Defence Industry

Guns versus Butter
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Issue Vol 24.3 Jul-Sep2009 | Date : 28 Jan , 2011

We now need to examine our conventional posture. In May 2009, former President Musharraf stated on CNN that India had 33 Divisions and it had deployed 24 of these against Pakistan. He did not mention that the Pakistan Army too has about 22 Divisions. The worrying factor for India is that it has very few troops facing China along the 4000 kilometer northern border. While media reports indicate that two Mountain Divisions are being raised, and infrastructure improved, India will need to either substantially raise more forces to counter the over 250,000 Chinese troops or change its “no first use” nuclear doctrine. Indian seapower and airpower too needs rapid upgradation, with huge gaps in air defence, submarine force levels, etc being brought out by the CAG report last year.

“¦the budget of the military, paramilitary, police, intelligence agencies and the strategic forces will need to increase dramatically in the next decade to compensate for years of neglect.

Trying to maintain conventional parity with the combined Pak–China threat will be a huge economic drain on India. In my opinion the boundary problems between India and Pakistan and India and China, cannot be solved in the next few decades, and hence some kind of “strategic–conventional” deterrence, based on a new nuclear doctrine, will be needed along with political will, and strategic foresight.

The other problem that India faces is that the requirements of strategic and conventional force architecture, vary not only with each other, but are to some extent different from the need to fight terror, insurgency, naxalism and piracy. For example, the 155 mm artillery, or Ballastic Missile Defence or AWACS or mid–air refuellers or even the SU-30 do not contribute here. Helicopters to carry special forces, UAVs for surveillance and helicopter gunships are needed. May be the Army needs more Special Forces battalions, and the Air Force needs more heavy lift helicopters, in addition to their current shopping list. The silent Strategic Forces Command would of course have a seperate wish list of short, medium and long range missiles (ballastic and cruise), dedicated  fighter aircraft along with sufficient nuclear weapons, to withstand a crippling first strike, and then launch a retaliatory second strike.

Similarly, what the Navy really needs for its long range anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and off Mauritius, are not expensive destroyers or frigates or aircraft carriers, but a dozen, long range, helicopters carrying OPVs (Offshore Patrol Vessels), which at about Rs 200 crores each, cost 10 percent when compared to a modern Talwar class frigate and five percent compared to a Delhi class destroyer. Similarly, for coastal defence, the Navy and Coast Guard need additional patrol boats (costing between 20 to 50 crore rupees each), twin engined long range 10 to 12 ton, all weather, day and night  helicopters, along with OPVs, UAVs and Dornier type coastal surveillance aircraft. The term, “a balanced Navy” has now acquired a different meaning altogether, a “brown water” coastal force is as relevant and essential as a “blue water” force.

Also read: Defence Industry Abroad

In this era of global terrorism on land, sea and air, along with insurgencies, the role of the intelligence agencies, paramilitary and police forces has become equally important. The need to augment and modernize these forces, and integrate them into a synergestic national team effort, is vital, but decades of neglect mean that these forces too will be competing with the limited funds available in the national kitty. Its really a catch 22 situation, since poverty needs to be eradicated to prevent the youth from taking to the gun, while more funds for security, means less money for poverty eradication.

Perhaps the only thing common to all the types of threats are satellites for communications and surveillance, along with a digital real time data link for situational awareness and decision-making. India will need to urgently take some very clear and hard decsions, between “essential” requirements and “nice to have” items. The only thing which is certain, is that the budget of the military, paramilitary, police, intelligence agencies and the strategic forces will need to increase dramatically in the next decade to compensate for years of neglect.

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