by Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd)

Agreed that Wing Commander Abhinandan, shooting down a top of the line Pakistani Air Force F-16 fighter plane, that also from a short-range R-73 missile and flying a 1950 vintage MiG-21 Bison has created a world history, as it is first incident of its kind. He has also once again proven that in war it is the man behind the weapon which counts, but then everybody is asking this question that why was he flying a vintage aircraft against a modern one, when his opponent the Pakistani F-16 was not only top of the line aircraft but was also firing beyond visual range missile only available to F-16. This F-16 had to fire two such beyond visual range missiles to bring down Wing Commander Abhinandans MiG? The reason is India’s highly complicated, time consuming, lacking transparency and efficiency, procedures of Defence acquisition from abroad. In actual fact we are buying yesterday’s weapons today.

Today Indian Air Force, which is authorised 45 fighter squadrons is down to just 31 fighter squadrons due to lack of fighter aircraft and will further go down to 29 fighter squadrons in next few years before any improvements can be seen. compare this with 65 fighter squadrons of China and 29 of Pakistan, this shows how grim is the situation. It is not that our political masters and the Babus straddling the MOD were not aware of this situation. In the year 2001 IAF had informed the MOD that they need new fighter planes to replace the existing ones. from 2002 to 2007 trials of various fighter aircraft from abroad competing were held. In 2007 the Rafael was selected. From here on the role of IAF finished and the Babus of MOD and Indian political masters took on. It must be remembered that the price negotiations and actual purchase are the responsibilities of the Babus of MOD and Indian political masters the Services have no role to play. Our honest political masters and equally hones Babus get these toys for our Armed Forces. It is unbelievable that our MOD Babus and political masters could not negotiate on the price of 110 Rafael fighters to be originally purchased from Dassault France from 2007 till 2017 and then only 36 Rafael were finally contracted which will come not before September 2019. Even before the first Rafael aircraft will land in India, the allegation of scam has started. Congress president Rahul Gandhi is calling all sorts of names to Modi ji and his Government blaming them for scam in this deal. Is it not funny that all major weapons deals done by any government in power from Nehru onwards from abroad have been mired in smell of corruption? Jeep scam, HDW Submarine scam, Bofors gun deal scam, Scorpene Submarine deal all of Congress, then Sukhoi Su-30MKI was also been in some controversy, now Rafael Deal is in controversy.

After all what is wrong with our weapons acquisition policy? Why it is not transparent, efficient and smooth? why only Babus and political masters involved in negotiations why not the people who are going to use these weapons? It is common knowledge that our political masters and Babus keep Services away from the purchase process because the good will money or one can say 10% commission goes direct to the Accounts of negotiator of the deal and the approver of the deal. So, what wonder if despite having 8 large defence PSUs, huge DRDO, 41 state of art defence laboratories, 39 large ordinance factories we produce nothing of sorts for defence at home despite 71 years gone. Even for boots, bullet proof jackets, modern rifles we have to go abroad. Case in point is AK203 Assault Rifle factory being set up at Amethi in collaboration with Russia. Let us not forget that India is today largest buyer of weapons abroad. Does it not worry knowledgeable people that a country like India which produces its own nuclear reactors, 21 of them now, a most difficult technology, places 100 satellites in one go in orbit not equalled by any country in world, talking of sending Chandra Yan next year, can not produce even a rifle and bullet proof jackets for its troops? Surely this shows that there is some deep scam and this has been done purposely for people in power to make money.

In 1986 Bofors Medium Artillery guns India purchased from Sweden. They were excellent guns and proved their mettle in 1999 Kargil War. But then within few years of purchase and after arrival of 400 guns and when technology had to be transferred, it got disclosed that our political masters were involved in a major scam concerning this gun. Even then PM Rajiv Gandhi’s name was flouted. So, our political masters within no time cancelled the deal. No technology was transferred and no medium artillery gun has been purchased since then as a result Pakistan has better artillery then us. Even in the current Rafael Deal may be in a misguided effort by Modi Government to head of unnecessary controversy has been evasive in answering some legitimate questions from opposition parties which has resulted in more controversies. Let there be no doubt that Modi Government deal with France is clean and same has been ruled by SC of India and CAG but our Babus in MOD and Netas have brought in unnecessary controversy. For example, where was the need to say that Rafael documents published by a particular news paper were stolen? Now it is been said that they were not stolen but have been copied? Are Bhai why this controversy if the deal is up and up? Similarly, earlier Modi Government made a case knowingly or unknowingly that CAG has submitted its report on Rafael and then PAC has already examined it now a correction is being sought on this issue by Modi government that said report was not submitted to PAC. Surely these type of mistakes are not to be tolerated from Babu class. Why no heads have rolled on these issues? Result is that once again doubts have come up in the minds of people and SC has agreed to review its decision giving clean chit to Modi Government.

While Defence Acquisition procedure in India remains mired in political controversies Pakistan is collaborating with China to jointly produce Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft. India by bombing out Balakot located deep inside Pakistan may have given a message to Pakistan that now onwards no place is safe for Pakistani Army pampered and sponsored Jihadis and like Israel we will not hesitate in air attacking these Jihadi camps but Pakistan also knows we lack wherewithal’s. For this our political masters and their adviser Babus are directly to be blamed. It is time our defence acquisition procedures from abroad must be streamlined. They must be quick, clean and transparent. At the same time, we must strive to produce our weapons within India. Privatise these huge behemoth defence PSU who are guzzling money but producing nothing of value. Why in DRDO every year almost 500 so called scientists leave and new appointed? Why DRDO instead of concentrating on certain major defence projects is busy making Rotis and chilli powder? Need of the hour is total revamp of our defence acquisition procedures and defence production.

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