BJP Manifesto on Defence: No mention to increase the defence budget beyond annual allocations

Published: April 9, 2019 9:41:55 PM

Little wonder terrorists laugh at the state and Mehbooba Mufti threatens openly. In such environment, the bit about zero tolerance to terrorism is some joke

Little wonder between 2012 and July 2018, FDI in defence was pathetic USD 1.31 million, as Parliament was informed.
By Prakash Katoch
BJP’s Lok Sabha 2019 manifesto makes petite mention of issues related to national security and defence forces: accelerate purchase of ‘outstanding’ defence equipment and weapons, and strengthen military’s strike capability; akin to the AK-203 rifles, joint ventures focused on ‘Make in India in Defence’, to also generate employment and encourage investment in defence; having implemented OROP, promise to create more effective framework for resettlement of soldiers three years before retirement in accordance with their preference; made all necessary efforts to ensure peace in J&K, committed to abrogating Article 370, 35-A, and return of Kashmiri Pandits etc, and; zero tolerance towards terrorism and extremism.
Above signifies that BJP aims to continue in its present avatar of refusing to balance defence and economy, as reinforced by 75 Milestones for India@75 without any to make India militarily strong. The dire need for a national security strategy and a separate focused one to deal with ongoing irregular war finds no mention; ‘retaliatory’ surgical-air strikes not being effective long-term deterrent.
There is no mention to increase the defence budget beyond annual allocations BJP has been dishing out which were negative in annual terms. How does the BJP justify that a civilian-defence employee on an average costing five times his/her uniformed counterpart. With so much talk of ‘nationalism’ why not combatize the civilian-defence employees for better civil-military functioning. What about reorganizing Ministry of Defence and higher defence structures, appointing CDS, and steps to synergize the Army, Navy and Air Force? Strike capability doesn’t’ improve through only importing weapons.
The crying need to privatize governmental defence-industrial sector finds no mention either. ‘Make in India in Defence’ is unlikely to take off without privatization. Little wonder between 2012 and July 2018, FDI in defence was pathetic USD 1.31 million, as Parliament was informed. Kalashnikov wanted the AK-203 venture with Adani Defence but was forced to tie up with Ordnance Factory Board possibly due to the Rafale brouhaha.
Resettlement training for soldiers before retiring has been ongoing past decades. Promise of varied skills training is good but what about lateral entry into other services of those retiring young? Instead of OROP, the BJP did allot OTIP – one time pension increase, and grapevine id this happened due to the abhorrence of the Finance Minister and NSA to Armed Forces. Isn’t this also the reason that peacefully protesting veterans at Jantar Mantar were baton charged by the police?
But there is no need to continue with the propaganda OROP has been granted because no matter how many times a lie is repeated, it can’t become the truth. And, how the BJP would justify denying NFU to serving soldiers by telling the court amongst other reasons, the uniformed are staying in “palatial houses”, when all other government services are authorized NFU and are enjoying the same? Besides, which country places its military below police forces?
As for J&K, which will remain high on national security agenda, it was for all to see how the situation deteriorated with the PDP-BJP alliance and what the after effects have been. We may be killing about 300 terrorists annually but the casualty figures of own security forces have also shot up by over 93% in last five years. Even today, knee-jerk actions continue. For example, we withdraw security of some J&K politicians with much fanfare and then reinstated it less than a fortnight.
What is the big deal about arresting Yasin Malik close to elections, when he has been facing trial for killing four IAF officers in October 1990 and for kidnapping of Rubiya Sayeed, issued passport in contravention to Passport Act, has been visiting abroad including Pakistan and gets stipend from the IB. Little wonder terrorists laugh at the state and Mehbooba Mufti threatens openly. In such environment, the bit about zero tolerance to terrorism is some joke.
It is about time the BJP realizes that: we are at war perpetually fighting hybrid war, so quit saying there will be no war; conventional force and diplomacy are no solution to hybrid war – direct type ground-air strikes included; soft power has little meaning unless backed by hard power, and; neglecting development of border infrastructure, particularly in Arunachal Pradesh, will cost us dearly.
Before becoming Prime Minister, Modi had said he transformed Gujarat with the same bureaucrats and filing system. At that time too, it was pointed out by scholars that the same cannot work in the Ministry of Defence. The question is does the BJP plan to run the show similarly when it comes to power again – sans military professionals? But continuation of Armed Forces as BJP’s ‘blind spot’ will be bad for the nation.
(The author is veteran Lt. General. Views expressed are his personal.)

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