MAJ GEN. ASHOK ME­HTA AN ARMY OF SCARECROWS

Gfiles - - FRONT PAGE - Maj Gen. Ashok K Me­hta

THE Es­ti­mates Com­mit­tee re­port of the In­dian Par­lia­ment on In­dia’s oper­a­tional pre­pared­ness has high­lighted with pre­dictable reg­u­lar­ity the in­ad­e­qua­cies in de­fence al­lo­ca­tion, es­pe­cially the year 2017-18. This is due to the ab­sence of any sys­tem­atic and in­sti­tu­tion­alised process of de­fence plan­ning and bud­get­ing. A plethora of rea­sons can be given for this re­cur­ring la­cuna de­spite the 15-year Long Term In­te­grated Per­spec­tive Plan (LTIPP). This alone in­di­cates that the Plan is merely in­te­grated, not a joint tri-ser­vice plan as it should be. Since in­de­pen­dent de­fence of the realm has been treated as the pri­vate pre­serve of civil and mil­i­tary bu­reau­cra­cies, which are peren­ni­ally snip­ing at each other with the higher po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tion ei­ther ab­sent or leased out to civil­ian staff. De­spite a num­ber of ad hoc com­mit­tees con­sti­tuted to re­view the de­fence threat en­vi­ron­ment and nec­es­sary al­ter­ations to ex­ist­ing struc­tures—like KVK Rao, Arun Singh, K Subrah­manyam, Naresh Chan­dra, Shekatkar, to name some – only tin­ker­ing has been done fol­lowed by cherry-pick­ing by MoD in im­ple­men­ta­tion. The fun­da­men­tal prob­lem is the over­weight man­pow­er­in­ten­sive army hogs the mea­gre funds at the cost of the equip­ment-in­ten­sive Navy and Air Force. The tooth-to-tail ra­tio to­day of the army af­ter the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the 7th Pay Com­mis­sion af­ter One Rank One Pen­sion (OROP) is 17:83 whereas it should be 60:40. Un­der­lin­ing the malaise is a faulty higher de­fence or­gan­i­sa­tion and an er­ro­neous na­tional se­cu­rity and de­fence eval­u­a­tion process. Never in the his­tory of the coun­try has a strate­gic de­fence and se­cu­rity re­view (SDSR) been done. And yet, the de­fence min­is­ter’s oper­a­tional di­rec­tive is­sued to the armed forces con­tains an as­sess­ment, which is done by the armed forces them­selves (mainly Army) of a two-front war un­der nu­clear over­hang. The Cold Start doc- trine dis­owned by the gov­ern­ment and the two and a half-front war sce­nario were in­tro­duced in 2009 by Army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor af­ter the Mum­bai ter­ror­ist at­tack. Equally, there has never been a White Pa­per on de­fence. With­out an SDSR and no joint­ness in or­gan­i­sa­tion and struc­tures, most of the plan­ning is done in sin­gle ser­vice si­los. Amus­ingly, the In­te­grated De­fence Staff, which puts to­gether sin­gle ser­vice plans, wrote a mil­i­tary train­ing di­rec­tive that was heav­ily crit­i­cised even with­out pro­duc­ing a na­tional se­cu­rity or na­tional de­fence strate­gies. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ad­dressed the Com­bined Com­man­ders Con­fer­ence at Jodh­pur on Septem­ber 28, and read out a re­cy­cled speech on what the armed forces should be do­ing with­out or­der­ing the miss­ing re­forms to be ex­e­cuted. In four and a half years of his term, Modi has failed to ap­point a CDS, which has awaited its in­car­na­tion for half a cen­tury. De­fence Min­is­ter

Manohar Par­rikar had said sev­eral times that a CDS would be ap­pointed in two years. In short, ad­ho­cism rules the roost. A new su­per­flu­ous or­gan­i­sa­tion called the De­fence Plan­ning Com­mit­tee, chaired by the NSA, has been in­tro­duced which cre­ates one more layer of bu­reau­cracy. The vo­lu­mi­nous 500-page DPP 2016 has been re­viewed seven times since 2002 and is still in­com­plete. Oth­er­wise, some of the is­sues ac­com­pa­ny­ing Rafale ac­qui­si­tion could have been avoided. For ex­am­ple, on the choice of In­dian strate­gic part­ners for build­ing of con­ven­tional sub­marines (Project 75), the sec­tion deal­ing with it is still to be com­pleted. The DPP is the most con­fus­ing doc­u­ment and an un­mit­i­gated fail­ure, which leads to pro­ce­dural de­vi­a­tions and are rat­i­fied later.

UN­TIL the gov­ern­ment es­tab­lishes a com­mit­tee to do an SDSR in or­der to take a holis­tic view of the in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal de­fence and se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment In­dia will con­tinue to do what Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat is em­bark­ing upon: re­struc­tur­ing to re­duce flab or what Gen Ved Ma­lik did in 1998: cut man­power by 50,000 to se­cure 500 crore for mod­erni­sa­tion. The CCS along with NSC should fo­cus on the In­dian Ocean Re­gion with sharp­ened de­ter­rence against China and set aside its ob­ses­sion with Pak­istan. Threats, chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties will dic­tate the build­ing of ca­pa­bil­i­ties in po­lit­i­cal, diplo­matic, mil­i­tary and tech­no­log­i­cal are­nas. But to do this, you need a process, you need a sys­tem and skilled per­son­nel to evolve anan­nual de­fence plan flow­ing from a 15-year Long Term In­te­grated Per­spec­tive Plan, ide­ally with a fis­cal com­mit­ment of 2 to 2.5 per cent of the GDP and a five-year ser­vice cap­i­tal ac­qui­si­tion plan. It is in­struc­tive to ex­am­ine the com­mit­ment to de­fence by the west, es­pe­cially the US and UK.

Never in the his­tory of the coun­try has a strate­gic de­fence and se­cu­rity re­view (SDSR) been done. And yet, the de­fence min­is­ter’s oper­a­tional di­rec­tive is­sued to the armed forces con­tains an as­sess­ment, which is done by the armed forces them­selves (mainly Army) of a twofront war un­der nu­clear over­hang

De­fence Bud­gets: US, UK and In­dia

Look at how Don­ald Trump’s Amer­ica has gone about mak­ing Amer­ica great again. Pen­tagon has been given the big­gest-ever de­fence bud­get in US his­tory. And, while Modi had pledged to make In­dia mil­i­tar­ily strong in his pre­elec­tion speeches ad­vo­cat­ing heads­for-head and jaws-for-teeth, three years later the armed forces were awarded last year the low­est bud­get…one can add ‘ever’: Pen­tagon re­ceived $ 716 bn as al­lo­ca­tions with in­creases of up to 17 per­cent that will sharply im­prove com­bat readi­ness says De­fence Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis. In 2002 the de­fence bud­get was $ 345 bn but rose sharply af­ter Afghanistan and Iraq. In­dia’s de­fence bud­get, in­clud­ing sal- aries and pen­sions in 2017-18, touched $ 62.8 bn. Of this only $ 43.4 bn is for de­fence. While the rev­enue bud­get has in­creased phe­nom­e­nally due to 7th Pay Com­mis­sion and One Rank One Pen­sion, cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture for mod­erni­sa­tion was flat and in real terms, con­cave. The de­fence bud­get was 1.57 per cent com­pared to the low­est ever 1.49 in the 1950s.

FI­NANCE Min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley in his speech high­lighted oper­a­tional pre­pared­ness and mod­erni­sa­tion with­out men­tion­ing that the armed forces have to fight a two and a half front war. The Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on de­fence headed by BJP’s Maj Gen. BC Khan­duri, in their re­ports 35 and 36 say cat­e­gor­i­cally: “In­dia is not com­bat ready, is un­der equipped…” In other words, mod­erni­sa­tion is woe­fully de­fi­cient. Khan­duri’s crit­i­cal re­port cost him his Chair­man­ship of the com­mit­tee as he was pre­ma­turely re­moved—an act un­prece­dented in par­lia­men­tary his­tory. The Khan­duri re­port says that funds were so mea­gre that they would not sup­port in­evitable needs of the Army. The al­lo­ca­tion of 21,338 crore for mod­erni­sa­tion is in­suf­fi­cient even to cater for com­mit­ted pay­ments to the ex­tent of 29,033 crore ear­marked for 125 on­go­ing schemes, emer­gency pro­cure­ment of ar­ma­ments and weapons for 10 days of in­tense war and other Direc­tor Gen­eral Ord­nance Fac­tory re­quire­ments. De­fence spend­ing as a per­cent­age of GDP is high­est in Saudi Ara­bia (10

In­fantry sol­diers who man the LoC 24X7 and are de­ployed in hos­tile ter­rain do not even have a mod­ern ri­fle, bul­let­proof jack­ets and hel­mets. These projects have been in the pipe­line for 15 years and have been can­celled, re­vived, and can­celled again for mys­te­ri­ous rea­sons. Not all per­ma­nent de­fences on LoC are shell-proof to di­rect hits from ar­tillery and anti-tank mis­siles

With this gov­ern­ment fix­ated on win­ning elec­tions and not se­ri­ous about oper­a­tional pre­pared­ness as it be­lieves there will be no war, de­fence bud­gets will get tighter and there will be even more stress on mod­erni­sa­tion next year if oil prices con­tinue to rise and the ru­pee touches 100 to the dol­lar

per­cent) Rus­sia (5.3 per­cent) US (3.3 per­cent) UK (£ 56 bn or 2 per­cent) and In­dia $ 62.8 bn (1.5 per cent). De­fence al­lo­ca­tions in UK have un­der­gone rev­o­lu­tion­ary changes due to the over­all size of the bud­get. It has the largest de­fence ex­pen­di­ture in EU, sec­ond high­est in NATO and fifth largest in the world. Early this year, re­ports in Lon­don sug­gested that the Trea­sury had or­dered mil­i­tary cuts of nearly £ 20 bn in the next 10 years. This led to the ju­nior de­fence min­is­ter, To­bias Ell­wood, threat­en­ing to re­sign fol­lowed by ar­gu­ments be­tween the Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer, Philip Ham­mond, and De­fence Min­is­ter, Gavin Wil­liamson. Like the In­sti­tute of De­fence Stud­ies and Anal­y­ses (IDSA) in New Delhi as­sists the MoD with bud­get ad­vice and other de­fence re­views, Royal United Ser­vices In­sti­tute (RSUI) in Lon­don does a more de­tailed anal­y­sis of de­fence spend­ing—pre­sent­ing op­tions and plans with re­quired funds. Very clearly RUSI is bet­ter in­te­grated with MoD than our own IDSA.

THE rev­enue ex­pen­di­ture for Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ca­pa­bil­ity Re­view or NSCR (dis­tinct from Strate­gic De­fence Re­view) may take de­fence out of it and have a sep­a­rate de­fence ca­pa­bil­ity for new equip­ment, equip­ment sup­port and new ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The NSCR is be­ing done ap­pro­pri­ately by NSA Mark Sed­well, Ajit Do­val’s coun­ter­part. The MoD an­nual bud­get for mod­erni­sa­tion is £ 36 bn of a de­fence bud­get of £ 56 bn and there are never any in­stances of fail­ure to utilise money for com­bat readi­ness.

Fail­ure to Ab­sorb Mod­erni­sa­tion Ac­count

In sharp con­trast in In­dia, over the past 10 years, at least 50,000 crore meant for ca­pa­bil­ity en­hance­ment was re­turned to fi­nance ei­ther on de­mand or nonu­til­i­sa­tion. This had to be done to bal­ance the fis­cal deficit.There is no need to fudge cap­i­tal ac­count fig­ures as US is able to utilise all bud­get on mod­erni­sa­tion and funds are not sur­ren­dered. In In­dia, cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture works out to less than 30 per cent, which is the rea­son for the De­fence Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee’s ob­ser­va­tion that the armed forces are not com­bat ready de­spite ser­vice Chiefs pe­ri­od­i­cally tell-

ing the coun­try they are ready to fight a two-front war. Mod­erni­sa­tion ac­counts for less than one-fifth of MoD al­lo­ca­tions. Bulk of the money gets used for carry-over li­a­bil­i­ties, un­der­mined by in­fla­tion and de­val­u­a­tion of the ru­pee. To a ques­tion why more funds are not given to de­fence, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley gave dif­fer­ent an­swers in suc­ces­sive years. In 2016-17 he said the ‘’armed forces do not have a mech­a­nism to spend the cap­i­tal bud­get’’. This year his re­ply to the same ques­tion was that “it had to do with the size of the cake avail­able…oth­er­wise the fis­cal deficit would ex­pand’’. The cap­i­tal to rev­enue ra­tio of In­dia’s de­fence bud­get works out to 33 per­cent to 67 per­cent, which is the op­po­site of the Bri­tish de­fence bud­get.

THAT is why in­fantry sol­diers who man the LoC 24X7 and are de­ployed in hos­tile ter­rain do not even have a mod­ern ri­fle, bul­let­proof jack­ets and hel­mets. These projects have been in the pipe­line for 15 years and have been can­celled, re­vived, and can­celled again for mys­te­ri­ous rea­sons. Not all per­ma­nent de­fences on LoC are shell-proof to di­rect hits from ar­tillery and anti-tank mis­siles. Sim­i­larly posts do not have smart fenc­ing as at­tack on Uri showed in 2016. Like­wise there are gaps in perime­ter se­cu­rity of fixed in­stal­la­tions like air-bases such as Pathankot. The Cam­pose Com­mis­sion, which did a study on sim­i­lar bases, rec­om­mended in­vest­ment of 500 cr for their en­hanced se­cu­rity but funds were not al­lot­ted. We are los­ing sol­diers on LoC and hin­ter­land due to ab­sence of ro­bust se­cu­rity and camps and per­ma­nent shell-proof­ing on posts. This does not in­clude civil­ian habi­tat, which are very vul­ner­a­ble. Af­ter years of in­ac­tion, De­fence Min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man this year ap­pointed a 13-mem­ber com­mit­tee that will re­view all mod­erni­sa­tion projects which are cleared but stuck in the pipe­line. The com­mit­tee has a high-sound­ing ti­tle: RM’s Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee on MoD Cap­i­tal Projects above 5 bn to strengthen mod­erni­sa­tion and de­fence pre­pared­ness, the by-words of Jait­ley’s de­fence bud­get speech and the core of the Es­ti­mate Com­mit­tee’s re­port. Whether this is one more com­mit­tee to ex­pe­dite util­i­sa­tion of cap­i­tal de­fence ex­pen­di­ture or time pass as in previous years, only time will tell. Ear­lier this year, fol­low­ing news of £ 20 bn cut over next 10 years in UK, the cat was set among the pi­geons. Many op­tions were put on the ta­ble of amal­ga­mat­ing forces like Com­mando Bri­gade and Air As­sault Bri­gade and prun­ing de­fence com­mit­ments. For ex­am­ple, in one op­tion the army could re­duce from the ex­ist­ing 82,000 to 50,000 the small­est num­ber since the

bat­tle of Trafal­gar. No such prun­ing mea­sures are en­vis­aged as there is no higher po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tion flow­ing to the CDS. In­ci­den­tally the CDS was cre­ated in UK fol­low­ing or­ders from De­fence Sec­re­tary Michael Hasel­tine, de­spite protests from sin­gle ser­vice chiefs. Remember, UK has the most ad­vanced Tri­dent sea-launched nu­clear bal­lis­tic mis­sile ca­pa­bil­ity worth £ 36 bn and two of the world’s most mod­ern air­craft car­ri­ers, prompt­ing a jour­nal­ist to quip that UK could be­come Bel­gium with nukes. With an em­pire from Belize to Hong Kong for over 200 years, will UK now have to shed its power pro­jec­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties/ex­pe­di­tionary forces or re­strict de­fence mis­sions to ‘de­fence of our shores in­clud­ing counter ter­ror­ism’, re­main tied to NATO and Europe and de­fend UK from next gen­er­a­tion threats like cy­ber war­fare?

RE­SILIENCE and de­ter­rence will re­main the defin­ing cat­a­lysts for de­fence and com­bat readi­ness. Still for the Bri­tish sol­dier, los­ing his cap badge is the ul­ti­mate hara-kiri. The Bri­tish sys­tem re­lies on a man -ma­chine mix that favours high -tech equip­ment suit­ably meshed into an ag­ile and tech­savvy sol­dier. We are still grop­ing for the mix which suits our cul­ture and ground con­di­tions. In­dia must take a les­son in de­fence plan­ning and pro­cure­ment pro­ce­dures to in­cor­po­rate mod­ern meth­ods of com­par­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of air­craft car­ri­ers, Rafale squadrons and Strike Moun­tain Corps. Un­til we adopt the pro­grammes, plans and bud­get­ing sys­tem, it is un­likely that we will be able to achieve the 70:30 tar­get for mod­erni­sa­tion and man­power costs. In­dia must also un­der­take a strate­gic de­fence and se­cu­rity re­view to an­a­lyse and ex­e­cute sys­tem­a­tised struc­tural re­forms, not just to fix tooth to tail ra­tio. With this gov­ern­ment fix­ated on win­ning elec­tions and not se­ri­ous about oper­a­tional pre­pared­ness as it be­lieves there will be no war, de­fence bud­gets will get tighter and there will be even more stress on mod­erni­sa­tion next year if oil prices con­tinue to rise and the ru­pee touches 100 to the dol­lar. Then there is CAATSA (Coun­ter­ing Amer­i­can Ad­ver­saries Through Sanc­tions Act) against which a Trump waiver is not a given. If the con­tract is signed ig­nor­ing CAATSA, in Oc­to­ber 2018 as en­vis­aged In­dia will have to make a down pay­ment of 15 per­cent of the ` 39,000 Cr deal in dol­lars. That will eat up all if not most of the mod­erni­sa­tion money next year— the elec­tion year when funds will be heaped on so­cial wel­fare schemes. Fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tion in dol­lars will not be easy. The de­fence bud­get maybe part of vote on ac­count in an elec­tion year, but it will not be Achhe Din for the Armed Forces, whose pri­mary fo­cus for the fore­see­able fu­ture will be coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism and vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism. In other words, in­ter­nal se­cu­rity en­twined in ex­ter­nal chal­lenges, will be the pre­dom­i­nant mis­sion for the army.

The Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on de­fence headed by BJP’s Maj Gen. BC Khan­duri, in their re­ports 35 and 36 say cat­e­gor­i­cally: “In­dia is not com­bat ready, is un­der equipped…” In other words, mod­erni­sa­tion is woe­fully de­fi­cient. Khan­duri’s crit­i­cal re­port cost him his Chair­man­ship of the com­mit­tee

The gov­ern­ment has dis­owned the Cold Start doc­trine Same ques­tion, dif­fer­ent an­swers

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