by Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd)

When BJP, a political party with nationalist claim , came to power in 2014, not only people of the Armed Forces struggling with deficiencies in all fields of warfare thanks to Mr Do Nothing , The Congress Defence Minister AK Antony presiding over Ministry of Defence for seven long years but even public at large took a sigh of relief convinced that now Indian Armed Forces will be a lean and mean force which will be feared internationally. Alas nothing of the sort has happened. In his first tenure as PM, Modi Sahib has been experimenting with Armed Forces by having four Defence Minsters with two of them part time.

It is common knowledge that a Finance Minister of any country, big or small, has a full-time job at hand and can not spare time for any other department least of all Defence, which again is a full-time commitment. But not in India. Is it not surprising that Finance Minister of India Arun Jaitley Sahib, who has recently declined any appointment in Modi -2 Government due to health reasons, was considered so fit that he was appointed Finance Minster along with the Defence? he continued like this for six long months till Late Mr Manohar Parrikar was appointed as Defence Minister. Needless to say, during these six months period Clueless Babus of Ministry of Defence (MOD ) had a field day. In Indian Constitution Indian Armed Forces are required to function under Indian Political Masters and not under Babu masters. But Modi sahib gave full opportunity to these Babus of MOD to do what they feel like in the name of Defence Minister , a chance which they never got in previous governments since Indian independence , because all Governments previously had senior political leaders as Defence Minsters who knew workings of various ministries and these Babus could not take Panga with them. For six full months these Babus of MOD had the field day. Then Manohar Parrikar was appointed. Manohar Parrikar was an IITN and different kettle of fish so despite their beast efforts these Babus of MOD could not lead him up a gum tree. Unfortunately, Manohar Parrikar had to leave for Goa and once again Jaitley sahib became ad hoc Defence Minster, in addition to Finance Minster, so our Babus of MOD again got free hold of the Defence Ministry, this time for almost one year. After this for reasons best known to Modi Sahib, he appointed Nirmala Sitharaman a novice with indifferent record as Commerce Minister, as Defence Minister. What more these MOD babus wanted? They made Nirmala Sitharaman dance on their tune. This state of affairs continued in the Ministry of Defence till now. It is now in the second innings of Modi Ji, after full five years he has realised that these experiments with MOD has ruined the Armed Forces of India. Now in Modi-2 a very senior politician Rajnath Singh has been appointed as Defence Minister. Fortunately, this realisation that Ministry of Defence is not something where experiments can be done in appointments of minsters has come to Modi Ji but it is already getting too late.

AK Antony a senior Congress leader, better known as Mr do nothing in Defence Circles, literally did nothing in seven years of his rule, while Armed Forces went to Dogs. Vice Chief of Army staff Lt Gen Chand just before his retirement last year had said that 70% weapons held by Indian Army are museum pieces. Air Force which is authorised 42 fighter squadrons keeping in view combined threat of China and Pakistan is down to 32 fighter squadrons, while Pakistan has 29 fighter squadrons and China 65. In Navy we are authorised 200 warships but we have only 130. With these deficiencies we are ready to fight both China and Pakistan as parroted by the three chiefs on orders from their political masters. What these three Chiefs, more interested in their post retirement jobs, are not telling people of India that they are living in dire threat. Our Defence Budget is just 1.48% of our GDP even less than 1962 debacle days. Minimum requirement is 2.5% of GDP but it is beyond understanding of Modi Government and before this Cong Government that a strong military is a must if you want to be heard in world arena. Nobody bothers about a militarily weak country. Case in point is American President Trump trying to please Pakistani PM Imran Khan at the cost of India just because he feels that Imran khan can influence Taliban to talk to US so that he can bring American troops back from Afghanistan to meet his election promise. Also, the fact that now Pakistan has become darling of China, Russia & US while India has been side-lined after 18 years of hard work in Afghanistan and investment of 3 billion dollars.

It is good thing that Rajnath Singh the new defence minster is ensuring that the damage done to Armed Forces of India is undone by restoring entitled rations in peace stations, income tax to disabled solders on disability pension etc. Already in his tenure defence weapons amounting to 65000 cores have been purchased. It is very important that we reorganise our Armed Forces, implement the Chief of Defence staff system laying sanctioned since 2003 but not implemented due to Babu resistance. It is very important that Indian Armed Forces gets primacy and is not equated with any other service because here it is matter of life and death. Only that nation is considered strong in the comity of nations which is militarily strong. We must go all out to produce weapons indigenously and equip our forces with home made weapons and technology. Karaj Mafi and other political gimmicks for winning elections are OK but not at the cost of Armed Forces. Today all that matters is strong Armed Forces ready for battle at minimum notice.

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