Also, National security architecture- CDS as given in the 2014 manifesto; strengthen peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
From an effective Pakistan policy to keep terrorism below subcritical levels, five years committed “Roll on defence budget”, Kashmir strategy, modernisation of the armed forces are some of the critical issues that will need to be addressed on an urgent basis by the new government.
Experts sharing their views with the Financial Express Online to deal with new challenges in the neighbourhood as well geo-politically, there should be a full-time defence minister as that will further streamline decision making which will be related to critical procurements of state-of-the-art equipment as well as emerging security challenges armed forces face.
According to Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (retd), former DGMO and Colonel of the Parachute Regiment, the priority agenda for new government in the security domain includes a cogent and mid to long term Kashmir strategy to include the `4Es’: Education, employment generation, economic development and empathy for the people.” Also, National security architecture- CDS as given in the 2014 manifesto; strengthen peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
Modernisation of the armed forces a continuous process needs impetus.
Bhatia suggests inclusive defence reforms to revamp structures and organisations like Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), Directorate General Quality Assurance (DGQA) and others with the aim of achieving self-reliance in defence manufacturing and cut down imports.
Says Air Marshal Nirdosh Tyagi (retd), former Deputy Chief of Air Staff, “Issues including the defence budget, indigenisation, modernisation and procurement for the armed forces need to be addressed on urgent basis. The defence budget will need to have a re-look as the interim budget reduced defence budget in real terms. New govt will need time to get going. This means half year lost for modernization. Modernization budget should be enhanced adequately so that new schemes can be contracted after meeting committed liabilities.”
Make in India: Due to the changing security situations in the region, modernisation and indigenisation are critical for the armed forces who despite the fast-tracking of certain systems continue to wait for the state-of-the-art weapons system.
While concerted effort is required for Make in India to make an impact in the defence sector, large value weapon systems will have to be inducted through import route in foreseeable future.
“Capability to produce defence equipment in India is an important strategic requirement. It results in cost savings, employment generation and reduces the possibility of sanctions or denial by the supplier nations,” points out Tyagi.
However, according to him, the budget is not the appropriate tool to encourage this. Services require suitable equipment to be ready to meet any operational contingency. Fulfilment of such requirements cannot be deferred to accommodate equipment which is still in the design and development stage with an uncertain outcome.
There have been many success stories in the recent past, mainly due to the effort of DRDO. The Aakash surface to air missile has been inducted in large numbers by the Air Force and the Army. An ecosystem has been created wherein many MSMEs participate actively.
The Indo-Russia joint venture of BrahMos missile system has been indigenised much beyond the level of 50%. Astra Beyond-Visual-Range air to air missile is another success story. A large number of ground-based radars have been designed and manufactured in India. AEW&C, Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas’ Advanced Light Helicopter `Dhruv’ and Light Combat Helicopter deserve mention here` and in the Indian Navy, most of the ships are manufactured in India.
Still, a large number of systems on the ships are imported. Same is the case with LCA, ALH and LCH. “India has a long way to go in self reliance because we do not manufacture wide range components and devices for electronic systems,” he points out.
According to Tyagi, “Materials are another weak area. The design capability for aviation systems is also not very strong. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has not been able to design and produce Intermediate Jet Trainer despite making claims to this effect over 10 years back. They are also struggling with Basic Trainer aircraft.”
The public sector has failed to progress beyond licensed production. Private sector participation needs to be encouraged much more than what has been done so far.
He adds, “Most pressing issue for the IAF is dwindling fighter strength. Tender for 114 fighters must be released on priority. The government must encourage private sector participation by finalizing Strategic Partners for various sectors.