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Defence sector needs a major rejig

Wednesday - October 10, 2018 9:48 am , Category : OPINION & INTERVIEW

WTN- The 2nd anniversary of surgical strikes was celebrated with much fanfare, with PM Narendra Modi himself addressing the defence chiefs in Jodhpur in praise of their achievement. However, despite our successes, we must not forget that shortage of arms and ammunition and lack of manpower in the higher ranks ails the army. 

The Air Force is short of planes and advanced equipment while the Navy is still in wait for submarines. A unified command to manage the army, navy and air force under one umbrella is still a far cry. The idea was mooted at least two decades ago but till now no consensus has been reached on that. A unified command under a proposed ‘chief of defence staff’ is needed for greater efficiency and better coordination among the three defence wings. 

The PM also stressed in Jodhpur that better coordination and cooperation between the three wings was important for capability enhancement. It is said that one major hiccup on the way of establishment of a unified command is the constant opposition from Air Force. Air Force feels the diversity and strategic needs of the country are such that Air Force needs a separate functioning to deliver optimally. Being under a unified command will dilute its possibilities. 

Whether or not this is a valid reason can be doubted but what is certain is that the defence sector needs a major boost in infrastructure and armory. Maj Gen BC Khanduri’s report tabled in Parliament in March this year pointed towards some major lacks and lapses in the forces. The resource allocation to the forces, the report says, is by far inadequate vis-à-vis the requirements. Not only we are in grave shortage of arms and ammunitions, those which we have in our store are dated and rusty the sheer upkeep cost of which bleeds our exchequer. 

According to an estimate, close to 69 per cent of our arms and ammunitions are obsolete and need urgent replacement. Hardly 24 per cent of our army machinery is modern and less than 8 per cent is advanced. Security protocol stipulates that no more than 25 per cent of weaponry in the arsenal should be old for a country to be considered war worthy. The condition of the navy and air force are no better. The planes are old and so are the tanks. We are still not capable of mass production of any high standard of our own weapons, which is why we have to depend heavily on imports. Procuring weaponry is a long, tedious and complicated process which causes inordinate delays and escalating costs. 

Corruption issues further delay the process. Changing defence ministers also affects the army. In the last four years alone we have seen four different defence ministers holding charge at different times. Each one comes with his/her own priority areas and baggage of right and wrong. The forces thus don’t have a consistent and clear vision and direction to work on. There were high hopes from the Modi government to usher in drastic changes in the army setup, functioning and capability but things have not moved fast in the last four years due to multiple layers of clearance hurdles as well as logistic and economic roadblocks. 

The PM himself had said four years back that the army was honoring its duties despite inadequate resources at its disposal. Unfortunately, the situation hasn’t changed much even today. Majority of the reforms are still stuck in the pipeline.

-Window To News
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