In the 21st century, with wide ranging and attractive options for employment available to the youth, a career in the military is not really a priority. Also, with India constantly in conflict with her neighbours or insurgents, the youth shy away from a hazardous career in the defence services. Therefore, it is vital for the government to provide extra-ordinarily lucrative package and incentives for the young to voluntarily put in five to seven years of commissioned service. Similarly, service conditions of soldiers need to be substantially improved.
Obviously, there is a connect between the external adversaries and the internal dissidence which makes the situation explosive.
It is an operational imperative to keep the military young. The colour service of the jawan should be reduced to 10 years from the current 17. There should be lateral induction of the Short Service Commissioned Officers and the jawans into civil administration. This will beef up the civil administration, which in turn will help tackle groups like the Maoists. For example, an officer from Signals inducted into the civil, can not only help organize communication systems but also protect against and conduct cyber attacks effectively. With multiple professional skills acquired in the military, this exchange will beef up the civil administration and enhance civil-military interface.
In addition to human resources, no military can pack the extra punch unless it is equipped with the most modern weaponry. At the same time, a nation cannot be a great power unless it boasts of a fairly large defence industrial complex. The reason India is one of the world’s largest importers of defence equipment today is due to the fact that under the disguise of ‘self-sufficiency’ mantra, scarce and precious resources of the nation have been squandered largely due to the inefficiency of the Defence Public Sector Units. One of the main reasons for delay in the production of the Scorpene submarine is the fact that it took a huge effort for DCNS of France to upgrade and modernise the public sector shipyard Mazagon Docks!
Today, the war-fighting equipment held by the armed forces is in a dismal state and the state defence industries are in no position to correct the situation. The only way to equip the defence forces is to privatise the state defence units, bring in the private sector as tier-1 supplier, encourage collaboration and joint ventures between Indian and international defence industries with minimum 49 per cent FDI. In case of sunrise defence technologies, permit 100 per cent FDI. This will, in the next decade, create a large and modern defence industrial complex in India that will not only equip the Indian armed forces but also earn revenues for the state through exports.
It is unfortunate and demoralising for a soldier to not even possess a reliable assault rifle to tackle the insurgent or terrorist equipped with the latest weapons. Therefore, at the initial stage by-passing the long-drawn acquisition process, it is imperative that the basic requirements are met with through quick imports. To save costs, an assault rifle should be selected to meet the requirements of defence services as well as para-military forces. In addition, transfer of technology to a designated private sector unit in India should be done simultaneously.
It is unfortunate and demoralising for a soldier to not even possess a reliable assault rifle to tackle the insurgent or terrorist equipped with the latest weapons.
On the other hand, there is a dire need to eliminate cumbersome red-tape and indecisiveness. The tender in which six in-flight refueling aircraft were selected by the IAF, was cancelled due to a clerical mindset of the MoD. The irony is that in the tender re-floated, the same company has now been identified as the preferred bidder. This reflects unimaginative application of mind by the MoD causing huge delay. In view of the prevailing threat, timely provisioning of the required hardware for the IAF ought to have priority over procedural imperatives. Similarly, if companies continue to be blacklisted without cleaning up our own stables, it can only lead to disaster. For example, if five companies in the world make 155mm artillery gun and three are blacklisted, it will kill competition and deprive the nation of getting the best value for money. The rules of engagement should be fair and consistent with international norms for India to succeed in creating its own modern defence industrial complex. With the rapid march of defence technologies it is not possible today to be entirely self-sufficient in the production of the complete spectrum of weapons. Therefore, India also should become a part of global supply chain of defence equipment by being one of the important hubs of research and development of a variety of main and sub-assemblies.
In the event of any future conflict, New Delhi’s political will and the capabilities of the Indian military should be such that China and Pakistan are hard-pressed to defend Tibet and Lahore respectively instead of threatening Arunachal and Kashmir. This is only possible if we end the demoralisation of the Defence Services by perpetual neglect.