Unholy Nexus in Armed Forces

The Indian army is highly disciplined and duty bound force in the world. Unfortunately the perennial corruption in ammunition purchases have affected its image for a very long time. Despite the continuous censoring by the CAG the armed forces haven’t been able to put its honesty in order. The political establishment with the help of crooked agents are mainly responsible for this mess.

The Times of India writes (28 July 2009)

It has been a strange few days for the Indian defence establishment. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) scathing denunciation of the
military’s procurement system exemplified by the long-running fiasco of the Gorshkov carrier deal has been followed by the launch of the INS Arihant, India’s first indigenous nuclear submarine. As a technological achievement, it is significant. Only five other nations have the capability to build nuclear submarines. As the potential third leg of India’s nuclear triad crucial if New Delhi’s no-first use policy is to be credible it becomes even more important. It is a peculiar schizophrenia on display, this simultaneous proof of the defence establishment’s inadequacies and capabilities. But the fact is that of the two, the CAG report paints a far more accurate picture of the entire procurement and development system.

Corruption, of course, is a prime factor here. Kickbacks, backchannel deals armed forcesand tenders tailored to suit certain bids have all played a role in compromising the armed forces’ readiness and capabilities. It plays into another problem the CAG report highlights; a lack of foresight and long-term planning that has crippled the armed forces. There is no clear vision of where the armed forces must be by 2025 or 2030, or quantifiable waypoints to measure progress towards achieving that goal. This lack of forward planning has plagued India for decades. In the years since independence, various administrative and policy structures have been implemented, from five-year defence plans to an Integrated Defence Headquarters. None of them have been truly successful.

It leaves India’s military hobbled by a culture of ad-hocism. This is best exemplified by the aborted initiative to appoint a chief of defence staff in the wake of the Kargil war. Such a position is crucial. A single-point interface between the government and the armed forces would enable coordinated defence planning for all three arms of the military, especially when the trend is increasingly towards joint arms operations, something that India has itself adopted with its new Cold Start doctrine. But as it stands now, there is little coordination between the army, the navy and the air force.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that India is not an aggressive nation, that it seeks only to defend itself. It cannot achieve this if it continues as it is today. The government must realise that planning from year to year is of little use when the gestation period for deals and development projects can stretch into decades. Reforms are needed and needed urgently.


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