One of the new Defence Minister’s biggest challenges is of modernisation, with the armed forces struggling with vintage equipment. This was evident when the Indian Air Force got 36 Rafale fighter jets when it sought 126 aircraft; it is now down to 30 squadrons of fighter aircraft against an authorisation of 42 squadrons. The Navy, overstretched with new responsibilities, needs major accretion to its fleets. The Army has started procurement of modern rifles, and some of its arms, artillery, and air defence in particular, just cannot operate in today’s environment with its current state of vintage platforms.
Need for funds
Modernisation of armed forces needs a two-pronged solution. The first is that more funds need to be allocated for defence. The defence budget had whittled down to its lowest ever levels as a percentage of the GDP at 1.4%. While India remains the second largest importer of defence equipment, it also needs to produce more military platforms indigenously. The Make in India programme and the Strategic Partnership model of the previous NDA government need to be energised and made to deliver results.
The previous NDA government had also started working on higher defence structures, tweaking the organisations to bring greater coordination between various ministries. These had increased the role of the NSA in decision making on national security and that role could be further institutionalised.
The restructuring of the Army, as proposed by the current Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, would also need to be approved and pushed through by the Defence Ministry. Along with it, the integration of the three defence services and improving “jointness” in military operations will need to be pushed with greater vigour, to make the armed forces lean, mean and effective for the current challenges.