Since the abrogation of article 370 last year, there has been much hullabaloo of retaking Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (So called Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan) especially by the leaders of the ruling dispensation. This idea has also occupied the imagination of many Indians, young & old alike. I am also mesmerised by this idea. I do understand that it would be a long-drawn process & would take sincere effort & patience. A very important tool for achieving this is military force. When I started delving deeper into this domain, I realised we are far from prepared to undertake a military offensive against Pakistan with the aim of retaking what we lost in 1947-48.
So, I decided to write this piece to bring before you the sorry state of our military modernisation in the past thirty years. All three forces are grappling with delays in hardware procurement. Our North-western enemy even with a broken economy & a begging bowl has plundered its national resources & has managed to establish a deterrence because of our lacklustre modernisation efforts. The situation is such that Our forces have to wait for one to two decades to receive the hardware they demand.
There has been an upward trend in military modernisation since the current regime came to power but whatever they have done is much less in comparison to what’s required. The UPA government made military procurement a foreign policy tool to woo the western nations whose arms companies lined up in New Delhi for the vast number of lucrative deals. This policy has proven disastrous for the armed forces as it has further slowed down decision making under the pressure of various domestic & foreign lobbies.
The airforce has a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons, but in past 2 decades, there has been a freefall in squadron numbers because of accidents, the retirement of older aircraft & unavailability of newer aircraft to fill up the squadrons.
In the year 2001, the Indian airforce asked for 126 multi-role combat aircraft to replace its ageing fleet of Russian MiG aircraft. The process lasted 15 years with the acquisition of just 36 Rafale in 2016, of which deliveries have started just this year.
On the force multiplier front, we have only 5-6 AEW&CS aircraft while Pakistan fields 11, no need to mention about the Chinese. The process of acquiring more is moving at a lacklustre pace.
Many may not know, but the lack of enough numbers of AEW&CS aircraft & SDR (Software-defined radio) led the 27th February 2019 debacle when Pakistan airforce retaliated after the February 26th Balakot strikes.
The Navy had a plan (1999) to acquire 24 conventional Submarines by 2020. A deal for acquiring 6 Scorpene class diesel-electric submarines from France was inked in 2005. The construction is eight years behind schedule & till now only 4 of the 6 have been inducted & that too without their main underwater weapon: “Blackshark torpedoes”.
The navy has no minesweepers, leaving our ports vulnerable to blockade by enemy’s mines & all its ship-borne helicopters are ageing & on their last legs.
The army is manpower dependent & still reliant on the game of numbers. Army recruitment rallies for the lower ranks is seen as an employment generation scheme by the political class.
The army is lacking or underprepared in so many areas. From anti-tank guided missiles to sniper rifles to short-range air defence elements to helicopters. Each year of delay multiplies the burden of a backlog. The larger picture of the burden of this backlog suffocates my imagination.
Indian Army’s Artillery modernisation plan of 1999 asked for induction of 3000 155mm guns by 2020. Till date, only about 350 guns have been ordered & some delivered.
To mount a successful offensive on Pakistan occupied Kashmir, India needs a minimum 80 of Chinook/Osprey type platforms for speedy movement of forces & logistics. We bought only 15!
Considering the above, it would be better advised to the government to give a serious push to modernisation efforts of the three forces. If the present attitude continues, Pakistan (with Chinese aid) will close the capability gap or even exceed in some areas. In that scenario, we may witness multiplication of our internal threat.
Image Courtesy: PTI