Getting aggressive on defence

How to recover from UPA’s record on military modernisation and national security.

All high-priority acquisitions will require extensive budgetary support. ( Source: Reuters ) All high-priority acquisitions will require extensive budgetary support. ( Source: Reuters )
Written by Gurmeet Kanwal | Updated: May 26, 2014 8:28 am

While the new government will have its hands full dealing with socio-economic and governance issues, one of its key priorities will be to manage India’s multiple external and internal security threats and challenges better than the UPA 2, whose performance in this regard was often sub-optimal and given to knee-jerk reactions.

By: Gurmeet Kanwal

The management of border violations on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan was marked by the lack of inter-ministerial and inter-departmental coordination. Long-term defence planning failed to get the attention it deserves. The defence budget fell to its lowest level since the 1962 debacle. Military modernisation stagnated as major procurement projects were delayed due to bureaucratic red tape and the blacklisting of almost a dozen defence MNCs.

The first and foremost item on the new government’s defence and national security reforms agenda should be the formulation of a comprehensive National Security Strategy (NSS), including that for internal security. The NSS should be formulated after carrying out an inter-departmental, inter-agency, multi-disciplinary strategic defence review. Such a review must take the public into confidence and not be conducted behind closed doors.

The armed forces are now in the third year of the 12th Defence Plan (2012-17), and it has not yet been formally approved with full financial backing by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). The CCS has also not formally approved the long-term integrated perspective plan (LTIPP 2007-22) formulated by HQ Integrated Defence Staff.

Without these essential approvals, defence procurement is being undertaken through ad hoc annual procurement plans, rather than being based on duly prioritised long-term plans that are designed to systematically enhance India’s combat potential. These are serious lacunae as effective defence planning cannot be undertaken in a policy void. For this to happen, the dormant National Security Council must be revived.

The inability to speedily conclude major defence contracts to enhance national security preparedness, in the face of growing threats and challenges, exemplifies the government’s difficulties in grappling with systemic flaws in the procurement procedures and processes. Despite having formulated the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) and the Defence Production Policy (DPrP), the government has been unable to reduce bureaucratic red tape and defence modernisation continues to stagnate.

It is difficult to understand why the budgetary allocations earmarked on the capital account for the modernisation of the armed forces should continue to be surrendered year after year with complete lack of accountability. It was only during the year 2010-11 that the ministry of defence (MoD) managed to fully utilise all the funds allocated on the capital account.

While internal security challenges are gradually gaining prominence, preparations for conventional conflict must not be neglected. Major defence procurement decisions must be made quickly. The army is still without towed and self-propelled 155mm howitzers for the plains and the …continued »

First Published on: May 26, 2014 12:07 amSingle Page Format
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