Millennium Post

India’s security in disarray

The recent bomb blasts in Hyderabad have shown the many chinks in our internal security apparatus. The state of both internal and external security is the same, and arms procurement seems full of corruption. The nation has heard time and over again the same old story of defence deals and poor security system of the nation.

An average citizen now seems to be worried about both external and internal security along with rampant corruption. As far as defence deals are concerned, the forces are responsible for the qualitative requirement and user trails only. All other aspects such as price negotiations and final payments are done by the ministry of defence. The three services namely army, navy and air force are outside the purview of the ministry of defence. They are not involved in the arms payment in any which way.

This is a peculiar manner in which the nation procures its arms unlike other ministries like telecom or railways. Once the weapon system comes in, its quality is tested by the director general for qualitative assurance. The ministry of defence together with the government of India sign all the defence deals. But the irony is that this segment never gets investigated, while the forces silently take all the blame perused on them by the media. What does this mean? Today the air force is reduced to 33 squadrons out of the sanctioned strength of 39. It kept loosing pilots due to lack of proper aircrafts. The army, on the other hand, does not have a single artillery gun since mid-80s. It lacks more than four days of ammunition for its tanks. The deal for 197 utility helicopters is off, the deal for 12 VVIP copters is off, and the navy is left a nine harriers’ carrier only. The task of the defence forces to fight a war seems far-fetched. The strength of the Indian forces has never been so low. The number has dipped to 13,000 officers and around 52,000 soldiers, sailors and air warriors. Is battle readiness of the defence forces affected? Can defence forces ever be vigilant if the overall shortage of manpower, equipment and ammunition is not addressed quickly?

The same is the case for internal security where petty politics side-tracks the main issue. What of the civilian base to manufacture arms, nothing considering both Israel and China who are nearly self-sufficient in arms and got independence along with India? It is estimated that if India manufactures these weapons by indigenisation, an estimated 70,000 persons would get jobs which is a sizable work force and save the country its hard earned foreign exchange. The private sector cannot be relied upon whereas the Defence Research and Development Organisation which has made nothing of any consequence can sure be trusted. It takes years to import arms, middlemen do the rounds and money is heavily siphoned, yet till date no one has ever been caught.  

The track record of investigation is a sorry tale. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has not cracked a single case till date and has its success in the Bofors case has also been negligible. Since the CBI has one of the worst track records of solving defence deals, therefore, handing over any case to the CBI seems uninspiring. What is the solutionbesides earning a bad name at the international level? The defence minister is trying too hard to ban firms on importing arms but it seems no one is ready to get out of it this lucrative market.

Where does the country go from here? India firstly needs to acknowledge that its tardy procurement policy is incorrect and breeds corruption. The industrial base within the country needs to be strengthened and arms purchases need to be made transparent. There was a time when both the Indian and the Pakistani delegation were purchasing the same set of winter clothing from the same dealer for Siachen so the gossip runs!

The middle-men is eating the economy and escalating the cost by 10 to 15 per cent and more. Till the time Indian arms industry does not establish itself, there is a need to bring down the cost by introducing transparent procedures for arms agents or whatever one calls them. In that case the competition will be out in the open at least. Defence being treated as a holy cow and arms deals being shrouded in secrecy has only led to rampant corruption which has affected defence preparedness.

There needs to be accountability in the system. A government that does not see the state of affairs of its soldiers does not deserve the status of a super power.  There needs to be accountability and one cannot see how ordering a CBI inquiry or a Joint Parliamentary Committee will set things in place. The defence forces need to modernise the procurement process and in national interest of the country the procedures should be made speedy.

The author is a retired brigadier
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