India is shooting in the dark, as long as her defense preparedness or defense expenditure is concerned, observed Sandeep Unnithan, the senior defense and strategic analyst. In fact Defense Ministry of India is devoid of any vision. Lack of strategic vision in the Ministry of Defense is costing India, her defense capabilities, he stressed.
Coming down heavily upon the Government’s policy on internal security as well as defense preparedness to thwart any external threat, Sandeep Unnithan, the Deputy Editor of India Today, said internal security is another segment which is utterly neglected by the government, both, at the centre as well as in the states. Bureaucracy and bureaucratic attitude are the major hurdles in the security arrangements of India, he said.
Unnithan was analyzing the Union Budget 2013, from defense perspective, at a gathering organized by the Forum for Integrated National Security (FINS), here. “Slash in Defense Budget : India’s Security at Stake” was the theme of the analytical deliberations. The session was presided over by the well-known banker and former Union Minister Suresh Prabhu. Akhilesh Bhargav, the Chartered Accountant and financial analyst, moderated the deliberations at the meeting. President of the FINS and the luminary Bal Desai welcomed the gathering and the guests.
Initiating the debate, Suresh Prabhu, in his presidential address, exhorted that defense and security of any country, today, could not merely and only mean military preparedness. It has to be wholesome. Food Security, Energy Security, Water Security are important aspects as well, for a country of the size and stature of India. Security care on these frontiers also, is very much needed, he added.
Sadly enough, India, however, is fragmented on every count, Suresh Prabhu lamented. There were 30 different ministries at the centre which dealt with ‘subject’ WATER, in one way or the other, and therefore, no specific and coordinated policy on ’WATER’ could be formulated, he explained. This has weakened security on food and related fronts, he emphasized.
A hardcore banker and financial analyst as he is, Suresh Prabhu termed the Union Budget 2013, presented by the Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, as an “ Utter Disaster”. ‘The finance minister needed to be given full marks for diagnosing the ailment accurately,’ he said, adding that, ‘growth is the key word (Moolmantra) of this budget, though the minister had overstated the revenue and understated the income!’ There is a complete “disconnect” between the economic study and the financial provisions in the budget, he hammered.
Suresh Prabhu, analyzing the defense budget, pointed out that there was an urgent need for reviewing defense requirements. Keeping our armed forces motivated all the times is a big challenge and India is no-where as compared to our immediate neighbours, he explained. Construction of roads and bridges and railways by China in our bordering regions needed to be understood seriously, Prabhu exhorted. India is a net importer of armaments and petroleum and India’s imports contribute largely to global economy, he said, adding pungently, that, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram was perhaps too worried about sluggish world economy. He was pointing to the provision of large funds in the budget for imports of arms and armaments.
In view of the threats to national security, internally and externally, both, the Union Government and specially, the Union Finance Minister should give a serious thought, if India’s defense requirements could be manufactured indigenously, Suresh Prabhu advised.
Sandeep Unnithan, the chief speaker, towing his line, mentioned that India lags behind in defense preparedness, despite Kargil War Review Committee report and other such reports. The government had since not published the Kargil Review Committee Report nor implemented its recommendations, he said.
Neglect of our defense requirement began in 1987 and went on until 1999 and it cost the nation heavily. Our first Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was of the view that India needed no military and it was the root cause for India’s security debacles, he explained. The, then President of Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf surmised, holding on to this view, that India was in no position to fight a war in 1999 and forced the Kargil War. The resolute Indian armed forces, the Army, Navy and Air Force, however, proved Pakistan rulers wrong, once again. Following the incident during the NDA Government regime, Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha had increased defense budget by about28 per cent. Despite such steps, India lagged behind in defense preparedness, Unnithan explained. With shortage of fighter squadrons in the Air Force and submarines in the Navy, India is unable to chastise China or tame Pakistan, he warned.
He was very critical of Indian bureaucracy. The bureaucratic maze in India takes not less than 8 years to process a project or a purchase order, making the proposal redundant by the time it is approved, he criticized bitterly. About a decade back, in 2005, China was the largest importer of arms and ammunitions, the Saudi Arabia ranked second and India was at third position, in the world rankings. Today the scenario is completely changed. India, by 2012, outranked China to be the largest importer of defense requirements, while China turned to be the sixth largest exporter of arms, he said. ‘And days are not far away when India might purchase its requirement from Chinese Markets,’ Unnithan warned.
Indian Army has not changed since the Second World War of 1945, according to some of the former Generals of the Indian Army, Unnithan said. The USA reviewed and reformed its defense forces after 1987, but India never turned towards reforms in her defense forces, he lamented. Despite dismal situation of Indian Armed Forces, every Defense Minister of India, during past few years have made wasteful expenditure to the tune of over Rs. 5000 Crore, so far, he criticized. On the other hand indigenous efforts of private manufacturers such as Tatas have been blocked, he said. Tatas have developed India’s first ever indigenous field gun but its field tests have been blocked under the pretext of no proper test range was available in the country. The Government keeps on speaking of private – public participation, but in practice it is aiming at foreign private sector only, Unnithan criticized. While countries like Israel and USA were in ceaseless efforts to create employment for their own people by manufacturing and selling arms and other defense hardware, is India government more concerned about unemployment in these countries than in India, he questioned. Mentioning China and South Korea, he said, these countries have transformed themselves from net importers of arms to self – sufficiency to exports. Following the footsteps of China, South Korea is also aiming at the arms market I India, he added.
Spending more money, for defense purposes is not getting India anywhere from 1962 or 1998, Unnithan said. It only ends up in shooting in the dark, nothing has changed since Kargil, he added bitterly.
From security point of view, India was investing neither in people nor in material strategically, he brought it out clearly, while replying to queries from the audience and added that India, rather reacted slowly to her defense threats. He stressed that an integrated policy on India’s internal and external security was the need of the hour. He also pointed out there was no shortage of budget for defense purposes or the armed forces. “What lacked was a clear perspective and policy”, he stressed. The result is our foreign policy is affected, if no weapons or arms of global standards are manufactured indigenously, Unnithan explained. Arms purchase policy of India is nothing but ‘lose – lose policy’, he lamented.
Moderating the deliberations, Akhileh Bhargav said founding fathers of India had a different vision, not following that has cost India loss of about 40 per cent of her land mass and yet, there was no change in our defense policy.
This event is available for viewers on FINS Youtube Channel.