Former Army Chief VP Malik Friday lamented the lackadaisical attitude of political class towards the defence needs of the country, saying that due lessons had not been learnt from Kargil conflict.
Pointing out inadequacies in indigenous defence production and delays in acquisitions, General Malik, who was at the helm during the Kargil conflict, said that suppliers had provided substandard ammunition and outdated satellite photographs to the Army then.
“We purchased large quantities of artillery ammunition during the war and we found that it was of the 1970 vintage. Half of it turned out to be duds. We also purchased satellite photographs at Rs 35,000 apiece and it was found that these were two years old. The vendors exploit such situations when we purchase in an emergency,” he said.
General Malik made the remarks during a panel discussion – ‘Make in India and the Nation’s Security’ – on the first day of the Military Literature Festival (MLF) here.
The former Army chief also said that when the Army wanted to purchase weapon locating radars some years prior to the Kargil conflict, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) did not let the deal go through because they promised indigenous equipment in a short short of time. “However, we did not get it in the time frame and when we did eventually purchase it in 2003, it was at a much higher cost,” he said adding that the lack of the radar cost lives of soldiers during the conflict.
“We should have by now built enough indigenous defence capacity platforms,” said General Malik adding that Parliament should debate the reasons leading to this failure more than it was doing at the moment.
General Malik led the chorus on urgently streamlining the defence procurement processes making them facilitators and not hurdles in “our endeavour to endow our forces with the cutting edge weaponry”.
Dispelling the notion that Army preferred importing weapons, General Malik categorically said abject failure of the public sector to fully deliver the required weaponry was the only reason for this. He said the Army placed orders for the 124 indigenous Arjun tanks at a much higher cost despite the fact that Russian T-90 tanks were much cheaper in comparison.
Echoing the views, former Financial Advisor (Acquisition) with Ministry of Defence, Amit Cowshish questioned the ambiguity and mistrust around objectives laid down under Make in India as far as defence acquisitions were concerned. There is no clear cut policy and framework to achieve avowed goals under the new slogan, he said, adding that indeginisation cannot be the sole criterion to reduce costs. He advocated a dedicated overarching organisation to process and deliver the defence needs in a time bound manner.
Cautioning against the temptation to tag defence matters with mere sloganeering, Lt General Arun Sahni (retd) urged for allocating more funds for upgradation of warfare. “We need a more serious approach where accountability is fixed for producing unusable products at the public sector institutions working in the sphere,” he said. The panelists also concurred that India should leverage its advantage of being the largest importer of weapons while dealing with foreign exporters.
Earlier, moderating the session, senior journalist Rahul Bedi highlighted the gross mismatch between India’s capabilities and achievements till now. “On one side, we have launched ballistic missiles and still we can’t make INSAS Rifles,” he said alluding to the Make in India campaign.