by Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd)

Recently its was in news that Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat wants to reduce the strength of Indian Army, which amounts today to about a million, by about 1.5 lakh troops to make it a leaner and meaner force. It did take people by surprise because with China and Pakistan now officially joining hands against India, need of the hour was to stream line , if not enhance the strength of Indian Army but definitely not reduce it. However, with this news that China has reduced its 2.3 million strong Armed forces by three lakh troops recently, removed the cloud of doubt which affected so many minds that what prompted Indian Army Chief to reduce his own forces, even if conditions in China and India are totally different. China may do what it feels like but reciprocate the same in India will be a sure shot Harakiri.

Yes, it is true that Chinese official news agency Xinhua has said on this Sunday the 20 January 2019, that China has cut down its armed forces by 3 lakh troops. This is part of the reforms initiated by current Chinese President Xinping in 2013. It must be understood that traditionally, since inception of communist China in 1949, China believes in its policy that power comes from the barrel of a gun. Not only service in Armed Forces is considered national service, it also is seen as means of employment to the large population in a country which works on the philosophy of by the people, for the people. Of course, the Chinese Communism has undergone a sea change from its inception days. Now this communism is a reformed communism suiting China which is part capitalist. However, till 2013 the Chinese Armed Forces remained tradition bound with its Army enjoying the majority and numbers. China got its first lesson that its Army which till seventies was an Army of proletariat must undergo a change and become modern during Vietnam War when it wanted to teach a lesson to Vietnam like India in 1962, in turn learned a lesson itself that it is too flabby and its Generals lack the modern thinking and the punch. However, the real reforms have started now in 2013 under its new President Xinping.

Agreed that china has reduced the strength of its Army by 3 lakhs, nevertheless with 2 million troops Its Armed Forces still remain largest in the world. What is not seen in correct perspective is that Chinese Armed Forces may have reduced the strength of its Army by let us say 3 lakhs, but then it is mostly the non-combatants it has reduced. At the same time there is corresponding increase in its Navy and Air Force. The biggest increase is in its Navy which earlier with no aircraft carrier was basically a coastal Navy basically to defend China. Now Chinese Navy has one air craft carrier in operation, on second air craft carrier sea trials are going on and the third Air Craft Career is in making in Chinese Shipyards. China plans to have minimum of five to six air craft careers. Similarly, since 2013 Chinese Air Force has undergone big increase. Since 2013 China has also added Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force to its kitty to deal with missiles both tactical and strategic and space, cyber space and electronic warfare. In other words, now, Chinese armed Forces have become modern from being tradition bound, capable of fighting battles away from the country, guard its national interests and influence world opinion. It says that it has also cut its officers strength by 30% but they have been absorbed in other branches of Chinese Armed Forces which China has opened like Rocket force and Strategic Support Force. Today Chinese Armed Forces are composed of not three but five branches. So, these types of statements that China has reduced the strength of its Armed Forces are misleading. Modernisation is not the same as reduction.

Now let us come to India. Unlike China, Indian Army is involved from the time of independence in insurgency in Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam, Tripura, Arunachal, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir etc. It has also fought five wars. All these wars were internal, where Indian Armed Forces were defending the country and not attacking any other country. We tried our outreach in Sri Lanka and did lose lot of troops. Similarly, in fighting the insurgency what is required on the ground are boots and not rocket forces or strategic support forces. Even though we are now a country which is 71 years old we do not have a doctrine of defence or strategic goals, because our ill-educated Neta’s in our democracy are not capable of spelling out what our strategic goals are. So, without the clarity of our strategic aim and goals, how can we restructure our Armed Forces? Our Army Chief General Vipin Rawat says he is forced to cut down our Army by 1.5 lakh troops because he can not maintain the current Army strength in the current budget allotment, which at 1.58% of the GDP, is lowest in the Indian history. Surely this is no excuse for reducing Army. If budget is not there then let us find money from other sources but surely, we can not reduce army. Same is the state with our Air Force which is down from authorised 45 squadrons to 30 squadrons for want of fighter aircrafts. Navy which should be 200 ships strength keeping in view the combined threat of China and Pakistan are just 130 ships with its submarine arm having just 13 conventional submarines that are so rickety that we do not even know after diving we will again see them resurfacing or not. Navy also has two nuclear submarines. Truth is that since last 15 years, first ten years by Congress Government and last 5 years by Modi Government, Indian Armed Forces have been badly neglected. 70% of arms held by the Army are museum pieces now. Due to corruption we are hardly producing anything worth while in the country because an outside arms deal gets our Neta’s and Babus huge commissions which is called good will money, going directly to their Swiss Bank Accounts. So, they are not keen to make anything in India. Credit must go to Mr Modi that his concept of Make in India in Defence has started paying dividends. But then if he does not come back to power in 2019 general elections, then it will go down the drain.

India can not afford to reduce its armed forces under any circumstances, because already we are over stretched. Army is involved in a big way in insurgency in J&K, Manipur and in stand by mode in Nagaland and even Arunachal Pradesh. Despite the fact that our Central Police Forces strength has increased from 6.5 lakhs to 1.3 million, more than Army, ground situation remains the same. It will in future also remain the same because all these Central Police forces are officered at senior level by the IPS officers who get parachuted in their senior ranks despite knowing nothing of what these para military forces should do. So what wonder when you see daily dance drill Tamasha at Wagah border. Why do our Neta’s allow these clueless IPS officers to rule the roost when the respective cadre officers of Paramilitary forces like BSF, ITBP, SSB, CSIF are available, is something only these Neta’s can answer. In the final analysis it is very important that the current strength of Indian Armed Forces must be maintained at any cost. We have no option but to raise the Indian Armed Forces Defence Budget from current 1.58% of GDP to 3% of GDP. We must work on jointness of three services and CDS system laying sanctioned since 2003 must be immediately implemented. At least 50% Babus of MOD should be shown the door to be replaced by Armed Forces officers. We must not forget that world is changing fast, new equations are being created on daily basis. A country has right to be called a power, only when its Armed Forces can look after its national interests and its economy is booming.

Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd) is a distinguished Defence and Strategic Analyst. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same