Tatra Truck Deal
CBI registers case, searches 4 places
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 30
As the CBI today registered a case on the supply of all-terrain Tatra trucks for the Army, the government said Defence Minister AK Antony had sanctioned a probe into “a case relating” to Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) on February 21 this year.
The government, it seems, wanted to convey that the minister acted much before Army Chief General VK Singh bribe allegations hit headlines on March 26. The General had alleged that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore by a lobbyist for okaying a deal for 600 “substandard” trucks.
The CBI after registering a case against unnamed officials of the Defence Ministry, Army, BEML and Vectra for alleged criminal conspiracy to cheat and indulge in corrupt practices, carried out searches at four places in Delhi, Noida and Bangalore.
The FIR also names Vectra group chairman Ravi Rishi, a majority stake-holder in Tatra, and the CBI is looking into purchases made 1997 onwards. A contract to supply the trucks was renegotiated that year. Rishi, who is in Delhi for the Defence Expo, was called for questioning.
The government said Antony had asked the Secretary, Defence Production, to look into a complaint of alleged irregularities in the purchase of vehicles by state-owned BEML in 2009. “Records show that the vigilance wings of the Ministry of Defence and the BEML are examining the matter and there are also correspondence between the CBI and the Chief Vigilance Officer of the BEML,” an official release said. It claimed Antony gave a sanction for a CBI probe into a case relating to BEML on February 21 this year.
In 2009, Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had forwarded the complaint of D Hanumanthapa, president of the Karnataka wing of All India Federation of SC, ST, Backward Class, Minority Employees Welfare Association, against the BEML to Antony. The minister forwarded the compliant the very next day.
The names of Tatra and Bharat Earth Movers Limited were taken by the Army in a press release issued by it on March 5, alleging that retiredLt Gen Tejinder Singh had offered a bribe on behalf of Tatra and Vectra Limited. Earlier, CBI Director AP Singh had examined a report forwarded by a joint director of the agency who had opined that a case could be made out and a thorough investigation was required, sources added.
Under fire, BEML chairman VRS Natarajan today defended the Tatra-Vectra trucks calling them the best in the world. The Army uses these trucks to ferry missiles, rocket launchers and transport vehicles. Comparing these trucks to ordinary lorries made by Indian companies, the BEML head pointed out that the lorries have a fixed axle, while Tatra comes with a flexible one and is an all-terrain vehicle. “It is not comparable to any other model because of its superiority. You can’t compare an ambassador (car) with a Benz (Mercedes),” said the BEML chief.
General confirms bribe offer
Army Chief General VK Singh (pic) has told the CBI that he was offered a bribe by a lobbyist to clear the supply of a tranche of “substandard vehicle” for the force. In the letter to the agency, Singh did not give details of the amount or the name of the person who made the offer
n Defence Minister AK Antony had had sanctioned a CBI investigation into a case relating to BEML on February 21 this year
n Records show that the vigilance wings of the Ministry of Defence and the BEML are examining the matter
RAW does it all to keep chief’s appointment under wraps
Our Roving Editor
New Delhi, March 30
India’s external spy agency — Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) — is pulling all strings to stop the government from releasing information regarding the appointment of its 19th chief Sanjiv Tripathi in December 2010.
The Cabinet Secretariat (CS) seems to have developed cold feet on a Right to Information (RTI) petition asking for file notings related to Tripathi’s appointment. The RAW works under the CS’ control.
The latest communication from the CS to RTI applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal has informed him that “the matter is being transferred to the Chief Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the division concerned for appropriate action.”
The Tribune in an exclusive report on March 19 reported that the government had agreed to reveal to the RTI applicant the procedure behind the selection of Tripathi as the RAW chief.
This report was based on the February 29 order of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Satyananda Mishra on the RTI application (File No. CIC/SM/C/2011/001564). The CIC asked the government to furnish the ‘desired information’ about Tripathi’s appointment.
The CIC’s order had come after the CPIO of the Cabinet Secretariat, SP Roy, informed him during the February 29 hearing that the First Appellate Authority Nivedita Shukla Verma on February 27 had passed an order stating that the desired information did not relate to the exempted organisation, but to the manner in which the appointment was made by the competent authority i.e. the CS.
This surprised everyone as the CS had earlier refused to disclose the desired information on the plea that the RAW was an exempted organisation under the Second Schedule of the RTI Act.
Strangely, the ‘same CPIO’ of the CS has now written a letter to RTI applicant Agrawal denying that the First Appellate Authority had ever passed an order stating that the information related to Tripathi’s appointment “did not relate to the exempted organisation but to the manner in which the appointment was made to that organisation by the competent authority.”
Roy has also informed Agrawal that “this is not borne by the February 27 order of the First Appellate Authority which was seen by the CIC.”
“This is quite baffling…CPIO Roy has tried to convey to me that the CIC did not understand the First Appellate Authority’s order. It seems I have been taken for a ride,” said Agrawal, who appealed to the CIC to issue fresh directions.
The Curious case of Sanjiv Tripathi
Tripathi was made Secretary, RAW, barely a week before he was due to retire on December 31, 2010, from the top post of the Aviation Research Centre. The then RAW chief, KC Verma, said to be a close friend of Tripathi, was due to retire at the end of January 2011, a month after Tripathi. But Verma ‘resigned’ around Christmas of 2010 and is said to have ‘recommended’ Tripathi as his successor.
Press note on ‘BRIBE’ TO ARMY CHIEF
HC seeks Centre’s clarification
New Delhi, March 30
The Delhi High Court today asked the Central government to clarify by April 27 as to who was responsible for the issue of a press release on March 5, levelling allegations against Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh.
Justice Mukta Gupta sought the clarification on a criminal petition filed by Lt Gen Tejinder Singh against Army Chief Gen VK Singh, Vice Chief SK Singh, Lt Gen BS Thakur (DG MI), Maj Gen SL Narasimhan (Additional DG, Public Information) and Lt Col Hitten Sawhney.
Lt Gen Tejinder Singh has sought initiation of disciplinary legal action against them and a government directive for withdrawal of the press release.
Justice Gupta said the HC would decide on the maintainability of the petition on the basis of the government’s clarification specifying whether the press note was issued by the officers in their official or individual capacity.
The HC also asked Lt Gen Tejinder Singh to pinpoint the legal provisions or judgments under which the court could direct the government to withdraw the press release.
According to Lt Gen Tejinder Singh, the media cell of the Army Headquarters issued a press release levelling serious allegations against him by name. These included one that said he was involved in carrying out illegal off-the-air monitoring of telephone calls of some senior officials and that he offered bribe to the Army Chief for finalising a sub-standard defence contract.
Gen sounds reconciliatory note
Blames media for projecting every issue as his battle with govt
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 30
Chief of Army Staff Gen VK Singh today sounded a reconciliatory note and seemed like wanting to mend fences with the government.
In a statement that was given to select media organisations, the Army Chief blamed the media for "constantly projecting every issue as a battle between the government and the Army Chief". It was misleading, he said, while adding "there are rogue elements in our society which have played an active role in trying to project a schism between the Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister AK Antony) and the COAS. This is untrue and needs to be guarded against".
This is not the first time since the two sides - the government and Army Chief - have made truce with each other. On February 10, when the General withdrew his petition on the date of birth issue in Supreme Court, it seemed the high-pitched battle would end. Earlier, just before Army day, on January 15, it seemed matters had cooled down. The PM, Sonia Gandhi and the Defence Minister were at the Army day reception and a day latter, the General filed a case in the Supreme Court.
He explained the timing of his outburst, saying questions pertaining to the 'bribe issue' has also drawn considerable attention. He made it clear that "certain steps were taken institutionally to keep a wary eye on the retired officer who had offered the bribe".
Meeting the Maoist challenge
How Army can help fight the menace
by Gurmeet Kanwal
The recent killing of 12 CRPF personnel at Gadchiroli in Maharashtra and the abduction of an MLA and two Italian nationals in Odisha — one of whom has since been released — have once again highlighted the fragility of the situation along the Maoist belt in central and eastern India. This has also exposed the inability of the state police forces to deal with the Maoist challenge effectively, even as a debate is raging about the structure and powers of the proposed National Counter-Terrorism Centre.
In May 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the Maoist/ Naxalite insurgency as India’s most serious internal security challenge. Maoist incidents, which have accounted for almost 60 per cent of terrorism-related violence in India over the last decade, include intimidation, killings of innocent civilians, reprisal killings, abductions and kidnappings, extortion, IED blasts and the destruction of government and private property, and that of grassroots level political institutions. In many of the areas of their influence, the Maoists have been collecting taxes and dispensing instant and brutal justice through kangaroo courts. Through their sheer capacity to cause violence, the Naxalites extort huge sums of money from a wide variety of sources: the corporate sector, mine owners, forest and public works contractors, individual businessmen, rich landlords and corrupt government officials.
According to a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), or CPI (Maoist), collects Rs 200 crore annually through extortion. However, some other unofficial sources hold that this could be as high as Rs 500 crore or Rs 700 crore. A substantial portion of these ill-begotten funds goes towards clandestine arms procurement. At present, Naxalite activities have spread to about 230 districts across 20 states, though some are very moderately affected.
Maoist attacks on the security forces and the symbols of state power are characterised by meticulous planning, systematic preparation, near-surgical execution and a high degree of coordination. On several occasions, the rebels have achieved considerable success in launching synchronised attacks on multiple targets involving a large number of cadres. For the Maoists, besides waging a protracted people’s war with the ultimate objective of capturing or seizing political power, participating in a peace process and talks is a ‘tactic’, and is considered ‘war by other means’.
The response of various state governments and the Centre has often, if not always, been reactive and has been found to be lagging behind the Maoists. While the Maoists have been expanding to newer areas, gaining ground, consolidating themselves and have steadily been enhancing their military capabilities, the approach of the state governments has often been to ignore the Maoist movement. The reasons for this apathetic approach have been at least three. Firstly, Naxal terrorism is not an emotive issue at the national level like the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. Secondly, there has been some confusion whether the Naxalites are terrorists or not as they have a ‘social justice’ tag attached to them. Lastly, an impression has gained currency that the Naxal menace is not ‘as bad as the media makes it out to be’.
Coordination between the police and intelligence agencies of various affected states has been generally unsatisfactory. The acquisition, compilation, collation, analysis, synthesis and dissemination of intelligence are still a grey area. The Naxalites are continuing to spread their tentacles, and it is crucial that intelligence about their activities, arms and equipment, training, sources of funding and future operations is shared on a daily basis so that it trickles down in near real-time to the functional level. A great deal more needs to be done if the states are to coordinate anti-Maoist operations across their borders.
State police forces as well as the Central police and paramilitary forces (CPMFs) need to be better equipped and better trained to successfully combat the serious threat posed by the Naxalites. At present they lack the Army’s organisational structure and cohesiveness, the Army’s institutionalised operational experience and ethos and its outstanding junior leadership, the qualities that are mandatory if the Naxalites have to be defeated on their own turf. Calling in the Army to tackle the rising tide of Maoist violence will be a grave mistake for a number of reasons. The Army is already managing the border along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan and parts of the country’s border on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and has deployed a large number of troops for counter-insurgency and internal security duties in J&K and the north-eastern states. These prolonged commitments are hampering the Army’s preparedness for conventional conflict, gradually but perceptibly affecting morale and wearing down its equipment and transport fleet. Calling on the Army to commit additional troops for anti-Naxalite operations would be a retrograde step.
What the Army can do and has been doing for some time now is to provide advanced training to the state police forces and the CPMFs to enable them to acquire the necessary skills. The Army can ‘train the trainers’ of the CPMFs at its training establishments so that they go back and train their respective forces. The Army can also send its instructors on deputation to the training academies of the state police forces and the CPMFs to train their personnel. Some police personnel could be trained by utilising the spare capacity of the Regimental Training Centres of the Army such as the Punjab Regiment Centre, Ramgarh, the Bihar Regiment Centre, Danapur, and the Grenadiers Regiment Centre, Jabalpur.
In addition to the support that it can extend for training, the Army, and the Air Force can provide some technical equipment for better reconnaissance and surveillance. One UAV detachment has reportedly been deployed in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. The Centre has also consented to provide ‘air support essentially for transport of security forces, evacuation and air dropping of food and medicines’. Chhattisgarh has started a school of counter-insurgency warfare headed by a former Army Brigadier who had earlier headed the Army’s Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School, Vairangete, Mizoram. The Army can help other state governments establish similar training academies.
The Maoist threat presents a clear and present danger. It can be ignored or neglected only at great peril to India’s national security interests. So far the national response has been inadequate, both at the policy formulation and execution levels. To cope with this serious threat, India needs a well-deliberated and finely calibrated response strategy with matching operational doctrines and the necessary civil and military resources. Only a skilfully coordinated response between the Centre and the states, with all concerned pooling in their resources to achieve synergy in execution, will achieve the desired results. Above all else, a comprehensive socio-economic strategy must be evolved to treat the root causes of this malaise that is gnawing away at the nation’s innards, along with a skilfully drawn-up plan for perception management.
Army Chief blames 'rogue elements' for trying to cause 'schism' with govt
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New Delhi: The Army Chief General VK Singh has blamed "rogue elements" for trying to create "a schism" between the government the Army. He has also stressed that "The army and by extension, the Chief of Army Staff, are part of the same government."
His new statement, available first with NDTV, suggests a tone of reconciliation in a week where he has been accused by critics of deliberately embarrassing the government. Two controversies centred around him led to demands for his removal, which the Defence Minister AK Antony has reportedly rejected. On Monday, he disclosed that he had been offered a 14-crore bribe by a retired Army officer to clear a consignment of trucks that he described as "sub-standard." Then on Tuesday, a confidential letter written by him to the PM was leaked. It warned that India's security is at risk because his troops have archaic equipment.
General Singh's three-para statement today stresses that this week's developments should not be read as a battle between the government and the Army. He says "rogue elements are trying to create a schism between the Defence Minister and the chief." His comments come after the Defence Minister said yesterday that "all three service chiefs enjoy the confidence of the government"- a declaration that sought to rescue his relationship with the chief from an unprecedented low.
The fact that the General chose this week to disclose the officer of a kickback made to him in 2010 was questioned by many including the Congress and the main opposition party. By stating that he had informed the Defence Minister of the incident, he appeared to be suggesting that the minister had failed to take any follow-up action. Mr Antony retaliated in Parliament that he had asked the general to take action, but the Army Chief had refused. Today, General Singh said that he raised the issue of the bribe this week because "the person in question" re-surfaced this month. General Singh also suggests that "institutional corrective steps were taken" after talking to Mr Antony "to keep a wary eye" on the alleged bribe-giver. Though the chief has not named the lobbyist, Mr Antony has said the General had told him that the kickback was offered by a retired Lt General, Tejinder Singh. The Army Chief has been sued for defamation by Mr Singh, who has denied offering any money to the General.
The Army Chief yesterday angrily described attempts to blame him for the leak of his letter to the PM as "a cynical approach to tar my reputation." Today, his statement, far gentler in tone, says "selective leaks culminated in the airing of the letter to the PM." In an apparent explanation of the contents of that worrying letter, he says he is "duty-bound to serve the country and protect the integrity of the Army even if we sometimes have to look within." The letter had detailed the many deficiencies of one of the world's largest armies. General Singh said it lacked "critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks" and the air defense system is "97 percent obsolete."
While opposition parties agreed that the leak was a colossal lapse because it puts on display flaws in India's security, leaders and military experts have said the General's pointers must be urgently addressed. Those who are close to the chief say that he has shared similar concerns earlier with the government.
But his critics have described his actions this week as those of "a frustrated man" bent on punishing the government before he retires at the end of May. In January, General Singh took the government to court, demanding that records be amended to reflect he was born a year later than documented. If his claim had been accepted, he would have been eligible for another year in office. He withdrew his case after Supreme Court judges indicated they would not agree with him.
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CBI turns down Army Chief's request to investigate serving general
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Antony, General V K Singh to attend Manekshaw commemoration
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Chennai: Defence Minister A K Antony and Army Chief General V K Singh will attend a function at Udhagamandalam on April 3 to mark the 98th birth anniversary of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.
Antony and General Singh and others will lay wreaths at the new gravestone for the late Field Marshal and attend a prayer and military memorial service that day. Manekshaw, known as Sam Bahadur, was the architect of the victorious 1971 Indo-Pakistan campaign that led to the liberation of Bangladesh.
Upon retirement in January 1973, Manekshaw settled down in Coonoor, the twin civilian town of Wellington Cantonment, where he had served as commandant of the Defence Services Staff College.
He passed away at the age of 94 in 2008. He was laid to rest in the nearby Parsee Zoroastrian Cemetery in Ooty.
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Army chief confirms bribe offer to CBI
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Mar 30, 2012, 20:40 IST
Army Chief General VK Singh today replied to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) confirming his allegation that he was offered a bribe by a lobbyist to clear the supply of a tranche of "sub-standard vehicle" for the force.
Singh, who had made the allegation in a media interview that forced the Defence Minister to order a CBI inquiry, told the agency in a letter today that there was a bribe offer from a lobbyist but did not give details of the amount or the name of the person who made the offer, CBI sources said.
In his letter to the CBI, Gen Singh who returned to the Capital after two days said he would give further details soon, they said.
The agency was waiting for a formal complaint from the Army chief regarding details of alleged bribe offer to initiate a formal probe into the matter referred to it by the Ministry of Defence. CBI officers had met him on Monday evening once.
The agency had asked the Defence Ministry to make available a complaint from Singh besides other details such as list of witnesses and supporting documents after which it would initiate its probe in the case, they said.
They said they have received a "reference" from the Defence Ministry to probe the matter and it has been processed as per the laid down procedure.
A preliminary enquiry or an FIR could be registered soon after completion of the procedural requirements.
The Army Chief had claimed in media interviews that an equipment lobbyist had offered him a bribe of Rs 14 crore, a matter which he had reported to Defence Minister AK Antony.
The ministry had then recommended a CBI probe into the allegation made by the Army chief.
BEML chief dismisses VK Singh's remarks on Tatra trucks
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Mar 30, 2012, 19:38 IST
Dismissing Army Chief General VK Singh's comments on Tatra trucks as "not true", state-owned BEML today said that it had never received any single complaint from the force in its over two decades association.
At a press conference here, he said he had "great respect" for the army chief but did not not agree with his reported remarks that the Tatra trucks were "sub-standard".
Tatra chief called by CBI for questioning
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Mar 30, 2012, 14:11 IST
Ravi Rishi, owner of the Vectra Group and majority shareholder in Tatra trucks, has been called by the CBI for questioning.
The interrogation is likely to pertain to the allegations of offering a bribe of Rs 14 crore to Army chief General V K Singh for the purchase of their vehicles, as alleged by Singh in a letter to the Prime Minister.
Premvir Das: Armed with no doctrine
Fixing the holes in India?s defence needs lower manpower and more focused spending, not bigger budgets and free rein to the forces
Premvir Das / Mar 31, 2012, 00:55 IST
India’s defence expenditure for 2012-13 has been budgeted at Rs 1.94 lakh crore, or about $39 billion, representing 1.9 per cent of the country’s GDP. This is an increase of 17 per cent over the previous year’s Budget estimates and is just more than 13 per cent of the expenditure actually incurred last year, as reflected in the revised estimates. Given our several security compulsions across the border and at sea, it may appear that we are not spending enough on our defence. In comparison, China, which we view in adversarial terms, will spend over $100 billion — though it is widely believed that some expenditures, for example on its strategic forces, are incurred outside this budget. Even the published figure is two and a half times ours — however, in terms of GDP, it is about the same. Though some of our expenditure on strategic capability is also shared by the Department of Atomic Energy, the fact remains that in absolute terms, we have some way to go before we can achieve combat capabilities that are close to what we need. However, even as we seek to move in that direction, what causes greater concern is the sub-optimal way in which we make use of the amounts that are provided, insufficient as they might be.
First, any expectation that India can spare more than two per cent of its GDP on defence in the foreseeable future is wishful thinking. Spending on social sectors like education and health is abysmally low and needs to be doubled, even trebled, if we are ever to attain the quality of life that people in developed countries routinely expect. Further, despite proclamations to the contrary, it is unrealistic to expect serious curtailment in the subsidies that are currently provided, be they in fertilisers, food or fuel. Though calls for “biting the bullet” are good rhetoric, these are bullets that simply cannot be bitten. We have to accept that in the years ahead, defence budgets, as percentages of GDP, will continue to be what they are and have been. Yes, in absolute terms, the figure will continue to rise as GDP grows, and so the challenge lies not in crying for more but in putting what is available to good use.
Last year, Rs 1.64 lakh crore was budgeted for defence, 40 per cent for capital expenditure (modernisation) and 60 per cent for ongoing maintenance such as salaries, stores and so on. As it happened, at the end of the year we had spent 39 per cent on the more desirable first (Rs 63,000 crore against Rs 66,000 crore) and 61 per cent on the second (Rs 1.08 lakh crore against Rs 98,000 crore). For 2012-13, the defence ministry has been given about Rs 80,000 crore for capital (41 per cent) and Rs 1.14 lakh crore (59 per cent) for revenue. Given our past record over decades, it is quite unlikely that even this modest readjustment can be attained. Armed forces of substance spend close to 50:50 of their resources on modernisation and maintenance despite much higher salaries for their people and costlier equipment. The reasons they are able to do so are essentially two: one, their manpower is much lower; and two, their spending on weapons is tightly focused. We are unable to achieve either since our circumstances and our methods of working do not allow it.
To establish the type of defence capability that India needs, there must be some guiding parameters. One simply cannot go on adding forces as we have been doing – a corps here, two divisions there – as we did first after Kargil, and then because of the perceived threat from China. Neither was covered by any holistic study of what the country needs. This would normally be highlighted in a national strategy doctrine. Several National Security Advisory Boards have seized themselves of this task, only to leave it undone; proceeding beyond the draft stage is something we are unable to do. In the absence of any guidelines, all are on their own. The army says that the borders will be seriously threatened unless we add 60,000 more troops. The air force claims a 45-fighter squadron force level that was “authorised” in the mid-1960s, leave aside the fact that we have moved from Vampires and Gnats to Su-30s, and that the good old MiG-21 is being replaced by no less an aircraft than the Raphael. The navy does its own thinking, trying its best to add to its force levels despite the money crunch that the first two investments impose on available resources. Yet, at every gathering of those “who have been and will not be” – a term once used to me by an outspoken MP to describe the retired “strategic analysts” – our focus should be more on storms now gathering at sea. Though adequate measures to look after the land borders are, no doubt, necessary, it will be unwise to concentrate on them to the detriment of what is needed to cope with the developing security scenario. Consequently, a holistic and well-articulated doctrine, even more than money, is critical to defence preparedness.
The second and related issue is to balance capital and revenue expenditures. This lies within the realm of the defence ministry. First, serious efforts must be made to weed out large sections of manpower that contribute little to combat readiness. Retain the strike and associated supporting forces by all means, but wield the axe on the others; seek a reduction of 100,000 in the next five years. We must achieve a 45:55 capital/revenue expenditure ratio by 2015. Second, do not allow the armed forces free rein in their individual modernisation projects; tie these up with overall capability. Third, for God’s sake, speed up the process of acquisition. Once you have made up your mind, do not get hassled by letters from all and sundry, including MPs, who question one proposal or another. In the present environment, vendors who lose will always employ such tactics, and at every level.
The guiding theme should always be combat capability. Anything that even remotely threatens it needs to be eschewed. Do not allow combat readiness to be put in jail, even as wheeler-dealers are allowed to grab Page-3 spaces in national newspapers. A new global strategic scenario is evolving, and the next 10 years may still see some sort of a détente among major powers. They offer India a window of opportunity to put its house in order. There is no knowing what might happen thereafter.
Deep deficiencies abound in defence procurement
Ajai Shukla / New Delhi Mar 31, 2012, 00:04 IST
The revelation this week that the Army chief had written to the prime minister, telling him essentially that the Army was unfit for war should have surprised nobody. Last month, General V K Singh had written in to the defence minister in far greater detail. In January 2010, then Army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, had announced that 80 per cent of his tanks were night blind, which in other words admits that they were unfit for war. And when the use of force was considered after the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes, all three service chiefs sent to the defence minister a laundry list of equipment deficiencies.
Besides this, a slew of media reports over the preceding decade have highlighted deficiencies in the mechanised forces; artillery; the air defence network; the infantry and Special Forces being key among them. Systematic military intelligence analysis, of the kind that is routine in Rawalpindi and Beijing, would leave Pakistan and China with no doubts about India’s military weakness. But the Indian public might miss the broader picture.
Designed to deter Pakistan from sponsoring terror strikes inside India by posing a threat to retaliate with a deep offensive into that country, the tank fleet remains near night blind. While the 800-odd T-90S tanks in service, as well as the 124 Arjun tanks can fight at night, India’s 2400-odd T-72 tanks, a 1960s Soviet design, are mostly night blind, and are comprehensively outclassed by Pakistan’s T-80UD tanks. The planned purchase of add-on night sights for the T-72 had dragged on fruitlessly. Even if it is implemented, it would hardly make up for the badly outdated T-72 design.
The Army chief’s letter to the PM also drew attention to the deficiency in armour piercing tank ammunition, with depots holding vast quantities of training ammunition that is incapable of penetrating an actual tank. In any high-intensity war, ammunition shortages would bring the strike corps to a grinding halt well before the attainment of its objectives.
For a century, the most crucial arm on the battle, in terms of casualties caused on the enemy has been the artillery. India’s 220-odd artillery regiments (there are 18 guns in a regiment) field equipment that is at least a quarter of a century old since there has been no artillery procurement since 1987.
As a result, the army uses a mix of many kinds of different guns, a logistical nightmare in terms of maintenance support and ammunition handling. The process of inducting new artillery will take at least five years, and is complicated by the MoD’s blacklisting of almost every major international arms vendor. The Artillery Rationalisation Plan proposes to acquire 3,000-3,600 155mm, 45 calibre ultralight and 155 mm 52 calibre towed, mounted and self-propelled guns in the next decade for about 180 of its 220 artillery regiments. But there is no movement for now.
Pakistan’s inability to detect the incursion by the US Special Forces team that killed Osama bin Laden made that country seem militarily inept. Similarly, India’s porous air defence network could lead to national embarrassment. The radar network, which must provide seamless and layered coverage across the length of the border, has huge holes, and the development and production of new radars by Bharat Electronics Ltd has lagged badly.
India’s air defence guns are today 40-50 years old. The L-70 and ZU-23 guns are from the 1960s and 1970s, while programmes to upgrade them by mating them to modern radars have still to be implemented. Missile systems like the SAM-2 Pichora are repeatedly given life extensions, even as they remain obviously incapable of bringing down a modern, high-performance fighter. The situation is even worse for the mechanised forces’ mobile air defence, equipped with Russian platforms like the ZSU-23 Schillka and the OSA-AK (SAM-8) that date back to the 1970s.
In the last financial year, the MoD has signed Rs 17,000 crore worth of procurement contracts for air defence artillery. But Rs 13,000 crore of that is for just two squadrons of indigenous Akash missiles, which will be deployed in the northeast. Many of the big holes remain unplugged for now.
Even as the army takes pride in the capabilities of its Special Forces, many of these units still engage in counter-insurgency operations with the venerable AK-47 assault rifle, perhaps the only Special Forces in the world that carry such outdated equipment. Equally worrisome is their night vision capability, a key concern since Special Forces operate mainly at night. Another key capability that lags is man-portable communications.
The Indian Army’s 350-odd infantry battalions, respected worldwide for their discipline and commitment, are amongst the most neglected arms. This is ironical, given that most Army chiefs have been infantrymen. Most infantrymen say that the infantry’s primary weapons, the 5.62 mm INSAS rifle and light machine gun, which the Ordnance Factory Board fabricates, have not met the standards of a modern army.
Even more worrisome is the infantry’s night-fighting capabilities. Most of the 30,000 night vision devices (NVDs) which Bharat Electronics Ltd had been asked to build remain undelivered. Short range radio communications remain another dire weakness. Senior officers admit that Pakistani terrorists who infiltrate into J&K often carry better NVDs and radio sets than the army jawans who combat them.
However, a sense of realisation appears to be dawning on the MoD and there is a concerted attempt to modify procurement procedures and structures in order to fill these glaring gaps in defence capability. But, given that the average procurement contract takes six to seven years from conception to delivery, many of these gaps will continue for now.