Mod Extends Battle-Winning Advantage To The Enemy!
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) with its superfluous layers of bureaucracy and the complicated defence procurement procedures, has not only delayed the modernization of armed forces but its inefficient equipping policies have rendered the Army, Air Force, Navy and the coast guard unequal to combat rapidly springing up security threats.
Beijing, Islamabad and insurgents are delighted with MoD’s clumsy response.
To cope with a two-front war, the IAF requires 60 air-worthy combat squadrons. The professional assessment to tackle the challenge of a single front war and holding action on the other front requires 45 squadrons.
New Delhi sanctioned 39.5 squadrons, but has indicated intent to raise the squadron strength to 42 by the end of the current decade.
Of the sanctioned strength of combat squadrons, for the IAF only 28.5 remain air-worthy today. Discounting the obsolescent fleet of the MiG 21 as also other ageing aircrafts, the IAF is left with around 22 combat worthy squadrons.
After many years of trials and negotiations, the deal for 197 helicopters was thrown out of the window in the last minute. The tender for 126 MMRCA has been languishing for the past eleven years and now runs into problems and complications with the unwieldy offset procedures and Transfer of Technology.
In the bargain, the vendors have lost millions of dollars on an unproductive effort. Worse, the nation lost credibility in its international dealings and the Air Force its combat power.
With its overall capability severely eroded especially during the last decade, the IAF today no longer spearheads national military power. There is hardly any strategic or tactical airlift capability worth the name. The air defence cover supported by obsolete systems, is porous and there is only a token representation of force multipliers.
For the past twenty-five years Ministry of Defence has found itself incapable of finalizing the induction of 155 mm guns for the Regiment of Artillery. The Kargil war was barely managed through extensive cannibalization just to have a few guns firing.
MoD floats tenders and cancels them with an unbelievable regularity.
The Indian Army’s Combat Arms are in a state of crises because of obsolete equipment that was not replaced in the last sixty years.
Tanks and ICVs are night blind without night sights. The MoD is unable to decide between import of Thermal Imager Fire Control System (TIFCS) and Thermal Imager Stand Alone System (TISAS).
The bewildering variety of antiquated artillery guns-120 mm mortars, 105 mm Field gun, 130 mm Medium gun, 155 mm Gun, 122 mm Howitzer, 122 mm Multi-barreled Rocket Launcher and now Pinaka and Smerch Long Range Systems are a logistician’s nightmare.
Ground based air defence practically is non-existent and devoid of Control and Reporting (C&R) System. Further, air defence is in shambles as L-60 and L-70 guns are of WW II vintage. On the other hand, the Schilka self propelled guns, SAM and OSA-AK missiles are of early 70s vintage.
The Infantry soldier fights with a WW II carbine while the terrorist is equipped with AK-47. DRDO has been kept in business by funneling taxpayer’s resources but INSAS rifles and LMG have not proven successful. FINSAS (future infantry soldier as a system) is yet to take off. DRDO continues to copy ideas from the brochures of the western firms, guzzling huge defence budgets, but is unable to produce a simple CQB weapon like a carbine! Communications systems remain antiquated. Fifty percent of the infantry is yet to be equipped with Individual Combat Kit (ICK).
The Navy will be left with nine operational submarines by 2012 against the stated requirement of thirty. Keeping in view the precarious position, I wonder what stopped New Delhi from ordering at a single stroke twelve submarines from the French and simultaneously opening a second submarine manufacturing line with another vendor. The laborious and complicated process of vetting tenders and negotiations provided adequate data to replenish the dwindling submarine resources at one go. Once again, we start this time-consuming tedious process to appoint a second vendor.
MoD’s legendary inefficiency extends battle-winning advantages to the enemy.
Meanwhile, without pausing for the mental lethargy of New Delhi, warfare technology has rapidly moved to pilotless or remote controlled vehicles and weapon systems on sea, land and in the air. One can practically look inside the enemy’s house sitting in New Delhi and neutralize the emerging threat by firing a missile with the help of a remote controlled pilotless drone.
We are nowhere near use of such magnificent technologies in spite of the favorable opportunities that exist in the new geopolitical environment.
The shambles in which the Army, Navy and the Air Force find themselves today tantamount to dereliction of duty by the State, which in turn poses threat to the unity and integrity of the Union.
Primary key to India’s emergence as a successful global power lies on the ability to acquire and imbibe superior defence technologies in the knowledge-based society of the 21st century.
These rapidly advancing technologies are available with the West (including Israel) alone. Today the Russians collaborate with the West in the quest of superior technologies.
The superior technologies resulted in assassination of Osama bin Laden by SEAL without Pakistan being any wiser despite large presence of troops. Similarly, to nominate Osama’s successor, the members of the Shura Council in Al Qaeda could not hold their meetings at one geographical location lest the Western intelligence agencies should manage to locate, track and eliminate, as they possessed extraordinary defence surveillance technologies.
Another vital aspect is that if a nation faces governance deficit (as India indeed does) as well as defence technology deficit, then an external power can support groups of disgruntled elements inside the country with the help of aerial platforms and by creating no fly zones as in Libya or Syria.
New Delhi’s politico-military objective should be to lead Asia as a powerful democratic entity by creating strong alliances with the Western democracies without losing autonomy.
The West led by America is attracted to the huge Indian market, both in defence and the civil sectors. With ban on transfer of sensitive defence technologies by the West to China and the ensuing recession, India remains the most lucrative market. If handled diligently, huge benefits can accrue to the Indian Armed Forces modernization programmes.
With rising China, the Western alliance accepts the fact that Indian support is vital to contain the authoritarian threat. Otherwise, the balance of power may tilt in favor of China. Similarly, China and Pakistan with expansionist designs will perpetually remain ‘bad news’ for a multi-cultural democratic setup like India.
In Asia, therefore, by design we should ensure that the balance of power remains in our favour.
After an extraordinary military build up by China in Tibet, New Delhi now belatedly accepts its folly of lagging behind in developing infrastructure on our side of the border. With quick thinking and decisive approach this can be rectified. Induction of heavy- lift helicopters and transport planes for mobility of troops, early warning systems and deep offensive capabilities both with the help of missiles, UAS and latest fighter aircraft etc can remedy the imbalance.
To secure the borders with China requires massive dose of cutting edge defence technologies, which only the West can provide.
Today, there exists a vast synergy of purpose and many commonalities between the West and a democracy like India surrounded by authoritarian regimes. In addition, the Western powers are in slight decline, while India is rising. This changing equation allows New Delhi to maintain significant autonomy in action. With a resurgent economy, India has plenty of eggs and to maintain its strategic autonomy it can spread them intelligently in different baskets.
However, let there be no illusion in the MoD that a country that spends billions of dollars in research on developing cutting-edge defence technologies will transfer it for peanuts. Despite the pull of the strong economic card held in the arsenal, New Delhi cannot attract sunrise technologies unless it offers alluring incentives.
Hike the FDI in joint ventures to a minimum of 49%. Permit import of technology against ‘offsets’. Defence Public Sector Units should be privatized on the lines of Maruti-Suzuki to optimize efficiency. Induct reputed private sector companies in a full-fledged manufacturing role. Provide incentives to Indian and foreign companies to set up R&D centers in India. We need to reduce MoD’s legendary red-tape by at least sixty percent. With revolutionary march of technology, no single vendor or a country can be self-sufficient. Therefore, MoD should encourage the Indian Defence Sector to join the global factory chain with friendly countries.
After 40 years MoD was barely able to replace its 7.62mm self-loading rifles with the 5.56mm INSAS whose efficacy is being questioned in many quarters. There are a large number of skeptics with regard to the country-made Arjun tanks. Leave alone a fighter aircraft; we have not been able to produce a small passenger aircraft. This is primarily because we began to lag woefully ever since the first modern RMA took place in the 14th century. Indigenization of arms industry is a laudable objective, however, the legitimate requirements of the armed forces cannot be hostage to it.
Moreover, practicality demands that the lag be covered by indulgence of the private sector and collaboration with arms manufacturers abroad.
The modernization of defense infrastructure entails the modernization of naval bases, air bases, and military cantonments. Most of these were inherited from the British. Since warfare and India as such have both moved much beyond, there is need for upgrading these to meet the needs of accommodating and maintaining modern military machine.
Unless the Ministry of Defence is revamped in its entirety with integration of military officers within, the Indian Armed Forces will continue to face severe handicaps and remain unequal to the task of safeguarding the national boundaries as well as growing strategic interests.
By Bharat Verma
(The author is Editor, Indian Defence Review)