Last 75 years, the Indian defence establishment has come a long way. The country is safe and sound and the enhanced defence prowess, key strategic arrangements with global players including Russia and the United States now proves that it is a ‘New India’ — wherein military capabilities do keep pace with the diplomatic outreach and perhaps also with geographical ambitions.
But ‘transitions’ continue to be the nature of the international security environment. The post-Cold War security environment had thrown challenges to India’s national security interests. Going nuclear was almost a necessary option. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee guided India to attain this.
In terms of futuristic plans, there is a need to redefine ‘national interests’ from time to time.
The Americans do it best. Hence, their policy also changes.
India is learning things fast. In strategic terms, India is now having much enhanced defence cooperation with the US. This has changed the international dynamics altogether.
The Modi government has been realistic and hence has kept friendship with players like Russia.
Today, India’s domestic constraints are transforming and New Delhi is seeking to play a greater role globally. Of course, the importance of defence as an instrument of authority will increase in times to come.
Over the years a written documentation on defence policy was not there. This, however, did not affect following a structured defence policy line by subsequent governments.
In 2020, under the Modi government, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) formulated a draft Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy 2020 (DPEPP 2020).
“The DPEPP 2020 is envisaged as an overarching guiding document of MoD to provide a focused, structured and significant thrust to defence production capabilities of the country for self-reliance and exports,” said an official statement.
Thus, when we need to study the country’s defence preparedness, we realise that there are two cornerstones in the journey. One is Tomorrow’s Conflicts and the other – of course – is Today’s Capabilities.
How has India’s defence journey evolved?
India has a history of being a rich civilisation. Since ages India has been self-contained and self-satisfied.
The Indian story has also banked on ‘rich civilization’ believing in its spiritual and value-oriented strengths.
In more ways than one, India developed a defensive mindset. We were never an aggressive
power. Since independence, the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru did his part but there
were issues of limitations and a few faultlines. He pushed a line that good foreign policy and diplomatic maturity can work out a good defence policy for India. But 1962 proved how wrong he was!
Just before the advent of the new century, the Kargil conflict had occurred.
The Kargil Review Committee Report after scrutinizing things in detail had emphasized the need for changes in the national security system and for evolving a better defence and strategic management.
A Report from the Group of Ministers had said – “Indeed, in just the last decade, India’s security scenario has witnessed nothing short of sea change as a result of the end of the Cold War, the proxy war in Kashmir, militancy fuelled from abroad in many parts of the country, the Revolution in Military Affairs and the increasing nuclearisation of the neighbourhood.”
L K Advani (Home), George Fernandes (Defence), Jaswant Singh (External Affairs) and Yashwant Sinha (Finance) – four top ministers in the Vajpayee cabinet – had worked on this.
It stated that the external environment and internal situation of a country do not subsist in watertight compartments but act and react to each other in ways which affect its security.
“In today’s interdependent world, the distinction between internal and external security concerns often gets blurred”, the GoM headed by Advani had said.
Three years – 1965, 1971 and 1972 — defence and security related developments have been crucial for
India. After 1962 debacle against China, Pakistan had embarked on an ‘ill thought out venture’ and the resulting conflict in September 1965. According to Vice Admiral K K Nayyar, the 1965 war proved that Pakistan could not wrest Kashmir from India.
Of course in Jan 1966, the Tashkent Agreement brought a tentative peace. But strategically what was ignored to be noted was that immediately the pact had led to the destabilisation of the Ayub Khan government in Islamabad.
These had security and defence related implications for India.
Next, in 1971 — the US embassy in Islamabad had reported that the Sino-Pak bond had an “emotional quality” and that was lacking in Islamabad’s ties with the US and the USSR. In December 1971, Pakistan lost its eastern wing and Bangladesh was created.
In terms of Doctrines, in the 1980s there came up something called Sundarji Doctrine.
This basically made up of seven defensive “holding corps” of the Army and deployed near the Pakistani border.
But the limitation of the Sundarji doctrine was exposed on December 13, 2001, when five Pakistani terrorists attacked the Parliament. Twelve people, including the five gunmen, were killed and 22 were injured.
India later worked on Operation Parakram and it came out with Cold Start doctrine in 2004.
It involved the various branches of India’s military conducting offensive operations and sought to allow India’s conventional forces to perform holding attacks to prevent a nuclear retaliation from Pakistan in case of a conflict.
Planning, Limitations and need for acquisitions
India’s defence production has been generally dependent on acquisitions from players such as Russia, the US, Israel and lately from France. The purchase of Rafale fighter jets to fill an operation void in the Air Force was marred by political controversies.
There is of course a need for high-quality indigenous defence production. But ‘Make in India’ came in late and insiders in the MoD say ‘unless measures’ are taken to boost capital acquisitions without compromising the welfare of military men and women, things could stand as a distance dream.
In this context, it will be vital to analyse Budget allocations (in 2016-17 for example). Nearly 2.26 percent of GDP was ear-marked for the defence budget. This was pegged at USD – 52.2 billion defence budget. The Army walked away with 52 per cent while 22 per cent went to the Air Force and only 16 per cent for the Indian navy.
Now crucial figures — of these, 60 per cent went for revenue expenditures and 28 for capital expenditures and only 12 per cent could be allocated for Capital Acquisitions. So, the urgency is understood when experts say the table must be ‘reversed’. This is certainly a tall order.
Box:: Future Tense
# Critics often say taking advantage of ‘powers’ reposed in them, the Babus and Indian neta class
often become pretenders of knowledge and experts. Around 2000, about 22 years, Lt Gen Trigunesh Mukherjee had said – “The crying need of the hour is to get specialists and professionals to oversee” the functioning of the defence ministry. The culture of Babus managing everything from Animal Husbandry to Defence should be discouraged.
In terms of administration, some experts prefer the German model wherein the Defence Minister has ‘parallel relation’ with the Chief of Staff, respective heads of all three armed forces. Under this, Integration is easy and effective.
# There is a need to develop a Training module and keep things updated. It is said the more soldiers sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.
# Change is the order of the day. So, forces need to keep themselves updated and government’s policy should not be bogged down by the sentiment of old legacy and so on — One round of change had taken place in the defence and strategic realm after the Cold war.