EDI­TOR-IN-CHIEF

India Today - - INSIDE -

It is said the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war. This is a les­son In­dia re­fuses to learn—sadly, most of the sweat is not out of any ex­er­tion but frus­tra­tion at the pace of mod­erni­sa­tion and indi­geni­sa­tion of our armed forces. The world is mov­ing towards third and fourth gen­er­a­tion war­fare. Third gen­er­a­tion war­fare uses speed, stealth and sur­prise and in­volves cy­ber war­fare, air­power and net­worked armed forces de­liv­er­ing pre­ci­sion strikes. Fourth gen­er­a­tion war­fare is aimed against vi­o­lent non-state ac­tors like the ISIS. Yet, here we are, still strug­gling, con­fus­ing mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion with a shop­ping list of weapons—which we are the world’s largest im­porters of—wait­ing pa­tiently for the De­fence Re­search and Devel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) to de­liver the magic bul­let. In China, mean­while, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping has over­seen dra­matic changes in his coun­try’s armed forces, and is turn­ing it into the world’s fifth largest arms ex­porter. In­dia, mean­while, has failed to pro­duce an ef­fec­tive ri­fle; lo­cally made Ar­jun tanks can­not be used on the sen­si­tive China or Pak­istan bor­ders be­cause of per­for­mance is­sues; and af­ter three decades spent de­vel­op­ing our own light com­bat air­craft, In­dia has now put out a ten­der for 110 war­planes.

The last time the In­dian army un­der­went any sort of trans­for­ma­tion was af­ter the 2001 Par­lia­ment at­tacks when In­dia up­dated Gen­eral Sun­darji’s doc­trine with the Cold Start strat­egy that would in­volve lim­ited, rapid ar­moured thrusts, with in­fantry and air sup­port, and al­low of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions to be­gin within 48 hours af­ter or­ders had been is­sued. De­spite its grand public pro­nounce­ments on na­tional se­cu­rity—the BJP’s 2014 man­i­festo promised to ‘mod­ernise the armed forces, fast track de­fence pur­chases and carry out or­gan­i­sa­tional re­form’—the de­fence min­istry wal­lows in its bu­reau­cratic quag­mire, with four de­fence min­is­ters in as many years. Though In­dia’s de­fence bud­get has been hiked by 7.8 per cent, it is just about 1.6 per cent of the pro­jected GDP for 2018-19, the low­est such fig­ure since the 1962 war with China. Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, it needs to be over 2.5 per cent to en­sure the armed forces are ca­pa­ble of tack­ling the ‘col­lu­sive threat’ from Pak­istan and China.

Dur­ing the Kargil war of 1999, then army chief Gen­eral V.P. Ma­lik had said “we shall fight with what­ever we have”. Al­most 20 years later, the army finds it­self in al­most the same sit­u­a­tion with a bud­getary squeeze and poor de­fence plan­ning. The gov­ern­ment has nei­ther drawn up a na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy nor ap­pointed a Chief of De­fence Staff (CDS), a sin­gle-point mil­i­tary ad­vi­sor to the gov­ern­ment who can foster integratio­n of the armed forces and also al­lo­cate bud­getary re­sources among them. In the ab­sence of a CDS or an in­te­grated head­quar­ters of the armed forces, each in­di­vid­ual ser­vice pre­pares to fight wars on its own and makes sep­a­rate com­pet­ing claims for bud­getary re­sources. The Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) is an os­si­fied struc­ture in­her­ited from the Bri­tish. But while Bri­tain has moved on by hor­i­zon­tally in­te­grat­ing its MoD and armed forces, In­dia still strug­gles with a wasteful colo­nial sys­tem. Other ma­jor mil­i­taries too are re­duc­ing manpower and in­creas­ing the use of tech­nol­ogy; only the In­dian army is adding men in­stead of equip­ment.

Ex­ec­u­tive Edi­tor San­deep Un­nithan, who wrote the cover story, has been cov­er­ing the de­fence min­istry for over a decade, which is roughly the time it takes the gov­ern­ment to buy an item of mil­i­tary hard­ware. He says: “It usu­ally takes a cri­sis for the gov­ern­ment to wake up to the ne­glect of the mil­i­tary as it did af­ter the 1962 war and the Kargil war.”

Iron­i­cally, there is a lot of talk of na­tion­al­ism, but no se­ri­ous ef­fort to re­solve the mess in the MoD. The Make in In­dia cam­paign for de­fence, which held great prom­ise, is a fail­ure. DRDO and ord­nance fac­to­ries are a mill­stone around the necks of the de­fence es­tab­lish­ment. We are the largest im­porters of de­fence equip­ment in spite of this large gov­ern­ment-owned mil­i­tary-in­dus­trial com­plex. The pro­ce­dures are so con­vo­luted that de­ci­sions are not made or are de­layed so that equip­ment is ob­so­lete. The Modi gov­ern­ment may have re­moved cor­rup­tion in de­fence pur­chases, but the paral­y­sis re­mains. Our armed forces are a great in­sti­tu­tion with fine tra­di­tions. They need to be equipped for modern war­fare with new and in­no­va­tive think­ing. Their courage can never be doubted; they need to be looked af­ter.

(Aroon Purie)

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