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Tag Archives | arihant

How to say nothing (in 2,000 words)

If Mr. Antony is in the vicinity, a pretty speech can’t be far behind.

Defence Minister AK Antony was the Chief Guest during the presentation of the the Field Marshal Cariappa Annual Memorial Lecture (themed “National Security and Military Modernization”), marking Infantry Day celebrations.  Excerpts of his address follow:

Our strategic, geopolitical situation and the compulsions of history pose unique challenges for our country. Some nations are keen to incite threats to our unity and integrity. The prevalent security environment necessitates securing our land, air and sea borders to effectively guard against traditional threats to our land borders, defending our airspace and protection of our maritime energy supply routes. Our neighbours are building their military capabilities at a feverish pace. Thus, to successfully meet such challenges, the need for us to be vigilant and prepared at all times goes without saying and is unquestionable.

Our Government is alive to the urgent need to quicken the pace of modernization of our Armed Forces. We have initiated a number of measures to provide an impetus to defence procurement. Defence Ministry is in the process of implementing a new procurement policy, which would be even more effective and quicker than the current DPP-2008.

We should leverage the strengths of both – the Defence PSUs and the private sector to achieve our objectives in the realm of defence.

Last but not the least, I would like to flag one issue of real concern. Even with a large industrial infrastructure, we are still importing about 70 per cent of our defence requirements. We are still far off from establishing ourselves as a major defence equipment manufacturing nation. Our efforts to reduce the import content of our defence requirements are not yielding the desired results. Given our economic status, this is not a very desirable state of affairs. If modernization is to be more meaningful, it must go hand-in-hand with indigenization. [Press Information Bureau]

So really, what is our Defence Minister of half a decade telling us here?  From “[t]he prevalent security environment necessitates securing our land, air and sea borders…” (thank you, by the way, Mr. Minister, this is a real eye-opener) to “the need for us to be vigilant and prepared at all times goes without saying and is unquestionable”  (I prostrate myself before you for so divine a revelation), there is nothing that Mr. Antony has said that will give hope to those who despair over the state of India’s defense preparedness.

Beware the man who says he is “in the process” of doing something, for not only has he not started doing what he should, he also has no intention of completing it.  India’s defense procurement is broken.  Not only do the services regularly underspend their allocated budgetary capital,  procurement is shackled by provisions capping FDI in defense at 26 per cent.  And nothing the Defense Minister has said or done in the recent past indicates that this will be changed.  Yet, he says that the new procurement procedure would allow “more effective and quicker” transactions than DPP-2008. Indeed.

Further, we continue to assign priority to indigenization in defense.  But this is misplaced thinking.  Indigenization is only relevant if domestic industries possess the expertise, capacity, incentivization and backing needed to thrive, be profitable, and address the needs of the services.  The private sector has slowly started making its presence felt  — the Arihant project is a good example — in an industry that it was effectively shut out of, for decades, but it is still curtailed by systemic inefficiencies.  And innovation and profitability are not even incentivized in DPSUs.  Yet, India’s Defence Minister suggests that India leverage the strengths of DPSUs (which have, by his own admission, not met the requirements of the armed forces) and a very shackled private sector to meet our defense needs. Given the current state of affairs, how does he expect this to yield effective results?

And when Mr. Antony stands up and says that there is a need for us to be “vigilant and prepared at all times,” is this a mere philosophical statement, or does he actually plan to do something at the lamentable state of India’s defense preparedness?  It is just as well that Mr. Antony works in government.  With this sort of track record and reputation, he might have been summarily dismissed a week before reporting to duty in the private sector.

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The ties that bind (2)

Transforming the nature of the India-UK relationship.

In my previous blogpost, I argued that for India and the U.K. to enter into what Prime Minister David Cameron calls an “enhanced partnership,” would require both countries to engage each other on issues impacting their strategic interests.  I had argued that security was one such area, and the extent to which the U.K. can play a meaningful role in addressing India’s security needs could go a long way in determining how successful this “enhanced partnership” will be.  Today’s TIME online has an interesting piece on the on-going battle between U.K.’s MoD and the Exchequer over replacement costs for the Royal Navy’s V-Class nuclear submarines (h/t @pragmatic_d):

As part of Britain’s austerity cuts, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) has been asked to find savings of between 10 and 20% by 2014, and then work off of steady-level funding until 2020. Britain’s V-class subs, known as Trident after the U.S.-made ballistic missiles they carry, are aging and need to be replaced by 2024. A replacement system as sophisticated as the V-class submarine will cost around $30 billion, with the first contracts to be inked by 2016.

Defense Secretary Liam Fox has said the MoD could not spend that much on nuclear subs while simultaneously cutting its budget without jeopardizing the purchasing of other big-ticket weapons such as armored vehicles, aircraft carriers, and fighter jets. He insisted the money should come not from the MoD but from the Treasury, which has traditionally paid for Britain’s subs. However, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who heads the Treasury, said that wasn’t going to happen. “The [nuclear submarine] costs … are part of the defense budget. All budgets have pressure. I don’t think there’s anything particularly unique about the Ministry of Defense,” he said.

Malcolm Chalmers, a former nuclear adviser to two British foreign secretaries, says V-class submarines are relics of the Cold War. While Britain’s conventional forces are no longer organized to defend against a military attack from the Soviet Union, its nuclear policy has “remained largely unchanged since the 1960s, when a surprise attack on Western Europe was a central driver for U.K. force planning,” he wrote. The [RUSI] report concludes that the government should save money by either halving the number of new V-class-type boats it builds, building a new submarine fleet capable of both conventional and nuclear roles, or scrapping the submarine-based system altogether and maintaining a non-deployed arsenal to be delivered either by airplane or special forces. [TIME]

Some of this current monetary pressure can be alleviated by a U.K. offer to lease its V-class submarines to India on a short-term basis. This will be well received in New Delhi and will help in broadening the scope of bilateral engagement. India today is seeking to diversify its delivery systems — essential for maintaining a credible secondary-strike capability.  Its sea-based deterrence system, however, is nascent, with a small fleet of aging diesel-powered submarines. The induction of the nuclear-powered Arihant-class submarines — products of India’s indigenous Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project — is still few years away.

U.K. has made significant contributions to the Indian Navy in the past — lest we forget, the only aircraft carriers India has had — Vikrant and Viraat — were both purchased from the Royal Navy; HMS Hermes (Viraat) played a pivotal role in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War.

Given the sensitivity of the technology, India and the U.K. will need to conclude a more over-arching dual-use agreement before any transfer takes place, which could pave the way for future high-technology trade.  And while the sale of Advanced Jet Trainers to  HAL is an important step, more potential on defense and security collaboration between India and the U.K. exists and can be realized.  This will require both India and the U.K. to determine commonalities in each others’ long-term strategic interests, re-visit mechanisms that can make such collaboration possible, and commit to exploring the full potential of an Indo-U.K. strategic partnership.

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