by Dr Sudershan Kumar

By 2027, India will surpass China and become the most populous nation, as per the United nations 2019 prospectus. But with this upward trend in population, the country will have to face many internal and external challenges. As per reports available by 2030, the Indian population will be around 1.42 to 1.46 billion. This mammoth population size will have severe adverse repercussions over the existing resources and overall sustainable development and growth. There will be water scarcity, shortage of food grains, effects of climate change, frequent man made and natural disasters. And in the aftermath of this, there will be internal bickering, chaos and unrest in the plural society of India.

The absence of road map for handling these basic issues will certainly act as a catalyst to augment fundamentalism, radicalisation, emergence of extremist organisations and Maoist movements in rural India. Further adding to the woes, are the external challenges transpiring from the fact that India shares nearly 14,600 Km long border with six nations which are Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. It also has more than 7,000 Km long coastal line of Andaman Nicobar in Way of Bengal and Lakshadweep Islands in Arabian sea. The post independence era has witnessed multiple wars and bitterly strained relationship with China and Pakistan.But close cooperation between the two hostile neighbours (China and Pakistan) in terms of military and nuclear has resulted into vitiation of environment of South Asia. This strategically significant but disgruntled relationship with two hostile neighbours further poses challenge to Indian security agencies and policy planners. Under this hostile environment it is absolutely essential to enhance the defence preparedness of armed forces and equip them with most advanced, critical systems. India must prepare its armed forces to fight hybrid wars at five fronts i.e. land, air, sea, space and unconventional warfare (Chemical, Biological, Radiological , Nuclear and Cyber security). It is also a hard fact that no country will part with its latest critical technology. If some country is willing to part some fringe of it, it will come at very high stake. It will only be at Government to Government basis.

The country will have to pay exorbitantly high cost.The intellectual proprietary rights will only be with developer. Therefore, keeping in mind the budget constraints the only option left for India is to develop its own technology which will cater to the needs of our armed forces keeping in mind the new millennium threats. Further, indigenous development of advanced and critical technologies will enhance self reliance to the tune of around 80 to 85 percent. This assumes even more significance as ironically even after seven decades of Independence the policies adopted by successive governments have turned India into world’s largest importer of arms. Whereas, China which got independence one year after India has become the largest exporter of arms to Middle East, South Africa and a rogue neighbour Pakistan.

Furthermore, sadly, India, which has huge infrastructure in terms of development, production testing and quality assurance could achieve the self reliance only to the tune of 30 to 32 percent even after seven decades of Independence. Unfortunately these are dismal figures. On the contrary, if one looks in to the infrastructure sector established so far, one finds that there are around 56 DRDO laboratories, 42 ordnance factories, 23 IITs, 29 NITs, IISC and hundreds of academic institutions scattered throughout the country. Besides ISRO, and DAE are also having host of institutions, which are contributing in a big way, for nation building. Therefore one needs introspection that what went wrong in defence sector and at what level and when? One must introspect and evolve mechanism to work towards indigenous development of most advanced critical systems. It is also an established fact that the pool of innovative minds available in the country has “Competence, Self Confidence, Capacity and Capability to meet technological challenges. Even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has acknowledged this at several occasions. Besides, the history itself reverberates the competence of our scientists and whenever any technology has been denied by the Western countries, Indian scientists have taken the challenges and successfully accomplished them. Besides, whenever premier institution like DRDO has been assigned the task, the scientists have come up to the expectation of 1.35 billion people of India.

The recent glaring examples being, self sufficiency in Missile Technology, development and production of a myriad of missiles and successful testing of ASAT Missile under Mission SHAKTI and many others. Besides, the programme launched by DAE in nuclear field and ISRO in space research through indigenous developments has added new feathers and boosted the morale of the nation. The successful launch of Mission Chandrayaan-2 on 22nd July at much cheaper cost with indigenous technology has made 1.35 billion Indians proud of their technological achievements. But at the backdrop of all these achievements, the defence preparedness still has grey areas. These are in terms of floppy defence planning, defence acquisition, inadequate budget and dependency on ordinance factories and defence PSU’s for technology absorption, quality assurance and production in large numbers. These grey areas need attention.

Although Modi 1.0 Government has tried to address these issues in a big way yet Rome is still far and a lot is required to be done to enhance the self reliance to the tune of 80 to 85 percent so that the country not only becomes self sufficient in indigenous development of most advanced weapon systems but also is able to free itself from the clutches of foreign dominance as far sophisticated equipment is concerned. The remedial measures taken by Modi 1.0 to address these precarious issues are described as; Firstly, long term strategic policy planning has always been a grey area. It is a fact that India did adopt planning mechanism immediately after 1962 debacle with China. This has been continuing since long with incremental changes. On the contrary, a country like United State of America, United Kingdom, China and many others pursued detailed and exhaustive policies with clear focused vision on future threats and countermeasures. For example, in US every President on taking over the office articulates his national security strategy. This strategy goes on to explain US military economics, communication and foreign relations in the world and provide guidelines to safe guard the interests. Based on these inputs US department of Defence issues Quadrennial Review. Similarly UK Government publishes strategic defence and security review (SDSR).

The aim of the document is to balance defence plan research and commitment to achieve coherent defence capability and sustainable defence programme to tackle future threats. China also publishes after every two years Defence white paper to bring threats to National Security and lay down Strategy so that its armed forces are ready to face future threats. In India during Modi Government’s first tenure a major shift from the previous mechanism was a setting up of defence planning committee (DPC) under National Security adviser. This group was to articulate the security challenges and focus on and envision the capability development of armed forces and evolve strategy for technology forecast to counter future threats. Second, the most important is Defence acquisition procedure. It has been often observed that the procurement procedures are quite cumbersome. Procurement of defence systems consumes a long time in spite of the availability of manual on defence procurement procedure (DPP). This DPP has been amended time to time to facilitate the procurement. Modi Government during its first tenure has also announced series of measures concerning acquisition policy but the organisational structures has remained unchanged which needs urgent attention.

Thirdly and most importantly, a relook at the allocation of the defence budget is required. Presently, it is around 60.9 billion. This approximately is three times less than china and eleven times less than United States. Moreover India spends nearly 0.9 percent of its GDP on R&D where as China,US and Japan spend nearly 2.0,2.8 and 3.40 respectively. More over Defence budget has to be cumulative not lap-sable. Keeping this in mind emphasis must be on the development of cost effective indigenous systems.

Fourthly, the concept of Make In India initiated by Modi 1.o government was a noble concept for manufacturing in India. Under this concept Government has introduced number of initiatives.These include streamlining of licensing process, self certification, allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) up to 100% and providing level playing fields to private industry vis a vis public sector undertakings. But for home grown technologies, a lot more is required to be done.

In spite of these above stated measures the biggest challenge still remains for Modi 2.0 is to enhance the defence preparedness of armed forces to counter two way threat and to prepare for new millennium challenges. This is possible only by laying stress on indigenous developments of big ticket items in all five verticals i.e land, air, sea, space and unconventional war fare. This will also help in attaining self reliance to the tune of around 80 to 88%. through indigenous development. This itself is going to be formidable task especially in the changing world scenario.

Therefore a road map with periodic monitoring keeping in mind these five verticals has to be evolved for assessment of new millennium threat perceptions, technology forecast, technology development production, quality checks and life cycle sustainable support. In this whole episode, agencies like DRDO in lead role with the active support from ISRO, DAE, IIT’s NITs and other academic institutions will have to align with services and industry for development, production and induction of advanced and critical systems to counter future threats The approach has to be consortium. All stakeholders that is services, developing agencies (DRDO, Academic, ISRO, DAE), production agencies (Defence PSU’s and private sector) quality checking agencies has to be in one grid right from the time from conception to production.

The author is of the opinion that these measures are absolutely essential if the country has to emerge as a global player. This will further enhance the defence preparedness of armed forces. This is possible only in Modi 2.0 Government because the Govt has capacity and spine to take bold and major decisions in the interest of national security. Even US Secretary of State Michal R.Pompeo has said “MODI HAI TO MUMKIN HAI. Same is true in this case also.All eyes are on Modi.2.0.