The developments in India’s immediate neighbourhood over the past decade have led India to take a close look at her foreign and security policies. There is a widely sensed need for the rapid modernisation of the Indian armed forces, which is being reflected in some of the key initiatives that have been taken up by the Indian government so far (such as Make in India), so as to address to the complex security challenges that emanate from its hostile neighbourhood.
Indigenous development of modern defence hardware continues to remain a concern and Indian policy aspiration for defence self-sufficiency remains largely elusive.
However, the pace of modernisation of the Indian armed forces over the years has been rather slow, and technologically, they are not where they should have been. Indigenous development of modern defence hardware continues to remain a concern and Indian policy aspiration for defence self-sufficiency remains largely elusive. The aim of the research is to highlight how the Indian armed forces are responding to the emerging security scenario in the region and beyond, and to address issues in defence policy making, progress with defence modernisation, and military effectiveness.
The Indian defence industry suffers from major policy, structural, and cultural challenges that beset a military industrial complex that continues to struggle in terms of delivering modern defence hardware that could have added to the greater Indian defence indigenisation and production. Experts see a number of systemic flaws in the Indian defence establishment and civil-military relations, which present major challenges for India’s military modernisation aspirations. As India’s defence requirements are likely to increase in the foreseeable future because of the dynamic security environment, indigenous development of modern defence hardware and technology is likely to remain a top priority.
As India is an aspiring great power (and it is believed that great powers have great arms industries), its ability to acquire autarky and self-sufficiency in terms of development of advanced defence hardware and technology to fulfill the requirements of its armed forces would be crucial so as to address to its national security concerns. The study here shall highlight the impediments to India’s defence modernisation and its likely implications for India’s national security.
…when taking into account of the changing nature of threats in the emerging geopolitical scenario, India has to focus on building capacity for continuos modernisation of the armed forces…
India’s National Security Concerns and Defence Preparedness
India today faces the most complex threats and challenges that range from nuclear to sub-conventional spectrum of conflict. Issues such as unresolved territorial disputes with China and Pakistan, insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and in the North Eastern states, the growing menace of left wing extremism, and the rising threat of urban terrorism has further exacerbated India’s security environment.
In the regional security milieu, it has clearly emerged that China poses the most potent military threat to India given the advantages it has over India in nuclear, missile, and military hardware. Moreover, the China-Pakistan nexus and increased strategic engagements between the two haveincreased the probability that India might face a two-front war in the future.
Therefore, the need for augmenting defence capabilities i.e. land, air, and sea capabilities, is being largely reflected in the Indian policy towards defence modernisation today (initiatives such as Make in India) to meet the challenges that emanate from both traditional and non-traditional threats that pose severe threats to India’s national security.
India’s defence industry, however, has failed to manage India’s defence requirements as of today. India is one of the largest arms importer in the world as indigenous production of technology is one area where India continues to struggle. India’s defence preparedness, therefore, remains a question as some of the most crucial requirements in various services of the armed forces have not been fulfilled because of severe deficiencies in the defence industry.
India’s land forces lack sophisticated weapons and armory, the navy’s submarine fleet has dwindled down to 40 percent of the minimum requirements, and the fighter squadrons are at the level of 60 percent of the mandatory need, which indeed is a cause of concern considering the slow pace of India’s defence modernisation. Therefore, when taking into account of the changing nature of threats in the emerging geopolitical scenario (also considering the changing nature of warfare with the rise of non-state actors), India has to focus on building capacity for continuos modernisation of the armed forces, while directing it towards achieving the desired capability, which will in turn depend on the analysis of threats.
As India is much more superior in conventional and strategic capabilities when compared to Pakistan, articulation of India’s defence requirements is likely to be influenced by the growing offensive capabilities of China…
Articulating India’s Defence Needs and Requirements
India’s defence requirements are likely to be influenced especially by the external factors such as the threats that emanate from two of its primary adversaries i.e. Pakistan and China. Though Pakistan will continue to remain an immediate threat, China will be the major concern as China is more likely to be a medium-term threat for India according to some observers. Therefore, India’s defence requirements are likely be based on capabilities that cater to the larger threat, which would take adequate care of the threat from its more traditional adversary i.e. Pakistan.
As India is much more superior in conventional and strategic capabilities when compared to Pakistan, articulation of India’s defence requirements is likely to be influenced by the growing offensive capabilities of China that has been demonstrated over the years, which has created huge debates among the members of the strategic and the academic community on the need for pro-active decision making in terms of streamlining defence acquisition and procurement processes, while also focusing on indigenisation, thereby leading to augmentationof India’s overall war deterrence.
Therefore, there is a growing understanding within India’s security establishment that Indian defence modernisation and capacity building should focus on China. The need of the hour is to change the “understanding” into “URGENCY” in order to build comprehensive national capability to counter any threat that arises from China or from the collusive threat of China and Pakistan.
Given India’s current deficiencies in the armed forces, there is an imperative for India to focus on development of advanced and sophisticated weapons system for various platforms of combat i.e. land, sea, and air, and ensure necessary integration within the services of the armed forces as well as intelligence organisations to ensure an effective and a viable response to the threats that emanate in the immediate regional security environment. There is a need to make a thorough assessment of the security threats and accordingly articulate the needs of the services of the armed forces and take necessary steps to procure advanced weapons system that in turn will augment India’s national power. Before looking into what are India’s defence requirements, the next section discusses the challenges that India faces in its defence industry.
India’s defence industry today faces in terms of producing and procuring advanced weapons system to fulfill the requirements of the services of the armed forces are immense, which need critical examination.
Issues in India’s Defence Modernisation
India faces a whole range of complex challenges in its defence modernisation aspirations, which are aimed at containing the threats that it perceives to be having severe implications for its national security. Looking into the current capacities of India’s defence industry, it is not hard to say that many observers remain dismissive of the same and have proposed a number of reforms aimed at bolstering India’s defence production capabilities thereby achieving self-reliance in building such capabilities, and streamlining India’s defence procurement procedures for lesser procedural delays in acquiring advanced weapons system.
As India is one of the largest importers of arms the in the world, its over-dependency over other countries for sophisticated weapons system for the services of the armed forces is likely to negatively affect India’s aspirations of becoming a great power as it is widely believed that great powers are supposed to have great arms industries. The challenges that India’s defence industry today faces in terms of producing and procuring advanced weapons system to fulfill the requirements of the services of the armed forces are immense, which need critical examination. The issues that India faces today are hereby discussed one by one.
Self-Reliance and Enduring Challenges
India’s defence industrial policy during the initial years of its independence was guided by the phrase ‘self-sufficiency’. This was subsequently modified to ‘self-reliance’ in defence production, and now it has long been a fundamental goal of indigenous armaments production in India.However, India’s heavy dependence on arms imports has been a matter of concern for parliamentarians, oversight agencies, policy makers, and defence analysts.
India’s inability to meet its own defence needs through indigenous production (the two flagship programs i.e. Main Battle Tank Arjun and Light Combat Aircraft Tejas are examples where the Indian defence research organisations have gone through several production delays and cost-overruns) is drawing wider concerns over the challenges that the Indian defence industry has been going through in terms of being efficient, productive, and more capable in research and development (R&D) of advanced weapons system and defence technology. The targets that have been set over the years have not been achieved that raises questions on the ability of India’s defence industry to produce weapons system and defence technology to meet the requirements of the services of the armed forces.
The policy priority for the Indian defence establishment should be to ensure that India should maximise its indigenous production…
There is an urgent need for the government to focus on indigenous production of defence hardware and technology by carefully articulating long-term strategic plans to augment India’s military power. As India is a rising power with a huge economic base, India has to look beyond the buyer-seller relationship that had almost become a feature of its defence industrial policy, and should instead develop means to produce advanced weapons system and defence technology indigenously.
The policy priority for the Indian defence establishment should be to ensure that India should maximise its indigenous production so that the quantitative requirements of the armed forces are met, while also ensuring quality in varieties of defence equipment and items that should be made available to meet the ever-increasing demand of the services of the armed forces with rapid changes in technology. The need of the hour is to increase budget allocation for defence R&D and utilise the manpower in its defence laboratories to promote research for advances in defence equipment, hardware, and technology.These practical steps would ensure that India meets the demands of the time, and is in continued possession of cutting-edge defence technology as a result of indigenous production by its defence industry.
Decision Making and National Security Strategy
While looking into India’s present defence status, there has been a long going debate on what are the impediments to India’s defence modernisation pace which in turn has been severely affecting India’s ability to enhance its defence capabilities. As threats to India’s national security are both traditional and non-traditional, effective defence preparedness is the key to secure its national interests, which would depend on the ability to produce and procure advanced sophisticated weapons and high-tech technological devices in order to ensure that the services of the armed forces and their requirements are fulfilled, which would enhance India’s war capabilities, naturally augmenting its military power.
…the armed forces are suffering from severe lack of necessary war-fighting capabilities, which has severe implications for India’s national security considering the actual requirements.
The decision making in India on national security and strategic matters have been however projected to be slow and complex because of the hierarchical structure of the decision-making process, which affects India’s ability to produce and procure weapons on time, which in turn affects India’s defence preparedness. Today, the services of the armed forces are suffering from severe lack of necessary war-fighting capabilities, which has severe implications for India’s national security considering the actual requirements.
India’s aspirations of becoming self-reliant in indigenous defence production and also acquiring advanced weapons system faster would, however, depend on the effectiveness of the decision-making at the apex-level while taking into consideration of India’s national security interests.Some observers have questioned the efficacy of the established process of decision-making in defence acquisition or during times of crises, which is managed by Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
The lack of military inputs in decision-making is considered to be the most significant lacuna. It is also observed that the national security strategy of India suffers from flaws such as the absence of a National Security Doctrine and the absence of a long-term defence planning. Moreover, the need for a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), a supposedly single point of advice to the CCS on military affairs and defence acquisitions, has been long felt.There are increasing number ofopinions on the need for key structural reforms in India’s higher defence management and in the national security decision making process, which shall in the long run help improve India’s defence R&D, self-reliance in defence production, and civil-military relations.