Defence Industry

India's Shrinking Military Capabilities
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Issue Vol 26.2 Apr-Jun 2011 | Date : 20 Feb , 2013

Indian military capabilities shrink rapidly while the threats multiply.

Instead of removing poverty, the politician turned poverty into business of vote-bank-politics. Result: Sixty-two years later Maoists control forty percent of the Indian Territory and the insurgents in the border states have influence in another ten percent, both with explicit support of external actors.

While the Army is battling insurgents for decades in Kashmir and in the Northeast, in all likelihood, it will be drawn into conflict with the Maoists to reclaim territories under their control. This is a direct consequence to the demonstrated incompetence of the inept and crumbling Civil Administration. Resources of the Army, Air force and the Navy are already at an all time low and are over stretched, undermining the capability of the Indian military machine to fulfill its primary role of coping with the challenges of external threat.

MoDs legendary inefficiency extends battle-winning advantages to the enemy.

Beijing and Islamabad are delighted with New Delhi’s clumsy response.

Couple the internal threat with burgeoning external threat. Beijing boasts of capability to create three-pronged mischief on the Indian Borders. First, China has built elaborate infrastructure and potent military capability in Tibet. Second, it not only synergized anti-India activities with Pakistan but has also positioned elements of the PLA inside PoK. Third, China quietly propelled their proxy Maoists (Nepal) to the centre-stage in Katmandu. Not to mention the advantage China gained in Sri Lanka while India lost some.

Beijing now influences almost 7500 kms of land opposite Indian borders.

The Indian Navy grappling with increasing incidents of piracy, securing the EEZ, the 7500 km of coastline and Sea Lines of Communications, now faces the prospect of confronting the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean. The competitive interests of the two rapidly growing economies for energy and transit can transform the Indian Ocean in to an area of bitter conflict in the near future.

MoD floats tenders and cancels them with an unbelievable regularity.

Apart from its wits, the Indian Navy will require a large and modern arsenal.

New Delhi’s indecisiveness, inconsistent and callous approach to modernization of the Armed Forces, ignorance, and enormous bureaucratic red tape keeps the Army, Navy and the Air Force under-equipped and devoid of adequate material and human resources to meet the growing threats.

In addition, the ill equipped military requires power projection capabilities to safeguard India’s strategic interests. Even as New Delhi’s weakness allowed India built Zaranj Delaram Highway to slip under Taliban control in Afghanistan, the Chinese lead the great game near Kabul by successfully mining copper.

The irony is that while Indian taxpayer’s money helps rebuild war torn Afghanistan, Beijing walks away with the riches.

…the Indian Army, the Navy and the Air Force are unequal to the task the nation expects them to execute incase push comes to shove.

To cope with a two-front war, the IAF requires 60 air-worthy combat squadrons. The professional assessment to tackle the challenge of a single front war and holding action on the other front requires 45 squadrons.

New Delhi sanctioned 39.5 squadrons, but has indicated intent to raise the squadron strength to 42 by the end of the current decade.

Of the sanctioned strength of combat squadrons, for the IAF only 28.5 remain air-worthy today. Discounting the obsolescent fleet of the MiG 21 as also other ageing aircrafts, the IAF is left with around 22 combat worthy squadrons.

At Aero India 2011, apart from the Su30 MKI display by IAF, rest of it turned out to be nothing more than a vintage aircraft rally!
Moreover, after many years of trials and negotiations, the deal for 197 helicopters was thrown out of the window in the last minute. The tender for 126 MMRCA is languishing for the past eleven years and now runs into problems and complications with the unwieldy offset procedures and Transfer of Technology.When the NDA government was in power, India negotiated for forty Mirages 2000-V. After prolonged negotiations, when the time came to ink the deal, the then Defence Minister decided that he would sign it after the general elections. NDA coalition lost and the UPA government that came to power scrapped the deal. Similarly, a deal for In-flight Refuellers was negotiated over three years. When the deal was about to be inked, the Ministry of Finance suddenly declared that the tankers preferred by the IAF were too expensive. The tender was scrapped.

…without pausing for the mental lethargy of New Delhi, warfare technology has rapidly moved to pilotless or remote controlled vehicles and weapon systems on sea, land and in the air.

In the bargain, the vendors have lost millions of dollars on unproductive effort. Worse, the nation lost credibility in its international dealings and the Air Force its combat power.

With its overall capability severely eroded especially during the last decade, the IAF today no longer spearheads national military power. There is hardly any strategic or tactical airlift capability worth the name. The air defence cover supported by obsolete systems, is porous and there is only a token representation of force multipliers.

The state of the IAF prompted the Chief of the Air Staff to state publicly that fifty percent of the equipment in the IAF was obsolete. Clearly, the IAF is in no shape to support power projection by the nation or to confront its two main adversaries that are rearming and modernizing rapidly.

Beijing and Islamabad are delighted with New Delhis clumsy response.

On the other hand, DRDO and the indigenous aerospace industry continue to devour precious resources that the nation can ill afford but have proved totally incapable of making the nation self reliant in respect of contemporary military hardware.

Global tenders for even desperately needed military equipment remain bogged down in the complex bureaucratic labyrinth of the Defence Procurement Procedure. Ineptitude and apathy of the government is usually cloaked in fiery rhetoric that routinely emanates from the top echelons of national leadership and genuine modernization programmes continue to remain a distant dream.

For the past twenty-five years Ministry of Defence has found itself incapable of finalizing the induction of 155 mm guns for the Regiment of Artillery. The Kargil war was barely managed through extensive cannibalization just to have a few guns firing.

Beijing now influences almost 7500 kms of land opposite Indian borders.

MoD floats tenders and cancels them with an unbelievable regularity.

The Indian Army’s Combat Arms are in a state of crises because of obsolete equipment that was not replaced in the last sixty years.

Tanks and ICVs are night blind without night sights. The MoD is unable to decide between import of Thermal Imager Fire Control System (TIFCS) and Thermal Imager Stand Alone System (TISAS).

Pakistan forces equipped with night vision devices will be sitting behind blind Indian mechanized forces since modern wars will be fought largely at night.

The bewildering variety of antiquated artillery guns-120 mm mortars, 105 mm Field gun, 130 mm Medium gun, 155 mm Gun, 122 mm Howitzer, 122 mm Multi-barreled Rocket Launcher and now Pinaka and Smerch Long Range Systems are a logistician’s nightmare.

Ground based air defence practically is non-existent and devoid of Control and Reporting (C&R) System. Further, air defence is in shambles as L-60 and L-70 guns are of WW II vintage. On the other hand, the Schilka self propelled guns, SAM and OSA-AK missiles are of early 70s vintage. Not a single gun and missile has been acquired since then.

The Infantry soldier fights with a WW II carbine while the terrorist is equipped with AK-47. DRDO has been kept in business by funneling taxpayer’s resources but INSAS rifles and LMG have not proven successful. FINSAS (future infantry soldier as a system) is yet to take off. DRDO continues to copy ideas from the brochures of the western firms, guzzling huge defence budgets, but is unable to produce a simple CQB weapon like a carbine! Communications systems remain antiquated. Fifty percent of the infantry is yet to be equipped with Individual Combat Kit (ICK).

The Navy will be left with nine operational submarines by 2012 against the stated requirement of thirty. Keeping in view the precarious position, I wonder what stopped New Delhi from ordering in a single stroke twelve submarines from the French and simultaneously opening a second submarine manufacturing line with another vendor. The laborious and complicated process of vetting tenders and negotiations provided adequate data to replenish the dwindling submarine resources at one go. Once again, we start this time-consuming tedious process to appoint a second vendor.

The shambles in which the Army, Navy and the Air Force find themselves today tantamount to dereliction of duty by the State, which in turn poses threat to the unity and integrity of the Union.

MoD’s legendary inefficiency extends battle-winning advantages to the enemy.

Meanwhile, without pausing for the mental lethargy of New Delhi, warfare technology has rapidly moved to pilotless or remote controlled vehicles and weapon systems on sea, land and in the air. One can practically look inside the enemy’s house sitting in New Delhi and neutralize the emerging threat by firing a missile with the help of a remote controlled pilotless drone.

We are nowhere near use of such magnificent technologies in spite of the favorable opportunities that exist in the new geopolitical environment.

Technological innovation earlier took a decade to develop. Warfare technology now can be out of date within a year. It is a distinct possibility that with the rapid pace of technological advances in warfare, by the time 126 MMRCA deal is finalized, much of the technology offered by OEMs may be out of date.

With diminishing or ageing population, the West perforce depends more and more on technology. However, as in Libya or Afghanistan unless cutting edge technologies are employed together with sufficient boots on ground, the situation is likely to result in a stalemate.

Luckily, India boasts of young demographic profile in abundance that is sufficiently tech savvy. Yet there is huge shortage of young officers as the government is not willing to give that extra incentive to lure them for a spell of short service commission. This creates vacuum in cohesion at the junior level, so vital to lead the troops.

…with the rapid pace of technological advances in warfare, by the time 126 MMRCA deal is finalized, much of the technology offered by OEMs may be out of date.

When one adds equipment shortage to it, the Indian Army, the Navy and the Air Force are unequal to the task the nation expects them to execute incase push comes to shove.

China and Pakistan’s support to insurgents, Maoists, and dissident groups within India is well documented. Therefore, internal and the external threats are interlinked and require seamless integration between the Civil and the Military.

Despite the grave threat posed by external forces against the Union, the Civil Administration is unwilling to swiftly equip the military with requisite young human resources or the latest technology to cope with the growing security challenge.

Nor the Civil Administration is eager to beef up its own weakening sinews by lateral induction into the civil segment, forty thousand highly skilled young soldiers (and officers) released each year by the Armed Forces

Induction of trained manpower from the military and merger of the military skills with the Civil Administration can be the game-changer effecting increased efficiency.

Induction of personnel equipped with military skills will not only boost the ability to reclaim territory lost but also help to hold the ground subsequently, lest Maoists or insurgents attempt to stage a comeback. Simultaneously, it will dramatically lower the ageing profile of Army, Navy and the Air Force, which is an operational necessity.

This arrangement is a win-win for Civil and the Military.

The shambles in which the Army, Navy and the Air Force find themselves today tantamount to dereliction of duty by the State, which in turn poses threat to the unity and integrity of the Union.

Surrounded by authoritarian regimes, and located within the arch of Islamic terrorism, the Union of India is possibly the largest social experiment in diversity in the 21st century. To keep the Union intact, therefore, it not only requires reversing the swiftly shrinking military capabilities but  a degree of militarization of the pacifist Indian mind as well

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Bharat Verma

A former Cavalry Officer and former Editor, Indian Defence Review (IDR), and author of the books, India Under Fire: Essays on National Security, Fault Lines and Indian Armed Forces.

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7 thoughts on “India’s Shrinking Military Capabilities

  1. A very informative article-The Ministry of Defence urgently needs to 1) Integrate the service HQs & involve them in Decision making 2) The Dept. of Defence production needs a serving 3 star General rank officer to co-ordinate all Defence production 3) all defence Aquisition procedures need to be simplified & made quicker 4) There is a urgent need for a CDS as the final mily.Adviser to the Cabinet 5) A 3 star General needs to inducted into the PMO as mily advisor to the PM & the National Security advisor should be a Retired 4 star Chief of the Services 6) Lateral induction of Ex-Servicenen should be done in BSF,CRPF,CISF,ITBP, state police forces to use their training & skills in Internal security 7) all IB,RAW. ARC & other intelligence agencies MUST be given basic knowledge on Military matters & military operations etc. 8) The Indian Private sector must be allowed full scale entry in making Defence items. These Decisions can start a new healthy chapter in Indian Security & defence matters.

  2. I disagree with lot of stuff author said about Pakistan and China. Though i must admit.

    I would welcome any military coup in India. Democracy works in nation of educated people with social security who have ability to make Political/Social Judgements. In failed states, Mafias manipulate the poor people for vote bank politics. That’s the story of our shit hole country.

    Despite weaknesses and short comings, our military is the only credible institution. The author is cursing incompetent and corrupt Indian Govt since long time. But that will not solve anything.

    Is there a Nationalist Patriotic General in Indian Army who can lead battalion to New Delhi to overthrow this traitorous, corrupt and incompetent leadership? I would welcome such move. We need a Govt of technocratic Patriotic Indians and military has to play important role in it.

    • “Is there a Nationalist Patriotic General in Indian Army who can lead battalion to New Delhi to overthrow this traitorous, corrupt and incompetent leadership?”

      Yes there is

      But he is now on the streets protesting alongside Anna Hazare- Gen VK Singh.
      I also used to think that the Military/intelligence agencies are the only credible institutions in the country. But that was my Naievity.

      Actually the Corrupt Generals are a part of this Mafia. That what happened with Rome. If the military takes over, there will be no space to protest either… like in Kashmir.

      The fact is that the entire defence/security establishment is corrupt to the core. So far they were fooling he commoners by showing a Romaticized image of the Military in the media. But its a big lie. It only now becomes clear to me…
      The situation is grim indeed!

      So the less weapons these Rapacious “Military” Ba$tards have the better. In any case is there is an assault on India, China’s trade with India will be jacked. So they won’t attack.
      Inter-state wars are, fortunately, a thing of the past…. Its a multipolar , global world/

      The true state of Indian mindset itself is being exposed in the last 2 years. Which is why India has been banned from Olympics, Similarly very soon we will be very soon classified for what we actually are – ” a hybrid regime” .

      Indian Military – a bunch of fat-a$$ , rapacious, alchoholic Ba$tards- are not such a great option , if we are to change this country.

      The first phase in the change- is being shown the Mirror.

      India is going thru that phase now.

  3. Reading the article shocks and alarms me. Bharat Verma has exposed the growing gaps in our armed forces. We not only require to purchase latest modern weapons and equipment’s from friendly nations but in large numbers in order to counter threats from both Pakistan and China. China though a bigger and more serious threat to India. We also need help from the US, Europe and other anti chinese Asian jiants to get involved in stepping up their military power and vigil against rogues like china. already Japan is under threat from the slit eyed communist bastards. If we fail to realize these serious issues then China will be the next ruler of India after England.

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