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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Analysing India's defense preparedness

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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. Infact 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 commitee 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 recieved 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 really learnt 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 intrumental 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, oour politicians should show some amount of consensus.


  1. Very well analysed. India's defence preparedness has been compromised because no one is accountable. Except for purely operational matters, the control is with babus who are not answerable to anyone and look upon defence deals as no different from other deals from which they can profit. There zero understanding of the value of time and need for building military power as a vital element of foreign policy

  2. Very true, Vinod. In the US, it is quite common for former Military personal to join politics. John Mc Cain, the Republican candidate for US President is a veteran of the Vietnam War. Naturally this means that there is a greater understanding for strategic issues.

  3. India's air force squadrons are under capacity
    Most of them are in their retirement stage..
    India's aircraft carrier Viraat is again in the phasing out stage and their aren't any signs of Gorshkov yet!!

  4. @Ankit
    Welcome to the blog. u r rite. India is planning to induct 126 fighter aircrafts. INS Viraat has been on extension period for sometime now. IINS Vikramaditya or Gorbashov is being delayed primarily becoz the Russians are now demanding more money. This has been their latest tactic. No more are they driven by their anti-capitalistic ideology.

  5. Wonderful Collection of facts and very nicely put.I loved it.

    Just read somewhere about our military preparedness. It does sound like we will be in much better position by 2017 (still far though :-) ). We will have fighter planes, we will have scorpene submarines from France, we will have our own submarine project- ATV completed, we will have Agni-2 and Agni-3 Ready ( they are still not being inducted ). we will have K-15, its a SLBM(Submarine launched ballistic missile) with which we will complete our nuclear triad.
    We will also have BMD (Ballistic missile defence) system ready, we will have new radars from Israel.Then, we will have Gorshokov by then.

    Sound really nice, isn't it?waiting for 2017.:-)1

  6. @Chikki
    Welcome to the blog. Defense preparedness can only be judged by relative threats. Will we be better prepared in 2017 will also depend on where we are relatively when compared to our neighbors. We are already lagging China.