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.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: SP Guide Pubns

In­dian Army’s T-90 bat­tle tank

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