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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Where is the Strategy?

According to a recent KPMG report,India is likely to spend up to $100 billion on the purchase of military equipment over the next 10 years.

Written by Gurmeet Kanwal |
November 27, 2010 11:56:11 pm

According to a recent KPMG report,India is likely to spend up to $100 billion on the purchase of military equipment over the next 10 years. During the last decade,India acquired T-90S main battle tanks,the USS Trenton,an amphibious warfare ship that can lift an infantry battalion,and weapon-locating radars,and signed deals for six Scorpene attack submarines and for the upgrade of Mirage 2000 fighter-bomber aircraft. Admiral Gorshkov,a Russian aircraft carrier,will soon be on its way after a prolonged refit and INS Arihant,an indigenously designed,nuclear-powered submarine,is undergoing sea trials. India also acquired a host of low-end equipment for counter-insurgency operations and for upgrading the infantry’s combat efficiency. Besides these purchases,the acquisition or manufacture of 126 MMRCA fighter aircraft,almost 1,500 155mm howitzers,about 250 light helicopters,P8I Poseidon maritime reconnaissance aircraft,C-130J Super Hercules aircraft for Special Forces,C-17 Globemaster heavy lift aircraft and many other items of defence equipment are in the pipeline.

Are these defence acquisitions part of a carefully structured strategy for military modernisation or are these piecemeal purchases that will only replace obsolescent weapons and equipment with more modern ones but will not add substantially to India’s comprehensive military power? In Arming Without Aiming: India’s Military Modernisation,Stephen P. Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta carefully analyse the plans for and the thought process behind India’s ongoing military modernisation and aver that the process lacks political support and guidance,is haphazard and bereft of strategic direction and is not in consonance with evolving doctrinal and organisational changes. They conclude rather pessimistically: “We believe that this state of arming without aiming will continue into the future.”

Given the absence of a resolute strategic culture and keeping in view of India’s gross neglect of long-term national security planning,it is difficult to dispute Cohen and Dasgupta’s finding that India is arming without aiming. India lacks not only a coherent national security strategy,but also the tools and processes necessary to formulate such a strategy. As the authors argue,civilian distrust of the military has been deep-rooted since the Nehru era and the armed forces have little say in national security decision-making. While there is the National Security Council for long-term defence planning,its apex body — which essentially comprises the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) plus the National Security Advisor (NSA) — seldom meets to deliberate on long-term threats and emerging challenges and on the adversaries’ military capabilities that should together drive military strategy,force structures and the modernisation plans necessary to meet and defeat future threats.

The armed forces have drawn up a long-term integrated perspective plan (LTIPP),but it is yet to be approved by the government. The 11th Defence Plan (2007-12) is now in its fourth year and has not been accorded formal approval. The armed forces are left with no choice but to stumble along from one financial year to the next. The defence-acquisition process is plagued by tardy decision-making,and large amounts of budgetary allocations on the capital account are surrendered every year,leading to completely haphazard military modernisation. In FY 2009-10,the Ministry of Defence surrendered Rs 5,439 crore over the budgetary estimates for the year. Cicero,the Greek philosopher,wrote almost two millennia ago,“Armies can signify but little abroad unless there be counsel and wise management at home.”

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However,not all is lost. The two new mountain divisions by the army clearly indicate that the emphasis has shifted from Pakistan,whose military power is rapidly declining,towards a rising and increasingly assertive China,which shall indisputably remain a long-term military threat as long as the territorial dispute is not satisfactorily resolved. The acquisition of strategic sealift and airlift capabilities and air-to-air refuelling for fighter aircraft signals India’s attempts to build intervention and rapid reaction capabilities in keeping with its regional power status. The importance being given to upgrading command and control systems shows the aspirations of the armed forces to acquire the tools necessary to benefit from the combat synergies provided by network-centric and effects-based operations.

Yet,as Cohen and Dasgupta,who have competently covered a fairly wide canvas in a short book,point out,India’s military strategy has not evolved in concert with its nuclear power status. While analysing the complexities of the modernisation of the military (army,navy,air force and paramilitary),they examine the contours of India’s emergence as a “reluctant” nuclear power and discuss the fragility and ambiguity of strategic stability in south Asia. They also delve into the factors behind India’s famed strategic restraint and abnormally high threshold of tolerance and conclude that India is unlikely to dramatically change its policies with increasing affluence and growing military power. Finally,the authors highlight the common concerns and the congruence of interests between India and the US and recommend that the US must support India’s military modernisation plans.

As with previous books on south Asia by Cohen,which were very well received,Arming Without Aiming presents a masterful analysis of the complex strategic realities that confront India and the inadequacy of India’s response. The authors have identified the fault lines very well and while they have refrained from being too prescriptive,they have offered many positive suggestions for Indian policymakers to consider. This book must be read by all those who are involved in national security decision-making and policy-analysis.

(Gurmeet Kanwal is director,Centre for Land Warfare Studies,New Delhi)

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