Analysing India's Defense Preparedness

February 10, 2009
Sandeep Bansal

The tempers have risen in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks. The attacks brought a renewed attention to India's defense preparedness and capabilities. Even as I am writing this blog, Pakistan is expected to give its reply to the Indian dossier. As per the reports, there is nothing new in the reply and Pakistan is going to simply deny the Indian charges. Surely, the coercive diplomacy hasn't yielded any major results.

So what are the other options before India. According to the Asia Times Online article, the military option is certainly not there. Not just because of threat of Nuclear weapons but because of the lack of preparedness. In fact the article mentioned above claims that it was Indian Army that had backed out of a full scale. This isn't something new that we are hearing. India's last major military conflict was Kargil, about 10 years. Kargil review committee had also raised several questions. the Israeli Ambassador in New Delhi, Mark Sofer, has said that his country had assisted India in 'turning around' the situation during the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan.

Kargil war was a narrow miss for India. It happened between May-July 1999. Had we not received Israel's support, the outcome wouldn't have been the same. Especially because winters were fast approaching and it would have been virtually impossible to continue with the conflict because enemy had an advantage of height. This would have given adequate time to the Pakistanis to build adequate defenses. Israel is surely a key ally for India, and it wasn't really a co-incidence that there were not too many harsh statements from Indian Govt in response to the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

If we look back at even earlier times, during the 1962 War, India did not fully use its air-power even though it was much more advanced than the Chinese and could have easily slowed their movements.

But have we really learned anything from the past and are we prepared for the future challenges? Sadly, the answer is a NO. India's defense modernization plan is stuck under red-tape and numerous delays. For example - Following the Bofors Gun scandal, no subsequent Govt. had the guts to acquire this gun even though it has proved its worth and was even instrumental during the Kargil conflict.The Arjun Tank, LCA and other important project with the DRDO are miles away from induction. Even the recent BrahMos missile failed its induction test.

India has historically depended on Russia for its arms supply. However, lately there has been blatant arm-twisting by the Russians on the Gorshkov and the LCA engines. It is therefore important for to move out from the Russian claws. The Russian weapon systems are no more cost effective, while their quality control and delivery schedules have always been unreliable.

India's defense spending recently fell below 2% of its GDP, far below 3-3.5% of GDP which is considered to be safe. This is much lower when compared to its neighbors such as China and Pakistan who spend close to 5% of their GDP on defense. China recently got the capability to shoot down spy satellites and also successfully sent a man to space. On the other hand, India's space program continues to largely civilian oriented. China has already build up a good road infrastructure along its borders with India and thus is in a much better prepared.

Turning attention to our internal security, the situation is once extremely bad. Naxalism continues to remain the biggest threat. But we are not tackling it politically. Chattisgarh will raise an elite commando unit on the lines of the Greyhounds(Source). But this wouldn't solve the real issues. The Bangladeshi refugee continue to remain a big security threat for us. Many of them have been in the country for almost 30 years and have even acquired voter cards. Unfortunately, this matter is being politicized by the so called secular forces. Most of the Bangladeshi refugee are Muslims and thus are steady vote bank for them. Other than BJP, none of the parties have really raised this issue. POTA which was brought in by the BJP was branded as anti-Muslim. Now the Congress Govt. has brought in a new anti-terror law, which not quite different from POTA.

I can understand that we are a developing nation and have only a limited budget when it comes to defense spending, but surely we can spend the money allocated to defense in a much more efficient manner. Moreover, at least on matters such as defense and internal security, our politicians should show some amount of consensus.

A management student .... interested in exploring views of fellow netizens through blogs. I read more than 30 blogs on diverse topics regularly. My personal blog is at http://sandywriter.blogspot.com/.
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February 12, 2009
12:31 AM

Yeah, we Indians seem to be more preoccupied with pink chaddis and stuff, and leave out the real issues.

February 12, 2009
01:22 AM

Defense spending under UPA has fallen to less than 2% of GDP and less than 1/3rd of that money is actually got spent under UPA rule. UPA has clogged the defense modernization into red tape and burocracy. Less than 10% of procurement budget actually got spent for procurement under UPA. UPA is doing Rang De Basanti on India's defense preparedness - not mere assassination of defense minister, but assassination of entire Indian defense establishment, by starving it.

Sandeep Bansal
February 12, 2009
01:41 AM

Not just that, some of our leaders particularly the Left do not want the Nuclear Deal and instead suggesting to have the Iran-Pakistan-India Gas link, thus giving Pakistan a permanent tool to bargain. Russia has shown fuel can be used as a means to bargain in the Europe.

Ayan Roy
February 12, 2009
01:57 AM

I cannot say how authentic this website (http://www.globalfirepower.com) is (it quotes CIA factbooks), but according to the numbers posted here, India is still superior to Pakistan in terms of sheer numbers, but way inferior when it comes to manpower/artillery/hardware/missles per capita and per square kiliometer

India's defence strength:

Pakistan's defence strength:

February 12, 2009
02:17 AM

One main hurdle in indigenous development of weapons is the inability to attract talent because of pay commission limitations on salaries which is truly a pittance by today's standards.

We Indians boast that we are the best and brightest, but it is an irony that we can't develop and produce something similar to the Bofors howitzer which is 25 years old in terms of technology. Same with the case of the main Battle Tank.

Either privatise R&D or increase the pay scale of the govt depts. The latter is a lot easier (politically and otherwise), but it is sheer apathy on the part of the successive govts to not do something about this.

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