The Standing Committee on Defence (SCoD) routinely laments, and admonishes the MoD officials for inadequacy of the defence budget. But it has not been able to suggest anything better than that the defence budget should be increased to 3 per cent of the GDP which begs the question where the money is going to come from. On its part, the MoD seems to think that the problem can be solved by delegating more financial powers to the Services, tweaking the procurement procedures, and enforcing indigenisation of defence production by banning import of defence items. These are not practical solutions, as these skirt the basic question: Where is the money?
Sh Surjeet Singh Deswal, IPS, is also a law graduate. Before taking over as DG, ITBP, he held the positions of Commissioner of Police & Director General in various departments of Police force. He has also headed SSB & BSF for some time. He has been awarded the Indian Police Medal for meritorious service in 2001 & President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service in 2012. As DG,ITBP, he has taken initiatives like maintaining physical fitness of the personnel and proposed tourism in the Himalayas and gave the message of clean Himalayas by visiting difficult border areas on foot and boosted the morale of Himveers.
In the current charter issued by the government, big-ticket acquisitions will remain in the defence secretary’s purview and thus final negotiations with foreign collaborators / Indian defence public sector undertakings or Indian private industry rests with the DoD and the defence secretary. Delays as earlier are likely to remain and it is surprising that with “Make in India” and “Start-up India”—the PM’s pet initiatives—have not taken off, yet the government persists in following the old structures.
Best strategy for India will be to continue to engage Iran on both fronts. Simultaneously, keep seeking concessions from USA for oil trade and Chabahar Port. India could be a more acceptable link between Iran and USA. Any overtures to Iran cannot be at the cost of India’s relations with Saudi Arabia and UAE links to which are even more important currently. In next two decades, the emergence of alternative energy sources will reduce the importance of oil. West Asia will still remain an important trade route to Europe and Central Asia. ‘Wait and Watch’ will be the best policy for India.
The US and Iran need a third party mediation to de-escalate the tension and normalise relations. India is a strong contender to take on this mantle and broker peace between the two belligerents. Prime Minister Modi has a strong rapport with President Trump and President Rouhani, and with India, being close to the region with strong cultural and religious ties, it is in our interest that positive steps are taken to bring both the leaders to the negotiating table in New Delhi. Apart from stabilising our extended neighbourhood the strategic gains are immense.
Relations between USA and Iran started deteriorating with Trump applying the policy of “maximum pressure” for a regime change in Tehran. Although other Western signatories to the deal viz UK, France and Germany including Russia and China voiced their strong opposition to Trump’s policy and actions, they could do precious little to stop reinstitution of the sanctions against Iran and a stop to oil imports by all countries including India, China and others who had been provided a waiver in the past.