The Dys­func­tional State

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Comentary -

The ob­ser­va­tion by a par­lia­men­tary panel that the In­dian Navy (IN) will soon reach a point of near zero mine-sweep­ing ca­pa­bil­ity when the ex­ist­ing six ves­sels are de-com­mis­sioned by end 2018 is yet another re­minder – if such were needed – about the dys­func­tional state of higher-de­fence man­age­ment in the coun­try. Mines at sea, whether float­ing or laid on the seabed, have a high in­dex of lethal­ity and can cause un­ac­cept­able lev­els of dam­age to a war­ship at very low cost. Thus, mine war­fare and mine counter mea­sures are in­te­gral to naval ca­pa­bil­ity and port/har­bour de­fence; and most ma­jor navies have en­sured ad­e­quate ca­pa­bil­ity for keep­ing their vi­tal har­bours open for men of war as well as mer­chant ship­ping traf­fic.

Tech­nol­ogy has im­proved both the de­struc­tive po­ten­tial of the mine as also the counter-mea­sure tech­nol­ogy and the use of mines as part of covert war­fare in the mar­itime do­main is very much the emerg­ing chal­lenge. The cost of a mine — which can be a few hun­dred dol­lars — and the dam­age it can cause to a navy or the sea-borne trad­ing ef­fi­cacy of a na­tion are in­versely pro­por­tional and even the most pow­er­ful navies are vul­ner­a­ble.

The IN was cog­nizant of the need to ac­quire ap­pro­pri­ate mine counter mea­sure ca­pa­bil­ity and 12 ves­sels were ac­quired from the former USSR in the pe­riod 1978 to 1988. It is in­struc­tive that de­spite the Navy hav­ing pri­ori­tised this plat­form as an op­er­a­tional im­per­a­tive, no new mine-sweep­ing ves­sel was in­ducted since 1988. Bu­reau­cratic de­lays and the in­abil­ity of the higher-de­fence man­age­ment ma­trix to com­pre­hend the strate­gic salience of the is­sue (the dys­func­tional trait) re­sulted in a sit­u­a­tion where it took al­most 15 years for the gov­ern­ment of the day to ini­ti­ate a new ac­qui­si­tion from a South Korean en­tity. This was the NDA I pe­riod.

Desul­tory at­tempts were made to have a tie-up with a cred­i­ble for­eign sup­plier and the process that be­gan in 2008 con­cluded the price ne­go­ti­a­tions in 2011. A South Korean firm was iden­ti­fied but in keep­ing with the In­dian pen­chant to can­cel or freeze any de­fence deal if there is a whiff of fis­cal trans­gres­sion, a charge levied by an Ital­ian com­peti­tor saw the en­tire ac­qui­si­tion project be­ing re­ferred to the CVC (Cen­tral Vig­i­lance Com­mis­sion). The BJP then in op­po­si­tion went for the Congress jugu­lar and in short, In­dia’s ze­ro­sum elec­toral ri­valry laid the per­fect ‘po­lit­i­cal’ mine for the IN’s mine-sweeper ac­qui­si­tion plans to re­main still-born.

It is now 2017 and the navy has a shrink­ing mine-sweep­ing ca­pa­bil­ity and there is no light at the end of the tun­nel. Buy­ing these plat­forms out­right from a for­eign sup­plier or build­ing them in In­dia with a for­eign sup­plier are time-con­sum­ing and as the Par­lia­ment panel pointed out, the ear­li­est in­duc­tion is a good five years away. Till then, the ships that en­ter and leave In­dian ports in­clud­ing front-line naval ships will be vul­ner­a­ble to the lethal mine. The navy needs a min­i­mum of 30 such ves­sels for the ma­jor ports and the grim re­al­ity is that it will soon have none.

An im­me­di­ate op­tion is to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of leasing these ves­sels from navies that have ex­cess ca­pa­bil­ity – and both the USA and Ja­pan could be po­ten­tial sup­pli­ers. In­dia has re­cently con­cluded sub­stan­tive de­fence co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments with these coun­tries and some in­no­va­tive fast-track agree­ments need to be ini­ti­ated on a war-foot­ing. The par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee has alerted the ex­ec­u­tive and the ci­ti­zen. By C Uday Bhaskar, So­ci­ety for Pol­icy Stud­ies

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.