India needs to bring more Innovation, Indigenisation in National Security Matrix
India’s overall financial outlay in the national budget offers some instructive insights about the constraints and the opportunities in which national security in its most comprehensive definition is pursued at the policy level.
In the last budget, in February 2017, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocated a total of INR 359, 854 crores (USD53. 5 billion) to the defence ministry and INR 97,187 crores (USD14. 4 bn) to the home ministry. While the defence allocation caters largely to the three armed forces, the home ministry allocation caters primarily to police and central paramilitary organizations like the BSF (Border Security Force) and CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force). India allocated USD 68 bn for ‘national security’- both external and internal.
This was under 14 percent of the total central government allocation. This is not an insignificant amount in a country where poverty is stark and millions hover near the subsistence level.
Anomalies abound about India’s security profile. For a nation that can legitimately take pride in its indigenous capability at the macro end of the spectrum (nuclear weapons, missiles, nuclear submarines and satellites), it is deficient at the lower end of the military inventory spectrum.
The Republic Day parade on January 26 illustrated this in a vivid manner. Most of the platforms and ordnance delivering guns are of foreign origin- primarily from Russia. The majority of India’s tanks, ships and fighter aircraft are ex- Soviet (now Russian ) design and while some have been assembled in India, the reality is that Delhi is yet to acquire appropriate levels of design and manufacture even for basic inventory like personal weapons (rifles and pistols) and artillery guns.
Similarly, India has been pursuing fighter aircraft and helicopters with limited success. The Indian LCA (light combat aircraft) Tejas has been a work in progress for decades. While the first flight took place in January 2001- the aircraft is yet to be proven in a manner that will meet all requirements of the users.
There are some encouraging signs and one success story was on display at the parade – the Rudra helicopter. Envisaged as an attack helicopter, it is derived from the Dhruv and was proudly showcased. However this chopper is a work in progress and needs to be pursued diligently to meet all the specifications initially outlined.
The opportunity that lies ahead is the possibility of India slowly acquiring a degree of credibility in designing and manufacturing conventional military equipment at the middle and lower end of the spectrum. Many developing nations have evinced interest in the Indian helicopters. Some were exported to Latin America – but the satisfaction level has been low.
The just concluded India-ASEAN summit had expansive references to security partnership and the maritime domain received considerable focus. India has been seen as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean and various partnerships that add to the common good at sea have been mooted. This will be predicated on the material status of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard. The helicopter is little noticed work-horse for operational exigencies.
Over the next decade, based on current trends, India will allocate upto USD 900 billion for national security. Of this, over USD 200 bn will be spent in acquisition and modernization of military capacity. The twin focus will be on ‘Make in India’ and redressing inventory gaps. Innovative partnerships that build on niche capability among India’s bilateral partners need to be innovatively explored.
A last thought. While the Indian women bikers from the BSF stole the show on Rajpath, the need to induct higher levels of technology in policing to improve internal security needs little reiteration. Funding is not the constraint but a more innovative and indigenous-technology driven focus is the need for comprehensive national security.