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Sunday February 23, 2020

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The procurement of weapons and munitions for the armed forces has become an exercise in self-delusion. The French Rafale fighter aircraft contract held out to be a paragon of government-to-government deals is still stuck in the price negotiation phase and the first lot of fully operational aircraft is still nowhere on the horizon. The much-touted policy of ‘Make-in-India’ has already shown signs of ending up as another “licence produced” regime whereby knowhow about use of equipment may be exchanged by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) but technology will not be shared.


For the better part of two decades, no new artillery weapon was procured because of the political fallout of the Bofors scandal. Politicians of all hues contributed to a stasis that kept in abeyance even the manufacture within the country of the 155 mm howitzers based on the drawings bought and paid for by India. Finally, the first lot of 40 extended range, longer barrel, and towed artillery gun system named Dhanush is being inducted into the Artillery Regiment of the Indian Army.

In recent times, the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force have voiced their consternation at the lack of investment in modernisation and acquisition of munitions in a likely two-front war situation. We have already seen how both Pakistan and China are stoking the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. The prophesy of a “two-and-a-half front war”—Pakistan and China acting collusively and at the same time, instigating an Islamic fundamentalist uprising in Jammu and Kashmir – is already confronting the nation.

We are forced to recall what the great Indian strategic thinker, Chanakya, had to say about national security. Centuries ago, he had said: “Security of the citizens at peace time is very important because State is the only saviour of men and women who get affected only because of the negligence of the State”. So shall we forget this dictum of Chanakya and firmly believe that no government in India is serious and sincere enough to equip our forces to counter any attack to save its men and women? The current government, which came to power with a massive mandate, has no priority for the procurement process for the defence and security forces as discernable in the paltry budget it has set aside for national security.

We appear to have become caught in a vicious circle of our own making. Our expectation that the foreign OEMs will rush into India and share their technology; and the private sector will replace the Defence Public Sector Undertakings in the manufacture of heavy military equipment has been rudely shattered. The Indian companies are totally dependent on foreign partners for the transfer of technology and the latter is in no hurry to create a competitor in India.

The ‘Make-in-India’ programme has actually collapsed as no big or small manufacturer in India or foreign OEM has invested in the defence and security sector under the programme. Are we befooling ourselves by making such announcements or are we actually a land of fools that no initiative has been taken even by the current government to adequately defend the nation. The entire responsibility lies at the doorstep of the top leadership.

This edition of DSA is focussed on these big hurdles in the procurement process. I am sure that if any of the policy and decision-makers in defence and security reads this edition, he/she will be compelled to rethink as to how they have played fast and loose with national security.

Happy reading and awareness, dear reader!

Jai Hind!

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