June 23, 2008

Shortage of officer-level personnel in the army and signals from the border


By V. Shanmuganathan

India wants to maintain good relations with her neighbours. Our armed forces are not provocative. India never tried to enter into any confrontation with any country. We always try to develop friendly relations with our neighbours. Of late, certain tensions are mounting on the borders. We cannot ignore our neighbouring country’s army personnel crossing our border and making incursions. We have to be alert, ever vigilant and our armed forces must be fully prepared to face any eventuality at any time. We share a border of thousands of kilometers with China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. World knows that Pakistan is encouraging the cross border terrorism to create tension on day-to-day basis.

In spite of our long history of continuous friendship with the people of Nepal, developments during and after elections draw our attention. The track record of the Maiosts who have staked their claim to power in Nepal is not positive. Attacks in the past by them on Indians and Indian interests in Nepal, their leader’s open warning to India after the elections, the violation of Indian borders by their cadres give cause for concern.

The border between India and China is currently defined by a 4,056 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) which is neither marked on the ground nor on mutually acceptable maps. Efforts to have a recognised LAC since the mid 1980s through a Joint Working Group (JWG) of officials and experts have made little headway.

China is still holding a large chunk of territory in Kashmir, 38000 sq.km. (14,670 sq. miles) of Aksai Chin, which it seized after the 1962 blatant invasion, and claims more.

Another 5,180 sq.km. (2000 sq. miles) of northern Kashmir was given by Pakistan to Beijing as price for an all weather friendship pact signed in 1963. China had already built a road through Aksai Chin linking Tibet with its Zinjiang province before it laid an aggressive claim on it. Now it seeks a political solution, not a technical one, to the border problem.

Chinese soldiers were coming deeper into our territory, inside Arunachal Pradesh. There had been 270 incursions last year alone.

The Chinese troops were preventing locals from going up to regions where they had been taking their animals for grazing.

There was a statue of the Buddha well inside Indian territory. Local inhabitants used to go upto it and make their prayers and offerings. The commander of the Chinese troops had asked Indian soldiers to remove the statue. Our soldiers had pointed out that the statue was well within Indian territory. And so there was no question of removing it. The Chinese troops came and blown off the statue. China has developed several launching pads by Land Sea and air to strike at the enemy country’s targets. In this background we must be truly prepared to deal with Chinese incursions, simultaneously we have to counter Pakistan’s proxy war.

We need to develop a strong and modern armed force to protect our border. Our armed forces must be ever ready to face any eventuality.

We have approximately 11,00,000 Army personnel. 140 Sukhoi aircrafts are getting added to the Indian Air Force presently. INS Jalashwa has been purchased. Moderanisation of the Army, the Navy and Air Force must be the top most priorities.

Along the border states’ infrastructure must be developed on an emergency basis. Most modern roads, railway lines and air fields are necessay to be built along the border areas of J&K, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and the states bordering Myanmar.

Our defence forces are facing several problems. There is a shortage of officers in all the three services. The Army is still holding obsolete Air Defence Equipment and needs to make its deficiencies to manageable levels. The Air Force is much below its minimum holding of 39.5 squadron of combat aircraft. The Navy is at a low of 131 ships against a minimum holding of 140.

We still have neither a clearly enunciated National Security Policy nor a defence policy document.

There should be a comprehensive defence review based on “Thereat Perception”.

The perspective plan should be based on an analysis likely to be reviewed in future with evaluation of options and alternatives.

The ‘Tehalka episode’ and accusation of kickbacks have created caution and reluctance of taking any deep interest in defence deals. The problem is our faulty acquisition plans and system where a lot of reforms are necessary.

Defence material is generally not available on the shelf. Moreover, technological advances are quite rapid and by the time an equipment or weapon system gets outdated when it actually arrives after purchase deal. Thus its effectiveness or usage gets marginalised. Defence actuations have to be planned in advance, taking into consideration our planned capabilities and modernisation plans ahead.

Our R&D constitutes a mere 6.1 per cent of the defence budget. But of this, a mere 7 to 10 per cent is spent on fundamental research whereas the bulk goes for the import of foreign technologies. We need to provide sophisticated weaponry to our infantry battalions. This is possible only when we make sufficient allocation for defence.

While making allocations to our defence forces, we need to consider the amount that our potential adversaries are spending on defence and their state of preparedness and capabilities.

A quick look of Pakistan and China defence spending for the year 2008-09 would show that their enhancement of capabilities is much higher than ours. Pakistan allocated 3.5 per cent of the GDP on defence by the year 2008-09, whereas China has allocated 4.3 per cent of GDP foe defence.

In terms of GDP allocation, there has been a downward trend in the last five years, that is, from 2.14 per cent in 2004-05 to 1.99 per cent in 2008-09. In our country, Rs 1,05,600 crore was allocated for defence during 2008-09.

Apart from the allocation of funds, and availability of modern weapons, the support the countrymen gives more encouragement and increases the morale of the armed forces. Our Indian Army is known for its ‘will to succeed’ with discipline, dedication and determination. Kargil was the first war victory of Indian Army in the full glare of television. The battle of Monte Casino fought during the Second World War, said to be one of the toughest of mountain warfare. That success appears to be dwarfed before Kargil victory. The war at the peak of Kargil displayed the most conspicuous bravery of the Indian Army personnel.

(The writer is additional secretary of BJP Parliamentary Party.)

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