Date:- 16 Dec 2019
The compulsions of a developing economy that has to balance its priority of reaching out to all sections of society and making scarce resources available to them while maintaining strategic parity in a hostile and nuclear-armed neighbourhood came to the fore when a former Army chief disclosed last week that sub-standard ammunition and three-year-old satellite images were supplied to India during the Kargil war. During a conflict, the warring sides are already stretched figuring out how long they can sustain the war even as their national interests are at stake, making the soldiers fight against the odds. No wonder then that vendors exploit such a situation. India is still striving for self-reliance in defence production and as was pointed out, ‘while we have made ballistic missiles, we can’t make assault rifles’.
India’s situation is dissimilar to countries in the West that are major manufacturers of armaments and sell them to rival nations to keep their economy buoyant. During the Kargil war, the Bofors gun played a stellar role but the value of the howitzer was realised only then, as allegations of a scam had preceded it, threatening the reign of a serving PM.
The defence budget has seen a hike over the previous year, but the forces have other needs too besides weapons like pension and the outlay falls short. Acquisitions also get mired in allegations of kickbacks and the involvement of middlemen, the latest example being of Rafale. India’s aspirations get reflected in its agreeing to be part of UN peacekeeping missions, sending the IPKF to Sri Lanka, quelling rebellion in Maldives and the desire for a blue-water status for its Navy. Its neighbourhood is not just hostile but also uneven, there being a Doklam too for Balakot. Parity, therefore, has to be carefully calibrated. The Indian Army is known for its men leading from the front irrespective of rank, like Abdul Hameed in the face of Patton tanks and Subedar Joginder Singh during the Chinese aggression. But warfare is increasingly getting technology-based and the forces should get value for money.
Courtesy: The Tribune: 16th December, 2019