Undoubtedly the allocations for spending on defence needs higher allocations in the forthcoming budgets keeping in mind the present geopolitical situation in the region.
Every elections National Security forms the headlines of the election manifesto of each national level party and this year was no exception. However it was heartening for every Indian to notice that the issue of National Security catapulted from the second last page of the BJP election manifesto 2014 to the first page in 2019. The manifesto starts with a strong resolve of ‘nation first’ and the opening paragraph starts with the tenor of ‘zero tolerance Approach to Terrorism’. This is immediately followed by emphasis on – Strengthening our Armed Forces. The manifesto says, “We will speed up the purchases of outstanding defence related equipments and weapons. In order to equip the Armed Forces with modern equipment, we will continue to take focused steps to strengthen the strike capability of the Armed Forces.” This is followed by bringing attention to a very pertinent issue related to the defence sector – Self Reliance . The manifesto removes all the maze on this issue by stating, ‘In order to ensure self-reliance in procurement of defence equipment, we have taken several effective steps in the last five years. For instance, the most modern AK-203 automatic rifles are being manufactured at Amethi under our ‘Make in India in Defence’ initiative. We are committed to focus on ‘Make in India in Defence’ to enable indigenous production of defence equipment. This will also generate employment and encourage investment in the defence sector.’ The intent of the new government is unequivocally conveyed in the above quoted lines and does not require any more explanations.
It goes without saying that by bringing to fore two most important issues of ‘national security’ and ‘zero tolerance to Terrorism’ , both of which not only effect the common man but also hurt the nation’s sentiments in general, the Modi Team 2.0 has clearly understood the mood of the people. And to undertake steps to work towards their logical conclusions in the next five years is a yeoman task. There is a need to not only strengthen the armed forces but also equip them with requisite weapons and ammunition. We are all aware that procurement of weapons from foreign countries not only entails labyrinthine processes and which at times takes many years. Own defence manufacturing , though in the nascent stage is the right answer for ‘faster procurement and maintenance’ of the weapons and equipment for the future. The fact which the common man does not know probably is that all the macro level procurements for the defence sector fall in the preview of the Ministry of Defence(MoD) and which is headed by the coveted portfolio of Raksha Mantri(RM) and a team of bureaucrats. Hence, the RM plays a very important role in equipping the defence forces and promoting ‘defence readiness’ for any action . In the past, the MoD has come under scanner for many defence deals and in some cases the logical conclusions are not yet out even after many years of investigation which are full of allegations and counter allegations. At present all the three arms of the defence forces namely Army, Navy and Airforce are battling with gross shortages in terms of shortage /vintage of important weapons/ weapon systems/ weapon platforms. Reports about shortage of fighter aircrafts, submarines, light machine guns, tanks as well as essential equipment have been highlighted in the media. There are two factors which presumably could have effected the lack of timely purchases. One, the tenures of RMs have been very short . We have had 28 RMs alongside 14 Prime Ministers since independence. Out of the 28 , only 4 completed more than 4 years in office and 14 were there in office for approximately an year. On six occasions the PMs have officiated as RMs. On three occasions the RM was there for less than three months. Now everyone is aware that the defence deals take a long time and frequent changes in the person at helm is bound to effect the timelines of purchase. Two, anyone who takes up this portfolio takes time to understand the pulse of the defence forces and its requirements on ground. Ironically, the MoD has very miniscule presence of serving officers from the defence forces or the veterans as part of bureaucracy, hence the requirements on ground take time to be projected and understood. Though in Indian democratic system the President is the Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces however , it’s the RM who has to see the day to day developments in the forces and connect with the troops. In the past, we have seen on umpteen occasions when the RM has left his office in South Block and gone and interacted with the troops deployed in the inhospitable terrains. Such visits not only raised the morale of the troops but also helped the RM understand the difficulties of the soldiers and the units guarding our borders, the ships guarding the seas or the planes guarding the skies. After all he is directly responsible for ensuring the battle worthiness of the forces. In a good strong economy, a strong and well equipped defence forces are a must for which there is a strong need for a strong, stable and experienced RM. Our adversary for many years has been doing huge budgetary allocations for defence production and procurements or indigenously manufacturing weapons. The Team Modi 2.0 has made a right choice in choosing the Mr Rajnath Singh, for this job, who is a right blend of experience, strength and courage required for onerous task of RM to make India a regional power in a $5 trillon economy in near future . He has proved his mettle as a home minister for full five years in the previous team , during which he has closely worked with the paramilitary forces of the nation and made them into a well-oiled machinery. He being the number two in the previous and present government, commands good respects and a speckless record in getting the work done. We hope that now as the nation’s RM he gets unstinted support in his task of upgrading the defence forces from other members of the Cabinet and adequate budgetary allocations are made available for the defence sector not only in the budget 2019 but also in the coming five years. Once the Budgetary allocations for defence , the RM’s resolve for modernisation and the vision of attaining strong National Security paradigm are in sink India will emerge as a regional giant.