Modernisation of the Army in Dire Straits
After more than a decade of complete neglect under UPA I & II it was expected that military modernisation would pick up under the new NDA Government. However even after nearly four years of NDA rule, the ground situation remains gloomy and unimpressive.
IT MAY BE RECOLLECTED that on 12 March 2012, General V.K. Singh, the then Chief of Army Staff, in a letter to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had expressed his anguish and frustration regarding the eroding operational capabilities of his one million strong force. He requested that suitable directions be given to the ministry of defence to enhance the Army’s preparedness. He blamed the long-winded arms procurement process and the recalcitrant bureaucracy for it. He also pointed out to the large deficiencies in essential ammunition, voids and obsolescence in essential weaponry as well as critical surveillance and nightfighting capabilities.
General Dalbir Singh Suhag, who took over as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) on August 1, 2014, said in an interview in January 2016, i.e. four years after General V.K. Singh’s letter, that “making up of the critical deficiencies in weapons and equipment is on fast track.” He identified the deficiencies and obsolescence of same weapon systems. Thus it became obvious, that nothing had been done by the defence ministry, in the intervening period of four years. If we go back in time the same situation was existed during the entire period of UPA rule.
More Than Two Decades of Disregard and Neglect
After more than a decade of neglect under the two UPA regimes, who had foisted one of the weakest and most clueless defence ministers, A.K. Antony on the Ministry of Defence, during that period, it was expected that military modernisation would pick up under the NDA Government. However the defence forces were in for a surprise because for nearly three and a half years of NDA rule, from May 2014 to February 2018 while reviews and assessments were carried, much hyped declarations made, but the ground situation remained the same. Lack lustre defence budgets over three years gave no hope to the three Service Chiefs that the modernisation of their respective Services would receive the attention that it deserved despite greater the challenges facing the nation. Many Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) clearances were given in respect of each Service but those who know the system will tell you what little impact these clearance have if the Political will to move forward is lacking which is what is being experienced year after year.
Indian Army’s T-90 battle tank