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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! (October 2015)

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The People’s Liberation Army of China has recently announced that it would be shedding about 300,000 troops from its standing manpower strength. What makes it even more noteworthy is that the plan is to complete the trimming in 2017. In routine course such cuts take time to be worked out, calculated and an even longer time to implement. It isn’t an easy exercise to shed weight, let alone hundreds of thousands of troops of an army that happens to be one of the principal power players in a country that seeks the world stage. China aims to do just that.

There are lessons in this for India, not because it is going to make the border standoff between the countries any more solution friendly. Far from it. The reasons that it should be of interest to India range from the everyday logistical, pay and allowances and tactical, to the larger philosophical ones that cover everything from the nature of future conflict, national security threats, economic and strategic logic of pursuing those targets. And to the most cost effective way to managing and overcoming those threats. Of course the nature of threats and challenges faced by China are vastly dissimilar to those confronting India.

India must nevertheless analyse and understand the motives behind China’s move and draw lessons from it if New Delhi seeks to usher in a new era for defence and security in the country. In this regard, as a first step, the closure of the One-Rank-One-Pension issue is a most welcome development. No country can be secure and progress if its most valuable option, its soldiers, are disquieted by developments that impinge on their sustenance. A lot of morale is affected by the economic well-being of a soldier. So progress on that front is welcome and provides an opportunity to look ahead. The same should be carried out in the new pay commission.

A relook at the entire gamut of defence and security must happen periodically for factors that affect are not constant. Since society and the factors governing threats are dynamic so should be the nature of national defence and security. Static thinking, planning and rigid structures, are a thing of the past. The need is for a new paradigm in defence and security, with a view to instilling dynamism. Every aspect needs to be looked into, analysed in detail and appropriate conclusions derived.

A crucial question always is how much is enough. There is no fixed formula for this and since not much effort is devoted to threat analysis, the easiest option is always to keep expanding. Constantly adding numbers, without a worry for the consequences, since it is the least troublesome option. Mass provides muscle, so the thinking goes. And the expansion of various central police organisations, elements of the army and other defence structures, continues unabated. This needs to be rationalised, for the 21st century order is also about technology. It isn’t simply a question of constantly raising battalions, but the judicious application of force so as to get the best performance from national resources.

Such resources must be placed on the table when looking at the restructuring of national defence and security. A thorough analysis of each service has to be done, starting with the most difficult of all, the army. And it must include all CPOs too. How they are structured, trained and deployed for the tasks at hand. Only then will the duplication of duties, excess baggage and lack of jointmanship come to the fore. The three armed forces have to be pushed into creating Tri-Service structures. The sooner they begin the process, less painful the result. The delays till now have cost India valuable time, money and capabilities. Integrated armed forces and integrated police security structures is a requirement of the future and the time is now. Even as it enhances capabilities, integration also encourages efficiencies of economy. In the current economic climate that is also a vital requirement.

All too often the word modernisation is equated with newer weapon systems, from small arms to heavy combat aircraft. Modern weapons certainly make a difference, but what makes the most impact is new thinking, training, planning, technology lethal or non-lethal and the systems that draw out the best from all of these features. That requires modern thoughts, so as to create modern structures, which then will fight modern wars with modern weapons. The nature of war has changed, so has weaponry, but structures continue to remain antiquated. 21st century challenges can only be met by 21st century manpower, structures and technology. Fitting each essential piece of the jigsaw is critical.

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