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Monday, 2 May 2011

From Today's Papers - 02 May 2011






On the Line of Caution
The other Kashmir looks for a change in the narrative between India and Pakistan  Raj Chengappa, Editor-in-ChiefFROM Islamabad, the Line of Control at Chakothi in Pakistan occupied Kashmir is a breath-taking 45-minute journey by helicopter. Flying at 8,000-feet and looking down at verdant valleys and snow-tipped massifs, with fresh mountain air rushing through a porthole and the roar of rotor blades muted by bright-yellow ear muffs, I experience a fleeting sense of regret. This part of Kashmir could still have been with India had the 1948 aggression by Pakistan been anticipated and thwarted.  Then as the helicopter descends, reality sets in. Three wars - in 1965, 1971 and 1999 - saw no significant alteration in the LoC. Sixty years later, Kashmir and the territory it occupies remains as much a bone of contention between India and Pakistan as it was at Independence.  We fly low past Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK or Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), as Pakistan terms it. It is a sprawling town nestling at the confluence of the rivers Jhelum and Neelum. From the air, it looks a poor cousin to the jewel that Srinagar valley is. Little wonder that Pakistan covets the Valley and so much blood has already been spilt to wrest control over it!  Yet to say that there is no change in either the two countries’ positions or the ground situation would be misleading. As the helicopter lands at the army base in Chakothi and we are driven to the LoC which is barely 1.5 km from the helipad, change is visible. In November 2004, when I first visited Chakothi, a dirt road connected the village to the LoC. Now it has been widened and freshly tarred. Milestones have given way to sky-blue highway signs that state ‘Uri 11 km’ and ‘Srinagar 121 km’.  Syed Asif Hussain, Secretary, AJK GovernmentIn 2004, Chakothi villagers still lived in fear of Indian artillery shells destroying their houses and crops and even taking lives. Now despite the crazily fluctuating tension levels between the two countries, there has been no major violation of the ceasefire that had been observed since 2003 - an achievement by itself.  Colonel Khaled Khan, the strapping commander of the Jhelum Valley Brigade that oversees this stretch of the LoC, told me that there has been virtually no incident of exchange of fire between the two armies in the past few years. The Pakistan army does hear occasional gun fire but he says that its mostly Indian troops firing at civilian intruders on the LoC.  Another sign of the change is that this time around the Pakistan army doesn't take me to their bunkers and tree-top posts where they kept vigil over the other side of the divide. Instead we are led to a newly built facilitation centre that acts as both visa check-point and a dry port for trade - another symbol of the change in relations.  A short walk away is the observation centre where Colonel Khan draws an imaginary line with his staff to indicate how the LoC zig-zags through the valley. There is, as he points out with a wry smile, no line drawn on the ground. "The mountainous terrain and the score of valleys and nullahs make it difficult for us to monitor cross-border traffic," he says. The Indian side has erected fences wherever physically possible and both armies have planted mines at vulnerable points.  When the Chakothi-Uri crossing was to be opened both sides took over a month to carry out a demining operation. The bridge across the Kalyana Khus Nallah, which was a rickety structure when I saw it in 2004, has now been rebuilt with firm steel-girders on which trucks can cross in single-file. On either side of the bridge large hoardings have come up. On the Indian side one of them painted with the tri-colour reads: Sare Jehan Se Achcha, Hindustan Hamara. On the Pakistani side a hoarding with the Pakistan flag emblazoned on it says: : Home to Home - Warm Welcome to Our Kashmiri Brethren."  Since April 2005 visits between the residents (or state subjects as they are officially termed) of the two Kashmirs had been allowed at three points - Chakothi-Uri, Taitri Nath-Chakan Bagh near Poonch and Nauseri-Teetwal in the Neelum Valley. Since October 2008, the Indian and Pakistan governments have permitted cross-border barter trade at the Uri and Poonch posts allowing trucks from either side to offload goods.  At the facilitation centre, a team of the AJK government officers led by Syed Asif Hussain, secretary, local government and rural development, informs us that over 15,000 visitors permits have been issued from both sides and on an average 2,500 people cross the Chakothi-Uri checkposts annually. Permits can be obtained by applying to the trade and travel authority and after verification which takes an average of 45 days these are issued. The norms for entry are being steadily relaxed. Earlier it was for a single entry and only 15 days were permitted. Now three trips can be made with the same permit and the period of stay is a month. Hussain says that requests are growing to make the permit valid for six months.  Trade too has been picking up though the figure is still far short of the potential. Since the two check-posts opened in 2008, around 23,000 trucks have been permitted of which 12,000 have entered India from PoK. While PoK exports largely moong dal, carpets and dry fruit, from India it imports "mainly chillies," says Hussain with a smile. Now he says there is a growing demand to monetise the trade rather than settle in barter and introduce a banking system to facilitate it. There is also a demand to open two more check-posts across the 970-km-long LoC in the Jammu and Kashmir sector.  Perhaps most revealing is how Pakistan administers AJK. Since 1974, AJK has opted for a Parliamentary form of governance. The 49 MPs, 29 of which are elected through direct elections, choose a Prime Minister. The state also has a President. Pakistan exercises iron control through an AJK Council chaired by its Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gilani.  All the top official posts, whether that of the chief secretary, Inspector General of Police or the Accountant General, are selected from the Pakistan civil services cadre. Telecom, tourism and taxation issues are decided by the Pakistan government and it is also responsible for AJK's defence and security. The Pakistan rupee is the common currency.  Since 1971, just before the Indo-Pak conflict, the Pakistan government had passed an order stating that for all "practical purposes" the territory of AJK is to be administered as a province of Pakistan. In 1994, to quell the restive Northern Areas that included Gilgit and Baltistan it passed another order stating that these two provinces would no more be administered by the AJK government and would be controlled directly by the Federal government.  The ostensible reason for the takeover was that there was no land link between AJK and the Northern Areas and so administration was getting to be a problem. Effectively it took 75 per cent of the territory and almost 40 per cent of the population of 5.8 million out of the AJK government control. Post the 1999-Kargil war there has been rising tensions in the Northern areas as the brunt of those killed and injured in the war came from the Northern Light Infantry drawn mainly from residents in the region. Apart from promising greater self-governance to stem separatist movements, the Pakistan government has pumped billions of rupees in development projects in the past decade.  But it's in AJK that Pakistan has gone out of the way to pamper the state and woo the residents. Of the state's annual budget of Rs 35 billion, Pakistan government contributes almost Rs 11 billion in planned and non-planned expenditure. Another Rs 200 billion has been pumped in to develop hydro-electric and irrigation projects.  When the region suffered a devastating earthquake in 2005 which affected almost half the 3.7 million people, both the government and the Army mounted massive rescue and rehabilitation programmes. Over Rs 60 billion have been already spent and from all appearances a remarkable job has been done. Hussain says that the owner-driven approach of rebuilding the collapsed houses is now being cited as a model by international relief agencies. Each affected family was given an amount ranging from Rs 75,000 to Rs 1.75 lakh to rebuild their houses with technical assistance from the government. Over 1 lakh houses have already been rebuilt and most of them are earthquake resistant.  The Indian government too could learn a few things from Pakistan as to how to administer the sensitive region. Compared to Pakistan, AJK's literacy rate is higher. There are now three universities and over 50 colleges in the state apart from 600 high schools. Most of its 1,600 villages are electrified. The state has expanded its primary health care services and its infant mortality is much lower than that of Pakistan.  With the dialogue process back on track, there is hope that there would be greater interaction between the two Kashmirs. With the Pakistan Army busy fighting the Al-Qaida and the Taliban on its Western front bordering Afghanistan, its keen that the Kashmir front remains relatively stable so that it can deploy its forces more effectively.  Asked whether he would see a solution to the Kashmir problem in his lifetime Hussain, who holds a doctorate in agriculture, and is one of AJK's most accomplished and articulate civil servants, says simply: "Yes and No." He concedes that there has been much forward movement in recent years that included permitting exchange of visitors and trade. But as he points out, "The narrative should change from the focus on territory to that on development. People do not want confrontation. Instead they want food security, job security, water security and security from threats. The process of globalisation too has been having an impact. So there has to be a paradigm shift in the approach."  As we leave Chakothi, a Pakistani major tells me, "I have had a few interactions with Indians and I now realise, we look the same, we eat the same food and we are as emotional. It's only a matter of time before we can settle our differences. War is not a solution." It's something to reflect on as we board the chopper back to Islamabad.









Why the critics of India's combat jet deal are wrong
Following a raft of technical tests by the IAF, the Manmohan Singh government has shortlisted the Eurofighter consortium's Typhoon and the French-made Dassault Rafale for a multi-billion dollar fourth generation fighter deal. New Delhi will almost certainly come under intense pressure to review its decision.  Less than six months ago, President Barack Obama described the growing relationship between his country and India as “one of the defining and indispensable partnerships of the 21st century.” India's decision to pick European-made jets to equip its frontline combat jet fleet instead of United States-manufactured competitors has led more than a few to argue that the relationship has already hit a dead-end.  Sadanand Dhume, writing in the journal of the American Enterprise Institute, has argued India has “rebuffed the US offer of a closer strategic partnership”; and Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has argued that New Delhi “settled for a plane, not a relationship.” Indian commentators seem to agree: Nitin Pai, the editor of the strategic journal Pragati, charged India with being “gratuitously generous” to Europe; and The Times of India's Chidanand Rajghatta said the decision had dealt the India-U.S. alliance “a significant blow.”  These critics are thoughtful commentators who need to be taken seriously. They are also wrong.  Like all other transactional dealings between states, arms purchases do indeed have strategic implications. India ought, for sound common sense reasons, to pursue a robust relationship with the United States. It is unclear, though, why the purchase of this particular weapons system ought to undermine the larger strategic relationship between India and the U.S.  If countries like the United Kingdom and France can actually produce and operate combat jets not made by their key strategic partner, the U.S., there is no particular reason why India's decision to buy them ought be seen as a strategic affront. Earlier this year, India picked U.S.-made engines for its Tejas light combat aircraft over European competitors; its strategic relationship with Europe did not fall apart as a consequence. Nor will India and Russia end their enduring military relationship because the MiG31 lost the combat-jet dogfight.  Secondly, the U.S. itself has pursued multiple strategic relationships that best serve its interests — and India, like every other nation state, ought do the same.  Ever since the tragic events of 9/11, the U.S. has supplied Pakistan with a raft of military assets of no conceivable use other than against India — among them, eight P3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft, 32 F16 variants, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and anti-artillery radars. K. Alan Krondstadt's 2009 survey for the U.S. Congressional Research Service shows that much of this equipment was paid for through military assistance grants.  American diplomats were made aware of Indian concerns. Back in 2004, Robert O. Blake, the U.S. Charge d'Affaires in New Delhi, had warned in an Embassy cable, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks (23418:confidential, November 30, 2004), that sales of F-16s to Pakistan could “be a blow to those in the GOI [Government of India] who are trying to deepen our partnership.” Mr. Blake again warned, in a 2005 cable, of “universal opposition in India to the supply of sophisticated arms to Pakistan, with the F-16 aircraft symbolizing a US commitment to upgrading the Pakistani armed forces” [28592: confidential, March 11, 2005].  But the administration of President George W. Bush made the argument that such grants would help Pakistan meet its “legitimate defence needs” – and claimed, more disingenuously, that the aircraft would be used for close air support in the war against jihadists.  It would have been churlish for India, though, to make its relationship with the U.S. contingent on how Washington chose to engage Islamabad. It would be similarly churlish for the U.S. to insist that India ought not to exercise its right to buy the best equipment on offer for its money.  The only question ought be: has India picked the right jet? No such thing as “the best thing”  “Imagine,” says a senior Indian Air Force official, “being asked to pick between a top-end Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar and Ferrari. It would be plain stupid to think of one high-performance car as better than another. For example, one might have better acceleration; another greater range; a third better handling.”  The IAF's Request for Proposals brought into contention the European multinational Eurofighter consortium's Typhoon, the French-made Dassault Rafale, the Swedish Grippen, the Russian MiG35, and the United States' F16IN and FA18.  Each aircraft had distinct advantages: though it has a slow top speed compared with the Eurofighter Typhoon, the F-16IN or the MiG 35, the Grippen had a better sustained turn capability; the Rafale did not manoeuvre well at high speed, but demonstrated outstanding instantaneous turn rates; the Lockheed Martin-produced F16IN and its Boeing rival, the FA18, had the best radar.  The MiG35s, though from a stable that has been plagued by maintenance problems and untested in service in Russia, had genuine multi-role capabilities, would have cost just $45 million apiece, and come with generous transfer-of-technology provisions.  Few are surprised that the Eurofighter appears to be leading the race: the aircraft has won the admiration of Indian pilots who have encountered it in exercises with their British counterparts. In November 2010, The Telegraph reported from London that Eurofighter was closing in on the multi-billion deal.  Dr. Tellis noted, in a thorough scholarly appraisal, that the Typhoon “conformed most closely to the [IAF's] Request for Proposals, and in a purely technical sense, it arguably remains the most sophisticated airplane in the mix – at least in its fully mature configuration, which is still gestating.” Eurofighter advocates point, among other things, that it was the only one of the contenders to demonstrate some supercruise capabilities – which means it can achieve supersonic speeds without the use of afterburners, improving endurance and reducing its radar signature.  Pilots told The Hindu they were also impressed with the aircraft's man-machine interface, which presents data streams from dozens of on-board and off-board sensors on a single screen  But the aircraft, like its European counterparts and the MiG35, also had a significant weakness – the absence of active electronically scanned array radar, or Aesa. Aesa broadcasts signals across a band of frequencies, enabling the radar to at once be powerful and stealthy. Eurofighter variants due to come into service around 2015 will carry an Aesa radar system called Caesar – but the aircraft's competitors pointed out that the radar, unlike those on the F16 and FA18, is untested.  Each U.S. contender was also a remarkable aircraft: although the F16 has been in service in 1979, the variant India was offered was state-of-the-art and proven in combat. Ramesh Phadke, a former Air Force pilot who serves as an analyst at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, noted the F16 “is destined to be remembered as the best multi-role fighter ever.” The FA18, too, is combat tested, and won over its competitors in some spheres.  In the end, the IAF short-listed the two frontrunners after putting the contenders through a raft of complex technical tests – tests that no one has yet claimed were skewed or rigged. Each firm has been provided a technical appraisal of why its offer was rejected, an appraisal it is free to dispute.  New Delhi will now have to determine which of the two contenders it will choose – and finance could play a key role. The Eurofighter is likely to charge some $125 million apiece, which means the initial purchase of 126 jets will cost India $15.75 billion, and a likely final order of around 200 aircraft, $20 billion. The Rafale is likely to be pegged around $85 million apiece.  Though the Grippen would have cost around the same as the Rafale, the F-16IN and FA-18 would have come at around $60 million each, and the MiG35 a relatively modest $45 million – though, given problems with its engine, the overall life-cycle costs of the Russian jet may not have been much lower than its U.S. competitors.  It is imperative, though, that the decision is made fast. Back in 1969, the IAF determined that it needed 64 squadrons, 45 of them made up of combat aircraft, to defend the country. India's economic situation, however, meant it could build only 45 squadrons, 40 of them made up of combat jets. Even that meant it retained an almost 3:1 advantage over Pakistan through much of the 1980s.  In the years since, though, the en bloc obsolescence of aircraft like the MiG21, MiG23 and MiG25 has meant the IAF's edge has blunted: Pakistan today has 22 squadrons of combat jets, or some 380, to India's 29 squadrons, or 630 fighters.  Pakistan, moreover, has received new jets from the U.S., as well as the JF-17 from China, and a slew of advanced radar and missiles. Its air defence capabilities are due to be enhanced with four Swedish SAAB-2000 jets equipped with Erieye phased-array radar, and Y8 anti-electronic warfare platforms from China.  Even as India's advantage over Pakistan diminishes, it has China to consider – not because a war is probable, or even plausible, but because militaries must plan and be prepared for worst-case scenarios.  For much of its history, China's People's Liberation Army Air Force had a huge air inventory, numbering over 5,000 aircraft, but over three-fifths of this consisted of obsolete MiG19 second-generation fighters. But in recent years, China has moved towards becoming a genuine aerospace power: by 2020, the PLAAF will have more fourth-generation fighters than the entire IAF fleet.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government will almost certainly come under intense pressure to review its decision. It would do well to accept the expert assessment of those who understand its combat aviation needs the best – the women and men who may or may not, one day, have to fly them into danger.  (Praveen Swami is Diplomatic Editor of The Daily Telegraph, London.)









Army chief general V K Singh advocates for defence planning commission
Army chief general V K Singh today advocated setting up of a defence planning commission on the lines of the planning commission for a more effective financing system for modernisation of defence forces.  "There is a need for a defence planning commission. I feel our defence budget is not a plan. I don't mean to say people are not planning for it. All I mean to say it is not like the planning commission," Singh said, addressing a seminar on Indigenisation of Defence Forces.  "Whenever the planning commission plans something, money has to be spent on it. It cannot be taken out," he said.  Singh said the money allocated for the defence forces is often pulled out to finance other government projects.  "Defence budget is given to forces by the defence ministry. There are other projects in deficit financing with the Government of India. So, when they feel the requirement for a particular project is not getting financed, brakes are applied on your schemes for modernisation and ultimately this money is taken out as the financial year comes to a close," he said.  He said, "For the first time we were able to spend all the money allocated for modernisation in the last financial year. But I don't know whether this trend will continue." Stressing on the need for indigenisation of defence forces, Singh called for improved participation of private companies and public sector undertakings (PSUs).  "I am a great believer that our industries can produce world-class technologies and products," he added.









India’s ambitious defence policy
While exposing India’s ambitious defence policy, Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) has disclosed in its report of April 2011 that India has planned “to spend an estimated $80 billion on military modernization programs by 2015 so as to further increase its military build-up against China and disrupt security-balance in South Asia.”  The report elaborated, “India is expected to maintain this position in the coming years…at the same time, the Indian Ministry of Defence has laid out an ambitious agenda to substantially increase the country’s capacity to produce military hardware by the end of the decade.”  The CSIS report further mentioned, “Consequently, India’s defence budget has roughly quadrupled (in real terms) since 2001—reaching $36.3 billion in the 2011–2012 budget—and enabled the implementation of long-term acquisition plans. Of the total defence budget, approximately 40 percent (some $14.5 billion) is allocated to the defence capital outlay budget, which funds arms procurements, construction and maintenance of installations, additional infrastructure, and other military equipment modernizations.”  It is notable that in February 2010, Indian military procurement units descended on the DefExpo 2010 trade fair in New Delhi. Inaugurating the Indian Defence Exhibition, Defence Minister A.K. Antony had said that India’s defence expenditure which is 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), is going to increase. He pointed out, “our defence industry is open up to 100 percent for Indian private sector, while foreign direct investment is allowed up to 26 percent.” Antony further indicated, “Our government is committed to rapid modernisation of armed forces.” Over the next 12 years, India is set to spend a whopping US$200 billion on defence acquisitions to replace its outdated inventory. In this respect, on February 15, 2010, a report of the Indian strategic defense magazine (India Strategic’s DefExpo) had revealed that 70 per cent of the inventory of the Indian armed forces is 20-plus years old, and needs to be replaced with the modern technology. It explained that nearly half of this funding ($100b) will go to the Indian Air Force (IAF), which would need to replace more than half of its combat jet fleet as well as the entire transport aircraft and helicopter fleet. The army needs new guns, tanks, rocket launchers, multi-terrain vehicles, while the navy needs ships, aircraft carriers and new range of nuclear submarines.  In an overanxious quest for military advantage along its border with China, New Delhi is intensifying its military cooperation with the United States and Russia—stepping up its military penetration of small border-states adjoining China and India. In the past decade, India had bought arms worth US$50 billion from the United States, Russia, Britain, Germany, Israel and France, making it the biggest arms importer in the developing world.  Particularly, the US has emerged as a potential military supplier to India since the two countries signed a deal of civil energy technology in 2008, which lifted sanctions on New Delhi in order to import nuclear technology. India is likely to become a major customer for the US military-industrial complex over the next few years.  In recent years, India has bought reconnaissance aircraft from US aerospace major Boeing worth 2.1 billion-dollars, medium range missiles for 1.4 billion dollars from Israeli Aerospace Industries, and signed an upgrade service contract with the Russian Aircraft Corporation to upgrade its MiG 29 squadrons for 965 million dollars. Several deals are planned for the near future including one of the largest arms contracts of recent times—a 11-billion-dollar project to acquire 126 multi-role combat aircraft. It is mentionable that after 9/11, both India and Israel which had openly jumped on Bush’s anti-terrorism enterprise are acting upon a secret diplomacy, targeting Pakistan China, Iran and Syria. In this context, Indo-Israeli secret diplomacy could be assessed from the interview of Israel’s ambassador to India, Mark Sofer published in the Indian weekly Outlook on February 18, 2008. Regarding India’s defence arrangements with Tel Aviv, Sofer had surprisingly disclosed “We do have a defence relationship with India, which is no secret” and “with all due respect, the secret part will remain a secret.” As regards joint exercises, Sofer replied, “Certain issues need to remain under wraps for whatever reason.”  While, India’s ‘The Tribune’ had written on September 10, 2003, “India and Israel took giant leaps forward in bolstering the existing strategic ties”, and Tel Aviv has “agreed to share its expertise with India in various fields such as anti-fidayeen operations, surveillance satellites, intelligence sharing and space exploration.” With the support of Israel, New Delhi has been acquiring an element of strategic depth by setting up logistical bases in the Indian Ocean for its navy.  Defence experts opine that taking the concept of a two front war with Pakistan and China a step further, India has launched an ambitious military buildup plan, along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in the state of Arunachal Pradesh.  Nevertheless, currently, more than half of India’s budget is allocated for military, paramilitary, various security forces and debt servicing. That leaves less than half for everything else including infrastructure development projects, education, healthcare, poverty alleviation, and various human services. New Delhi’ s latest arms buildup will leave even less for what India needs most to lift hundreds of millions of its citizens from abject poverty, hunger illiteracy and disease.  Even Indian civil society organisations, while complaining of excessive defence spending indicated that the government spends 2.35 per cent of GDP on defence, but only 1.72 per cent on the social sector. The defence budget has been increasing rapidly every year.  Indian defence analyst Ravinder Pal Singh, while calling New Delhi’s unending defence spending at the cost of poverty-alleviation—with security requirements competing with socio-economic concerns for money calls it “guns-versus-butter question.”  Meanwhile, a report of United Nations pointed out that India ranks 134th of 182 countries on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index. It estimated that 50 per cent of the world’s undernourished population lives in India. Nearly 31 per cent of the billion-plus Indians earn less than a dollar a day. Secretary General of the Control Arms Foundation of India, Binalakshmi Nepram remarks, “When people are dying of poverty and bad sanitation, what protection will arms provide them?”  On the one hand, international community has been making strenuous efforts for world peace in wake of global financial crisis and war against terrorism, on the other, India has initiated deadly nuclear arms in South Asia where people are already facing multiple problems of grave nature. Majority of South Asian people are living below the poverty level, lacking basic facilities like fresh food and clean water. While yielding to acute poverty, every day, some persons commit suicide.  Setting aside regional problems and resolution of Indo-Pak issues-especially thorny dispute of Kashmir, Indian rulers state that they don’t have any aggressive designs. But it becomes a big joke of the 21st century, reminding a maxim, “armed to the teeth, but no enemy”, if we take cognisance of India’s unending defence expenditure. Nonetheless, India’s ambitious defence policy is aimed at destroying regional peace and stability, and gives a wake up call to other Asian powers, while reflecting the truce face of New Delhi.










Fighting to keep fighting: the bumpy road to army modernisation
The BAE Systems M777 ultralight field howitzer at the Defexpo 2010 in New Delhi. India is buying 140 of these under the US Foreign Military Sales programme for some Rs 3000 crores.   By Ajai Shukla Defence & Security of India Volume 3, Issue 5, April 2011  The current crisis of equipment obsolescence within the Indian Army has been brewing since the sharp cuts in defence expenditure during the economic crisis of the early 1990s. From its highs of more than four per cent of GDP during the late 1980s, when India had pursued an activist security and foreign policy (Sri Lanka, Maldives, Operation Brass Tacks, Operation Chequerboard, Siachen Glacier), defence expenditure plummeted to below 2.5 per cent of GDP as New Delhi’s focus shifted to fiscal stabilisation and economic reform.  Through the 1990s, before India’s economy shifted to a high growth trajectory, the army’s meagre capital allocations were insufficient for the phased replacement of equipment and weaponry that had outlived its life. The money available barely covered the annual instalments due for the tanks, infantry combat vehicles, mechanized air defence systems, assault engineering equipment and helicopters that Rajiv Gandhi, Arun Singh and General K Sundarji had splashed money on before the Bofors scandal swept away the Congress in 1989.  Nor has the economic revival of the preceding decade, and the steadily increasing allocations for capital expenditure, done much for replacing the army’s growing inventory of grey-haired equipment. Other than the multi-billion dollar purchase of T-90 tanks from Russia, big-ticket military expenditure has been directed more towards warships and aircraft than towards an army that has been engaged in relentless low-intensity combat in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam and Manipur.  Infantry modernisation has been more a slogan than a reality. India’s mechanised forces, which had constituted a formidable conventional deterrent through the 1980s and 1990s, have lost ground to Pakistan, which has dramatically cut down India’s combat power advantage with the intelligent purchase of modern tanks from Eastern Europe and self-propelled artillery from the US. The Indian Army’s artillery has been unable to procure modern guns for a quarter of a century, while the air defence artillery is even more decrepit. Logistics, traditionally consigned by India’s general staff to the unglamorous fringes of operational planning, has seen no new acquisitions of specialist vehicles and equipment.  Archaic Defence Planning  This gloomy situation stems largely from India’s archaic system of defence planning in which identifying the weapons platforms that are needed, rather than capabilities, drives the formulation of the military’s 15-year Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP); 5-year defence plans; and Annual Acquisition Plans (AAP). Modern militaries across the globe first identify the operational capabilities that they deem essential; then they build or acquire the weapons and equipment that would provide those capabilities. E.g. a military might decide it needs the ability to bring down, at 30 minutes notice, 20 tonnes of high explosive on a target 100 x 50 metre in size, 80 kilometres inside enemy territory, anywhere along a 700-kilometer section of the border. The planning cell would then decide whether that requirement would best be met by field artillery, multi-barrelled rocket launchers, cruise or surface-to-surface missiles, strike aircraft, or special forces. That crucial decision would then inform equipment procurement or development.  In New Delhi, however, equipment planning consists of the incremental upgrading of the equipment that the army already holds. Line directorates (e.g. infantry, artillery or mechanized forces directorates), which govern the equipment planning of each arm or service, simply demand an improvement over what they already operate. The artillery, equipped with 45-calibre 155 millimetre howitzers, demands 52-calibre howitzers to “modernize” the arm. The armoured corps clamours for T-90s to replace the T-72 fleet, the mechanised infantry for BMP-3s to replace the BMP-2s, and the engineers for bridges with 52-metre spans to replace the 40-metre bridges already in service.  The Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) is charged with preventing duplication and optimising resources, but with the army unable to rationalise equipment between its component branches, the IDS can hardly discharge that function. And so, instead of focusing intelligently on acquiring specific capabilities that are likely to be required in our specific operational environment, money is shared out between various interest groups, hoping to please all rather than developing specific capabilities.  With no clarity on the specific capabilities that it requires, the army’s framing of its equipment requirements also remains unclear. Arms vendors from across the globe complain about the tendency to frame General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQRs) --- the performance specifications that each platform must fulfil --- on a “best of each” basis, extracting the best performance qualities from a number of different products and putting them together to create a “perfect” product. This approach, however, disregards the simple engineering truth that performance is all about trade-offs.  For example, the specifications that the army and the IAF framed for the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, demanded a continuous cruise speed of 270 kilometres per hour at sea level and the ability to lift a 200 kilogramme payload at 6000 metres. This entirely disregarded the fact that a helicopter’s rotor can either be optimised for lift at high-altitudes, or for high-speed performance. Instead of zeroing in on the capability that it needed, the military added one and one and got eleven.  Compounding the delays caused by poorly formulated GSQRs are the Ministry of Defence’s complex procurement regulations, promulgated in the frequently revised Defence Procurement Policy. Seven versions of the DPP since 2002 have culminated in the most recent one: DPP-2011. Every procurement initiated during this last decade is governed by the DPP that was valid at that time, confusing vendors and ministry officials alike.  A final deterrent to expeditious procurement is the “Bofors-Tehelka Syndrome”, the cautious MoD mindset that emerged from those two investigations of alleged procurement transgressions. Bureaucrats handling procurement operate with the clear understanding that procurement delays are not punishable whereas the slightest procedural infringement can result in a career scuttled. Consequently, equipment procurement is characterised by a stultifying adherence to hidebound procedure where officials focus less on giving the military quality products in an acceptable timeframe, at an optimal cost, and more on adhering fanatically to the DPP.  Obsolete Field Artillery  The Indian Army’s crippling equipment obsolescence is most alarmingly highlighted in its field artillery, the most important element of combat power in the Indian operational context. Unlike western expeditionary armies, which increasingly rely on air-delivered munitions for fire support to ground troops engaged in fleeting encounters with guerrilla opponents, Indian Army operations are most likely to consist of set-piece attack or defence, in which sustained, heavy artillery fires are regarded as crucial for causing attrition on the enemy. This was most recently illustrated during the Kargil conflict in 1999, when India’s ability to pulverise Pakistani positions with massed artillery proved a battle-winning factor.  India has less than 220 regiments of outdated artillery to support troops deployed year-round along its sprawling 4,350 kilometers of disputed boundary with Pakistan and China. Since poor road communications disallow the quick redeployment of guns to threatened sectors, army planning involves pre-positioning artillery all along the 740-kilometer Line of Control, or LoC, between India and Pakistan; the 110-kilometer Actual Ground Position Line, or AGPL, above the Siachen Glacier; and the 3,500-kilometer Line of Actual Control, or LAC, between India and China.  But boosting the clearly inadequate numbers and ranges has proved impossible since the late 1980s, when the Bofors scandal restricted India’s planned buy of 155 millimetre, 45 calibre FH-77B howitzers from the planned 1510 guns to just 410. The plan to upgrade India’s 60-odd regiments of Soviet-era 130 millimetre guns to 155 millimetres was curtailed after Israeli company, Soltam, was criticised for a poor upgrade job on the first 10 regiments. The backbone of India’s artillery, especially in the mountains, remains the indigenous 105 millimetre gun, which was built in India in two variants: the Light Field Gun (LFG) for mountain terrain and the Indian Field Gun (IFG) for plains.  Multiple procurements are envisioned under the expansively named Artillery Vision 2027, and the MoD-sanctioned Artillery Modernisation Plan. These include a tender worth an estimated Rs 8000 crore for 1580 towed 155-millimetre, 52-calibre howitzers. Another tender worth over Rs 3000 crore is being pursued, under the US Foreign Military Sales Programme, for 140 ultralight 155-millimetre, 39-calibre howitzers for mountain formations. Another Rs 3500 crore is chasing 100 track-mounted 155-millimetre, 52 calibre guns for the mechanised formations. And Rs 4000 crore is earmarked for 180 similar vehicle-mounted guns for self-propelled regiments. The total money in play here, some Rs 18,500 crore, is less a problem than the glacial pace at which these procurements have been processed over the last decade.  Mounting frustration over the delays in artillery procurement have encouraged an Indian consortium, led by the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO), in partnership with private sector companies, to consider a domestic howitzer development programme. Such an enterprise would bypass many of the procedural and political hurdles that have stymied attempts to purchase foreign artillery systems.  Also making headway is Project Shakti, or the Artillery Combat Command and Control System (ACCCS), a digital network that has been jointly developed by the DRDO’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). Dedicated to the army in June 2009, this is the first of India’s net-centric warfare systems that are intended to seamlessly integrate command functions in the 21st century battlefield.  Tank upgrades  The army’s tank arsenal is based predominantly on 2418 obsolescent T-72 tanks, the first of which came into service in 1979, more than three decades ago. Underpowered, night blind and reliant on outdated gunnery computers, many of these will be replaced by a planned arsenal of 1657 T-90 tanks, 1100 of which will be built at Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF), Avadi. But, since more than a thousand T-72s will continue to be in service beyond 2022, the army plans to spend Rs 5 crore per T-72 (it was bought for Rs 9 crore each) on retrofitting crucial systems, including the fire control system, main engine and night vision devices. This procurement has sputtered along for almost a decade with barely visible success.  The early retirement of the T-72 has been stymied by the army’s incomprehensible refusal to order larger numbers of the DRDO-developed Arjun, a 60-tonne Main Battle Tank that outperformed the T-90 during comparative trials conducted by the army’s 180 Armoured Brigade near Bikaner in March 2010. While a bulk order for Arjun tanks would allow HVF Avadi to scale up its production line, the army has capped its order at 248 Arjuns.  The T-72, after its planned upgrade, would cost Rs 14 crore per tank. The T-90s that HVF has produced since 2009 cost Rs 17.5 crores apiece. In contrast, a brand new Arjun, with a 1400 horsepower engine, state-of-the-art integrated electronics, an acclaimed 120 millimetre gun, and the indigenous, widely praised Kanchan armour, comes in at Rs 16.8 crores.  Given the Arjun’s much-delayed success, the army and the DRDO are formulating the specifications of a next-generation tank, so far referred to as the Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT). This will be developed by the DRDO as an entirely indigenous project. Additionally, the army has sent out a Request for Information (RFI) to global vendors for light tanks, which it plans to deploy in north-eastern India and for mountain warfare.  Infantry modernisation  Although the infantry forms the bulk of the Indian Army and has long been its most combat committed element, infantry modernisation has languished since 1998, when the MoD cleared what is known as “Modification 4B” to the scaling of an infantry battalion. This involved boosting firepower at the platoon level and also enhancing an infantry battalion’s anti-tank and anti-aircraft capabilities. In 2003, a Rs 3,500 crore infantry modernisation plan was cleared, which involved the procurement of 84 millimetre rocket launchers, anti-material rifles (AMRs), under-barrel grenade launchers (UBGLs), Kornet-E anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and modern small arms, including sniper rifles.  The new game-changer for the infantry is an ambitious new development project called the Future Infantry Soldier as a System (F-INSAS), which aims to convert an infantryman into a digitally-networked all-terrain, all-weather, weapons platform with enhanced lethality, survivability, sustainability, mobility and situational awareness. This is still a development project, in which the DRDO, Indian industry and foreign technology partners are working together.  Modernisation of the mechanised infantry is another priority project for the army, with four private sector companies --- Tata Motors; the Mahindra Group; L&T; and the MoD-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) --- competing to design and build 2600 new-generation Future Infantry Combat Vehicles (F-ICVs) to replace the Indian Army’s aging fleet of Russian-designed BMP-IIs. It is estimated that the development cost and the cost of manufacturing 2600 FICVs for the mechanised infantry could add up to Rs 50,000 crore, making this India’s most expensive defence contract so far. The four companies will be submitting their proposals to the MoD by May 2011.  Air Defence for Mechanised Forces  Air defence remains a crucial vulnerability in India’s national defence, with even the IAF chief and the defence minister publicly admitting to gaps in the radar coverage of Indian airspace. The efficacy of the Soviet-era SAM-2 and SAM-3 missile batteries, which have been granted several life-extensions by the OEMs, is also questionable. The air defence of India’s mechanised forces is another major gap, with the SAM-6, SAM-7 and SAM-8 medium range missile systems, procured in the 1980s, having lived out their service lives.  With the overseas procurement of replacement missile systems appearing too expensive to be viable, the MoD has initiated several development projects to produce India’s requirements indigenously. The DRDO’s Akash missile is already entering service; BEL and Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML) are building 8 Akash squadrons for the IAF and 6 squadrons for the army. And DRDO, in partnership with Israeli defence manufacturers, is developing a Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM) with a range of 70 kilometres; a Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SR-SAM) with a range of 15 kilometres; and is developing hypersonic technology for more advanced missiles. The Indo-Russian Brahmos cruise missile, which was designed as an anti-ship missile with a range of 290 kilometres, has been modified for the army for use against surface targets and has been undergoing extensive testing.  The DRDO is also at an intermediate stage in developing an integrated anti-ballistic missile system, having tested both exo-atmospheric and endo-atmospheric interceptors. This system is also capable of functioning as a long range air defence system, capable of engaging aircraft targets at ranges above 100 kilometres.  Meanwhile, also following the indigenisation track, the private and public sectors are competing for a development project to upgrade the L-70 air defence gun and integrate it with a fire control radar.  Signals modernisation  The provision of a state-of-the-art communications network for the army is one of the MoD’s key modernisation priorities. The static communications network along the borders is being converted to optic fibre. Meanwhile, a major indigenous development project --- the Tactical Communications System, or TCS --- has been initiated under the “Make” procedure of the DPP. Eight consortia, led by Indian prime contractors --- which include BEL, ECIL, ITI, Tata Power SED, Rolta, L&T, Wipro and HCL Infosystems --- will submit bids on 25th April.  Also being developed indigenously are a series of electronic warfare (EW) systems under the hush-hush Project Suraj, which include a Low Power Jammer (LPJ); an electronic warfare system for low intensity conflict (EW-LIC); an Integrated EW System for Mountains (IEWS MT); and a track and wheeled EW system for mechanised formations (EW – Track & Wheeled).  Conclusion  While the high number of indigenous development projects in the Indian Army’s modernisation plan is potentially a positive development, especially if this results in the development of domestic capability, a key reason for this is the failure of the defence procurement system to provide a combat committed army with suitable equipment in timely fashion.  It is time for the army to evolve realistic and well-considered GSQRs, and for the MoD to specify unbreakable time schedules for procurement, with officers being held accountable for delays. It is time also to translate into action the long-discussed proposal for a rolling, non-lapsable, Defence Modernisation Fund, to assure fund availability when a procurement process is reaching culmination.




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