06 November 2014
06 November 2014
Regarding defence procurements, no one can disagree with indigenisation as the preferred way. But as wishes cannot be horses, the abysmal state of India's defence industry requires a lot of things to be set right before India embarks on the ‘Make in India' voyage
The Modi Government’s model of running defence without a full-time Minister seems to be doing well. It is both centralised and broad-based, and if you will, with a discernable division of labour. Instead of one, India now has five defined and two extraneous functionaries to ensure that a muscle is available to support its assertive foreign policy. Topping the list is the Prime Minister himself who meets the three defence services chiefs for a one-on-one each month. As the super Defence Minister, he exchanges notes with services chiefs on operations, procurements, morale of servicemen and veterans and so on.
Next, there is the part-time Defence Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, who being the full-time Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister, is focussed on defence procurements through the indigenous ‘Make in India’ mantra, never mind what it can deliver. Take the case of the Navy’s long pending second line submarine project-75 India, which given the pro-active Chinese Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines already snooping in the Palk Strait, is a dangerous operational gap. In one stroke, Mr Jaitley has overturned the Indian Navy’s suggestion of taking the ‘Buy and Make’ route — buy two submarines from the chosen foreign collaborator and build the rest with technology transfer — and has settled for a completely indigenous route. Where and how will the submarines be made, when will they be delivered and at what cost to national security and exchequer are questions which has got subsumed in the indigenous euphoria. Then, there is the Minister of State for Defence, Mr Rao Inderjit Singh, who, though heading India’s defence procurement, is completely at sea, overshadowed by the large Jaitley persona. He survives on the fringes and is left to perform ceremonial duties with a few aware of his existence within South Block.
Next, the National Security Advisor, Mr Ajit Doval, an intelligence and police officer by training, is the de factoDefence Minister responsible for generating ideas on warfare. He has concluded that state-to-state third generation conventional warfare is passé and India faces the menace of fourth generation (terrorism) warfare. Mr Doval’s script on warfare was read out by the Prime Minister while recently addressing the combined commanders' conference, the highest conclave that annually brings the Generals, Air Marshals and Admirals together to know what the Government wants them to do. Mr Modi left India’s top military brass perplexed by saying that while ‘threats are known, the enemy is invisible’ alluding to terrorists or non-state actors unleashed by Pakistan.