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The rise of India as a global player

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There is much speculation about the rise of India as a global player, both within the country and outside. Expectations are that the country will grow, in every sense of the word, to claim its place on the global high table. The current economic and political glitches notwithstanding, there is belief that India will find its role, sooner rather than later. Surveys and research papers are produced to underline this expectation. But there are certain fundamentals that have yet to be addressed, let alone overcome, before the country can be considered to have become a world player.


These range from the political, social, economic to the military aspects of being a global power. They are far too many to be discussed and dissected in about 500 words. But for its soft power achievements, India has to go a long way in order to be accepted as a global player. It is important, therefore, to be dispassionate in accepting the shortcomings that prevent India from becoming a world power. Chief amongst which is the role of its military in power projections and power statements. Ever since the disaster of Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka, 1987-90, India as a polity has been chary of discussing the projection of its military power. Granted that the military itself needs to be re-jigged in order to play 21st century power projection roles, but it is largely political deficiencies that prevent India from emerging as a new global power. The political class remains ignorant of military shortcomings, as well the potential of its power.

There is a fundamental defect in the structure and functioning of the Ministry of Defence. Much has been written about this subject. But what remains under-reported and therefore grossly misunderstood, is the importance of a domestic defence industrial base in order for the country to grow as a military power. Defence industry as it currently exists in the country is limited in technology, vision and capabilities. For far too long it has been a preserve of the PSUs and their Ordnance clones. And this is its biggest failing thus far. Even as the people of India globalise and integrate on equal terms with the developed world, the Indian defence sector remains mired in splendid isolation. But for a few technically acceptable items most of the Indian defence industry depends on imports that are assembled in the country and then marketed to the military. This cosy monopoly situation has given the military second rate equipment, at unacceptable prices. The Tatra truck scam is simply the most obvious one. There are many more that are currently happening. The current arrangement is convenient for a few corrupted military men, bureaucrats and politicians. No effort is required to select the best, because that is simply out of reach. So the handout is acceptable and sold as an achievement.

India will never be a world power unless it demonstrates a strong domestic defence industrial base. It is only when the Indian military, on overseas missions, fly, drive and sail in Indian made equipment would the country be regarded as having arrived. Because the original owner of the equipment can simply deny India permission from using its equipment outside of the country. Which then means the Indian military is vulnerable to international vendors and their political authorities. This is an unacceptable situation for a country poised to play a greater global role. The sooner this is resolved the better it is for Indian enterprise, innovation, the economy and its military might.

 


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