tribut­ing to this, some prom­i­nent ones be­ing: (1) Armed Forces Tri­bunal di­rected the gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment Non-Func­tional Upgra­da­tion (NFU) in re­spect of the mil­i­tary, which has al­ready been granted to the In­dian Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ser­vice (IAS) and other al­lied ser­vices in­clud­ing the In­dian Po­lice Ser­vice (IPS), but gov­ern­ment has failed to act; (2) mil­i­tary is the only ser­vice down­graded in sta­tus by the Sev­enth Cen­tral Pay Com­mis­sion (CPC) in­clud­ing re­duc­tion in al­lowances and re­duc­tion in dis­abil­ity pen­sions; (3) the Min­istry of De­fence’s (MoD) Oc­to­ber 18, 2016, let­ter low­er­ing sta­tus of armed forces that adds to ex­ist­ing func­tional woes of civil­ian of­fi­cers with lower des­ig­na­tion re­fus­ing to take di­rec­tions from mil­i­tary of­fi­cers, now claim­ing su­pe­ri­or­ity hav­ing been granted NFU and Sev­enth CPC; (4) re­fusal of MoD to can­cel the Oc­to­ber 18, 2016, let­ter on grounds it is for as­sign­ing du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with re­spect to Armed Forces Civil Ser­vices Of­fi­cers (AFCSO) posted to ser­vice HQs — im­ply­ing this state of af­fairs is ac­cept­able to the gov­ern­ment; and, (5), a Mem­ber of Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil (MLC) from So­la­pur, Ma­ha­rash­tra, pub­licly abuses se­cu­rity forces by ask­ing how soldiers’ wives have ba­bies when soldiers are posted on bor­ders for many years, and this rat is let off be­cause of vote bank pol­i­tics.

If the youth in univer­si­ties are be­ing pro­grammed for shout­ing anti-In­dia slo­gans as part of hy­brid war­fare of our en­e­mies, so is the move to down­grade mil­i­tary in stature even as it con­trols in­creased hos­til­ity from across bor­ders. Whether cer­tain gov­ern­ment func­tionar­ies are gullible in­no­cents or will­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors of our ad­ver­saries is the moot ques­tion. Get­ting back to the snub­bing by the Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on De­fence to the gov­ern­ment, the high­lights in­clude: in terms of mod­erni­sa­tion de­mands for FY 2017-18, the Army, Navy and Air Force have only re­ceived 60 per cent, , 67 per cent and 54 per cent re­spec­tively; only ` 86,488 crore has been ear­marked for mod­erni­sa­tion from the to­tal de­fence out­lay of ` 2,74,000 crore — what makes mat­ters worse is bulk of this cap­i­tal will be used to pay “com­mit­ted li­a­bil­i­ties” of ear­lier arms con­tracts in­stead of new projects; Army re­ceived only ` 25,254 crore against its de­mand of ` 42,500 crore, and with com­mit­ted li­a­bil­i­ties of ` 23,000 crore it leaves only ` 2,254 crore for new projects — which is likely to af­fect both mod­erni­sa­tion and op­er­a­tional pre­pared­ness; IAF that should have a 458 air­craft force by 2027 is mak­ing do with just 235 air­craft at present, with many of them on their last legs; huge de­fi­cien­cies in au­tho­rised and ex­ist­ing lev­els of ships, sub­marines and air­craft, and; the Com­mit­tee has asked gov­ern­ment to pro­vi­sion at least an­other ` 13,000 crore ad­di­tional cap­i­tal for mod­erni­sa­tion.

As per me­dia, MoD has writ­ten to the Min­istry of Fi­nance (MoF) for ad­di­tional funds but that may be the end of the story what with the eu­pho­ria of the re­cent elec­tions. In­dia some­how has not been able to strike the ap­pro­pri­ate bal­ance be­tween eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and na­tional se­cu­rity. With pre­dictable dif­fer­ence of opin­ions, any co­her­ent na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy must have a long-term thought process and vi­sion, the ba­sis for which is strate­gic cul­ture. We nei­ther have a na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy and while we de­sire global sta­tus, we take de­ci­sions in the clois­tered con­fines of MoD and MoF, which is hardly ap­pro­pri­ate.

With pre­dictable dif­fer­ence of opin­ions, any co­her­ent na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy must have a long-term thought process and vi­sion, the ba­sis for which is strate­gic cul­ture

LT GEN­ERAL

P.C. KA­TOCH (RETD)

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