THE current stand-off with China and a possible escalation of the situation into an escalated conflict has led the Government to allow the Armed Forces an off-hand allocation of Rs. 500 crore to acquire from the market whatever they need by way of arms and ammunition. Defence Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh, now on a three-day visit to Russia, is also expected to seek more equipment for the Russian-made SU-30 fighters jets, T-90 tanks, warships that are part of the Indian arsenal. All this development highlights the issue of India’s need to stock up arms and ammunition in appropriate quantities so that our Armed Forces will always have good cushion to fall back upon in emergencies.

The issue of stocking up of good quantities of arms and ammunition has a historical background as well. No matter the fact that India won the Kargil War, for example, the then Chief of Army Staff General Ved Prakash Malik was also told that India’s stocks of arms and ammunition were much lower than critical levels. It was a little before the Kargil conflict that Rashtriya Rifles (RR) were formed with no allocation for their arms and ammunition. So hopeless was the situation that arms and ammunition for RR were carved out of the allocated supplies from many other formations.

With such a condition, India went into the Kargil War, a history known to all. Such eventualities have occurred on quite a few occasions in the past seventy years. Of course, things have improved tremendously in the past 5-6 years and India has gotten known as a big spender on arms and ammunition. In recent years, a lot of reforms in the acquisition policy have been set in motion, empowering the system to acquire better weapons and systems and ammunition and gears more easily. A lots of bottlenecks have been cleared by the Government in a dynamic fashion. All those efforts have added to the overall efficiency of the Armed Forces in terms of equipment, improving India’s defence preparedness. Despite this, the need to keep revisiting the dynamics of acquisition policy is always there. The country’s Navy, for example, needs to be spruced up exponentially if it were to be the true “Prima Donna of the Indian Ocean”, as was said famously by the then Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sushil Kumar nearly ten years ago. That all the three wings of India’s Armed Forces rank third or fourth in the international rating, is certainly a matter of happiness.

The Indian Air Force also stands more or less at the same level, and needs to be spruced up for higher efficiency-levels. True, the IAF is acquiring more aircraft in various categories, which is welcome. Yet, a lot of gap has to be covered still, and the Government can only ill-afford to overlook this reality. India can also not afford to lose sight of another reality that it has been pitted against the powerful Chinese Forces in all departments. The gap between the military prowess of China and India should make anybody somewhat uncomfortable. It is from this point of view that India needs to make its acquisition policy smarter and far more comprehensive than it today is.

Of course, wars are not won just on the strength of weapons and arsenal, but are won with the help of the men who man those weapons. On that count, the modern Indian Armed Forces are second to none. This is not just a propagandist statement, but also an assertion based on a cumulative experience spanning well over a century. That makes the case of better weapons even stronger. For, the Indian Armed Forces with a proven capability will find themselves infinitely more strong with better weapons and ammunitions and gears. It is on this count that India will have to make its acquisition policy very vigorous -- beyond any compromise.