India desperately needs to upgrade the armed forcess war-fighting capabilities and tackle the problem of ammunition deficiency if it is to fight and win on the battlefields of the 21st century, says Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (retd).
General K M Cariappa had gone to Pandit Nehru to ask for additional funds for militarymodernisation and was reported to have been told,
India does not need an army, it needs a police force.
The ignominy of 1962 followed.
Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (retd) is former director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.
We will fight with what we have
The lt General Bipin C Joshi had written to then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao, urging him to help the army make up the long-standing large-scale shortage of ammunition.
It is well known that India had to scramble to import 50,000 rounds of 155 mm ammunition for its Bofors guns, besides other weapons and equipment.
Stocks of tank ammunition and ammunition for other artillery and air defence guns were also low. It was just as well that the fightingremained limited to the Kargil sector and didnot spill over to the rest of the Line of Control or the plains.
Approximately 250,000 rounds of artillery ammunition were fired in that 50-day war.
India has just 10 days of critical ammunition
The defence ministry has sanctioned the stocking of sufficient ammunition to fight a large-scale war for 60 days. This is known as the -war reserve-.
Stocks of several critical varieties of ammunition for tanks and artillery guns have fallen to as low as less than 10 days war reserves.
The other major issue highlighted in the letter written by the COAS pertains to the continuation in service of obsolescent weapons and equipment and the stagnationin the process of military modernisation aimed at upgrading the armys war-fighting capabilities to prepare it to fight and win on the battlefields of the 21st century.
There is no long-term defence planning in India
While the COAS has pointed out several operational deficiencies, the most critical ones include the complete lack of artillery modernisation since the Bofors 155 mm Howitzer was purchased in the mid-1980s, -night blindness- of the armys infantry battalions and mechanised forces, the fact that the air defence guns and missile systems are 97 per cent obsolescent and the inadequacy of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems, which has an adverse impact on command and control during war.
Funds are surrendered quite often due to bureaucratic red tape, scams and the frequent blacklisting of defence firms accused of adopting unfair means to win contracts.
As such, the 15-years Long-term Integrated Perspective Plans and five-year Defence Plans do not receive the attention they merit.
Can India face emerging defence threats?
The 11th Defence Plan, which terminated on March 31, 2012, was not formally approved by the government and, hence, didnot receive the committed budgetary support that would have enabled the three Services to plan their acquisitions of weapons and equipment systematically, rather than being left to the vagaries of annual defence budgets.