by Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd)

It is not only highly creditable but a unique operation in Military History where India, a nuclear power, sent its 12 Mirage Fighter Aircraft 80 km deep inside Pakistan, another nuclear capable country, to bomb Balakot and two more terror camps of Pakistan and return unscathed. Reportedly 300 Jihadis of Jaish Mohammad died in this attack. However, this was made possible by the sheer courage and skill of the fighter piolts of IAF. The darker side of the state of IAF is that due to sheer neglect of the ruling Neta’s and equally could not care less BABUS straddling the Ministry of Defence, the ageing and obsolete fighter aircraft of IAF are literally falling out of skies. Surely this state of affairs can not be allowed to carry on. Accountability must be placed at the door step of the people responsible for replacement of the ageing aircraft. These people are the ruling Neta’s and the Babus straddling MOD. Responsibility of IAF officials, as per the rules framed by these Babus, ends once they have identified the best aircraft to be purchased from abroad. There after starts the responsibility of the ruling Netas and Babus, however for this no responsibility and accountability has been fixed, why?

It is real shocker that in last three months IAF have lost nine fighter aircraft, all aged ones ranging from Jaguar, MiG-27 to MiG-21. Most of these fighter aircraft have been mothballed by world’s leading air forces. We are still flying them because we do not have replacements. At the time when we are facing combined threat of China and Pakistan, IAF which is authorised 42 fighter squadrons is down to just 32 due to non-availability of fighter jets.. This strength is further slated to go down to 29 squadrons due to retiring aircraft before any improvements can be noticed. Compare this with 65 fighter squadrons of China and 31 of Pakistan to understand how serious is the situation. It is not that our political masters and the Babus straddling MOD did not know of this situation. It was in 2001 that IAF had informed then congress led UPA Government and Babus of MOD of the developing situation. Accordingly, six fighter aircraft were selected from various countries for trials and testing. By 2007 IAF had selected Rafael of France as the best fighter aircraft suited to it. It is difficult to believe that from 2007 to 2015, full eight years our stalwart Babus of MOD were busy negotiating with Dassault France the price of these Rafael’s who then were to be bought a total of 114. 

Meanwhile these Rafael’s fighter planes were getting that much old. Finally, in 2015 Modi ji our PM went to France on official visit and instead of buying 114 Rafael’s from France with 18 coming to India in flyaway condition from France and rest made in India, we are now getting only 36 Rafael’s, all in Flyaway condition with first of them landing in India in Sept 2019. Can somebody answer as to why it took our Netas and MOD Babus so long (2007-2015) to arrive at a decision when IAF fighter aircraft tally was depleting so fast? Why no accountability has been fixed? What democracy is this when countries security is taken so lightly, crashing fighter planes pilots are putting their lives to risk while our Neta’s are busy in thousands of corers of Karj Mafi and so many other mafias for their respective vote banks? Hope this delay was not there because our capable Neta’s and equally capable Babus were not getting proper amount of commission from the Dassault. It is common knowledge that every defence deal which India makes abroad certain amount of good will money lands up in the accounts of the ruling party in power in Swiss Banks. This process was started during the PM Indira Gandhi times. All foreign arms purchase deals had a shadow of kick backs in the form of good will money going direct to Swiss bank accounts. HDW Submarine deal, Bofors Gun deal, Scorpene Submarine deal, Barrack Missile deal all had some talk of kickbacks. That is why till the arrival of Modi ji on the scene in 2014 we were the number one arms purchasing country in the world with 70% of our Arms requirements being purchased from abroad with no motivation to make them within the country. It is only now that we have gone down to number two spot and Modi jis slogan of Make in India in Defence is fast taking shape.

Even in the current Rafael fighter aircraft deal, despite Supreme Court of India and CAG giving this deal a clean chit, Rahul Gandhi the Congress President and the Congress party continues to harp that kick backs are involved in this deal also? maybe they cannot get over happy memories of their days. However, the people of India must take them to task that despite the dire situation in IAF, because of non-availability of fighter aircraft, The Congress party moved a petition in SC, which SC rejected, that this Rafael deal should be scrapped. First this Congress party Government of Sonia Gandhi sits over the deal for full eight years meanwhile IAF aircraft continued to crash with fair amount of pilots losing life, then they demand that the deal itself should be scrapped? A most irresponsible attitude of a national party which ruled India for sixty years? Time has come now that accountability of these Neta’s and Babus of the MOD must be fixed. Democracy does not mean that party in power who runs the country has no accountability?

First and foremost, reform the MOD in India which is 100% staffed with civilian clueless Babus. What are these people doing there with no knowledge of matters military? In no other country in the world clueless Babus occupy the ministry in the name of civilian control over military. America is one of the oldest democracies in the world but there the Pentagon the equivalent of Indian MOD is staffed by 70% personnel of their Armed Forces. Similarly, once the Government changes in India a secret white paper must be published for the eyes of Cabinet Committee on Security and Parliamentary Committee on Defence giving out details of preparedness of the Armed Forces. The findings of Parliamentary Committee on Defence must be given utmost importance and they must get big clout over Defence Ministry of India. The defence minister himself should be a heavy weight politician and not a novice like the current lady RM Nirmala Sitharaman. Defence Ministry must be run under a permanent Defence Minster not like the present case of two temporary and two light weight novice Defence Minsters. Earlier these reforms are carried out within India better it is before it is too late. Finally, Modi Government in its second innings or any other elected Government of India must implement CDS system in Armed Forces which is laying sanctioned since 2003 but not being implemented due to Babu resistance.

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